Growing up mainly in the '80s and '90s with the family car being the most inexpensive yet reliable compact vehicle we could afford, my little sister and I did not have the luxury of seat-back DVD players and separate headset plugs. Instead, we had to make our own entertainment on long road trips. If we were lucky, a few of the hours in the car would coincide with the local public radio station's broadcast of some of our favorite shows.
Car Talk was by far one of the more amusing weekend programs distributed to NPR stations around the country. Hosted by two brothers who often spent more time laughing at each other's lame jokes than diagnosing caller's car problems, the show was guaranteed to make the road trip more bearable. I still listen to the show as often as I can.
Recently, Tom ("Click") and Ray ("Clack") Magliozzi took an unexpected left turn into television programming with the animated series Click & Clack: As the Wrench Turns. Aired on PBS stations this year, the first season ran for ten episodes, and is now available on DVD. I had not watched it when it was on the air, but I jumped at the opportunity to view and review the DVD set. Unfortunately, the animated series is not nearly as entertaining or interesting as the radio call-in show.
Click & Clack is set mainly in the brothers' automotive garage shop, with the studio where they record their show located somewhere on an upper floor. In addition to the titular duo, the garage staff includes Fidel (an impeccably dressed ladies man who can smell what is wrong with a vehicle), Crusty (a Harvard professor who believes he is on a sabbatical and is using his engineering talents to help out at the garage), Stash (a Russian immigrant who can build anything out of scrap), and Marge (secretary and bookie). The other main character of note is the radio show producer, a young woman named Beth Totenbag. I found the secondary characters to be much more interesting than Click and Clack themselves, who remain predictably two-dimensional throughout the season.
After watching all ten episodes, I felt as though my brain had been numbed by the sheer stupidity of most of the plots. The animation is simple and the plots are often even simpler, with slap-stick humor and lame jokes filling in the gaps. However, there are many inside jokes that only fans of public radio or public broadcasting would get. For example, there is a running joke about the Antiques Roadkill (a.k.a. Antiques Roadshow) series that is filmed next door. While the kids might get the surface-level humor, the inside joke aspect is definitely aimed more at adults. However, any adult who can make it through the poor writing and poor voicing is probably not going to appreciate the humor as much as they would if the aforementioned aspects were of a higher quality.
If the creators of Click & Clack were looking to achieve the success of shows like The Simpsons or The Family Guy, they have a great deal of room for improvement. Click & Clack: As the Wrench Turns may be enjoyed in small doses, but I would not recommend buying or renting this DVD unless you are a consummate NPR/PBS fan who must acquire everything put out by those media companies. There are no extras to be found in this two-disc set, which could have enhanced the quality of the package. If you're lucky, they might be giving away copies as thank you gifts in an upcoming membership pledge drive.