Comments: Week of February 3, 2019

1 For New York’s latest cover, national correspondent Gabriel Debenedetti followed the Democratic front-runners across Iowa in the weeks leading up to the caucuses (“Just Another Iowa Caucus to Determine the Future of the Campaign, the Party, and Quite Possibly the Republic,” January 20–February 2). @jerry_jtaylor tweeted, “Excellent insiders view of how each of the leading campaigns (Sanders, Biden, Warren, Buttigieg) sees Iowa shaping up and the subsequent road to the nomination. One thing’s for sure: Sanders’s people are awful confident.” Many readers speculated on the contenders’ ability to beat President Trump in the general election. Hhcrum commented, “Trump will eviscerate any of the four leaders … He did not beat Hillary because he was liked. He beat Hillary because she was more disliked than he was. The same will happen with any of these four.” Blutarski disagreed: “Any of the four, with the obvious exception of Biden, is quite capable of beating Trump. I’d add Bloomberg to that list, too … But it seems like we are headed toward Biden because it’s ‘his turn’ (like it was HRC’s turn in 2016) and so four more years is looking more and more likely.”

2 Matthew Schneier wrote about Michael Barbaro, the host of the New York Times’ popular podcast The Daily, and how the podcast has changed not only the Times but also the audio industry (“The Voice of a Generation,” January 20–February 2). @TonyFross tweeted, “When the NYT envisioned its future, many folks likely anticipated that video would be key. Fewer probably anticipated the impact of podcasting and how The Daily would so quickly establish itself as the (literal) brand voice of the modern NYT.” WGBH podcast producer Nick Andersen called it a “v good and v frustrating profile … I sometimes worry about the hero worship around a commercial product when a public media iteration of the same (Morning Edition! All Things Considered! your local station) hasn’t fully stepped in here.” And in her media newsletter, Delia Cai joked, “There is a non-zero chance that I, as a red-blooded listener of The Daily, am just projecting here, but did the first half of this writeup of the man, the myth, the voice! of Michael Barbaro … strike anyone else as relentlessly and hilariously horny?” Barbaro, weighing in on Twitter, wrote, “The reason why The Daily is such a success is not the host, as this headline misleadingly declares. It’s the show’s incomparably talented, tireless producers and editors. People who write about the show never seem to capture that.”

3 Architecture critic Justin Davidson spoke to Frank Gehry about the possibility of retirement, projects that truly excite him, and how the industry has changed in his lifetime (In Conversation: Frank Gehry,” January 20–February 2). Responding to Gehry’s discussion of classical music, @jmassengale wrote, “Michael Graves used to say that Mozart’s work was simultaneously profoundly deep and instantly hummable. The best classical buildings have the same instant likability and depth. Gehry’s best buildings can have that too.” And responding to Gehry’s ideas on architecture as his art form, @Moloknee tweeted, “Good way to live. Treat everything you do as an art.”

4 In her tribute to comedy writer Anne Beatts (Anne Beatts Was Always More Interesting Than John Hughes,” January 6–19), Jen Chaney discusses Beatts’s ’80s show Square Pegs, writing, “At least according to a 1984 TV Guide exposé titled ‘Anatomy of a Failure: How Drugs, Ego, and Chaos Helped Kill Square Pegs,’ the show ended messily.” Beatts wrote in to contest that account: “Many thanks for the unexpectedly complimentary and perceptive evaluation of my career in your issue. However, I would like to set the record straight on one point. Despite TV Guide’s sensationalist exposé, drugs, ego, and chaos did not kill Square Pegs. Low ratings did. The highest audience share Square Pegs ever received was a 24, which now would make you the queen of Hollywood but was considered inadequate for CBS, then the leading ‘Tiffany network.’ Such were the days before DVR and streaming. When I phoned CBS for the overnights the next Thursday morning, the chipper young girl on the phone told me the share was 12, so we had lost roughly half our audience in one week. Then she asked me for a job. I should have told her, with timing like that, stay out of the comedy business. I knew the show was doomed, proving the accuracy of what Lorne Michaels had told me when I asked why his show was called Saturday Night: ‘So the network can remember when it’s on.’ The cancellation was confirmed a month later. I appreciate that there was no place in your article for an elaborate recounting of internecine broadcast struggles from the distant past, and it’s true that by that point my ego was in chaos, but no drugs were involved.”

*This article appears in the February 3, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!


Comments: Week of February 3, 2020