I remember the very first time I heard This American Life. Shelley Robinson was the PD (or maybe station coordinator) at CKDU at the time, and I was doing my show, Dickey Drive, and she suggested that I check out Ira Glass and his show online. I wrote down the web address (thislife.org) on a scrap of cardboard, stuck it in my pocket, and forgot about it for several weeks.
When I finally got around to listening to TAL, I was floored. It was unlike anything I’d heard on the radio before. To my ears it was fresh and exciting, and I couldn’t believe I’d not heard of it before. After listening to several episodes, it became radio’s gold standard in my mind (something that has since caused me much great frustration with my own work, along these lines explained by Ira). Anyway, my point is that TAL told stories in ways I’d not heard before, in ways that seemed really inventive, and got me very excited about making radio.
And again, just today, I heard another program that excites me in very much the same way.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a couple people ask me if I’d heard any of Radio Lab out of WNYC. I hadn’t, so I made a mental note to check it out, which I didn’t until this afternoon. I downloaded a couple of shows to my iPod, and listened to the first episode of season three. It’s all about the Placebo effect.
Holy crap, this is great sounding show. Production-wise, it blows my mind. Almost every element is perfect. The division between narration and tape almost doesn’t exist. The whole thing sounds seamless. They producers use sound in such interesting ways. Not just music, and narration, and clips, but ambiances, sound effects, snippets of mic checks, and actors. I just love how the show is cut together, and how they tell stories with sound.
Seriously, download the MP3, and listen to the first three minutes.
If you’re at all interested in making radio stories, study Radio Lab closely. I certainly plan to.