In this commentary, NPR’s v.p. of programming responds to Ira Glass’s suggestion that stations not devote prime weekend airtime to Car Talk reruns after the Magliozzi brothers retire this fall. Like Ira, I’m really excited about all the innovation in public radio today. Each of these new programs will need several things if they are to grow and prosper: an intellectual spark, real talent giving them a unique, authentic voice, money, smart plans for development, and stations willing to take a small risk. There is one other critical thing they need to grow and prosper: Car Talk. Airing Car Talk on Saturday mornings doesn’t stand in the way of innovation.
I enjoy Car Talk. I like those guys. And as a public radio lifer, I’m grateful for what Tom and Ray Magliozzi did to bring a vast audience to public radio, year after year.. … But — with all respect to Doug Berman and my colleagues at Car Talk Plaza — I think when they stop making new episodes in October, they should be pulled from Saturday mornings.
“Car Talk is the exemplar for consolidation and homogenization on the noncommercial end of the dial,” writes Paul Riismandel, adviser to WNUR-FM at Northwestern University, on Radio Survivor. Riismandel notes that “as syndicated programming has taken over the programming schedule of public stations, local news, information and culture is pushed off. Car Talk is a program which pushed the frontier of this movement.” He cites the 1997 uproar when Wisconsin Public Radio canceled its popular local About Cars program to carry Car Talk, which culminated in a hearing before the state legislature (Current, March 17, 1997). WPR received Car Talk free in exchange for continuing a contract to distribute its own syndicated program, Whad’Ya Know?
NPR announced June 8 that Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of the popular and long-running Car Talk, will lay down their wrenches and stop recording new episodes as of October. The show will continue, however, with producers repackaging calls mined from Car Talk’s 25-years-deep archive.
NPR announced Friday that Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of the popular and long-running Car Talk, will lay down their wrenches and stop recording new episodes as of October. The show will continue, however, with producers repackaging calls mined from Car Talk’s 25-years–deep archive. The Magliozzis, also known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, started recording Car Talk 35 years ago at Boston’s WBUR. NPR brought it to national distribution a decade later. It grew into public radio’s most popular show, as measured by average-quarter-hour listening, and became a fixture on many weekend morning lineups on public radio.
The hosts of Car Talk, the popular pubradio show celebrating its 25th season this fall, are retiring, they announced to listeners today (June 8). Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, actually started the show 10 years earlier at WBUR in Boston. Tom is 74 years old, Ray is 63.An NPR press release said that they will not tape new shows but their weekly call-in series will continue to be distributed from their archives of 1,200 shows beginning in October. The two will continue to write their twice-weekly “Dear Tom and Ray” column.Car Talk evolved out of what was supposed to be a call-in show with a panel of mechanics, according to a June 1995 story in Current. The WBUR volunteer/producer called the brothers to sit on the panel and Tom agreed, thinking that it would generate business for the pair’s fledgling garage.
In a time when American audiences give themselves to performers who act like “real people,” the irony of Tom and Ray Magliozzi is that they are who they seem to be. The listeners get it. Ratings for the brothers’ radio show, the automotive-philosophical-political call-in colloquium, dubiously titled Car Talk, are among the highest of any NPR program — 1.9 million people a week, listening to 362 stations, which ranks the program after Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Fresh Air. The Magliozzis’ genuine mechanical expertise notwithstanding, listeners most often say that the appeal of Car Talk is Tom and Ray themselves. “I think what we’re doing is sort of giving Tom and Ray a forum, a reason to be on the air,” says Executive Producer Doug Berman.