Michael C. Keith
Cyril Kazan had been bothered for quite some time––at least since he’d turned 60 a half dozen years earlier––that he couldn’t stay awake long enough to watch the television late night talk shows. This was also true for his wife, Kayla.
Typically the Kazans would nod off by 9:30-10 o’clock as they sat in front of their 15 year-old, 28-inch Panasonic television. This issue so gnawed at Cyril that he finally wrote the programming departments of the major broadcast networks with a suggestion that he hoped they might embrace.
His letter read as follows:
Dear Program Executive:
My wife and I are now in our 60s and find it very difficult to stay awake long
enough to enjoy your late night talk show. We greatly miss and long for
the glory days of Johnny Carson when we were younger––we can’t tell you how much we loved Ed and Doc. For a time we watched Jay Leno, but then we
began to experience drowsiness because of the late hour of the broadcast.
Would it be possible for you to schedule an “early” late night talk show designed for seniors, say beginning at 8 PM? I believe there’s a huge potential audience
for such an program given the aging Baby-Boomer population. This “early”
late night talk show, as I’m calling it for lack of a better name, could feature
hosts and guests in the same age demographic as its viewers, making it all the more relevant and appealing.
If you would give this proposal appropriate consideration, we would very much appreciate it.
Two months later, Cyril received a reply to his letter from one of the networks.
Dear Mr. Zakan,
Thank you for your programming suggestion. While we understand your
frustration stemming from an inability to stay up long enough to watch
our late night talk show (we realize it is difficult to be old), we’re afraid we cannot comply with your request.
The reason for this is purely economic. Elderly viewers––those in their twilight years––do not appeal to sponsors, with the exception of pharmaceutical
and adult diaper manufacturers. While there is profit to be made from them, it
pales by comparison to that spent by advertisers wishing to reach the 24-39
year old viewer.
May we suggest a possible solution to your dilemma? You might DVR our
late night talk show for viewing at an hour when you are fully conscious. If
you’re not familiar with this technology (and that would be understandable
given your considerable age), we’re sure your cable provider can explain
it to you.
Donald J. Caufield, Jr.
Vice President, Audience Relations
Cyril was infuriated by what he saw was Caufield’s unnecessarily demeaning response, and he dashed off yet another letter––this time sending it via Express Mail:
Dear Mr. Caulfeld, Junior,
Your message was an insult to my intelligence, and it’s clear that you have an
enormous gap in yours to think that only older people with medical and
bladder issues can inspire advertising revenues. Furthermore, to be of the
opinion that folks of a certain age are beyond grasping the rudiments
of modern video technology shows just how uniformed you are about my
Are you aware that the founders of your medium, David Sarnoff and William
Paley, were still at the helm of their networks (NBC and CBS respectively, in
case you don’t know) long past their 70th birthdays? Of course, I suppose you
would have held them in equal contempt because of their “mature” age.
Anyway, I don’t want to take up anymore of your valuable time, as I suspect
there are tremendous pressures on you to come up with more brilliant programs,
like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “Toddlers in Tiaras.” These network
shows reflect the sad reality of your insufficient programming talent.
Finally, I’ve concluded that the reason why we snooze in front of the television
so early is that there isn’t anything stimulating enough to keep us up until
your late talk show comes on.
With all due dis-respect,
Cyril K-A-Z-A-N, Senior (and proud of it)
Cyril was surprised when a week later he received an envelope from Caufield containing two complimentary tickets to his network’s 1:30 AM “Late, Late Show.”
A note accompanying the tickets read: “Hope you’re up for this.”
Michael C. Keith teaches college and writes fiction. www.michaelckeith.com