In order to promote the second season of their TV show, This American Life put together a live event last night at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, which was simulcast (I’m a professional writer about media now) to more than 300 movie theaters around the country. I’m told it was similar to the touring live show TAL has done in the past, with maybe a little bit more video clips thrown in. I have never been to one of the touring live shows, so I will simply accept this description to be accurate.
First of all, NPR fans need to work harder. I’m sorry, you guys, but as someone who loves NPR just as much as the next latte drinking anti-prison gay agenda Julia Butterfly, we live in America and it’s time to start acting like it. Case in point: before the show started there was a homemade pre-show Movie Quiz style game of hangman projected on the screen. The clue was “He is usually the answer to the movie quiz jumble:” and the letters were WHATTEM YEGACCHOMUN. The woman behind me said proudly “Well it’s Matthew something.” Go back to Russia, Communists.
The live show itself was good. There are some really great looking things coming up in season 2. In particular, they’ve tried making some stories with no liberal elite narration, just images and the words of the people being documented. There’s also a really great animation by Chris Ware of the Robert Krulwich interview from this older radio piece about the time his wife saw Jackie O on the street. DVR, you guys. Such a great invention that they don’t have in Russia. Use it.
After the show there was a question and answer session. I did my best to formulate a question that I do not think went over that well in a live situation, particularly in a room of sycophantic tote bag heads, but wielding the power of the internet, I am going to rephrase it here. My question was whether Ira Glass et al have any regrets in making the television show, insofar as the radio program stood as a particularly unique counter-force to the domination of visual media. It was unique, and seemed to say that there was still a way to tell stories and examine the world around us without images. But now that they’ve made the television show, which does much the same work as the radio show but with the added informational layer of beautiful and sometimes meaningful images, doesn’t that detract from the very thing that had set the radio show apart? Doesn’t it, in fact, prove in some way that television is right, that it is the most powerful way to tell stories?
I’ll take my answer off the air.