Ira Glass--is on TV

As many of you know by now, I LOVE This American Life AND I have a not so secret crush on Ira Glass. Now, I get to see him whenever I want because HE'S ON TV.

Surprisingly, I actually missed the big television debut but I watched it online at Showtime (hint: click Ira's picture to get to the site)

Here's what others have to say about Ira's foray beyond the booth.

The New York Times
Arts / Television
A Radio Host Tries His Voice on Television
Published: March 21, 2007
Can Ira Glass bring “This American Life” to a new medium without the show losing its old charms?

Few approaches to telling stories would seem less suited to modern television than that of the radio show “This American Life”: Tales unfold at a pace set by the normal speaking voice, the driving ethos is one of empathy, and when the epiphanies come, they seem to arrive of their own accord. It isn’t exactly “Flavor of Love.”

As a popular feature on public radio, “This American Life” and its host, Ira Glass, have used this simple method to engage the listener with normal people who just happen to be abnormally interesting.

Mr. Glass is a radio wonk who got his start as a 19-year-old intern at National Public Radio. He has since worked as an audiotape editor, a newscast writer and an education reporter. He became known for having a light, fanciful touch with common folks, and in 1995 he was asked if he had any ideas for a local show in Chicago. What eventually came to be “This American Life” gradually gained steam, winning most of the significant radio awards along the way. It brought a kind of radio majesty to the prosaic, the significant and the weird: kids frolicking at summer camp, love in wartime between a soldier and a prisoner, or a woman who goes to a Bible class really to hear its message and is unnerved by the violence underlying many of its stories.

Each radio show has a theme and unfolds in a series of acts, with guidance from Mr. Glass, whose nasal voice could belong to a cerebral grad student if it weren’t for the compelling stories it appears alongside.

Whether the show can be made visible without losing its charms is a question that will be answered tomorrow night at 10:30 Eastern and Pacific times (9:30, Central time), when a television version of the broadcast begins on Showtime. Sitting in the series’s office in Chelsea, Mr. Glass said plenty of people had their doubts, he chief among them. “We went into the pilot not convinced that it could work at all,” he said. “In fact, we asked for assurances from Showtime and got it in our contract with them that if we thought it didn’t work, that at the end of the pilot, even though they would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, then we could ask them to kill it.”

There had been false starts with broadcast networks, underwhelming attempts, and Mr. Glass said there was always the fear that the ineffable magic of the radio show might be rubbed out by a hail of production notes from television executives. And there was a new vocabulary, this one visual, to master.

“There were a couple of points in making this pilot that I was surprised by the expressiveness of television and what the images could add,” Mr. Glass said. “We are not snobs about TV. We all watch TV, we talk about TV, but we had all worked all our lives in radio, and I have never had the experience in radio of thinking, ‘Oh, if I only had a camera, I could get this across.’ ”

He said they were, in the end, “looking for interesting pictures to talk over.” The series, directed by Christopher Wilcha, with photography by Adam Beckman, succeeds by coming up with a template that is receptive to all manner of images. The closest analogue is probably an Errol Morris movie, in which the images don’t always relate directly to what is being said, but add narrative and texture of their own. In one of the Showtime episodes, a story about a 14-year-old boy who decides he will never, ever fall in love uses slow-motion photography of the girls he goes to school with to capture their allure while he remains oblivious.

“I think the process was initially frustrating for the people who had worked in radio,” Mr. Wilcha said. “They did not want to bend what was working on radio to the needs of the medium, so I had to shoot it and cut it so that they could see it didn’t work. ‘This American Life’ always has a moment of realization, and once we all figured out a way to translate that to TV, we all got excited.” (The radio version of the show will continue to run.)

The America of the title is a big tapestry, taking its viewers from a pig farm with olfactory charms that lay the camera crew low, to the Lower East Side, where a smarmy art hipster punks a nascent rock band by manufacturing a fan base. Mr. Glass was greeted as a conquering rock star in various American cities during a recent live tour, and Showtime is hoping that the rabid, embedded fan base of “This American Life” — as well as the tsunami of media coverage generated by reporters who love to write about someone who actually tells real, live stories — will give it visibility in a cluttered television universe.

“This is sort of the heart of what we do in terms of trying to get attention with quality shows,” Robert Greenblatt, president of entertainment at Showtime, said. “This is a show that was created by a visionary using a deceptively simple process. As I have told the people that work here, this is Ira’s show, and he needs to do it. If he wants help or advice from us, he can have it, but it is his show.”

In the first episode a rancher makes the unfortunate decision to have the family’s pet bull, Chance, cloned. (Like many “This American Life” tales, it’s a long story.) Second Chance — think Cujo with bad genes and very long, pointy horns — eventually gores Ralph, his owner, and badly. Ralph makes a nice little speech from his hospital bed about getting back on the bull, so to speak, Mr. Glass said, “but then there is this moment afterwards when there is this look of complete vulnerability and utter weariness that crosses his face.”

“That look gives you so much more information about the character than we could ever get across in the radio piece,” Mr. Glass said.

The series has no dominant visual aesthetic: “We knew what we did not want it to look like,” he said, sitting in a corner office just off a common area that contained both an old wooden radio and a massive flat-screen television. “We knew that we didn’t want it to look like reality television or a documentary.”

Instead the television show is a mosh-up of visual styles, with short animation, found video, highly formal interior shots and expansive exteriors. What connects the shows — both the television and radio versions — is an uncommon empathy for subject. Viewers often find themselves rooting for whoever is featured going through the traditional arc of setup, epiphany and denouement.

Each episode opens with Mr. Glass inhabiting television conventions, sitting at a desk in a suit with coffee mug and pencils at the ready. But the desk is a movable feast, plopped in front of a booming subdivision for a show on growth spurts and in front of ominous nuclear power-plant cooling towers for an show on unintended consequences.

The six episodes, most containing two or three acts, never find themselves in service to television conventions. There is the Virginia politician who deploys what he calls “radical honesty” in a doomed election, a hot dog stand in Chicago that serves up racial invective, and the faithful in the desert who look for God’s face in a Polaroid.

“We want to do people on a human scale without a lot of shouting,” Mr. Glass said. “The subjects don’t need to be exemplars of some national trend. They can just be people with interesting stories.”

More Written Elsewhere...
Radio on the TV
Showtime for Ira Glass

March 20, 2007

TV: After weeks of working the press like, well, someone who's from the for-profit side of things, Ira Glass, above left, brings his This American Life shtick to Showtime Thursday. The first episode features both an ungrateful cow and New York pranksters Improv Everywhere. IE's brethren in the downtown comedy scene, the Whitest Kids U'Know, turn up on Fuse tonight, while Friday brings the premiere of VH1's Acceptable TV, which showcases content from Time's Person of the Year. We'll see if you is all you is cracked up to be.

Psst. You can not so secretly crush on Ira, too. Get the wallpaper or the icons.

Writers write, right?

Theoretically, this writer writes but let's see how others do it. Where shall we go today?

  1. The Writing Show
    Where writing is always the story.

    This blog looks like a great resource. Here's a snapshot of what you'll find on the site:

    Sample Author’s Book Marketing Questionnaire
    A Few Lessons Learned from Publishing in America
    Doing Research for Hollywood
    How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal
    Press Releases
    TV Interview Tips for Authors
    What A Newsletter Can Do for You
    Writing Exercises

    The blog also includes podcasts of interviews with (God love 'em) actual WRITERS. Here's a podcast related to short story writing: Podcast: About Short Stories With author Nancy O. Greene, author of the collection Portraits in the Dark. Join Nancy and host Paula B. for a fascinating talk about short stories, including:

    What the characteristics of short stories are
    How creating character in short stories differs from working in the novel
    Whether it’s easier or more difficult to write a short story than a novel
    Why some famous authors take so long to write short stories
    Whether the short story is in decline
    How to put together a compelling short story collection
    Why Nancy writes short stories
    What some of her favorite short stories are.

    Date: March 5, 2007
    Running time: 01:01:27
    The interview:

    Nancy Greene’s Web sites:;

    Listen to The Writing Show's complete podcast collection in Odeo:

  2. Writing and Humanistic Studies
    MIT OpenCourseWare is a large-scale, Web-based electronic publishing initiative.

    MIT OCW's goals are to provide free, searchable, access to MIT's course materials for educators, students, and self-learners around the world; and to extend the reach and impact of MIT OCW and the "opencourseware" concept.

    The MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies gives students the opportunity to learn the techniques, forms, and traditions of several kinds of writing, from basic expository prose to more advanced forms of non-fictional prose, fiction and poetry, science writing, scientific and technical communication and digital media.

    Click the link above for a complete listing of courses. Here's one I find interesting:

    21W.730-2 The Creative Spark, Fall 2004

    Course Description

    "Creative activity (isn't) the icing on the cake. Human creativity is the cake." (Jerry Hirschberg)

    Creativity - "the mastery of information and skills in the service of dreams" (Hirschberg) - is much prized in the arts, science, business and the classroom. What does the creative process look like? Under what conditions does it flourish - what ignites the creative spark? Attempting to answer these questions, this class explores ways creativity has been understood in Western culture: what we prize and fear about creativity and its wellsprings; how writers, artists, scientists and inventors have described their own creative processes; how psychologists and philosophers have theorized it; ways in which creativity has been represented in Western culture, particularly in 20th century films; and creativity in everyday life, including our own lives. [...]

    FALL 2004

    Homework #1

    1) WRITE a letter to me introducing yourself to me as a writer: What’s your relationship to writing? What are your hopes (and fears?) for this class? What happened with you and writing in high school (or elsewhere)? Anything else about you & writing you want to tell me? (e.g., is English your second language, writing you’ve done on your own, what you like to read . . .)

    1-1½ pages, word processed, single-spaced with space between paragraphs

    2) READ Didion’s “Why I Write,” Updike’s “Why Write?”, and Louis Menand’s “Bad Comma.” Updike is a novelist and short story writer who has also written a considerable amount of literary criticism and essays on general topics, from Ted Williams’ last time at bat to the genesis of Mickey Mouse’s ears; he is one of the major American writers of the second half of the 20th century. “Why Write,” like Didion’s “Why I Write,” was originally a talk. Didion is a highly-regarded novelist and essayist of the late 20th century with an especially distinctive voice. Menand teaches at Harvard and writes literary and cultural criticism for the New Yorker magazine.

    Select a brief passage—a sentence or two—from one of these three pieces and respond to it. NOTE: I am not asking you to explain the passage but to amplify it, extend it, question it, talk back to it—in short, to think about it in relation to something you know or have experienced.

    1 page double-spaced.

Things that make you go, Hmmm

While indulging in a much needed break I came across a this:

"When people learn to paint, to play an instrument... any kind of artistic or skilled endeavor, what they do is practice fundamentals. With writing, it's words, spelling, punctuation, sentences, etc.; however, Screenwriting isn't just writing, it's storytelling blueprints for film. Thus, you need to practice the elements of storytelling."
Writing On Spec: The Word Nobody Uses in Writing

The blog is written by Dave Michaels, a self-proclaimed Procrastinator.

How's that for an interesting coincidence? (And, yes, I do realize there is no such thing as coincidence).


There, I said it. No one really wants to admit that this happens but it's all too common.


Right now, I should be cleaning off my desk so I can actually work. (It's piled with papers and other paraphernalia that should have been put away days, weeks, months ago). Actually, my bedroom, my studio, the bathroom, the kitchen--Oh, let's just say it, THE WHOLE HOUSE--is in need of massive cleaning. You want to know how it got this way? Well, let's see...

1. My mother had a series of small strokes then a heart attack. She had a pacemaker installed so (THANK GOD) she's recovering. A significant portion of my time goes to helping her.

2. My computer system went down for several weeks--six (6) to be exact--which sent me into overdrive trying to save it. (I did with the help of Microsoft).

3. I took on a big project last summer that was coming to fruition just as my mother took ill and the computer crashed.

I've had a lot on my plate so should I feel guilty about procrastinating when I REALLY should be working on the big project or cooking or cleaning? The answer is NO but I'll feel guilty anyway so let's just get on with it.

Blogger Templates by Blog Forum