I love my local NPR station. I’m a total addict. There are other stations I listen to, sure, such as WFMU, but I need my talk. Anyway, my little NPR station (actually the largest in the country) recently added a new show in the morning rotation. It’s called “The Takeaway.” Joe Nocera in The Times has a really interesting column on the show and the station’s attempts to adopt its business model to the podcast age. Apparently local stations are at risk of being swept under as NPR content becomes increasingly available straight from the mothership.
So all of a sudden the show that was playing when my alarm turned the radio on wasn’t Morning Edition any more, but instead this new, worse show. I almost made it through one entire episode before I had to turn it off; it was just too awful. Apparently the idea is to recapitulate Morning Edition while “revving it up” for the ADD crowd with a theme song consisting of a fast cymbal tap and jump-cut transitions between short, punchy stories (albeit interleaved with more traditional medium-length interviews). The back and forth between the hosts, John Hockenberry and Adaora Udoji is fast-paced and casual and the show jumps from continent to continent by including reports from BBC correspondents. Annoyingly, they also added a “modern communications technology” shading by leaving in the little “bleeps” that demarcate satellite transmission blocks. (Possibly these are synthetic bleeps that merely suggest the electronic bleeps used to demarcate satellite transmissions blocks, I’m not sure).
The show also features “audience participation,” maybe modeled on the BBC’s practice of reading instant listener SMS responses to stories. It actually kinda works for the BBC but in practice on The Takeaway, this aspect captures the general inanity pretty well. A few days ago Bo Diddley died and their obit was bespangled with a call-in that went something like this:
Bo Diddley, a lot of people covered his songs, so call in with your favorite cover song. bleep. “Hi, this is jamie, and my cover song is Jimi Hendrix, ‘All Along the Watchtower.’” bleep. Hockenberry: “Yes, that’s a really good cover song.”
It mystifies me that while WNYC is relentlessly plugging this unfortunate misfire, they quietly cancelled the actually funny (and increasingly polished) Fair Game (at least as far as I can tell) which is also produced there. Oh, well, there’s always podcasts.