BEHIND THE SCENES of This American Life

This American Life is not only one of the most listened to radio programs and most downloaded podcasts, but it has managed to bridge the gap between sight and sound with the “This American Life” TV series, which is just as thrilling to watch as the show is to listen to. The staff behind the program isn’t big, and yet every week they bring listeners one hour of original, insightful, often funny and frequently groundbreaking material. Just how do they do it?

To answer that question, 7 staff members went to NY’s 92nd Street Y last September to speak in a panel in front of a live audience and shed light on the sometimes streamlined, sometimes not process of putting together what is essentially a one-hour audio documentary. And because they had the foresight to film the event, you can watch Nancy Updike, Jane Feltes, Sean Cole, Alissa Shipp, Seth Lind, Julie Snyder and Ira Glass exchange anecdotes, discuss what makes a good story and how they’re still trying to do a swimsuit edition of the show in THIS AMERICAN LIFE: BEHIND THE SCENES.

For sensitive or young listeners, there’s an ‘earmuff’ option, which, when selected, will display a cartoon rendering of a pair of earmuffs over a panel-member’s head when an R-rated word is about to be spoken, much like how Ira Glass announces the inclusion of certain words or topics before a radio story begins. The DVD includes plenty of behind-the-scenes gems that fans will eat up, like the producers’ struggle with case of the two vaginas or the list of possible titles for the show, which includes “This American Whatever,” “Radiolicious” and “Ira Glass and his Radio Cowboys.” Although Glass insists that the final decision for the title was never meant to suggest some overarching commentary on the state of all things American, compared to the rest of the working titles, I think they made a good choice.

You can buy the DVD for $16 from the This American Life store.