Marge Innovera's Favorite TV Show
July 8, 2008 5:54 PM   Subscribe

The CarTalk guys are invading the television airwaves starting tomorrow night with their new cartoon show "Click & Clack's As the Wrench Turns," airing on PBS.

The radio show is god-like; it will be interesting to see how they translate into a fictional cartoon setting. After checking out the preview videos, I'm a little skeptical...but I'll still be watching. Heck, it'd be funny if they just read the complete list of credits from the radio show.
posted by Ike_Arumba (51 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by basicchannel at 6:04 PM on July 8, 2008

I have mixed feelings about this venture. As a diehard radio listener, I appreciate the intimacy of a good show, even if it's a raucous gigglefest like "Car Talk." But we'll see.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:04 PM on July 8, 2008

I listen to CarTalk almost every weekend. They are entertaining but sometimes they get on my last nerve. The constant laughing at their own jokes gets old. Sometimes they are so amused with themselves that they won't let the caller get on with it. Just answer the damn question! I know, it's not all about the cars, but still they tend to grate after an hour.

I don't know if I'll watch the cartoon. Probably not.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:06 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've seen these guys on TV. Their faces are made for radio. And the falseness of their bonhomie is even more apparent. That said, they do explain things very well and have good debugging skills, even if it takes 20 minutes to get through a 1 minute discussion.
posted by DU at 6:10 PM on July 8, 2008

Tom and Ray are absolutely great guys ... I'll agree with god-like. I've been very lucky to have had a couple of brushes with them. Well, lucky with one, and not with the other.

It started with a very unlucky incident where I, um, obliterated my wife's car by forgetting to put the parking brake on and forgetteing to put it into gear. It rolled out of our garage, down the driveway ... well ... my wife told it to Tom and Ray on CarTalk better than I can type it here.

A few months later, when I was in the middle of a big fundraising drive for work that I do on behalf of pediatric oncology, I decided to email them to see if there was some way that I could capitalize on the harassment that I received at work. They e-mailed me back two or three days later (actually, Louie Cronin "The Barbarian" did the e-mailing) saying that they'd be happy to help, and adding as a footnote that they were extremely fond of one of my patients - a little boy with a prenatal spinal cord tumor who I treated.

I had no idea how they could've possible known about this little boy until I received a picture of Tom Magliozzi in the neonatal ICU holding my patient. It turns out that his mother was a producer for CarTalk - that they knew of the whole ordeal with this child's cancer - and that as a result, they wanted to support my philanthropic efforts. The ended up hosting a page with the whole story on the CarTalk website and sent out a huge blitz e-mail to their mailing list. In the end, their assistance allowed me to raise an additional $25,000 in 2006, and another $5,000 in 2007, all of which went to support pediatric oncology programs where I work.

Henry, my patient, who is now 3, had a visit from the a month or so ago, and his parents told me that it blew his mind to hear the "Tom and Ray" voices coming from Tom and Ray, since he had mainly associated them with the movie Cars. They're super guys, and have gone more than the extra mile, and I'm sure they'll do a bang-up job with the show.
posted by scblackman at 6:15 PM on July 8, 2008 [58 favorites]

I can listen to them for a little while, but can you imagine doing something like driving to Mexico with these two guys? You'd swallow your tongue to escape.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:16 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

PBSi Blue.
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:23 PM on July 8, 2008 [3 favorites]

Love the radio show, but have been cringing ever since I heard about this. Watching the 6 minutes of preview stuff doesn't make me feel any better. Soon it will be off the air and they will make occasional self-deprecating jokes on their radio show about how even fewer people wanted to watch them than wanted to listen to them. All will be well again.
posted by DanielDManiel at 6:34 PM on July 8, 2008

Is it more of a "groan" sound or is more like "ohno,ohno,ohno" or maybe "stopstopstopstopstop"?
posted by longsleeves at 6:41 PM on July 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


Or Epunisterical.
posted by wendell at 6:50 PM on July 8, 2008

Or E. Bonnie Sterical.
posted by wendell at 6:58 PM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Or Ebony Spherical.
Or Epoxy Smellical.
Or Orthodoxy Esoterical.
Or Adaloxy Numerical.
Or Et Ceterical.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 7:05 PM on July 8, 2008

As much as Harry Shearer was a total dick about not wanting to promote Car Talk on his own show...he was kind of right. The thought of more of it out there...oh, I just want to lie down.
posted by kittyprecious at 7:08 PM on July 8, 2008

I wish them well, but I worry that television dilutes good radio shows--I think "This American Life" has been less consistently successful since they went to TV.
posted by texorama at 7:12 PM on July 8, 2008

It started with a very unlucky incident where I, um, obliterated my wife's car by forgetting to put the parking brake on and forgetteing to put it into gear. It rolled out of our garage, down the driveway ...

That was you? That's the one call I'll never forget.
posted by drezdn at 7:13 PM on July 8, 2008

God is knowledgeable, but annoying.
posted by Eideteker at 7:20 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have a lot of affection for Tom & Ray, but after listening to them for, I think, 20 years, the grinding formulaic nature of the show has started to feel tiring. When I had first discovered it, they were amazing forensic mechanics whose diagnostics and comprehensive knowledge were unparalleled. They're still among the greats of radio, having done amazing things with an automotive show (something that was a historic staple of talk). I still love the Puzzler. But I wish they had introduced even one new segment in the last 5 years. The ex-wife jokes are very Catskills, 1960. So to see them taking a creative leap to TV -- I dunno. Too bad that creativity hadn't gone into some updates to the show.
posted by Miko at 7:21 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

scblackman: Thank you for sharing that..well..whenever it was the first time you shared your wife's call on MeFi. ;)

Presumably, you learned your lesson, although I think the lesson was learned before your wife made the call.
posted by wierdo at 7:23 PM on July 8, 2008

Also, no fair Public TV, stealing all the ideas from Public Radio! It's not like we've been hearing radio versions of "The Antiques Road Show" or "Sesame Street." Get creative, TV people. There are hungry producers out there, used to the visual medium, who need your funding.
posted by Miko at 7:25 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


posted by Dizzy at 7:38 PM on July 8, 2008

I ♥ Click and Clack.

Down-to-earth guys -- born/bred in East Cambridge, both educated at M.I.T.

After careers in technology, consulting and teaching they eventually chose a "hand's-on" workstyle -- fixing and mending automobiles.

Their radio stories eventually led the 'Tappet Brothers' to national acclaim. Good for them.

When in Harvard Square, stand in front of the Crimson Corner (aka Nini's Corner) newstand and look across the street. You'll see the Car Talk offices with gold-etched letters on a third-floor window: Dewey Cheetham & Howe.
posted by ericb at 7:43 PM on July 8, 2008 [3 favorites]

Saw the previews. Wish I could un-see them. So much that is wrong I cannot begin to describe. And these were previews, supposed to get you to WANT to watch. Unless PBS does it differently on purpose (here are the worst 5 minutes of the new show; if you can stand what you see, then you're strong enough to be a PBS viewer).
posted by wendell at 7:48 PM on July 8, 2008

Your favorite radio show sucks....

(scblackman - your wife's call is still one of my favorite from Car Talk)
posted by photoslob at 7:50 PM on July 8, 2008

.... after listening to them for, I think, 20 years, the grinding formulaic nature of the show....I still love the Puzzler. But I wish they had introduced even one new segment in the last 5 years. The ex-wife jokes are very Catskills, 1960.....

Wherein someone explains PRECISELY why I ADORE them so very, very much. :)
posted by tristeza at 7:53 PM on July 8, 2008

Great comment, scblackman.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:53 PM on July 8, 2008

Dr. Sam -- you are great! Keep up the good work!
posted by ericb at 7:59 PM on July 8, 2008

Disciplinarian: Don Fuller Round
Urgent Response Coordinator: Candace Waite
Termite Inspector: Luke Underwood
Swimwear Designer: C. Bigby Heinz
Standard Time Keeper: Hans Auerbach
Scout Leader: Lawson D. Woods
Race Team Driver: Andy Zoff
Collections Specialist: Colin Duboise
Car Talk Ice Rink Manager: Sam Boney
posted by popechunk at 8:12 PM on July 8, 2008

Chair of the Working Mothers Support Group: Erasmus B. Dragon.
posted by Miko at 8:21 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is it just me, or does it seem that each show must have at least one each of:
* warped disk rotor
* Suburu
* Volvo
posted by popechunk at 8:23 PM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

That episode of "This American Life" where they showed up was pretty weird. They were exactly the same as they were on their show, and everyone else was standard NPR, and it was just harsh.
posted by smackfu at 9:10 PM on July 8, 2008

scblackman - I can't believe it! One of my all-time favorites. The mental image of your car sailing over the, did you get an automatic?

I'm wondering how the TV version can improve on the radio version...
posted by rtha at 9:49 PM on July 8, 2008

popechunk: I think it's possible to summarize their listenership as the "subaru/volvo/prius people."

I can't explain the disk rotor.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:50 PM on July 8, 2008

Rtha: Yes. Because it was the CarTalk guys, and of course, because we were living in Jamaica Plain, it seemed natural for us to end up with a Subaru Outback (automatic).
posted by scblackman at 10:03 PM on July 8, 2008

that was horrible. it's got the pacing of Teletubbies with the kind of bland, tired humor you can only get from the navel-gazing groupthink that is slowly killing PBS. it's fitting that their characters have stiff, vacant expressions – as if their voices were trapped inside plastic shells. must be how they felt about participating in the project.
posted by noway at 10:14 PM on July 8, 2008

...must be how they felt about participating in the project.
“Most TV series are propelled into the world by creative vision, ambition, all-out effort, and dreams of market domination. With ‘Click & Clack's As the Wrench Turns,’ the upcoming PBS cartoon featuring ‘Car Talk’ stars Tom and Ray Magliozzi, it took something else - a whole lot of cajoling.

Cajoling the proudly indolent Magliozzis into believing that a series about themselves would require minimal work on their part. Cajoling PBS into buying the concept of an animated show for grown-ups. And now comes the real trick: cajoling PBS viewers into sampling a show built not on some high-minded notion of quality, but on Click and Clack's popular NPR shtick of self-mockery and perpetual sarcasm.

‘As the Wrench Turns’ is a tongue-in-cheek take on what Click and Clack's off-air lives might be like, featuring those familiar radio voices in exaggerated cartoon bodies.

…PBS is treading cautiously into this new world. The show premieres July 9 as a limited experiment: five Wednesdays worth of back-to-back half-hour episodes, followed by ‘we'll see.’ Which, on some level, suits the ‘Car Talk’ guys just fine.

‘How much stupid stuff can we possibly - oh, in that case, the show might be able to go on forever,’ Ray Magliozzi said in a recent conference call with his brother, who pointed out that all they had to do for the show was sit in a studio and read a script.

‘It's dumb work; we didn't have to think much,’ Tom Magliozzi said. ‘We usually don't.’

On one hand, it should be no surprise that PBS, which has suffered from flagging ratings and waning corporate sponsorships in recent years, would turn for help to one of public radio's most successful franchises. The talk show about cars - featuring two mechanics with MIT degrees, loud guffaws, and thick Boston accents - is NPR's most popular entertainment program, drawing 4.5 million listeners each week on more than 600 stations. ‘Car Talk’ spinoffs include a twice-weekly syndicated newspaper column, a franchise of books and CD compilations, and products that range from T-shirts to coffee mugs. (The Magliozzis own the show and the business behind it and declined to release revenue figures or reveal their stake in ‘Wrench.’)

…PBS has reason to tread with caution, given how much ‘Wrench’ departs from the network's identity, said Laurie Ouellette, a communications professor at the University of Minnesota and author of ‘Viewers Like You: How Public Television Failed the People.’

‘PBS has an aura of middlebrow educational sensibility. That's been one of the reasons why it's occupied such a small place in television culture,’ Ouellette said. ‘As the Wrench Turns,’ by contrast, ‘isn't being promoted as educational or superior in any way,’ she said. ‘I think that's a really positive development for PBS.’

…‘All we wanted to do is be funny,’ said Howard Grossman, an independent producer who dreamed up the show and spearheaded its creation. Grossman, a longtime ‘Car Talk’ fan, has produced a couple of serious dramas for PBS, including an ‘American Playhouse’ episode from 1984. He first had the idea for a cartoon take on ‘Car Talk’ in late 2000, found the show's e-mail address from its website, and sent a pitch cold. In February 2001, ‘Car Talk’ executive producer Doug Berman gave him a call.

The Magliozzis had been offered TV opportunities for years and usually had little interest, Berman said. ‘They didn't want to be TV stars. They didn't want to be recognized when they went to their Chinese restaurant.’

But the concept of an animated series had appeal, said Berman, who is now also head writer for ‘Wrench.’ ‘They're larger than life on radio, and to just put them on TV as themselves sort of makes them only life-sized. Whereas if you animate them, you can keep them larger than life.’

Eventually, Grossman visited the ‘Car Talk’ offices in Harvard Square and started to tinker with concepts.

…It took about four years, Grossman said, to sell a final concept to PBS. The Magliozzis, notoriously reluctant to do anything promotional, agreed to attend the ‘green light’ meeting via conference call.

PBS's Wilson said the show is a calculated risk.

…As for the future of the series, Wilson is circumspect. ‘This could be one of those things where we slap our foreheads and say, 'It seemed like a good idea at the time,’ he said. ‘Or it could be the start of something big.’

The Magliozzis do a yeoman's job of seeming not to care. Asked whether they were excited about a June 19 screening of the show at MIT - a fund-raiser for public radio station WBUR - Ray offered a clearly sarcastic ‘yes.’

And presented with the notion that the duo could help change PBS's image, he was skeptical at best.

‘I think they need to run and hide,’ he said. ‘Because if they're putting their eggs in our basket, they're in deep doo-doo.’”*
posted by ericb at 10:27 PM on July 8, 2008

Do Tom and Ray still put out their "Top Ten Gay Cars" list? I always found that a little tacky...
posted by wfrgms at 11:51 PM on July 8, 2008 seemed natural for us to end up with a Subaru...


And to go even further down Confirmation Bias Boulevard, let me state the the Volvo is always a 1992 Volvo.
posted by popechunk at 5:42 AM on July 9, 2008

Based on the track record of the short-lived (seven episodes) George Wendt Show on CBS which was based on Car Talk (Tom and Ray got a cut; PBS did not), their show just may not translate well to the small screen.
posted by Standeck at 6:25 AM on July 9, 2008

I was one of the original developers of the web site (before it was licensed by Microsoft, and then later Tommy was always very involved, especially in the early days, and he was a great client.

"They didn't want to be recognized when they went to their Chinese restaurant."

Uh huh. Every year our corporate Christmas party (always at least a month late) would be at a Chinese restaurant in Central Square, and it would take under a minute for them to be recognized because of all the "HA HA HA!!!" The laughing-at-their-own jokes thing is just how they are, all the time.
posted by nev at 6:25 AM on July 9, 2008

Was it Mary Chung's? I loorve that place. One thing that I've always wondered is are the calls prescreened?
posted by Gungho at 6:50 AM on July 9, 2008

Yes, they're pre-screened.
posted by nev at 6:51 AM on July 9, 2008

At least they won't have to change the way they talk, like they did to Clerks.
posted by tomboko at 8:42 AM on July 9, 2008 was done to Clerks, I should've written.
posted by tomboko at 8:43 AM on July 9, 2008

For all of you worried about Click and Clack transitioning to TV: They did a wonderfully entertaining PBS documentary called Car of the Future a few monts ago. It was part of the NOVA series of documentaries.

At least in that instance, they did TV very well.
posted by jsonic at 9:03 AM on July 9, 2008

PBS documentary called Car of the Future...

Previous MeFi thread on the television show: Does the Nucleon come in Cherenkov blue?
posted by ericb at 10:57 AM on July 9, 2008

I love their radio show, but I do sometimes think the schtick has gotten out of control. But anyway, I just watched the first two episodes of the PBS show. The first one was, at its best moments, cringe-worthy, and the rest of the time just absolutely putrid. The second was funnier, and I even chuckled at the gag where their flight to India was on "Air Sikh". But in any case I am not totally sure why they did it. What's it got to do with a) Tom and Ray; or b) PBS. Just seems like a fish out of water. Or maybe this is what PBS "is" now? (i.e, a Fox network for people in the Northeast)? That would be sad, I kind of liked what it was before.
posted by drmarcj at 7:41 PM on July 9, 2008


I love Tom and Ray. Tom had an office next to mine when I worked for a Boston nonprofit. I recognized his presence mostly through the inevitable cloud of cigar smoke, as well as the laugh -- which permeated the walls as well as the smoke did.

That show, though, was truly awful.

Tom and Ray could do an awesome show. They don't need to be reduced to animated schtick. They're entertaining enough on their own.

Can the producers. Re-imagine. Thank you.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:59 PM on July 9, 2008

Or maybe this is what PBS "is" now?

There's a whiff of desperation about it. Casting about for solutions.
posted by Miko at 8:22 AM on July 10, 2008

I wish PBS would just bring back Trying Times instead, but then I live in a candy flavored dream world, where PBS still tries new and different things and would never ever run a three hour Peter Cetera concert on multiple evenings, or whatever the hell they're up to these days.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:49 AM on July 10, 2008

I guess I just have no taste. I thought the first show was amusing in a dry humor sort of way, while the second was actually funny.

(I finally got around to watching them this morning)
posted by wierdo at 10:43 AM on July 14, 2008

I'm with wierdo, though I think it might be more popular if they marketed it towards kids.
posted by drezdn at 11:27 AM on July 14, 2008

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