The Best Show On Public Radio Is…

Just in time for Oscar night!

Okay, my favorite NPR program is “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me“, but I feel the need to give the award to something with redeeming social value.

The best serious show is clearly NPR’s “On The Media“, hosted by Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield.

Let me count the whys.

  • The piquant bouquet of truth, unexpected from an advertising industry guy (host Bob Garfield), that cuts right through the more outlandish inanities of mediated consensual reality. On second thought it makes complete sense that an ad guy would have the most sensitive “lie-dar”(c )2008 Airbag Moments(tm).
  • The pointed interviews are the most probing in American public radio. The questions are usually genuinely challenging without the strident partisan sneer indulged in by the modern BBC.
  • The wry attitudes of Brooke and Bob. It’s not so much one of liberal bias as it is a refreshing and healthy amazement/incredulity at the news of the day. Isn’t that how everyone who pays attention to current events and trends feels? Isn’t it odd when newsreaders and correspondents lack that tone?
  • It’s actually funny on purpose. Most public radio attempts at humor (“Wait, Wait” excepted of course) fall flat due to rigorously enforced harmlessness. Witness the many recent attempts to explore political humor during the writers’ strike. OTM manages to make it work more often than not, which is saying a lot for public radio.
  • Keeping the “sense” questions to a minimum. Enough said.
  • Consistency. Of course not every story is as gripping as every other, but in the main they pursue consequential topics with admirable clarity and thoroughness.
  • The cute little pause after “Edited…” and before “…by Brooke.” This weekly touch implies a warm but healthily competitive relationship between the hosts.

What’s not to like? The most tedious stories tend to involve Baby Boomer preoccupations. How long was that piece on the Beatles & the Maharishi last weekend? 20 minutes? I love the Beatles, but suddenly the show felt a bit like an overstaying dinner guest who keeps failing to notice the hosts loudly doing the dishes. How must it have seemed to people who share no interest in Beatlesiana? (I’ll explore in a future post how 20-minute segments featuring esoteric and/or ancient musicians is Kryptonite to way too many public radio programs.)

But these problems are nothing in the face of years of important stories which are often ignored by the rest of the media.

So congratulations, Brooke & Bob, you win this year’s “baggie”. You’ll be receiving your little statuette soon.

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2 thoughts on “The Best Show On Public Radio Is…

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