Posted by Alex Switzky
29. May, 2012
Reviewing the This American Life simulcast show is difficult. Ordinarily, I can walk you through what you can expect to be seeing and what makes it so special. The issue is that I don’t want to ruin any part of the show. It’s such a stirring experience, so full of surprise and showmanship that giving it away would be unfair. So what can I tell you about it?
Starting with what This American Life is would be prudent. Since 1995, Ira Glass and his team have run a (mostly) weekly radio show collecting stories on a specific theme. These stories range from slices of life to journalistic exposes to fiction, radio plays, pretty much any sort of media that can be tackled through radio. This live show exists to give the This American Life stories a theme that can’t be tackled through an auditory medium, that need to be seen, or at least benefit heavily from a visual component.
Without getting into details, over the course of two hours you’ll see film, animation, dance, dramatic monologue, and an extremely impressive live music performance. Oddly, the show shines much brighter when its content isn’t radio friendly. It’s impressive to see that Ira and his team have managed to utilise a platform outside their comfort zone, and have the content out-strip the majority of their radio pieces in sheer entertainment value.
One minor issue was that the use of spoken word monologue felt ordinary by comparison. It would have been refreshing to see Ira and co. totally abandon their established format. Admittedly, the spoken word monologues all feature some form of visual component, but for the most part it’s just a person, a lectern and a mic stand. Interesting? Sure. Visually stimulating? Not terribly.
Quibbles aside, the This American Life live show is a true variety show, offering at least one thrilling, entertaining, original piece for everyone. The show isn’t truly live (it’s been recorded), but I find that preferable. This way, I can watch it over and over again.
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