Make us your home page

'This American Life' episode about Tampa man earns 2 Emmys

Karen Clay called Tuesday from a hospital in Los Angeles, her voice excited and breezy, while a doctor figured out how to keep her son breathing.

I first met Clay months ago when writing about her son Michael Phillips, an amazing 27-year-old with a muscle disease that has eliminated most of his ability to move. Breathing through a respirator and outfitted with a computer that turns text into spoken words, Phillips used his thumb to communicate with the world from their Tampa home, catching the attention of This American Life host Ira Glass.

Back in April, Phillips told me an amazing story: He was certain that Glass' decision to profile him for Showtime's TV version of the popular National Public Radio series saved his life. The story, titled Escape, was a powerful rendering of Phillips' struggle for independence from a mother who has devoted her life to caring for him.

Turns out, Emmy voters thought Escape was powerful too, handing Glass' TV show two awards at the Creative Arts technical and nonfiction awards held Sept. 13, based on the episode featuring Phillips' story. And thanks to Glass' gratitude and Showtime's deep pockets, mother and son saw it all.

"People there even recognized Mike," said Clay, who traveled with her son to Los Angeles. "One guy on the red carpet shouted 'Johnny Depp!' " (In Escape, Glass gets Depp to read Phillips' words after hearing he would love for the actor to serve as his voice.)

Clay called from the hospital Tuesday because Mike had a hole in his breathing tube — the kind of regular health scare that first interested Glass in Mike's story. But the 50-something mom, a veteran of many such incidents, insisted her son would be fine once a doctor replaced the tube with a spare she always carries.

"I look at Mike, his color's fine, he's doing fine," she assured. "Other than this, we've had an incredible trip."


Knight Rider, 8 p.m. Wednesday, WFLA-Ch. 8: Granted, this update of the '80s car adventure isn't as dopey as you might expect, with hero Mike Traceur struggling to understand why people he doesn't remember are trying to hurt him. Working for a supersecret government organization, he lands in situations that require him to take off his clothes in a speeding car and drive around on highways real fast. The car looks cool, every female character is supermodel pretty and a guy gets his thumb cut off in the first episode. On second thought, maybe it is as dopey as you'd expect.


Lipstick Jungle, 10 p.m. Wednesday, WFLA: Cool as it is to see Mary Tyler Moore playing ornery mom to Brooke Shields' overworked studio executive, and Rosie Perez dialing down her Brooklyn patois to play a publicist/real estate broker, this Sex and the City clone about three women at the top of New York's corporate food chain feels as genuine as a campaign promise. Returning from a mediocre run last year, the show has Shields struggling with mom, Kim Raver's magazine executive struggling with the aftermath of an affair, and Lindsay Price's clothes designer struggling with Andrew McCarthy. Who to pity more?

the list

ABC's reality TV hit Dancing With the Stars begins a new season at 8 p.m. Monday with a whole new posse of midlevel celebrities seeking career revival and bragging rights.

So, of course, an online betting site has odds on it all. Here are's predictions.

• Beach volleyball champ

Misty May-Treanor (below), 2:1

• R&B singer Toni Braxton, 3:1

• Track star Maurice Greene, 5:1

• Actor Susan Lucci, 6:1

• Spokesmodel Kim Kardashian, 7:1

• TV host Brooke Burke, 7:1

• Singer Lance Bass, 7:2

• Teen actor Cody Linley, 8:1

• Ex-NFL star Warren Sapp,


• Chef Rocco DiSpirito, 12:1

• Character actor Ted

McGinley, 12:1

• 80-something

actor Cloris



• Schlubby



Ross, 50:1

the site

Web video takes a giant step forward on TNT's Web site, where the channel has archived six episodes of its "microseries" Clean Slate. Developed to air during commercial breaks, the five-minute episodes tell the story of a woman, on death row for killing a federal agent, who enters a program implanting the memories of a murdered woman in her head. Starring Eric Stoltz and produced by Independence Day co-creator Dean Devlin, it's the best-produced interstitial series I've seen.

'This American Life' episode about Tampa man earns 2 Emmys 09/20/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 20, 2008 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours