After a four-decade run, a staple of NPR programming is soon to be no more. Car Talk, featuring the beloved Magliozzi brothers, could soon be disappearing from stations nationwide.
The History of Click and Clack
Most fans of the show know the Magliozzis by their “noms de radio,” Click and Clack, but few know the serendipitous and virtually accidental origins of the show. In 1977, brother Tom was interviewed on Boston NPR affiliate WBUR. The interview was so well received that he was invited back for another appearance and returned with his brother Ray. The brother’s on-air chemistry was so well received that WBUR gave them the opportunity to produce a weekly local show that was syndicated nationwide in 1986. The duo earned a prestigious Peabody award in 1992 and a cameo appearance in Pixar’s Cars in 2006.
Casual fans of the show may not even be aware that the current incarnation of the broadcast is actually the “Best of Car Talk.” The Magliozzi’s stopped taping new episodes of the show after Ray’s health began to decline. The elder Magliozzi died from complications due to Alzheimer’s in 2014. Their production company quickly offered curated reprise broadcasts that continued to garner high ratings across NPR.
What’s Next for NPR?
At present, NPR doesn’t have a contending replacement for the show. Car Talk acted for many as a soundtrack during Saturday morning errands and chores and whatever show played next was a sure beneficiary. Light-hearted and goofy, the Magliozzi’s had a way of turning car repair questions into something bigger and more philosophical, growing a fan base far beyond gear-heads.
The “Best of” episodes may still be heard for a time on the air and will live on as available podcasts after that. In an interesting case of format coincidence, it is possible that NPR will replace Car Talk with one or more of its successful podcasts. Mention has been made of adapting popular shows like Hidden Brain or It’s Been a Minute for the radio.
Car Talk Will be Missed
The machinery of Car Talk will continue to operate under the auspices of the brother’s management company, the cheekily named “Dewey, Cheatem and Howe.” Besides continuing to produce archived episodes for podcast, the firm will also manage the show’s car donation charity and weekly syndicated newspaper column.
It will be odd not to head out into the lawn or out to clean the garage on a Saturday morning without those guys tagging along, they really were that good at what they did. After all, what other show could go into reruns, keep the same time slot on the same network and still pull in listeners. Guess I’ll have to find a new way to “waste a perfectly good hour.”