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At Least Joan Cusack Hasn’t Ditched Us (Yet)

| February 28, 2006

Like “Soul Train,” the band Chicago, and the writers of the Broadway hit “Urinetown,” Ira Glass and his innovative public radio show “This American Life” are packing up and leaving town for greener pastures.

Blame it on television.

Showtime recently picked up a full season of the TV version of “This American Life,” which will debut sometime late this year. The show will tape in New York City, where Glass, three producers, and an intern will put down stakes this month. Glass says the show translates well to TV and will retain the tone of the radio show.

The radio show will also make the move but won’t lose its Midwestern sensibility because, as Glass explains, it never had it to begin with.

“I think of it as having the sensibility of me and my co-producers,” he says, “who are from all over the country. Julie [Snyder] grew up in Rock Island and Colorado, me in Baltimore, Lisa [Pollak] and Sarah [Koenig] on the East Coast, Alex [Blumberg] in Ohio, Jane [Feltes] in Michigan. Plus [David] Sedaris from North Carolina via France lately. [Sarah] Vowell from Oklahoma. [David] Rakoff from whatever part of Canada Stewie on the ‘Family Guy’ would live in . . . we’re such a mixed bag of geography that the geography isn’t the most important thing about our sensibility as a group.”

Nor will the show gain a snooty New York attitude. “We like plain-spoken people who say what’s on their minds,” he says. “We like stories that are funny but emotional too. We dislike pretension. Which is all true for the Midwest but just as true for most places.”

He says they may wind up returning to the more affordable Windy City if the TV version doesn’t pan out.

In the meantime “TAL” continues on Chicago Public Radio, which has been home since its 1994 debut. It currently airs Friday nights at 7 and Saturdays at 1 p.m. on WBEZ-FM (91.5). Shows are archived at www.this, where the Real Audio files are about to be converted to streaming MP3. Maybe all change isn’t so bad after all. Let’s just hope video doesn’t kill the radio star.

ODDS N SODS: While we’re on the subject of video and radio stars, fans of alternative radio who live out of range of WZRD-FM (88.3), WLUW-FM (88.7), and WRTE-FM (90.5) can now catch the TV version of Amy Goodman‘s “Democracy Now!” weekday mornings from 7 to 8 on Chicago Access Network Channel 19. It continues to air daily at 7 and 8 a.m. on WZRD, at 9 a.m. on WLUW, at noon on WRTE, and online at

The latest overachiever to join the likes of Studs Terkel, Jon Langford, Richard Roeper, and Oprah in the pages of our imaginary fanzine Cara’s Cat Thinks We Do Too Much (CCTWDTM) is “Check, Please!” host Alpana Singh, who became the youngest master sommelier (expert wine professional) in the U.S. at age 26 and currently holds that post at Everest (440 S. LaSalle). Now she’s penning a new book called Alpana Pours — About Being A Woman, Loving Wine And Having Great Relationships. For some reason Singh, a recipient of the James A. Beard Foundation Wine Service Award, has chosen to write it with a man — the self-published author Robert Scarola, who’s also an assistant press secretary to Mayor Daley. Academy Chicago Publishers will publish it later this year.

Classic Rock WRXQ-FM (100.7) picked up former “Mancow’s Morning Madhouse” contributor Walter “Freak” Kozielski‘s “Freak’s Rock And Roll Roadhouse,” which can be heard weekdays from 7 p.m. to midnight — if you live in the southwest suburbs, that is. . . . Yes that is playwright/comedian/triathlete Aaron Freeman — another candidate for CCTWDTM ‘zine — delivering 60-second commentaries on the local Air America affiliate WXPT-AM (850).

Now that all those changes at WBEZ have sunk in we are pretty certain we don’t like them much at all. We’re miffed they lopped a half hour off of the morning magazine show “Eight Forty-Eight” (full disclosure: our essays occasionally air on the show) . . . Warren Olney‘s public affairs talk show “To The Point” is passable but it’s no “Odyssey.” If they must use a syndicated program a better choice would have been “Talk Of The Nation,” although an hour of WNUR-FM (89.3)’s long-running public affairs show “This Is Hell” would be even better. It’s about time more people heard host Chuck Mertz‘s long-form interviews with cutting-edge activists (it airs Saturday mornings from 9 to 1 p.m. on the Northwestern University station). But nothing makes us reach for the earplugs faster than the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program “As It Happens,” which is in a prime time slot at 7 p.m. and covers, in depth, the minutiae of Canadian life and makes us no longer wish to move there, no matter how much peace, stability, and free health insurance they offer.

And although we’re a fan of the rock ‘n’ roll talk show “Sound Opinions” (7 to 8 p.m. Saturdays) it was a much better match for a station where listeners could hear the music discussed by hosts Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis . . . . The change has been good in that it exposed us to the Chicago Public Radio-produced “Re:sound.” First impressions could be wrong, but we did kind of fall in love with it after catching a world premiere of a bumpy but ultimately riveting hour-long documentary by Brit Alan Hall about Chicago writer and oral historian Studs Terkel. No one can dodge a question like Studs. The show, presented by the Third Coast Festival, airs Saturdays at 2 p.m. and features radio documentaries from around the world.

— Cara Jepsen

Category: Media, Monthly

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  1. El says:

    I love Joan Cusack….