08/18/13 6:00am
08/18/2013 6:00 AM

AMC COURTESY PHOTO | The cast of Breaking Bad.

Yes, I know this column is supposed to be local in its focus. And this week’s submission will be, too, insofar as our television set is located in Orient, N.Y.

I have been bitten bad, you see, by the “Breaking Bad” bug. So it’s neigh on impossible for me to focus — this week, at least — on ferry traffic, hot new restaurants or the thrill of watching the North Fork Ospreys win their league championship.

No, this column will be about Walter White, the high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine cook who has captured the hearts and minds of millions of TV addicts like myself.

Perhaps more than anyone, the former Joan Giger Walker knows the drill. It begins immediately after the dinner dishes are transferred to the dishwasher. I thank her for the meal, then slink off to the front room of our house, where Walter White and his mates await. Four or five hours later I rise from the couch, somewhat groggily, having gorged on four or five consecutive episodes of this highly addictive AMC maxi-series.

If you, too, have been bitten, you know whereof I speak. If you have not watched, and plan to, stop reading now to avoid any spoilers.

This past Sunday night, Aug. 11, had been marked on my iPhone’s calendar for close to a year. That’s because it was the first of the show’s final eight episodes, and I had to prepare for the occasion by watching most of the 50 some episodes that led up to last year’s finale, wherein Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank, the Drug Enforcement Administration agent, discovers that Walt is the drug kingpin he (Hank) has been searching for all along, said discovery having taken place while Hank is seated on the toilet at Walt’s house. (See for yourself by calling up episode 508: “Gliding Over All” on demand.)

Yes, indeed, “Breaking Bad” is edgy — to the max. But that’s why I (and millions of others, apparently) have fallen so hard for it. It’s unlike anything else on television — in particular “Duck Dynasty” — and not just because the show’s creators have invented dozens of unique methods of “eliminating” characters from the show. (Case in point: a tortoise, carrying the severed head of a Mexican cartel drug lord, explodes and kills several DEA agents.)

Yes, I know, that may have been a little too edgy, but that’s not really what the show is about. What it’s about is the transformation of a highly sympathetic, mild-mannered high school teacher with a diagnosis of lung cancer into a highly unsympathetic, cold-blooded killer and illegal drug manufacturer. And what makes that transition possible, and believable, is the astounding acting of Bryan Cranston, who plays Walter White. He’s won three best-actor Emmy awards over the show’s five seasons and several of his co-stars have been similarly honored in supporting roles.

Simply put, in this self-appointed critic’s humble opinion, “Breaking Bad” has been, is and will be until dethroned at some point in the future, the very best thing American television has to offer.

And if you doubt me, set your DVR for AMC (Channel 43 for Optimum subscribers) at 9 p.m. this coming Sunday, Aug. 18. But first, make 10 pounds of popcorn, empty your bladder, turn off the phones and watch all 54 episodes that have aired to date.

And when you come up for air, give me a call.

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03/12/13 10:00am
03/12/2013 10:00 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Stephan Bogardus of North Fork Table & Inn will take his cooking game to the small screen on an episode of Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ tonight.

Stephan Bogardus of Southold, chef de cuisine at The North Fork Table & Inn, will appear in an episode of the Food Network contest show “Chopped” tonight.

The episode airs at 10 p.m.

Mr. Bogardus, 25, learned his way around the kitchen working at several East End eateries. The chef, who speaks four languages, originally planned on attending law school, but was not accepted into any good schools, he said. On the advice of another chef, he attended the Culinary Institute of America, graduating in 2009.

Not long after, he made his was back to the North Fork.

Mr. Bogardus said Gerry Hayden, executive chef of The North Fork Table & Inn, recommended him to “Chopped” producers.

The show pits four chefs against each other competing for a chance to win $10,000. The challenge is to take a mystery basket of ingredients and turn them into dishes that are judged on creativity, presentation, and taste — with minimal time to plan and execute — a description of the show reads.

We sat down with Mr. Bogardus last month to discuss his career and his experience on the show:

Q. What would you say your specialty is?

A. What we have here at the North Fork Table & Inn, American cuisine and comfort food. Fresh local ingredients, they naturally display the pristine of the North Fork.

Q. Were you able to bring any North Fork flare to any of your dishes?

A. Absolutely. I like to feel being a native and a local out here, I brought a lot of personality and Long Island pride to the show for sure.

Q. One of the ingredients in the first round was beef tongue, had you ever worked with it before?

A. I make smoked beef tongue here at the restaurant. We purchased all the cows from Russell McCall at McCall Ranch this year, and so every two weeks we received a whole cow, that had the tongue in it. So I always did some kind of cure. I was quite aware of the ingredient.

Q. What was the most challenging aspect of the competition?

A. The timing is really, really hard. I had practiced a couple of times with twenty-minute increments and mystery baskets and things, it goes so much faster when you are in the studio.

It was hands down the most challenging 20 minutes of my life. Not only having to do what they ask you, to put together the best plate against these talented individuals, then there are cameras and lights and cords running across the floor you had to jump over. Something they did in the pantry, they put ingredients all over the place. It’s not all organized and together. There’s a lot of hunting and pecking that you have to do to assemble.

Q. Do you think your young age was an asset, or did it hinder your performance?

A. It was definitely a double-edged sword. It was great because I feel like a lot of the competitors underestimated me, but it was also challenging because my level of experience did not match most others. I would consider myself the least experienced of all the individuals.

Q. How did it feel to be selected as a contestant?

A. I knew I was being considered to be a contestant, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be selected. I’m just a 25-year-old from Southold, I never thought I’d be on TV.

It was a life-changing experience. It was truly an honor to be chosen as a competitor. There was really an acknowledgment toward years of hard work and experience, on a national level, which is pretty sweet.

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11/29/10 9:20pm
11/29/2010 9:20 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Richard Brewster sits in front of an early television camera in his collection room.

“Hey, kids, what time is it?”

If you’re an adult of a certain age, you know the answer: “It’s Howdy Doody time.” The kids show ran on NBC from 1947 to 1960 and was one of the few commercial television programs available in many markets in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Memorabilia about the show is one small part of the television history amassed by Nassau Point resident Richard Brewster, 72. His collection of printed memorabilia and early television sets, radio receivers and wireless telephones fills a room in his house.
“This hobby has been an awful lot of fun,” Mr. Brewster said.

He purchased some of his collection from an elderly man he heard about through his hunt for collectibles. He can’t estimate the worth of his collection today. And after more than 40 years acquiring bits and pieces of radio and TV history, Mr. Brewster said he wants nothing more because any new additions would be redundant.

His hobby was not just about hardware and memorabilia, he said. He also built a substantial library on which he relies to write his regular history columns for the Antique Wireless Association Journal.

While many think television started in the wake of an exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair, Mr. Brewster knows that the initial effort to transmit pictures electronically occurred back in 1884. In the days of the telegraph, Paul Nipkow patented a device that systematically scanned images into elemental points we today call pixels.

“Television was too complex for one man to invent it,” Mr. Brewster said. Along the way came many other inventors who built on Mr. Nipkow’s idea, he explained.

But it wasn’t until 1928 that the technology went beyond laboratory experiments. That year, in Schenectady, N.Y., General Electric radio station WGY telecast a play called “The Queen’s Messenger” for an audience of scientists and newsmen, using a mechanical system for both transmitting and receiving sound and pictures.

That showing occurred on Sept. 11, only 73 years to the day before the world would be glued to the television watching the horror of terrorist attacks in the United States.

Back in 1969, Mr. Brewster, a nuclear power engineer who worked overseas in Czechoslovakia, England, Japan, Korea, as well as in the United States, told his wife, Susan, he wanted to have an antique radio. He acquired one made in 1929 and it became the first piece in his expansive collection.

Mr. Brewster’s collection includes old TV Guide magazines and photographs, including one from 1901 showing the shortwave installation on board the USS Baltimore, one of the first ships with wireless communications. His collection includes a crystal radio from England used during World War I; early wireless communicators that were the precursor to today’s cell phones, but had limited transmission capabilities and weighed as much as 10 pounds; and picture tubes used in early TV sets in the 1940s and 1950s.

Mr. Brewster built a television camera identical to one used by the “Original Television Girl,” stage actress Natalie Towers, who appeared on CBS W2XAB beginning in July 1931. When CBS first tapped her for the job, her questions was, “What’s television?”
Mr. Brewster, who interviewed Ms. Towers several years ago, demonstrated how the actress would sit in front of the camera as a large disc with tiny pinpoint holes rotated, allowing arcs of powerful light to filter through. She saw an ongoing series of what looked like small lightning bolts flickering upward. The disc on the camera and a similar disc on the receiver had to be synchronized to create the picture.

Advertisements told the public they could now see as well as hear their favorite radio programs. Technology was rudimentary, but people were fascinated and would spend $69.50, a handsome sum in Depression era 1930, to purchase receivers, Mr. Brewster said.
As for really seeing Ms. Towers as she sang and danced, “That was not true,” Mr. Brewster said. What the public saw was a silhouette or a glimpse of a tiny, fuzzy image. Early pictures were transmitted in red and black, not black and white. Ms. Towers had to use a great deal of makeup to accentuate features that would otherwise be totally blurred, Mr. Brewster said.

One prized piece in Mr. Brewster’s collection is a television set he believes belonged to Gen. David Sarnoff, the radio and TV pioneer who founded NBC. The general’s name is scribbled on the back of the chassis, a practice repairmen used to ensure sets they took to their shops got returned to the proper customers.

Another piece that won a prize from the Antique Wireless Association for Mr. Brewster is a British-built radio sent by a collector there who feared keeping it because its face mirrored the design of the Japanese rising sun battle flag. British sentiments against the Japanese were strong after World War II and complaints about the design resulted in the manufacturer pulling the radios from shelves.

He happens to own the Japanese battle flag that some people saw in the radio design. The Brewsters received it when they climbed Japan’s Mount Fuji years ago. He keeps it with the radio to show how similar its face is to the rising sun design.