The show didn’t feel an hour long. It moved seamlessly from one story to the next, thanks to techniques like musical interludes, host comments, reporter comments and great use of silence and pauses in conversation. You could feel the interviewees thinking; the reporters weren’t rushing them through what they had to say.
The sequence of interviews also felt carefully considered. There was a short, humorous interview with a woman talking about time and past lives, followed by a longer, more serious piece about two teenage girls, followed by an easygoing chat with two cops. This sort of sequencing and pacing – music and host chatter in between – created a nice, steady flow. I never felt overwhelmed by too many characters or stories.
There aren’t too many different ambient sounds inside a diner – just plates clattering, background conversations, waitresses and the cash register – but the repetition of these sounds helped hold the concept of the show together. The shift from one sound to another between each story and, in some cases, behind the stories, provided some urgency and pushed the hour forward.
The writing was great because it didn’t get in the way of the stories. For example, Glass gives us the background on the construction worker from Mexico quickly and succinctly, allowing the interviewee to talk about other things. He tells us what people look like when it’s important and conveys something about them. He describes the kids wearing bicycle helmets and eating Mickey Mouse pancakes because it’s a great image. Katie Kay (sp?) is described as being dressed in “a nice outfit, matching scarf,” so while she admits that the conservative viewpoints of her childhood no longer apply, we still see her dressed conservatively. We see who she was and hear who she is now.
The way Glass described the diner was simple but telling – the booths, the shape of the building and the food on display. Any depiction of the diner’s personality and character is left to the people interviewed.
Reporting and Editing
I remember a few very simple lines that expressed something significant without beating listeners over the head – a credit to the reporters who interviewed people, and to their decisions about what to keep in or cut. There was Donna the waitress saying “I’m tired of talking,” local woman Katie Kay (sp?) saying, “We have our gay people,” the drunk journalism major saying “Where the hell’s the waitress,” the teenage girls saying “We have no life so we come here and wait for people,” the bar owner saying he “took the etch a sketch and shook it,” and the repetition of Joe’s “And that’s it.”