A politician who never, ever lies, a woman who writes her first screenplay and has it filmed using only residents of a senior citizens home, a boy who claims to not believe in love — This American Life introduces you to all of them.
Based on the hugely popular Chicago Public Radio show of the same name, This American Life came to television over a decade after beginning its run on the radio in 1995. Each episode centers on a theme, and presents from two to five true stories from across the country that illustrate that theme.
It’s a method that’s proved wonderfully effective for a radio program over the years, and the format translates perfectly to television. Host and executive producer Ira Glass is quirky, but in a barely noticeable kind of way, and the show itself is similar. These aren’t your average slice-of-life stories nightly news broadcasts often run to wrap up their programs, and Glass tends to provide more insight than the average documentary filmmaker might be comfortable providing. Each story skews slightly offbeat, but each theme is instantly relatable, and it’s hard not to get sucked into the microcosms of American society this show discovers.
This American Life represents some of the best journalistic feature reporting out there. The group of staffers and freelancers who come together to create the show and dig up these stories outdo themselves with every episode on this disc. America is full of the unique, the quirky and the fascinatingly strange, but stories like this don’t just show up on your desk. You have to go out there and find them.
The stories range from the silly (a flash mob going to an unknown band’s concert and rocking out like they were hardcore fans) to the poignant (the spiritual and personal repercussions that a series of biblical paintings has on a divided family) to the disturbing (a group of grade-school kids who become so enthralled with the notion of filming what they see that they fail to help a classmate in need).