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This Show Is Good – This American Life

The NPR radio show This American Life has been on Showtime for the last few weeks, and those episodes have been quite good (Showtime sent me a review DVD of the first four episodes), but I figured I’d pick tonight to point out the show, because tonight’s episode features a short cartoon by none other than Chris “Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth” Ware.

And it rules.

If you do not know anything about the program, This American Life is a radio show on National Public Radio hosted by Ira Glass. Each episode has a theme, and features real-life people telling stories that work with that particular theme.

The TV series is basically just the radio show with video. It is even hosted by Glass, who is a very cool host.

Each episode is basically a short documentary, only featuring multiple interesting subjects. The closest TV comparison I can think of is HBO’s Inside Sports, which is also an awesome program, but more so if you, you know, like sports.

Tonight’s episode (it aired at 10:30 Eastern, but it replays at 12:00 am Eastern and the following times (all times Eastern):

04/13 08:30 PM

04/15 08:00 PM

04/15 12:00 AM

04/17 10:00 PM

04/18 07:30 PM

04/18 11:30 PM

The episode, titled The Camera Man, opens with an animated sequence by Chris Ware that is visually amazing (It is Chris Ware art – only animated – what’s NOT to like?), and quite interesting, as it tells the story of a school where the fad is kids making their own homemade fake cameras and then making fake newscasts. It depicts how the camera can make you eerily detached from the world, even if your camera is a fake one.

It is very interesting.

The second story (this is a bit longer, so it takes up the rest of the 30 minutes) is about a young man who films his mother and his step-father for a year, and it also shows how the camera can give you distance, and how the camera allows for him to truly see his mother and his step-father for who they are, and not who he has perceived them to be. Creepy and fascinating.

So yeah, This American Life – very good radio show (my girlfriend lurves it – I really should listen to more of their podcasts on my iPod).

This American Life – very good TV show.

Oh, and Chris Ware is awesome.

Recommended.

16 Comments

Personally, I’d rather have root canal surgery than endure either “This American Life” or Chris Ware in any form. I know that probably puts me in a minority, but I loathe both of them with every fiber of my being.

What don’t you like about each one, Dave?

I’ve listened to This American Life and had root canal surgery and found This American Life far more pleasant. I don’t know. Ira Glasses pleasant mellow voice seems a lot better then some guy drilling holes in my teeth.

I’ve only listened to “This American Life” once in my life, but it was a fascinating episode. It was called “Pimp Anthropology” and it was about a guy and his friends who all became pimps in Oakland, and the problems the guy had because he wanted to be a pimp that respected and didn’t beat his women. You can download the one hour episode from the Itunes music store for like $0.95.

That being said, like Dave I’d prefer root canal to Chris Ware as well.

This American Life is a great, great program. Saw it recorded live once back when it was a radio-only show. I saw the Ware segment animated about cameras online . . .really, really great stuff. One of the greatest living comic-makers animating on a great, great show.

“You can download the one hour episode from the Itunes music store for like $0.95.” – T.

You can also sign up for This American Life’s weekly podcast subscription and get the newest episode downloaded into your iTunes for FREE!

As much as I adore Ira and crew [aside: Root canal? Seriously?! Well, I'd stay well away from NPR in general, its soothing tones and innovative programming may have you begging for colonoscopy.] I’m not sure if I’m ready to experience my favorite radio show in picture form. I’ve been listening to the show for years and it wasn’t for the tv show and its publicity blitz, I’d never known what Ira Glass looked like. He’s a fine, hipsterish-looking fellow, but I liked my perfect TAL world in my head. But out of loyalty, I will give the show a try.

For some reason the phrase “whiny navel gazing” comes to mind when I think of “This American Life” whereas root canal surgery connotes “blessed unconsciousness.” Root canal surgery it is!

I never tried the rest of This American Life, and based on the lineup of topics I saw, I wouldn’t be interested in subscribing to future listens, much for reasons Mike Bazemore mentions, but the pimp episode is gold, not so much for the hosts but for the insights and stories of the pimp. Then again, I have an intense obsession with pimps, I read about them constantly. They fascinate me.

Wow, I never would’ve thought I’d see so much hate for This American Life. I can understand not liking a particular episode or finding the show to be a bit too mellow for someone’s tastes, but it never dawned on me that people could actively dislike the show so much. Just because you didn’t like one or two episodes, doesn’t mean they’re all crap. Hell, there have been episodes where I didn’t care about one of the segments, but really liked the others.

This show, Bullshit, and Dexter are three reasons that I’m tempted to get a subscription to Showtime.

Wow, I never would’ve thought I’d see so much hate for This American Life. I can understand not liking a particular episode or finding the show to be a bit too mellow for someone’s tastes, but it never dawned on me that people could actively dislike the show so much. Just because you didn’t like one or two episodes, doesn’t mean they’re all crap. Hell, there have been episodes where I didn’t care about one of the segments, but really liked the others.

My thoughts exactly!

Every time I’ve tried to listen to TAL, I’ve quickly gotten annoyed with Glass’s choppy nasal delivery and the overall tenor of the stories, which strike me as both smug and designed to make the listener think how swell his/her life would be if only they were as clever or interesting as the story-teller, who invariably has a dead monotone voice. Oh, and I hate the musical choice, too.

I know it’s one of the most popular shows on NPR, and that it’s me rather than the show, but I just can’t stand it.

In San Francisco, the juxtaposition of the show with “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” and Harry Shearer’s “Le Show” only makes TAL’s weaknesses that much more glaring to me.

Given the option, “root canal” looks pretty tempting; it doesn’t advertise or come back every week.

I pretty much hate everything on NPR, it all sounds geared to smug white yuppies. Except for that pimp show. Best NPR show ever. “Pimp Anthropology” on Itunes, I can’t recommend it enough.

T. mentions that the NPR schedule seems geared to smug white yuppies. Well, one out of three ain’t bad! Seriously, though, I enjoy a lot of NPR programming. I just wish This American Life would go away. And Prairie Home Companion. And Car Talk. Pretty much all of the weekend non-news programming except Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.
Dave Sikula- I have only heard Le Show when I travel. Our local affiliate doesn’t air it and I’m too lazy to get it online. I would double my donation to the local station (and, yes, I donate- this is not a twice zero equals zero thing) if they bumped Ira and replaced him with Harry.

Wait, someone doesn’t even like Prairie Home Companion? Jesus Christ! What’s up with the readers of this blog?

Joe Rice: Maybe we only like the same stuff week after week when it comes to comics:) I admit the disconnect. Still and all, if I have to hear another plug for the “Ketchup (or is it Catsup) Advisory Board”, or another tedious ramble about the good Lutheran folks of Lake Woebegon, I’ll be asking for some extra fillings to go with my TAL root canal…
The only thing even remotely worthwhile on PHC is Guy Noir.

Even if you’re not a fan of Chris Ware’s writing, you can’t deny his skill and revolutionary style, in terms of the storytelling and construction of his comics.

And if you do, you have terrible taste. Or are a liar.

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