Can NPR maintain audiences for top-rated Car Talk after the hosts retire in October?
Car Talk can be a serious litmus test for radio fans.
Some folks -- most notably, fellow public radio talent Harry Shearer -- find the yuk-yuk-ing of NPR's famously jokey car mechanic duo to be appealing as fingernails on a very long chalkboard.
Others have made the duo's kibbitzing about car remedies a regular part of their weekend routine -- even if they didn't particularly care are automotive stuff.
Well, the duo have decided to give their critics a break, retiring in October not long after the 25th anniversary of the NPR show, which went national after years of broadcasts on Boston's NPR station, WBUR.
Older brother Tom Magliozzi turns 75 soon, so its easy to understand why he might want to slow down. After the hosts stop, producers will cobble together new episodes from the 25 years of episodes already completed; the statement about the retirement doesn't really say if the recycled shows will include material which didn't air the first time.
But as Poynter's Media Wire points out, Car Talk is NPR's most popular show. Can it retain that popularity by re-presenting stuff fans may have already heard?
Fellow NPR talent, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me host Peter Sagal, posted a possible answer on Twitter this afternoon, noting: "What I learned from Car Talk: people will listen to you on the radio forever, if they like you. Kindness > clever."
Looks like NPR is about to find out how true that notion is.
Press release is below the video clip:
June 8, 2012; Our Fair City – Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, the famous comedian mechanics who host NPR’s Car Talk, told their listeners this afternoon that as of this fall, they’ll no longer record new programs, but that the weekly call-in series will continue to be distributed by NPR drawing on material from their 25 years of show archives. The note from the Magliozzis to their listeners is in full at cartalk.com: www.cartalk.com/content/time-get-even-lazier
“My brother has always been ‘work-averse,’” says Ray, 63. “Now, apparently, even the one hour a week is killing him!”
“It’s brutal!” adds Tom, 74.
“My brother has always said, ‘Don’t be afraid of work. Make work afraid of you.’ And he’s done it. Work has successfully avoided him all his life,” says Ray.
The brothers have been taping Car Talk at WBUR in Boston for 35 years, and the show has been a staple on NPR Member stations for the last 25 years. With older brother Tom turning 75 this year, the guys decided it was time to “stop and smell the cappuccino.”
“We’ve managed to avoid getting thrown off NPR for 25 years, given tens of thousands of wrong answers and had a hell of a time every week talking to callers,” says Ray. “The stuff in our archives still makes us laugh. So we figured, why keep slaving over a hot microphone?”
NPR will continue to distribute the weekly show, an enormously powerful program in public radio, to stations across the country. Beginning in October, the Car Talk production team will actively produce new shows built from the best of its 25 years of material – more than 1,200 shows – with some updates from the brothers. The guys will also still write their twice weekly Dear Tom and Ray column, and put their feet in their mouths in surprising new ways on the web and Facebook.
“Tom and Ray have become icons to millions of fans, including me, over the last 25 years,” says NPR President & CEO Gary Knell. “I’m thrilled that they will continue to entertain and engage today’s fans and future fans for many years to come.”
Eric Nuzum, Vice President for NPR Programming, adds: “We’re certainly disappointed that they’re not going to do this forever. But despite their protestations about work, they’ve earned this. And they’re leaving us an incredible body of work that ranks up there with some combination of the Marx Brothers, Mark Twain, and Mr. Goodwrench. The work they did five and 10 years ago is just as funny now as it was then.”
Asked if they would consider coming back at some point and recording more new Car Talk shows, or doing something else on NPR, the brothers engaged in the type of back-and-forth that listeners know well:
RAY: “It’s possible. You never know.”
TOM: “Absolutely not. My brother can go chase himself.”
RAY: “Well, what’re you going to do with yourself?”
TOM: “I’m retiring.”
RAY: “If you retired...how would you know??”
The brothers will mark their 25th anniversary on the air this fall, and then put the series in the hands of their producers, who will continue to produce the show.
Tom and Ray ended their note to listeners with this: “Thank you for giving us far more of your time than we ever deserved. We love you. And know that starting this fall, for the first time, we’ll be able to sit at home, laughing at Car Talk along with you guys on Saturday mornings.”