Originally aired: Sunday 10 June through Sunday 12 August 2007

Letter to HBO & HBO’s Replies

Just after John From Cincinnati was canceled (Monday, 13 August 2007) a future member of the HBO Member Created Threads, known to us now as appliedpsych, wrote a letter to HBO expressing disappointment and concerns.

About a month and a half later he received a letter in response, dated 27 September 2007, one day before our first full-page ad was run in The Hollywood Reporter. It is from HBO Consumer Affairs manager, Bill Mesce.

Six weeks later appliedpsych received another letter, dated 13 November 2007, from the same Bill Mesce which says essentially the same things but is much shorter. This second letter is apparently a second reply to appliedpsych’s orignal letter to HBO. This could be explained as a bureaucratic snaffo where the two letters were written by different underlings, one not knowing what the other has already done. This seems logical because, though both letters say they are from Mr. Mesce, the signatures are very different.

Or could it have been done deliberately? We do not know of any other individualized responses from HBO to the viewers of JOHN who voiced their opinions. Could this second letter be their response to our second full-page ad we ran in Variety on 31 October 2007? You’re guess is as good as ours.


Dear HBO & Time Warner Executives:

I’m beginning to become concerned for you. If HBO was a patient, I would look at is as if you have been a high-functioning, successful individual who, inexplicably, has developed a nasty set of self-defeating and self-sabotage behaviors which are alienating everyone around you.

First, you hire creative genius David Milch to develop great shows for you. He creates two great shows, Deadwood, and John from Cincinnati. What does HBO do? They cancel both shows with no audience preparation, no notification, and no explanation.

Now, from what I read online (the Internet is HUGE), you have tasked Mr. Milch to follow on with the development of yet another series, this one about 1970’s cops. Also from what I read, Mr. Milch has taken a forward-looking approach to HBO decisions, and is moving to meet his business agreements with you in a gentlemanly and gracious manner. I am sure that any show that Mr. Milch develops will be great, as all of his shows have been, including Deadwood and John from Cincinnati.

I ask you executives with all sincerity – why should any viewer now take the time and effort to tune in to such a new Milch series? I’m sure you can wordsmith a generic, soothing, and bullshit answer for me, but the reality is, you have no good excuse for your past actions which now puts all new HBO series in jeopardy.

HBO has now set up a clear pattern of behavior in the minds of viewers:

1) Have creative genius develop great show 2) Get viewers interested, excited, and hooked 3) Cancel series unceremoniously with no warning

HBO has been 100% predictable in this pattern with both of their Milch shows, so why would anyone think they would not do so again?

Even though the (non-Milch) Soprano’s ending riled many viewers, at least you gave us the courtesy of plenty of warning that the end was going to occur, as well you should with ANY series.

People can forgive disagreeing over a plot line, or even a planned series conclusion, much better than they can forgive a pattern of discourteous, rude, and un-businesslike behavior of unpredictably cancelling great shows.

Yeah, maybe the networks do it, but HBO is supposed to be better than that. (It’s not TV, it’s HBO).

The subscribers’ of HBO are your customers. It is as if suddenly you are not concerned whatsoever with your customer service style. Businesses who lose sight of customer service and alienate their customer base always suffer. We, your current customers, and I echo the sentiments of many, are quite upset with your actions on both Milch shows. Three million viewers and growing, on both shows, and that’s not enough for you?

You built your business on attracting and pleasing customers. Now you are alienating potentially millions of your current customers. Word of mouth is a big force, and we do not have many good things to say about your recent patterns to help you attract new customers.

It would be a shame for the groundbreaking creative and business models of HBO fall prey to whatever is ailing you. God knows you are facing increasing competition from other pay channels, from FX, CW, Fox, and even from the big three networks.

You have a great creative mind in Mr. Milch – but micromanaging his efforts is not the way to go. If you really want to set HBO apart as a great creative business force, with the great asset you have in Mr. Milch, you have to give him free reign. YOU need to listen to HIM, not the other way around! Why did you hire a creative genius, only to circumvent his efforts by over-riding his creative energy? Like I said, self-defeating, self-sabotaging behaviors.

Let him resurrect both Deadwood and John from Cincinnati if he wants, and give him the creative freedom to do the work he does so well. Hell, charge us more, I’m willing to pay more for quality programming! I am also sure that other creative financial support could be developed if you set your corporate mind to it.

You know without a doubt that you have audiences for both Deadwood and John from Cincinnati, an audience base that could be cherished, nurtured, grown, and developed over time. You have chosen twice to circumvent your success with these audiences, apparently choosing instead to seek some ideal audience numbers, demographics, critic’s happiness, profit margins, and other characteristics that may not even exist except in your corporate dreams.

Instead of working where you’re at to build success, you at HBO seem suddenly more interested in starting from scratch again and again. Do you have a case of corporate ADHD or what? I don’t know what your problem is, but I hope you seek some sort of help to heal yourself. As JFC would say “work here HBO” or maybe “see God HBO”.

Failing that change of corporate heart, then perhaps you can at least COMMIT to three seasons of the new program Mr. Milch does develop – and plan to give your viewers at least a seasons notice BEFORE you end any HBO show.

If you don’t do that, I predict a continued decline for HBO, because viewers will just continue to lose faith in the stability of your programming, and choose to view elsewhere rather than subject themselves to the continued frustration and disappointment that you have given us by cancelling Deadwood and John from Cincinnati. We got our eyes on you!