More NPR Watch…

In a previous post, I expressed my unease at the state of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me. Peter Sagal and his new partner Bill Kurtis didn’t seem to be getting along, and I found that very distressing! I depend on them every Monday morning to start off my week. I’m happy to say that everything seems fine with them. Bill has toned down his rather over-hilarious (in the sense of boisterously merry) delivery, and Peter isn’t subtly putting him down in his scripted ripostes.

All is once again love and light, and I can relax.

On the other hand, I’m detecting a little subtext in Warren Olney’s To the Point and Which Way L.A., shows which ought not have any subtext. Like Shakespeare, they are their text, right there on the surface.

Thankfully, the subtext is not in the show proper, but in the promos for other podcasts, which apparently all NPR podcast hosts have to do now. Planet Money does it for the Ted Radio Hour, even This American Life does it. Warren has been tasked with promoting DNA, hosted by Frances Anderton. Warren pronounces it “Fraunces” (like New York’s famous Fraunce’s Tavern), which seems odd. Maybe she’s English and he’s deferring to her own pronunciation? But what I noticed in his promo is the strange stilted delivery and writing. He says the podcast is called “DNA, which, as the name suggests, is about design, art, and architecture.”

The name doesn’t suggest that at all. It suggests microbiology. I have to say, “huh?”

Further, he insists, in a strained voice, that, “she’s wonderfully qualified” and “you’ll really enjoy it.” I feel about that the way I feel about restaurants that have “Wholesome” in the name – if they have to say it, I have to wonder what’s going on in the kitchen.

Also, he says that she edited an architectural magazine, but doesn’t say which one. A quick google reveals that it was probably London’s Architectural Review. Why not say that? It sounds impressive to me.

The thing about Warren (can I call him Warren? Uncle Warren? Mr. Olney?) is his utter straightforwardness. It so cheers me up when, after one of his guests has utterly demolished another guest, Warren turns to them and just says, “Well, what about that?” This curt query is followed by a pause, as the guest waits for waffling or equivocation, but they won’t get that from Warren. Not ol’ Uncle Warren. He just asks the question and lets the guest try and dig their way out.

Doesn’t always work. The guest will often be evasive and jump to a preferred topic, and Warren doesn’t always insist on a direct answer. He does sometimes, which is bracing, but I suppose in the interest of time, he lets the answer stand on its own, and allows the audience decide whom they want to believe.

So hearing him do this awkward promo cuts into my mood. Sorry Warren, I love your shows, and I’m sure Frances’s podcast is terrific (actually, it seems that it isn’t called DNA, but rather DnA – hard to get that distinction across on the radio). But someone needs to take a look at rewriting those promos.

Note – there is a second version of the promo which is much more direct, and in which he doesn’t insist on how much we’ll enjoy it, or how “wonderfully qualified” she is. Better.

Best regards.