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NBC is putting its shows on iTunes.

Great idea. The only problem is that there’s almost nothing on NBC that I watch.

As a brand, NBC has become almost completely irrelevant to me. Except for when there’s breaking news, because I like Brian Williams and most of the reporters, and MSNBC, because I like Imus and Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann. But that’s about it.

Compare that to the old days when I’d watch Seinfeld and Cheers and Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere, and NBC was the place with the hippest, most interesting programming.

Law & Order is pretty good, but quite frankly, it is said that there is an episode of Law & Order or its spinoffs playing somewhere in the world during every hour of every day. So there’s no rush.

Now, I prefer CBS (CSI and NCIS…I’m a fan of police procedurals), ABC (Lost and Alias) and Fox (24). And HBO, for when The Sopranos andCurb Your Enthusiasm are on.

There’s an argument, of course, that it isn’t that NBC changed or lost its brand identity, but rather that I got old and my tastes changed. And to a certain extent that may be true. On the other hand, if you look at the ratings, it appears that viewers are abandoning NBC in droves. It can’t all be middle-aged men who find the network to be irrelevant.

It is a good object lesson for anyone in the brand business.

About a third of the way through “Walk The Line,” the new movie about Johnny Cash, I have to admit that I suffered a bit of musical biography fatigue. Maybe it is because of “Ray,” the movie about Ray Charles that came out last year to much acclaim, and that I just loved. There were elements that both movies had in common – the impoverished and troubled childhood, as well as the drug abuse and personal torment that came with success.

But the fatigue didn’t last long, especially because of the enormously sympathetic performances of Joaquin Phoenix as Cash, and especially Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. Phoenix actually had the tougher job, from my point of view, because I was far more familiar with the man he was playing; I’m not sure if I could pick June Carter out of a lineup. But the movie, and their performances, manage to capture their moments in time without being sentimental – especially her steely resolve not to give in to Cash’s demons. It is a remarkable story, all building up to his legendary concert at Folsom Prison in 1968.

And let’s not forget the music – energetic, haunting, unforgettable songs like “I Walk The Line,” “Ring of Fire,” “Jackson,” and, of course, “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Good stuff.

Couple of wonderful wines to recommend this week…

The 2004 Alamos Malbec from Argentina is sort of dark and smoky and really good with steak or a roast, or even with a pasta with a rich red sauce.

And the 2004 Vilosell from Spain has a really interesting spiciness when you first taste it, and then leaves you with just a hint of vanilla in your mouth. Not sure why, but it was terrific with a dish I made that consisted of hot ground sausage, chopped onions, garlic, and cheddar and jack cheese piled in between a triple stack of four tortillas and then baked until all the filling had melted together. Yummmm….

Thanks to those of you from the Seattle area who wondered about a get-together of local MNB subscribers during my trip to the Pacific Northwest this week. It wasn’t possible, unfortunately, because of time constraints; I’m in the middle of producing a series of video segments that will be used in February at the annual CIES Food Safety Conference in Paris. We’ve been wandering the country talking to retailers and other experts about food safety attitudes in this country…I’ll tell you more as we get closer. Or, you can check out the agenda at:

(Maybe we need to have a get-together of Parisian MNB users…)

Of course, that doesn’t mean we didn’t squeeze in a good meal while we were in Seattle. The place: our favorite, Etta’s Seafood. The meal: pan seared monkfish with toasted farro risotto, bacon, baby carrots and red wine-mushroom reduction.

Yes, that old thing again.

That’s it for this week.

Have a great weekend.

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