Monday, February 04, 2013

N.Y. Times Changes Rating System (Again) for Suburban Restaurants

When "Don't Miss" Was Anything But

For those of you scoring at home, The New York Times has tweaked how it rates suburban restaurants in its Sunday Metropolitan section.

Gone are the four categories of Don't Bother (never saw one of those in Westchester), O.K. (every now and then), Worth It (more often than not) and Don't Miss (if only).

Instead, we now have five possibilities to digest, the more prosaic "Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good and Excellent." In other words, back to where we were. Which is actually a good thing.

At least dining in Westchester, where most of my meals outside of the city are taken, there needs to be more of a distinction between "Worth It" restaurants and "Don't Miss," which should be akin to transcendent and memorable for all the right reasons. If "Don't Miss," was not quite the equivalent of a four-star rating in the Dining Section on Wednesday, it should come pretty damn close.

Unfortunately, there are virtually no restaurants in Westchester that can even aspire to fitting that category, with the exception of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, consistently one of my favorite dining experiences anywhere.

Many other famed Westchester eateries, among them Le Panetiere, and the Bedford Post Inn, are overpriced pretenders rather than contenders. That doesn't mean to say you can't get a great meal in the county. But most of the better restaurants fall into the "very good" category, sometimes verging on excellent without quite getting there.

Hence, my thumbs-up for the new ratings, which will also allow reviewers to avoid severely overpraising restaurants, as Emily DeNitto shamefully did when she reviewed Hudson at Haymount House in July. The restaurant no doubt filled more tables than it deserved to because of the breathless review. We took the bait in large part because of the write-up. Instead, we encountered shoddy service, small portions and high prices. You can read my Trip Advisor review of Haymount House here.

Suffice to say, the words "Don't Miss" are absent.

Friday, February 01, 2013

"60 Minutes Sports" A Missed Opportunity?

A Little Too Much Deja Vu on View

Having been a big fan of the "60 Minutes" franchise for decades, the idea of lending that moniker to a sports program is intriguing, to say the least.
And "60 Minutes Sports," at least on paper, looks to be an attempt by Showtime to keep close to HBO and its excellent "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."
But Gumbel has nothing to worry about, at least judging by the first edition of "60 Sports."
Maybe I'm just a "60 Minutes" dweeb, but if you watch the flagship show and "Sports," there's an instant familiarity. That's because large chunks of two of the stories on "Sports," also appeared on Sunday nights on sister network CBS.

"Sports" had a piece that was largely a profile of Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and his years-long crusade to prove Lance Armstrong was a cheat. The package, fronted by Scott Pelley, was fine for what it was. But most of it was recycled last week on Sunday for a piece that was ostensibly about how Tygart didn't believe Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth for his two-part interview on OWN.
However, all the piece contained was a couple of new bytes with Tygart. The rest was in the can from "Sports."

Similarly, last month "60 Minutes" did a piece on the Barcelona soccer team and its extreme dominance of the sport. A big reason is Lionel Messi, far and away the best player on the planet. We saw the press-shy Messi chat for a bit, then Bob Simon told us that a bigger profile of Messi would appear on "Sports." Swell. Yet, both pieces share at least five minutes of footage. You're left waiting for something new to be said. It is, but it takes too long to emerge.

Sure, not everyone who watches one program watches the other. Why reinvent the wheel, etc. I get it. Nonetheless, I suspect there is a significant overlap of audiences, and by broadcasting the companion pieces so close together, you're inevitably left wondering why you're sitting through what is essentially a repeat. Which is a shame, as it's still quality TV.

"Sports" also whiffed in its debut by having Lara Logan tell us "from time to time" the show will air "classics," in other words, repeats of favorite stories. Fine, there are some great pieces that deserve new audiences. But why do that for the program's debut? It's almost as if the producers couldn't come up with enough pieces in time for air, so they pulled one out of the closet at the last minute.

That's not what happened, of course, but the 2011 piece on free solo climber Alex Honnold could have waited. This is a new program, which should have content to match. Given that it's only on once a month that's not too much to ask.

You can see whether "60 Minutes" shakes off its shaky debut when it airs a new episode on Wednesday. Expect a heavy emphasis on football, three days after CBS airs the Super Bowl.

Experience Counts for WCBS, After Word of Ed Koch Death

All-News Station Has Some Really Veteran Reporters Talk About Hizzoner

When news broke during morning drive that former New York mayor/icon Ed Koch died overnight, the Big Apple media understandably went into hyper-drive. The papers hit send on the obits that were already in the can, including this winner from Bob McFadden at the Times.

But WCBS radio was in a rare position among media outlets, in that it has two reporters still on staff who covered Koch. Irene Cornell, left, now north of 80, has been at the station since 1970. Rich Lamb, who knows every nook and cranny at City Hall, has been with the station since 1978. Their first-person accounts about Koch helped elevate WCBS' coverage beyond reporting the news of his passing and the requisite statements from Mayor Bloomberg and the like. It also enabled WCBS to go all Koch, all the time, even to the point where it busted the hourly network newscast. And they were still at it in the 10 o'clock hour.

Not that WCBS has a monopoly on old-timers at the mic. The other all-news station, WINS, has Stan Brooks who has been with the station since 1962--when it was still a Top 40 station. Officially, he's been a City Hall reporter, though he's long been a multi-trick pony. The stories he can tell about Koch--and has. Brooks is a spry 85 and just as irrepressible as Koch was, until recently.

We've often heard how reporting is a young person's game. That's often true in the modern news world. But New York radio benefits immeasurably from these three blissful exceptions, esepcially on a day like this.