Review: This American Life – Season Two Premiere on Showtime

Download Episodes of This American Life at Amazon UnboxShow: This American Life (Showtime)
Episode: “Escape” – Season Premiere (Season 2)
Premiere Date: Sunday, May 4th, 2008
Rating: 3 out of 4 Stars

Quick Synopsis: Getting out, without really, getting out.

Long Synopsis: The show opens with a vignette about teen boys in Philadelphia that are riding horses right in their neighborhood. Then, the bulk of the episode is devoted to the story of a young man and his mother, who are seemingly trapped together by circumstance. That being, he has a debilitating disease and she is his caregiver. Yet, due to technology, he has been able to live into adulthood, a time when you normally become independent of your parents. It shows what he has been able to do, to assert some level of independence.

Review: I have never listened to the This American Life radio show, nor did I watch the first season of the TV version. I had no idea what to expect when the screener arrived. So, I asked a friend that listens to the radio show, what it was about. She said that each show usually revolves around a topic or theme. Then varying stories around that theme are told and they can be funny or moving, but are always interesting.

The production notes for season two reads, “a second season of incredibly moving, sometimes funny and always dramatic stories culled from around the country.” It is nice to see when the marketing material matches up with someone’s real life experience. And, after watching the first episode, I would have to agree. This one falls into the incredibly moving category.

Ira Glass, host of the radio show, only appears in the opening to introduce the theme of the episode. After that, he is heard asking questions, but not seen. This allows the story being profiled to take center stage. Given the material, this is a welcome use of the host.

The show is very understated in its overall style, but is shot and edited beautifully. This, too, allows the stories themselves to standout. Although, it does move along quite slowly, but that is probably to allow you time to reflect on the story you are being told.

This American Life returns to Showtime with six new episodes for season two. The first of which premieres next Sunday, May 4th, after a new episode of The Tudors. Subsequent episodes have the themes of “Two Wars,” “Going Down in History,” “Fighters,” “Scenes from a Marriage,” and “John Smith.” I am looking forward to watching more and hope that the first season ends up back out in the Showtime On Demand section on my cable, so I can catch up.

If you check it out, come back and tell us what you thought of the season two debut of This American Life?

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Jason the TVaholic
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