Monday, May 12, 2008

Every Marriage Is a Courtroom

This American Life (TAL) is a weekly radio program hosted by journalist Ira Glass. In March of last year, the show spawned a television spin-off that airs on Showtime. The TV show kept the same structure, topic, and host. The video below is a preview of This American Life's upcoming June 1st episode, “Every Marriage Is a Courtroom” (Season 2, Episode 5):
The narration in the video borrows from the "Reruns" episode of the radio version TAL. It was animated by John Kuramoto and drawn by cartoonist/comic book artist Chris Ware. Chris makes ample use of geometric shapes, which according to Wikipedia, are achieved through traditional drawing tools as opposed to computers. The colors are computerized, though.

In a PBS interview, Chris explains his overall illustrative strategy: "I see the black outlines of cartoons as visual approximations of the way we remember general ideas, and I try to use naturalistic color underneath them to simultaneously suggest a perceptual experience, which I think is more or less the way we actually experience the world as adults." (No word on whether pot was used during the interview. Judge for yourselves, internauts).

Chris's illustration complements the story nicely. Both deal with perception versus reality, memory versus fact. The animation is compelling, the story is compelling, the whole package is darling. Overall: An A with flying colors.

Last year Chris Ware worked on illustrating a story from another TAL episode: “What I Learned From Television” which you can watch here. In a not-at-all related note, it just so happens that I love that particular radio episode. It's one of my all-time favorite TAL episodes.

In it, Ira Glass talks about how some people were disappointed that he chose to make a TV show out of his radio show, as if there was going to be a war and video was going to kill the radio star. (Some dude yelled out "Judas," as if Ira were "Dylan going electric.") Ira assures everyone the radio show is not going off the air. Plus, video already won the war.

Ira then shares an anecdote about one of his favorite TV shows. He admits to not only watching The OC with his wife Anaheed (!) but to singing its theme song with her every week as the titles roll in (!!!). They sing along with the TV, together, sober, in full voice. His admission is so sincere and starkhe calls attention to the fact that he is a grown-ass man at 47 years old, a responsible part of a married couple, and here he is singing with a Fox teen drama.

It's all very corny and humanizing and sweet, imagining Ira singing the title song "California" with his wife. He says it makes him love his wife, and TV, and everything in the world all at once. And when they took the show off the air, it made him cry and he's "not ashamed to admit it." Only Ira could make that statement sound endearing. The original Phantom Planet song is angsty, not tender; how can Ira possibly inject such feeling and meaning into it? Oh the cognitive dissonance!

So anyway, one Thursday night (likely after the singing spree), Ira and Anaheed were watching The OC's Chrismukkah episode (Season 1). In it, Seth and Summer, who are dating, talk on the phone. Summer says she hears a girl in Seth's room and confronts him. The exchange goes:
SUMMER: "It sounded like a girl"

SETH: "Did it? Butyeah... Wellsure. It... because I'm listening to the radio, and This American Life is on so, there's a girl talking."

SUMMER: "Is that that show by those hipster know-it-alls who talk about how fascinating ordinary people are? Ugh. GAWD."
You can practically hear Summer rolling her eyes. I'm not sure what rolling eyes sound like, but if they had a sound, they'd sound like that. Ira says he literally stood up, looked around, and thought to himself, "Did that just happen? Is that on everybody's Tivo?"

The fact that Ira Glass could be starstruck is kind of funny. That's how Ira and The OC's writers found out they were fans of one another. After telling that anecdote, Ira closes the segment by having Mates of State perform a cover of The OC's theme song, "California." You can hear it here.

The Mates of State cover version fits Ira's story so much better than the original ever could. It's slow, raw and tender. And it's performed by a grown married couple, sober, in full voice. Don't get me wrong The OC is still a terrible showbut if this song and this story don't give you the warm-fuzzies, you don't have a heart.

(From Google Image Search, Laughing Squid, The Ephemerist, and Coudal Partners)

1 comment:

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