Having written a number of radio pieces over the past few months, what stood out to me the most in This American Life’s Big Apple Diner show was its variety of style. Each period of time (or, well, story) throughout the day that the episode consisted of was produced in a different way, giving the entire show a staggered feel. The effect was not a bad one — it provided the show with a flow that seemed unbroken and was engaging throughout.
I particularly liked the stories that used little to no narration, at least from the reporter. Ira Glass’ comments gave context to the time periods and add helpful detail to each scene, but I found the reporters’ narration sometimes got in the way of what could have been better pieces. The story at night with the two highschool girls who called their friends to join them at the bar was very compelling both because of a lack of narration and change of scenery — instead of taking place at one table, that story took the listener outside to the front of the diner, to a cramped car and to someone else’s house. The story provided the most variety and the most compelling story, while at the same time having minimal narration.
One of the last scenes with the police officers was also one of the best for many of the same reasons as the one previously mentioned. The story features dialogue between two characters that reveals hidden aspects of a culture alien to most — the candid nature of the policemen’s exchange and the relative lack of background noise set a scene that was at once both silent and captivating.
One of the midday stories about the couple that once dated would have been more interesting had it not used the Sex and the City motif. Granted I can understand, having listened to my tape, making that connection from the number of times the show was mentioned. Working with what you have is a reality of any journalistic medium. But the story could have been more compelling had it not used an unworkable shtick to propel it. Maybe it’s just me, and my aversion to Sex and the City.