Hey, NPR, it’s time to let Car Talk go.
Even if you’re not a fan of Car Talk, you have probably heard, at some point or another, the raucous laughter of Tom and Ray Magliozzi, also known as Click & Clack, the Tappett Brothers, as you flipped around the radio dial.
Car Talk was on for 35 years, 25 in syndication, and was one of NPR stations’ most beloved shows. It aired on more than 650 stations weekly and had an audience of over 3 million.
I was one of the people who loved my weekly dose of Car Talk lunacy. I could recite the fake staff names at the end by memory…”Our statistician, Marge Genovera; our seat cushion tester, Mike Easter; our Russian chauffeur, Pikup Andropov.”
Last week, Tom Magliozzi died at age 77 after a rough go with Alzheimer’s. The show had been airing for the last couple years as re-edited re-runs, which explains why so many of the episodes featured pre-1995 cars and their problems.
Even though I treasured those hours spent laughing with Tom and Ray, I think it is time to let Tom rest in peace. Doug Berman, the show’s producer, has said that they plan to keep airing the re-runs because that’s what Tom would have wanted. I think Tom would have said “What kind of wacko idea is that?” followed by his trademark exuberantly out-of-control cackle.
I know it’s hard to let good things go. It’s especially hard when those good things are a huge cash cow. But when we cling to the old and known, we leave no room for surprises, for creativity, for new delights.
Car Talk bashed through the grey wall of seriousness that had enclosed NPR before Tom and Ray got there. They opened up the field for other great, innovative shows like This American Life and RadioLab which manage, like Car Talk, to be informative and fun and playful.
I understand about clinging to the past, but as a creative person, I always have to vote for the future. It gives me a pang that our newspaper is still printing Peanuts in the Sunday comics section, 14 years after Charles Schulz’s death. Every time I see it, I can’t help but think he would root for a new young cartoonist to have that valuable comic real estate.
My guess is that Tom would think the same thing about Car Talk. The show has done all that it can do. Tom left us mentally a while back. He left us physically this week. Putting Car Talk to rest would show no disrespect to his memory. The most Car Talk thing to do would be to drive bravely into the future, leaving a trail of laughter behind us.