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Dear Must See TV, I will never abandon thee

Cassie Belek | Monday, October 2, 2006

Dear NBC Must See TV Thursday,

In light of your apparent comeback this year, I feel I must express my congratulations and relief that you are beginning your return to glory. I know it’s been hard for you ever since “Friends” left you, but I wanted to let you know that I never gave up hope. You stood by my side as I grew from a girl into a woman, and for that I could never abandon you. But in order to achieve a better future, we must look to our past for mistakes made and lessons learned. And Must See TV Thursday, you’ve made quite a few mistakes.

You were so strong for so long. You created the perfect formula for Thursday night success – two hours of comedy plus one hour of drama. With comedies like “The Cosby Show,” “Family Ties,” “Cheers,” “A Different World,” “Frasier,” “Seinfeld,” “Will & Grace” and “Friends,” you dominated Thursday nights.

Then you always wrapped up the evening with dramas like “Hill Street Blues,” “LA Law” and ultimately “ER.” These were truly golden times.

You then survived the loss of “Seinfeld,” but another dreary inevitability was just around the corner – “Friends” would end sooner or later. You needed to find a new comedy that would anchor your Thursday 8:00 p.m. time slot. You tried to find it in the Americanized British import “Coupling” that sounded remarkably similar to the Generation X phenomenon “Friends” but you butchered that show like you had butchered so many before it. Before you knew it, “Friends” was in its last season and you took an enormous risk by scheduling its spin-off “Joey” in its vacant time slot.

This is when the death knell tolled.

Not only did you assume that “Joey” would retain the massive “Friends” audience, but you took an even greater misstep when you abandoned your airtight formula and scheduled “The Apprentice” in the 9:00 p.m. time slot. You now had one hour of comedy, one hour of reality and one hour of drama. This cosmic unbalance plummeted NBC to fourth place and I blame you. I was confused and hurt because I didn’t understand why you would abandon your roots for Donald Trump’s non-toupee.

You finally figured out your folly, but not before you lost viewers to other networks. Now you’re trying to recover, and I hope you do. But you’re not done making mistakes yet. I’d like to give you my advice if you let me. I may not be a network executive, but I know what I want. And what I want is probably what other people want.

First, you need to bring back your two-hour block of comedy. The fact that you even consider Howie Mandel as worthy to appear on Must See TV is insulting. Next, drop “ER” and replace it with “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” Although “Studio 60” was originally set to appear before “ER,” you chickened out and took it off Thursdays when you found out it had to compete with “Grey’s Anatomy.” I never thought I would see the day when you wouldn’t stand your ground. Shame on you.

Finally, move “The Office” to the 8:00 p.m. time slot. It’s your strongest comedy, which I hope you figured out when it won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. Next, schedule “30 Rock,” “My Name is Earl” and “Scrubs” in that order. This leaves you with two solid hours of comedy, while giving “30 Rock” a chance to grab the audience watching “The Office.”

I hope this helps, Must See TV Thursday. You’re doing better. You really are. The public stopped planning your funeral. Just embrace your formula once again and you may be able to give Grissom and McDreamy a run for their money. Faithfuls like me will stand by your side because when it comes to comedy, we know you can deliver. We may even forgive you for that season and a half of “Joey.”

Faithfully yours,

Cassie Belek

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.