Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dear Jeff Zucker RE: Law & Order’s Cancellation and the Death of a National Pastime

For all fans of Law & Order and the thousands of readers who come to my Law & Order blogs each day, here is a copy of the letter that I just emailed to Jeff Zucker, President and Chief Executive Officer of NBC Universal. I am sure he's getting tons of emails, so if any of the people "connected" with Law & Order who read this blog would help to make sure Mr. Zucker gets the message, I would appreciate it. Here it is:

Dear Mr. Zucker,

My name is Christine Zimmer and I own and operate the web sites
All Things Law And Order and These Are Their Stories, both which focus on all the shows in the Law & Order brand and the actors who star in them. I am very saddened with the news that Law & Order has been canceled. My disappointment has nothing to do with any impact this would have on my web sites. I put many hours each week in bringing information to fans about all the shows and there is virtually no benefit personally to me to do so, so one less show to cover means that maybe I would get some of my life back. What saddens me is that the quality of Law & Order has improved greatly over the last few years, the cast has great chemistry, it continues to draw millions of dedicated viewers, the series remains relevant and compelling, yet somehow these traits do not seem to have value to the NBC network.

While I do not work in your industry, I’ve held Director and Vice President positions while working for large national distributors in the Cleveland, Ohio area, so I do know what it takes for a company to make millions in profit. I do understand that NBC is in business to make money, that Law & Order has been drawing fewer viewers, and that fewer viewers means less ad revenue and less profits for the network. But I also know how to market and sell a product, and in my opinion, NBC did not do a very good job “selling” Law & Order to attract more viewers. If a company can’t properly sell and market its product, the viewers – who are your network’s customers – should not be penalized. I admit I am not in the 18-49 demographic that the networks value, but I assure you that my hard earned money spends just as well as theirs and I would be more than willing to support advertisers who are willing to spend money to advertise on the show. Sadly, the networks don’t seem to value people in my demographic, so neither do advertisers.

To you, Law & Order may be just a line on a profit and loss statement. The show is much more than that:

1. To actors, writers, producers, production people – it means jobs which give them an income to spend which helps keep our economy vital.

2. To viewers, it means entertainment, escape from their pressures of life, a good story that gives them something to talk about, and a vehicle for social commentary. It’s a place that they can go to enjoy their favorite actors, and for some to write fan fiction about their favorite characters. It’s a show that fans follow no matter what day or time it airs, and they follow it faithfully in syndication, it’s like a comfy pair of jeans that you just can’t throw away because they are broken in perfectly and they feel good. Law & Order is a NATIONAL PASTIME, and is loved not only in the United States, but world-wide.

I ask that you please reconsider your decision to cancel Law & Order, or, if you believe that NBC cannot under any circumstances continue with the show, to encourage negotiations with other networks that may be willing to bring a quality show like Law & Order into their fold.

Thank you for your consideration,

Christine Zimmer


Anonymous said...

Dear Christine,

You are my hero! Thank you for so eloquently stating what so many milions of fans want to say.


Joshua Morton said...

So VERY Awsome Christine!!

I read on SUBER the LOCI press release looks like it's real too! I hate that we are losing the Law & Order's (or the Mothership anyway).

I kinda thought Saffron Burrows was pretty though. I'll send NBC a letter too!

Shelly said...

Christine - well done. Very well written and well stated...

I don't know that it will make a difference, however. The people who run NBC have managed to take a perfectly good (well, even great not that many years ago) network and turn it into a laughing stock, with nothing really to hang its hat on... putting aside what they've done to our beloved L&O, they wouldn't know a hit (or a miss, apparently) if it sat down next to them wearing a nametag that said, "take me, I'm a hit"... lol...

Please let us know if you hear back... and if someone from that network says, "Oh I didn't realize cancelling the show would upset that many people," then I just completely give up... but why do I sense that's coming next?

Errr... but thank you for speaking for so many of us :))))

Unknown said...

Thank you for writing that letter to Jeff Zucker. I hope that someone ensures that he sees it.

Anonymous said...

Well stated. I hope that others will follow your lead and write to NBC.

Wallyhorse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wallyhorse said...


As much as I don't like what happened with the mothership, this is one time I can NOT blame NBC. My blame is specifically directed at two groups:

1. Ad buyers who are obsessed with 18-49, and very unhealthly so. While I realize part of that is because it is widely believed those 50 and older are "stuck in their ways" and are not as swayed by advertising as 18-49 are, part of that problem is there are many ad buyers are in their 20s and 30s, and I think either don't want to deal with those 50 and older or are afraid to because they realize they will be that age at some point or it brings back bad memories of their parents.

2. Time Warner, parent of Turner Broadcasting and TNT. It had been widely noted for a month and a half that TNT paying a license fee for season 21 repeats was basically a stipulation for that season to go forward, mainly as it turned out because of the ratings being so heavily skewed (close to two-thirds of the average of 7.35 million viewers) being over 50, which ad buyers refuse to look at. When TNT balked at paying a license fee for season 21 repeats, that sealed the fate for season 21.

NBC and Dick Wolf are NOT at fault for this one, as poorly managed as NBC is.

Wallyhorse said...

Very interesting:

I was NOT aware when I wrote what I did that TNT actually did want a deal in place and Zucker said no.

Is it possible that Zucker thinks he's going to be fired the minute Comcast takes over NBC, and figures if he's going to be fired anyway, do as much damage to NBC's reputation as possible on the way out? Even if that is not really the case, if what was said about TNT wanting to do a deal for Seasone 21 of "L & O" but NBC was the one balking, then Zucker is doing a better job of sabatoging NBC down the road than if he were really trying to do it.

That all said, what I would now be doing if I were DW is to explore doing a big-screen version of the mothership where DW can get Chris Noth to return as Logan and Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe to reprise Goren and Eames among others. It would be a relatively inexpensive film to shoot since it would be using existing sets, and I think would turn a profit if only because the loyal fans would go to see it on the big screen (and I suspect between Jeremy Sisto, Anthony Anderson, CN, VDO and KE you'd be able to market such a version to the moviegoing public as well).

gahks said...

Awesome Christine!

Thanks for showing your support!]

S.O.S. - Save Our Show!

Wallyhorse said...

On top of everything else:

There is now a false press release that said that "CI" was also canceled that apparently was done by a blogger to pander to those bitter with USA Network for letting VDO and KE go.

And speaking of VDO, is that really Walon Green saying that? I mentioned an earlier blog post by that poster, and most people think that person is a fake.

Kellye said...

That post certainly had me going!

Jen said...

This is an excellent letter. Thank you for speaking for us so eloquently.

Alan said...

That letter was PERFECT. You laid it all out on the line. Thank you very much for sending it. I will SO miss Law and Order. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Christine.

Rosemary said...

Perfect letter Christine! If only we could have L & O picked up by a cable sad right now.

Anonymous said...

Truly amazing, Christie. I am sending a similar letter. Your thoughts are identical to mine. Law & Order is such a national pasttime that I truly feel like Jack McCoy is the real Manhattan DA. Your points about NBC not doing enough to market it are spot on. I have so many thoughts on that.

Thank you so much, again.

Anonymous said...

Meant to say Christine, sorry!

Anonymous said...

By the way, as for those who complain about ratings -- the show has millions of fans, not CSI-level, but millions nonetheless, and it's been on so long I think it has fans that may not be like us, but still enjoy tuning in, knowing that once a week, that the folks of the 27 and the Manhattan DA's office are hard at work. Silly, I guess, to some, but I love this show.

Esaul said...

The show has a lot of loyal fans who have been there from the start, or in my case for long as I've been able to. Kinda hard to watch a show when I wasn't quite born at its inception. But nonetheless, I've been very loyal and dedicated. I only wish I had the idea of doing a L&O blog. But man that takes a lot of dedication, and I doubt I could've done it. xD

I would've added a third point, because I've been seeing a lot from people that this show is a lot more than just a show to them. For me, it really feels as if I'm losing someone, like a big sister that I've grown up with, gotten to know, etc. etc. etc. and I've been seriously depressed about it. I've lost other shows in the past, and gotten over it, even kinda forgotten about it. But nothing as serious as this. I'm hoping someone will pick L&O up, or do as Wally said and put it to the big screen, or even a tv movie, like Exile (which I so want to watch again :( ). I'm

Anonymous said...

Esaul, completely agree. Loved without a trace, but was okay after a bit. This I'm very down about. I guess it's the "franchise" nature of it...the knowledge that if done right, it's really a "forever" show -- because of the "ripped from the headlines" basis, where we love the characters but are actually excited about new characters.

Point is, there is no reason for this show to die. I don't care if its on NBC, TNT, USA, or A&E -- it should be airing. It has a ton of fans, and ...well, they are not just 50+.

I think we need to all unify together and work to bring it back. I think we can do it, actually.

Hannah said...

Hiya! L&O maybe set in NY but it definitely has international appeal as I am an Aussie fan!

I seriously hope someone else picks up the show!!!! I think it's a team effort in that Dick Wolf makes a quality product and NBC advertises it and keeps it at a descent timeslot. From what I heard NBC failed to do their bit and they blew up the mothership!

Kudos to you for putting forward what a huge amount of fans of the show wanted to say in short of kicking someones ass at NBC!

I'm doing my bit I have a group on DA --->"Save Law and Order" Dunno what good it's gonna do but any support is good support as far as I'm concerned!

So again thank you so much and fingers crossed that someone will save this intelligent thought-provoking drama!

Francesca Vezzosi said...

I hate it that we are losing such a great show. It is the end of an era.

I'm happy you decided to write NBC to air your disappointment, Christine, and it would be good if many of us did the same, though I'm not sure this would be enough to have NBC reconsider their decision.

In fact, the only language that networks understand is money, and ratings seem not to be high enough to attract ads money and TNT said they aren't interested in buying a 21st season for re-runs, so that would make it economically too burdensome for NBC to keep producing L&O,

Wallyhorse said...


Apparently, from what was posted in Christine's previous blog post here in the comments section, the issue of first-run episodes may very well now be revisted. Time Warner (TNT's and Turner Broadcasting's parent company) has said publically they are not interested, but apparently, based on what was mentioned in the prior blog's comments, it is possible that they were doing that so as not to irk Jeff Zucker.

I also now wonder if the cancellation has anything to do with CBS and Turner Broadcasting becoming partners on the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament (beginning next year, all games will be on a combination of CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV). It could very well be that Zucker may look at that as making Turner's networks a cable partner of CBS, and the denial of a 21st season was to get back to Turner for becoming a partner of CBS, possibly at least in the eyes of Zucker.

Jon S. said...

If Mr. Zucker doesn't change his decision to cancel Law & Order, I recommend drafting a letter to Comcast and his superiors to encourage them to oust him. He has already made series of poor decisions, including canceling few shows I love (not only including this one but also Boomtown, etc.), running Conan O'Brien out of NBC (I like Jay Leno as well so it's rather sad he's unwilling to find a way to accommodate both of them on their network at same time), and etc. that caused NBC to become #4 network. What's wrong with this picture? He need to be let go. His time has now passed.

Anonymous said...

Backing up a moment, even IF the stuff about TNT not wanting to do a 21st season of reruns were true, and the show was going to be expensive, most of the articles I read indicated that NBC was still not going to let it die, that the show/institution/21st season were too important. Basically -- yeah, it might prevent a 22nd season on NBC, but they weren't going to let it stop a 21st season.

Of course, one thing we all know is when a show has an audience like L&O, it can survive somewhere. This is all pretty silly.

Wallyhorse said...


Entertainment Weekly is now reporting there is going to be an attempt to have a two-hour movie or event sometime in the fall to properly wrap up "L & O," which may be what actually happens.

That said (replying to Jon):

What I think actually happened was Zucker himself torpedoed the 21st season, possibly to get back to Time Warner/Turner (parents of TNT) for becoming partners with CBS on the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament and because (as has been reported in a few outlets), Turner and CBS may merge new operations to save costs. If that is true, it could very well be that Zucker doesn't want repeats of a 21st season of the mothership airing on what could be to him a cable outlet of CBS, and given his reputation and the stories that came out during the Leno-Conan debacle that included his having a grudge against Conan dating back to when both were at Harvard, it would not surprise me if that is the real reason "L & O" was canceled, if only to try and prevent repeats from airing in Sept. 2011 on (what could be at least to Zucker) a CBS cable outlet.

With that in mind, I would not be shocked if Time Warner (Turner's parent) reverses course sometime in the next month or so and tries to work with DW on getting a 21st season done once Time Warner realize they can promote it out the wazoo on ALL of Turner's platforms, including with a January premiere with Conan's new TBS show during the baseball playoffs in October on TBS and then on Conan's new show when that premieres in November on TBS. In fact, I can see a scenario if that happens where first-run episodes of the mothership actually air beginning in January on TBS rather than TNT, and if so Thursday nights at 10:00 PM ET/PT as a direct lead-in to Conan's new show on TBS, which would send NBC the ultimate finger in doing so and on top of that, work with Dick Wolf to then work out their own "repurposing" deal that has such episodes then airing Saturday nights on CBS, which the original "L & O" pilot in 1988 was originally produced for.

Wallyhorse said...

Following up on my last post:

As mentioned in some of my posts, apparently, Zucker has a major grudge with Conan o'Brien that goes all the way back to when both were at Harvard in the mid-1980s. If this grudge is big enough, in addition to what I already mentioned about Time Warner/Turner becoming partners with CBS, could it be that Zucker has such a massive grudge against Conan that he reneged on the TNT arrangement because Turner signed Conan to do a new show on TBS (TNT's sister network)? I know it sounds far fetched, but if it is true that TNT agreed to pay the licensing fee but Zucker then reneged and specifically wanted DW to pay for it himself, then I have to wonder if this is Zucker trying to get revenge at Turner for signing Conan, far-fetched as this may seem based on it now appearing that Zucker himself torpedoed the TNT arrangement.

Wallyhorse said...

Another follow-up:

The article that noted the Jeff Zucker-Conan feud that now might have led to "L & O" being canceled out of spite to Time Warner by Zucker:

As said before, if this turns out to be the real reason Zucker reneged on the deal that had TNT helping to finance season 21 of "L & O," then I suspect Zucker is going to have a ton more enemies than anyone ever thought.

Anonymous said...

The fans saved Friday Night Lights...why wouldn't it work for this. And if the ratings were so bad, why not just move it over to USA.

I can't believe they're keeping both SVU and CI around, but canceling the mother ship. Sharon Stone has been a disaster, in my opinion. They finally got a cast that really gels, and then they just drop it all together.

So disappointed.

Wallyhorse said...

Unlike the spinoffs, the mothership can't move to USA Network due to its repeat contract with TNT that was done in 1998 (before "repurposing" was ever a consideration). That deal expires in 2012 and included for episodes up to season 20, and only TNT was allowed to negotiate for season 21 repeats. That's why if the mothership moves at all, it would be to TNT or TBS, NOT USA Network.

Like I said, I do think Zucker's reneging on the deal that was in place for Season 21 episodes was specifically to get back as Turner Broadcasting for signing Conan o'Brien (whom Zucker as noted appears to have a deep-rooted hatred for) to do a new show on TBS beginning in November as punishment for signing Conan.

gahks said...

If the reasons that commenters have given for the mothership's premature cancellation (i.e. Zucker's longstanding feud with Conan O'Brien) are indeed the case, this goes to show how stupid and cynical Mr. Zucker is, and may well be a damning indictment of the cynicism of the entire American television industry. To think that an institution such as "Law & Order" and, as Christine/All Things rightly calls it, a national (sorry, international) pastime can be cancelled in the blink of an eye simply because of some superficial dispute between two grown men beggars belief. Really.

Mr. Zucker would do well to redeem himself by reversing this illogical decision at the earliest possible opportunity.

Wallyhorse said...

Looks like TNT/TBS may get the last laugh, as the mothership is NOT dead yet:

As said before, I would be looking if I'm at Turner to do special "TNT on TBS" airings of first-run Mothership episodes on Thursdays at 10:00 PM ET/PT on TBS as the lead-in to Conan o'Brien's new late show on TBS that would provide the ultimate finger to NBC.

Wallyhorse said...

Yet another article from Variety that NBCU and Turner are going to be in negotiations to move the mothership to Turner:

Anna said...

Executive Producer Jeff Zucker 212-664-2830