This week’s episode of This American Life started off a bit slow. Within a few moments, we learned that Ira Glass was off on assignment and that a guest host would be filling in. Obviously this did not bode well. But, Nancy Updike, did such a great job hosting, it may have been the best episode ever.
This week’s episode is “Oh You Shouldn’t Have“, stories of gifts gone awry. Really the title should have been” This is Your Life was the craziest TV show ever made and they should totally remake it so that we can all experience the crazy”. For those of you who don’t know the history of early reality/voyeuristic TV (what, you don’t spend your free time reading all about it?), This is Your Life was a TV show in the 70s. Basically, each week the story was about one person who was surprised and brought on the show where the host told them the story of their life. All sorts of people from their past showed up to share memories and the “stars” of the week got the chance to experience their lives as narratives, usually with some sort of lesson or full-circle message.
This American Life tells the story of two episodes of This is Your Life that really should never have happened. One was the story of a Holocaust survivor, complete with the host making her relive the experiences of the fear of the gas showers and the death of her family on national television with no warning. (How is that okay?! It makes Ty Pennington and Extreme Makeover seem tactful and understated.)
But, if possible, the second episode they discuss is worse. That guest was a man that had survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and was in the US shepherding a group of disfigured survivors who were here for plastic surgery. On the show, they made him shake hands with the US pilot who dropped the bomb! (Awkward Turtle.) And we complain that today’s reality TV is exploitative…
So, download the podcast. It’s free and it’s well worth an hour of your time.