I was enraged on Inaug Day by a ludicrously malevolent right-winger who called and offered to embrace "the libruls" if we just went to church a bit more often and shared his values. The program was Talk of the Nation, which I hate. I also hate its milquetoast host, the odiously, blandly ur-fey Neil Conan.
That said, I was reminded yesterday and today of just how much I love certain NPR shows, how incredibly good they are, how critical and right-on and entertaining NPR can be. Those shows? This American Life, natch, and On the Media, which is sharp and curious and snarky in all the right ways.
But the bad and mediocre shows outnumber the good shows, in my view. Which are bad?
Talk of the Nation, but hope springs eternal that someone like Ray Suarez will take over and remove Conan's adenoidal voice from my memory forever.
Wait Wait--Don't Tell Me!, with its helplessly overscripted feel, it's comic clumsiness, and the similarly odious host. It's like an unfunny, ultra-lowbrow Week In Review. Compare, for example, to Jon Stewart's show, which is incredibly sharp incredibly consistently. The Daily Show on its very worst day is exponentially more funny than this drivel. Somebody put them out of their misery.
Morning Edition. Where is Bob Edwards? Who is this lightweight? (Edwards has his own satellite show now. Someone buy Salto a receiver.)
The Motley Fool Radio Show. So unflinchingly, uncritically capitalist. So chipper! So irritating.
Sound Money. See, they're clever! It's a radio show about your finances? Which are hopefully "sound?" Right? Too bad it's about as clever as the show gets. So earnest and helpful, and dull, it's like an instant audio Valium.
The Splendid Table. The host is the single most irritating radio personality I have ever heard. Her faked laughter is fingernails-on-chalkboard. Avoid.
I realize that not everyone has been exposed to all of these shows. Count yourself lucky.
Which shows are merely mediocre?
A Prairie Home Companion. Practically treason to say this when I was living in Minneapolis. The show is pretty great when it's just Garrison and/or the others acting, but the music? Ech. It almost makes the shows unlistenable for me. A version of the show that's a quarter as long and excludes the Kings of Bluegrass or Sally the Famous Opera Singer would be must-listen.
Marketplace and The World. Repetitive. Genuinely good only rarely. I can get the news done by the pros at All Things, guys. So shut up. The World needs new intro music. Marketplace has pretty superb music for a pretty boring show, weirdly enough.
I don't watch much TV, so bear with me here.