Not as engaging as season one by far
S. P. | 07/30/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This American Life was the first radio shows with which I became absolutely enthralled, revolving my Saturday morning schedule around its airing until other means of listening came along. So I was happy about Showtime picking at up, and not at all skeptical that a TV version would disappoint.
And it didn't, at first. Season one of the television show did not disappoint, and neither, truthfully, did season two. If I were to judge season two by nixing any preconceived notions about This American Life (either in radio format or the format laid out by season one of the TV show).
Something in season two was lacking for me right off the bat. It remained pure speculation as to why season two did not strike the same chord with me. I finally figured out that it was lack of Ira Glass's narrative. You see, the DVD has a live presentation as a bonus feature. And in it I see Chris Wilcha (co-director of the TV version) and Ira Glass discussing how they chose in season two to have Ira Glass be involved as little as possible(!).
This was the profound difference between season one and two. Chris Wilcha and Showtime mistakenly believed that it was wise to relegate Ira Glass to the background as much as possible, instead of letting him narrate the show as he had done in season one. From what I gathered, those whom had misgivings about a TV version agree that episode one of first season soothed those fears. The show was still lovable. No matter how many moving pictures were added, it was definitely still This American Life. Believing that Ira Glass wouldn't surrender so much creative control, I had none of these misgivings and the TV show did not disappoint-- in season one. That was season one though.
Showtime, in the second season, has chosen to deviate from the format that worked so well for them in the first season. Chris Wilcha basically stated that the photography should speak for itself in the TV version of the show and that little to no narrative by Ira was necessary or desired. I couldn't disagree more. Season one worked for the same reasons the radio show works. Ira Glass. While he isn't absolutely *needed*, you could say the same for the moving photography of the Showtime show-- it too, isn't absolutely necessary. The new way they have Ira Glass introducing the show, as though the story is an "afterthought", left me feeling cheated, as well as "cheapening" the overall quality of the introductory narrative segments.
Ira, in my opinion, is more necessary to the show than the filmography, and his inclusion is paramount to keeping the spirit of the show alive in any format. No Ira, or very little Ira, will equal a failed This American Life. I don't say this as a radio or television fan. I say this as a fan of "This American Life", with our host, Ira Glass.
I have bought season one three times- once for myself, and twice as gifts for others. I also bought season two. Once, for myself. I will not be buying it again. Though the content is up to par- amazing, poignant, entertaining- and the DVD comes with a variety of bonus features including audio commentary and the option for HDTV, watching it with the minimum of Ira's proud and comforting voice punctuating the story (sadly, in most segments he isn't included at all- a deliberate choice, they explain in the bonus "live" excerpt.) is just not the same show. This renders some episodes that would normally be extremely compelling into nearly unforgettable weakened versions of what I imagine its creators envisioned. It's now like "every other television show". These changes are an unwelcome shift away from not just what worked in season one, but from the spirit of the radio show as well.
Save your money. The radio version needs it more than Showtime. (The radio version is hosted by WBEZ and PRI, not NPR, as many believe.)
I for one will be watching the DVD for the bonus inclusions, which are pretty stellar. If there are more Showtime seasons planned, I cannot imagine them being as gripping as the first season was if they continue to deviate wildly from the format of season one. Season one was truly in keeping with the spirit of TAL. Season one WAS, "This American Life, with your host, Ira Glass."
Season two? Eh, not so much."
Buck-tumo | Melbourne, Australia | 07/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why can't TV shows be made for adults? Why can't TV shows trust the audience to be intelligent and curious? This American Life is one of the rare shows on TV that aspires to bring something more to the medium.
Subtle, easy-paced, and ultimately, enjoyable."
This American Life "in brief"
Donald R. Coleman | Salt Lake City, UT United States | 09/28/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I love This American Life on the radio, so I had to try it on DVD. I love the show, but I still prefer to listen while I'm driving or having breakfast."
"Escape" from cliches about disability
Louann M. Larson | Malden, MA | 08/14/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I recommed this honest, thought provoking, non-sentimental look at life and love through the eyes of a young man with severe physical and medical challenges. It explores profound questions about freedom vs. security, about love between two people (mother/son, girlfriend/boyfriend)and how it gets expressed when one party is completely physically dependant on the other. Does the "freedom to take risks" define human adulthood? How does one person's need for life-sustaining care and another person's need to be needed combine / collide? How does a parent who has devoted decades of her life to that child's physical care come to terms with her adult child's need for independence, self-expression, privacy, a life apart?
I work for a disability service agency, and we will be using this video to spark awareness and discussion."