Ira Glass on TV versus Radio

January 28, 2009 at 1:11 pm Leave a comment

For anybody interested in a few of the differences between TV doc and Radio doc, Ira Glass drops a little science on the subject at The AV Club.

Glass is the co-creator and host of This American Life, which started out on Chicago’s NPR station and also ventured into a television format in 2007 (moving the crew OUT of Chicago and into New York, which I’ve only discovered now).

Below I’ve excerpted from the interview (full link is above). Glass talks about some of the salient differences between the two mediums (overall, I still prefer the radio show that they do. It’s free in Podcast-able form, by the way

AVC: In the notes, you talk about the shows that didn’t happen for various reasons. Are there any in particular that still get you?

IR: There’s one in particular, and it was in the first season, actually, and it was these Iraq war vets. The story was gonna happen at this one party that they were throwing, coming back to the States, and these guys were into it, and they were wonderful, and we really wanted to do the story with them. Basically the club where they were having their party wouldn’t sign a release form for us to film them. We kept saying to them, “Dude, these are war heroes. They want to be on television. They just risked their lives for you. Let ’em be on TV,” and the guy wouldn’t do it. We were trying to figure out why, and we were told that actually it’s often really hard to film inside a restaurant or club, because some of the help is illegal. That definitely wouldn’t have been a problem if it were just a radio story.

AVC: What’s the difference between how you guys get the TV stories and how you find the radio stories?

IR: It’s not that different how we find them; what’s different is the number of criteria that they have to pass to work as TV. On the radio, you need a daunting set of criteria, at least for the format of our show. You need there to be characters and scenes and something at stake, and things have to happen, but on the radio, all of that could’ve already happened. So you know, when you start your interviews, kind of exactly what happened, and you’re just getting people to tell you the story. On the TV, you need all of that, you need something to happen, a drama, and people you can relate to, but in addition, it can’t quite have happened yet. So you have to kind of predict, like, “I guess something probably will happen here.” Also, it’s better if you can have something to look at—racecar drivers, or professional horsemen or something.

Neat stuff.

Glass also rivals Stuart Maclean for the best radio voice — both have that soft, kind of midwestern twang. He did an interview with Current not too long ago, where he talks about the best elements of a good story. Part One is here:

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Not before bed, please. Ice man in Detroit, and The First Aid Kit

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About Upper Lip

It's mostly a collection of sweet links and copious amounts of talk talk talk. I like it more and more every day. And yes, even the ugly blue/green color scheme is not without a certain charm.

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