Tuesday, March 06, 2007

This American Live.This American Life ... live, and on your TV.

This American Life ... live, and on your TV.

Photogal and I saw a live taping for the This American Life (TAL) radio show last week. I've resisted writing about it until I got a screener of the first episode of the television show version of TAL so I can tie the radio and TV TAL's together. But, I've been asked a lot about my view on the whole moving of Ira Glass' baby from one medium to another, so I'll say here that I had my doubts, but based on what I've seen so far, people have nothing to worry about.

Well, except for one thing.

Many of the topics TAL covers are kind of uncomfortable, when you really think about it, and one of the main reasons we can listen without cringing at (or even casting judgment upon) the subjects is because we can't see them. The mind serves up a pleasant buffer to help us avoid facing certain truths. On television, though, we see the subjects, and sometimes that can cause the latent superiority I feel most NPR listeners secretly harbor to manifest itself more obviously. An inward sneer turn into an outward snicker, and the three-dimensional reality of the subject breaks down the semi-private cocoon that has allowed listeners to silently pass judgment on subjects over the past decade pr so.

That's why I'm excited to see a whole episode of the new TV version. Because sometimes the visual aspect can help take the sting out of some of the more acidic aspects of the show. For instance, Glass opened the live taping here in Chicago with an audio story about wannabe grade school television reporters and then switched on animation by Chris Ware to accompany the tale. The addition of the visuals brought the story to another level and brought a satisfying level of dark humor into what might have been simply a mouth-agape account of a ghastly affair.

Good radio, and good television, expose the darker and more confusing sides of humanity. Great radio, and great television, help guide you through some of these intricacies while refraining from telling you what to think about it or offering any pat answers. Oddly enough, i don't think I even focused on just how disturbing most of TAL's material was until I had to see it presented visually, but now I respect the show all the more since the mastery with which they deal with delicate situations has now been exposed.


Also teevee related, but geekier.

Battlestar Galactica
killed off a major character in Sunday's episode. I had seen this coming for a while and my theory has long been that while this character dies, they will come back in a reveal that they were in fact a cylon the whole time. I was sure this was the plot device they would employ. However, after listening to the show's commentary track for this week's ep via the BG podcast, I'm beginning to think that the master plan I had in mind never existed, and the creators just wanted to let the story develop organically, and that meant killing off this particular character.

That above paragraph might just be, word for word, the dorkiest thing I have EVER written.

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