The public radio show and podcast Snap Judgment has signed a development deal with Participant Media to air a TV version of the program on Participant’s digital cable and satellite network Pivot, Glynn Washington, Snap Judgment host and executive producer, told Current Thursday.
The concept is still in development, but the show will include a mix of animation, short stories and live storytelling, Washington said.
“We’re going to take some of the stories we work on on the radio show and podcast … to make them come alive,” Washington said. “There’s a lot of different ways to do Snap storytelling. It’s going to be to be pretty hot.”
The television show, also titled Snap Judgment, will begin filming a pilot with live storytelling next week in Oakland, Calif.
Snap Judgment is working on the project with production company Den of Thieves, which has produced video for live music performances such as the MTV Video Music Awards and American Idol.
“We’re really good at the storytelling. They’re really good at the visuals,” Washington said.
Television is a natural extension of what Snap Judgment does on radio, according to Washington. “On the radio show we like to think about cinema of sound,” he said. “If you look at our pitch documents, [they say] don’t pitch us a story, pitch us a movie. . . . I don’t think it’s a huge leap to say we want to bring that to the TV screen.”
Washington assured fans of the radio show and podcast that “we’re very much staying in the radio game.” Last August, Snap made a co-production deal with WNYC in New York City.
Washington said he had “no idea” when the show will debut or how many episodes will be produced. “We’re developing, we’re experimenting,” he said. “We will sell no wine before its time.”
“It’s a momentous undertaking with lots of moving parts, . . . actors and scoring and everything that goes into it,” he added. “We’re putting everything that we have into this.”
There are no plans to air the show on public television, Washington said. But “we would love to seek out partnership with public TV stations,” he said.
Snap approached PBS about a TV project a few years ago, but the network “eventually decided to pursue other opportunities,” Washington said.
Washington said Snap Judgment has been seeking a partner for a TV program for about a year and a half. “We were going to do a television aspect [of Snap Judgment] no matter what,” he said. “We put it to our agency and . . . this seemed to be a really good fit.”
Pivot debuted in 2013 and targets socially-conscious millennials. It’s available in 47 million homes. Parent company Participant Media has been behind movies and documentaries such as Lincoln, CITIZENFOUR, Food Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth.
The deal was brokered by entertainment agency CAA.
Update: In an earlier version of this post, Washington said that WNYC will take over terrestrial distribution of the radio show. Washington now says that the change has not been decided on. The post has been updated to reflect that.
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Someone needs to remind these producers of the success/failure rate of other successful audio shows that tried to do video. What happened to the video shows that This American Life and Car Talk produced? How were those shows received? Throwing “everything they have” at an experiment might not work out so well.
TAL’s TV show, from what I gathered, was successful enough that Showtime wanted to keep doing it, but the TAL team ultimately decided not to continue, and focus on radio and podcasting instead. I figure there’s nothing wrong with Snap Judgment giving it a shot.
And “Click and Clack in As the Wrench Turns” and the George Wendt sitcom inspired by “Car Talk” on CBS were just out-and-out creative and ratings failures. And I suspect that sooner or later, NPR will try again to bring “Wait, Wait…” to television.
The story of the life and death of the TAL TV show is posted on their website. Short version: the show was a critical success and (I’m pretty sure) a popular one, too…but it was so much work it wasn’t sustainable to do both radio and TV. So TV lost.
It’s worth noting that TAL the TV show was pretty different from TAL the radio show. Each was tailored to play to the strengths of the medium. The Click & Clack TV show seemed much more to be “lets just do the radio show on TV” which, well, I don’t want to be nasty about it…but it often doesn’t work too well. Given SJ’s pedigree, I don’t think they’ve forgotten this lesson. But it does mean it’s a huge amount of work to, essentially, produce two separate shows every week.