“This American Life is about to start airing on British radio for the first time, on Radio 4 Extra. Will it translate?
The name is definitely a marketing problem. I think you can tell we had no intention of being an international show. And there’s no one in Britain who’s like, ‘You know what I don’t get enough of? American culture.’
The shows that the BBC chose are really traditional, documentary with a capital D, ‘we-are-serious-journalist’ stories. The first one includes a story about the Holocaust, because everybody knows that that’s a classy story to put on the radio. They are feeling protective of us, [worrying] that their audience will notice that the tone is different and jauntier and more conversational, and not understand the seriousness of intent underneath it. I appreciate that whoever is programming for the BBC is trying to protect us.”
Somewhat disturbed to hear of the Holocaust referred to as a “classy story for the radio,” but we’re missing that dimension of meaning you get by hearing a voice on the radio. Certainly an interesting read, and you can find out about his ecstatic experience here. And if you want a laugh, it’s well worth checking out TAL’s classic episode, First Day/Squirrel Cop.