Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Whose American Life?

PBS Drops Ball, Public Radio Aids/Abets Enemy
•Ira Glass Isn't Gay!?
Robert Siegel Steals Nina Totenberg's Secret Kugel Recipe

The Article

The animated teaser segment was fantastic. If the show can sustain that quality visually for an entire hour, looks like it will transliterate nicely to the small screen. The live action trailer was a little off-putting, but that might just be me because I hate hippies so much. It's the smell. Patchouli oil smells like rotten cabbage that's been fucked by a homeless person.

Having said all that, I would think that the show can't help but be good because its producers are ruthlessly devoted to quality. The problem is, stalwart purist fans of the show probably won't watch because of the principle of the thing. After all, it's a public radio show coming out of Chicago of all places. Watching This American Life on Showtime is like hiring a really high-end prostitute from another city. I.e., it's tantamount to not supporting the local economy, in whatever fashion.

I wonder if this is the beginning of a flight by NPR shows from NPR because NPR is getting too NPRish. Will CNN buy On the Media? Will Wait Wait Don't Tell Me move over to Comedy Central? Will Music from the Hearts of Space host Stephen Hill finally be crushed to death under the weight of his own musical self-importance delusion? Please? Soon? What the fuck are "delicate space-jazz improvisations", anyway? Space-jazz? Is that like what the dudes are honking out at the Los Isley Space Port Tavern?

I don't have cable so I won't watch it, which is fine with me. But I do see a problem. TAL is already very visual because the stories tend to be so visceral. What the producers need to do, perhaps, is tone down the visceral aspect of the show's radio version; otherwise the actual pictures will start competing with the implicit pictures the show already creates for us in our collective heads, and you're talking a major league train wreck. Seriously.

If/when David Sedaris is on the TV version, they'd do best just to show footage of his live readings. Throw in some audience reaction shots and you're good to go. I've seen m'boy Dave live 3 times now. He really doesn't need any "traveling music" or "visual underscoring".

So yeah, one of you stalwart purists watch it and tell me what you think. Be honest.

Finally, that this show is not on PBS really is unsettling. Face it, folks: PBS is falling apart precisely because it thinks the median age of its fan base is 92. It's not, idiots. More Frontline, less "Ladies and gentlemen: The Spinners!" Those pledge drives are getting a little old. Literally.


bEnder said...

swit: a technical note. When linking to a Slate article, omit “/fr/flyout” for technorati & sphere purposes. Not sure that it makes a difference, but if you’re going to go through the trouble, better to play it safe.

as opposed to

switters said...

Noted, with my apologies. Hope I didn't break anything. Again.

Do I need to edit the fix, or is that something you can take care of?

Keifus said...

[Hey, let's try that again!]

I'm of two minds about This American Life. On one hand, the stories are generally compelling, and the research to bring them up, and the ear, must be really something, and never mind all the behind-the-scenes interviewing and production tricks that turns everyday slobs into cogent narrative artists. Also, I'm a sucker for the right kind of sentimentality, properly delivered. (All wannabe cynics are, I think.)

Ira's voice is one drawback, however. His nasally whine makes him sound like that overpriveleged twentysomething kid you long to smack upside the head, like Mo Rocca without the ameliorating sarcastic humor. And I don't like the musical breaks--actually teh whole pat rhythm of the show bothers me--they add to the overall precociousness.

Oh, and if I've improbably managed to snag a quiet hour on a Saturday afternoon, I'm always a little disappointed that Wait, Wait isn't on instead.

(Way to trash the place.)

topazz said...

switters sugar,

I'm going to start a collection PBS style, but on the fray, to finally get you some cable