Thursday, April 12, 2007

This American Life

I am a big fan of the public radio show This American Life. Each week the program chooses a theme and shares a series of stories on that theme. Usually, I listen while driving and often find myself at my destination, sitting in the parked car listening to the end of a story. Their choice of subjects varies; a couple of weeks ago they devoted the program to 24 hours in a Chicago diner. I recall a fascinating broadcast, which used scenes from a film called The Devil’s Playground about Amish youths who spend a year of their life embracing the modern world. They have a year to decide whether to join the church or leave it forever. It was riveting.

A few weeks ago This American Life began airing a television version on Showtime and I am not sure how I feel about it. There is such a difference between radio and film, I don’t get to use my imagination the same way. The word pictures the radio show paints are replaced by actual pictures and when those images don’t match my preconception it bothers me.

Ira Glass, the host- pictured above, says he has no interest in becoming a documentary filmmaker and I don't doubt him, but I wonder why he is making the TV show. Cashing a check probably has something to do with it. Below are some links where you can hear clips from the radio program and see scenes from the TV show. You tell me what you think.

I am also including a link to The Devil’s Playground it’s a great look into a culture we know very little about.



JPH MOM said...

We used to say, as our children were growing up, that it is too bad that they didn't have the privilege of listening to the radio. Such images! TV does it all for us now--what a pity.

PeterH said...

I always prefer listening to baseball games on the radio than watching on television. Let our minds do some of that work.

Thanks for reading, I am sure your children grew up well.


vice said...

I agree!
One of the reasons I invested in a satellite radio was to be able to listen to the old radio programs from the golden age of radio.
Little Orphan Annie, Amos and Andy, the Lone Ranger. Classics!
I'd rather listen to those old radio programs, than watch TV anyday!

PeterH said...


Thanks for the comment. Maybe for the Canadians it should be called This North American Life.

I have written about working at the Museum of Broadcast Communication. It is home to the radio Hall of Fame. We were surrounded by great old radio programs, thousands of hours. Those shows really were great. Have you seen Woody Allen's Radio Days?