Click & Clack’s As The Wrench Turns is a new animated show on PBS based on the National Public Radio show Car Talk. Car Talk is hosted by Tom and Ray Magliozzi who use the names Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers — hence the name. The radio show started in 1977 in Cambridge, Massachusetts on one station but is now one of the highest rated shows on NPR, heard on 370 stations with over two million listeners weekly.
The hour-long show, divided into three parts, is mostly a call-in question and answer show but has regular features such as the “Puzzler” and “Stump the Chumps” where they call back a previous caller to find out if they were right with their advice. Their irreverent humor (the show's fictitious law firm is “Dewey, Cheetham & Howe”), the Boston accents, and their encyclopedic knowledge of cars make a very winning combination that has a very dedicated following.
Like all hugely popular things, television has come calling the brothers. What do you do if you’re a radio star moving to the television stage but born with faces made for radio? One word, friends: animation.
I have to admit, I was nervous when I first heard about this new show. I’ve been a fan of Car Talk since about 1995 when I worked weekends and caught their show on two different stations at two different times. The last time a favorite thing of mine, Dilbert, was animated and put on television, it met with mixed success and although I enjoyed the show, it quickly and rather quietly went away. I don’t want Car Talk to share that same fate.
I wondered what the show would cover. Why animate the show if you are just watching the crew in the radio studio? There must be a different layout, perhaps a week at the Car Talk garage? Well, yes, in a way. The first episode is called “Campaign” and we join the Tappet brothers along with their crew doing the annual fund drive for National Public Radio. The group sets a new record for being the first show in the history of Public Radio to actually raise a negative amount. Desperate for a plan, the team brainstorms before settling on a strategy that can only happen on an animated show — they decide to run for president. I won’t share any more of the plot, but if you enjoy the Car Talk radio show, you’ll get the humor of the television show.
There are very few things the brothers take seriously with the exception of “distracted driving”. This means eating, putting on makeup, texting, etc while driving. The brothers are using this platform to bring an awareness of the dangers but they do it in a way that is still very funny and not distracting at all.
I watched the show with my family and polled them for their opinions. I liked it and thought it showed great promise. My wife and daughters thought it was funny in spots but on a whole wasn’t a great thing. Granted, they aren’t the core audience of Car Talk but they did laugh in the right spots.
Premiering July 9 on PBS stations, I believe that Click & Clack’s As The Wrench Turns, with a little fine tuning, has the makings of a big hit.