Last week's live cinecast of the NPR game show Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, seen locally at Beechwood Stadium 11, was the latest edition of the curious trend of watching radio. This American Life has broadcasted the taping of its show, and popular NPR variety shows A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage and even Wait, Wait sell plenty of tickets to a studio or amphitheater audience. However, the difference between participating in the taping of a radio show and watching it remotely is large enough that these live cinecasts might not become the lucrative novelty they at first seem.
Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is a humorous game show of many components: comedians, celebrities, improv and current events. Host Peter Sagal is quick and the panel of comedians is perfect for radio with their unusual voices and willingness to try a joke. Watching the process in unedited form does not reveal too much method behind the magic, but it doesn't create intrigue about what was previously unseen. The single most compelling moment of the watching the gears turn was laying eyes on Carl Kasell, the aged announcer with the voice of a game show host, revealed without pomp like a stately Wizard of Oz.
If NPR was a person, it would be smart, funny and know what to say and when to say it. Mature. Getting excited to see the making of a show that is essentially a pleasing distraction ultimately doesn't seem to fit with the personality of the organization. It's fun once, maybe twice, but NPR listeners are critical and want to be challenged beyond ignoring the faults of live broadcast.