I Heart TAL

Is that that show by those hipster know-it-alls who talk about how fascinating ordinary people are?*
Yes, it is! 

I’m a huge fan of This American Life.  I love the show more than anything else when it comes to entertainment media.  I don’t often hear it on the radio since my new local NPR station doesn’t carry it (what the hell?) but do listen to the weekly shows via the podcast.  If you aren’t familiar with TAL and its host/creator, Ira Glass, it’s a really hard thing to describe.  The show tells unusual stories in unique ways…slice of life, fictional stories that are always so, so interesting. They can be touching, thoughtful, funny, and surprising; but they are always mesmerizing.  Each show has a bit of a theme running through it…in fact, the way Ira introduces each show is “of course each week we choose a theme, and bring you a variety of stories on that theme..” He has a great skill in weaving the stories and interviews with fantastic music and pacing them with a perfect cadence.  The show is simple, beautiful and transcendent storytelling and is next to impossible to explain.  So just go listen to an episode or two…I’ll wait. 

Last year, TAL did a TV show for Showtime and I wondered for weeks how in the world they could translate the unique quality of a radio show to a visual media without losing what makes the show so special.  We got Showtime precisely so we could watch and somehow they pulled it off – what was on the screen was a perfect interpretation of the show we knew and loved.  Balanced, simple, beautiful storytelling now paired with stunning visuals allowed the success of the radio show to shine in a new format.  (BTW – TAL season 2 starts Sunday…get those TiVos set!).  Showtime must like it because TAL now has a contract for 30 shows.

Last night, based on the success of the radio show (1.7 million listeners each week and it’s always listed as one of the top weekly podcasts on the net) and the TV show, Ira and crew did something no other radio show has ever done – they did a live broadcast of its show to theaters across the country.  Of course, we attended at a nearby theater to see Ira on stage in NYC before a live audience talking about the radio and TV shows while playing clips and outtakes from the new TV season.  I was so excited all day yesterday and when I tried to explain it to co-workers I would get really strange looks.  It’s hard to believe that some people have never even heard of the show!

Anyway, we arrived and were pleasantly surprised to see about 60 or so other TAL dorks who shelled out the $20 per ticket.  As we settled in with our dinner of popcorn and soda the “pre-show puzzles” (a hang-man like game to fill the screen before the broadcast started) were up but audio from the usual pre-movie commercials and previews was playing.  Then, right at 8 PM Ira appears on the screen and there was no audio!  We missed the first 7 minutes of audio as the idiots at Regal Cinemas got their act together and fixed it.  It was a strange thing to see Ira on the screen talking into his mic but hear the audio of movie previews.  I was livid that we paid $40 to see this and Regal Cinemas failed so miserably.  However, once the problem was fixed Mark and I were quickly caught up in the show.  Ira seemed totally relaxed, the entire crew did a fantastic job with the live broadcast and we laughed and “oohed” fo the next two hours.  It was a terrific night out and I’m so glad I got to see it.  I can’t wait for the new TV season to start, but in the meantime I will get my fix with one of the over 300 radio shows that are already done.

*Bonus points you know what TV show this is from.

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