The Delicious Dish

It’s fun to make fun of National Public Radio.

The upper-middle-class white liberal bias; the pretentious production style; the air staff’s frequently sloppy, mannered delivery; the unearned condescension to all other media; if you’re a radio person, the massive budgets and huge staffs combined with the often dismal state of practice of the radio craft; the complete inability to do a show off-script (listening to NPR reporters trying to ad-lib on the morning of 9/11 would have been funny under less dire circumstances) – I mean, Terri Gross is considered a brilliant broadcaster because…

…she can freestyle an interview (or at least be made to sound like she’s freestyling after repeated cycles of NPR’s obsessive editing).

It’s fun to make fun of public radio:

For all that?  There are shows I do like.  I enjoyed Prairie Home Companion while Garrison Keillor hosted it (while ignoring and mocking his puerile politics), and might like it even more with Chris Thile at the helm.  MPR’s news does an adequate job of seeking balance – not perfect, not great, but adequate, which means if you grade on a curve against other media they rate an A.   On Being with Krista Tippett can be an incredibly interesting show.

And then there’s been “Splendid Table“.   For a couple decades, now Lynn Rossetto Kasper has been hosting the show – and by “hosting”, I mean “saving it from the suffocating, self-parodying cliches that are most public radio”.    Rossetto Kasper brought an air of engagement, mirth…fun to  the show, and to a subject that inspires all too much leaden foodie navel-gazing.


Rossetto Kasper is retiring from the show after 21 seasons.  She’s being replaced by Francis Lam, former top foodie at NYTimes Magazine and an accomplished chef in his own right.  He clearly knows his food.

I got my first, er, taste of Mr. Lam’s style this past weekend.  And it’s dreadful.

I’m going to put part of the blame on whomever produces and edits the show – and being an American Public Media (the production spinoff of MPR) joint, God only kjnows who that is, since like most APM shows it’s got a staff list longer than a Michael Bay movie.  But whoever it is who decided on Mr. Lam’s broadcast style seems to have given the directive; “Don’t just do public radio cliché; define and supercharge them!”.

A paraphrased, but typical, piece of a Lam interview:

LAM:  So tell us about [whatever].

GUEST:  I’m glad you asked.  It’s really about [interesting explanation redacted]

LAM:  Ah.  […several seconds of exaggerated pause, apparently to connote depth and thoughtfulness…].  Interesting.

So yeah, the editing was dreadful.

But Lam himself comes across as…oh, drat, now I have to go into my thesaurus to find new terms to describe the clichés of the public radio delivery.  Lugubrious?  Disconnected?  Stylized to the point of caricature?  I don’t know.

Maybe it’ll improve.  Maybe it was an isolated episode.

Or maybe, in the era of Trump, Public Radio is making a concerted effort to be more pompous, more caricaturish, and less accessible to the plebeians.

Let’s hope for improvement.

19 thoughts on “The Delicious Dish

  1. Last year, my boys and I went on a “zip line tour” down the Green River Gorge in North Carolina. 11 stations; 4 hours.

    It was strenuous, not extremely so but you knew you were getting a work-out. We had a great time, however 3/4 the way through, I was fatigued, not physically so much but mentally. See, you are either sailing through the trees, hanging in a sling, or standing on a tiny platform 80′ in the air…for 4 hours. I’m not afraid of heights at all, but watching every step you take for that length of time is very tiring mentally.

    Thing is, for people that, for whatever reason, find they can’t finish, there are 3 “escape platforms” along the way to get you to the ground. You’ll have a long walk down the gorge, but your feet are on terra firma.

    I honestly don’t think I’d like being cooped up in a space craft, knowing there was no way down for the duration.

  2. When you say delicious dish all I can think of is that legendary SNL ‘schweaty balls’ sketch. The fact those 3 were able to keep a straight face during that sketch is as impressive and funny as the actual sketch.

  3. I think PHC is making a mistake trying to hold onto the old Keillor formatics. I think they should have started completely fresh. Powder Milk should have been retired with Garrison.

  4. Sex was king until the Boomers got old and felt less sexy. Now food is king, because sex has taken the place of food in the sensual lives of boomers, plus it allows easy status marking.
    God only knows what fads and fashions we in the real word will endure when the Boomers’ taste buds crap out on them.

  5. How you people can listen to MPR/NPR is beyond me. Nails on a damn chalkboard

  6. I honestly don’t think I’d like being cooped up in a space craft, knowing there was no way down for the duration.
    Don’t get me started on the idiots who think space travel is romantic, Swiftee. Those tin cans don’t need windows, and without them, you might as well be locked up in a small, noisy, cluttered space with other people for weeks or months on end. Oh, and everyone poops in a plastic bag. And everything you throw away remains a feet away from you. What was it Johnson said about shipboard life? It’s like prison, with the possibility of drowning?
    I used to work with some space shuttle mechanics. They said that after a long mission the interior smelled like garbage and sewage.

  7. I’ve long thought the hardest job in broadcasting is that of the producer who removes the 100’s of “um’s” from the Terri Gross program prior to broadcast. Impossible to get more than 90% of them. The WGN producer who had the job of keeping Harry Carey sober had it easier.

  8. MP, Rumor has it BWW’s hottest new flavor sauce will be called CAUSTIC……..because of age your taste buds and digestive track are shot anyway!

  9. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 03.07.17 : The Other McCain

  10. “But we’ve cut the everything to the bone. There’s nothing left to cut!”
    “Does NPR & PBS get any funding?”
    “Um, yes, of course.”
    “Then there’s more cuts we can make.”

  11. I had an acquaintance in college who did student “deejaying” at the local PBS station….her spoofs of the dominant styles there were just hilarious. You’ve got the low and slow and bored sounding guy on classical, the spastic guy doing jazz and knowing nothing about the subject… thing that could be done for both genre would be to get government out of it.

  12. I think PHC is making a mistake trying to hold onto the old Keillor formatics. I think they should have started completely fresh. Powder Milk should have been retired with Garrison.

    I don’t disagree. Thirty years ago, the first time Keillor quit, they replaced it with a show that ditched the entire PHC universe (I think it was called “Good Evening”, and it was hosted by someone by someone who looked and may have sounded like Dan Castallaneda in the “Park and Recreation” bit above, and it lasted a matter of months, maybe, before they went back to beg Keillor to return.

    The institutional memory is pretty long in public radio (since deadwood never gets fired); I think they’re going to go about the transition sloooowly.

    That said? I do like the changes Thile’s made. The music has stepped up a *lot*; it’s fun not to have the Wailin’ Jennys and Robin and Linda Williams on alternating weekends all season.

  13. “it’s fun not to have the Wailin’ Jennys and Robin and Linda Williams on alternating weekends all season.”


    now if it were Richard and Linda Thompson every other weekend that’d be a different story.

  14. Richard Thompson was a guest at least once. I think it was 2012 – he did 1952 Vincent Black LIghtning and something off a newer album. Pretty awesome.

  15. It was “Good Evening” with Noah Adams.

    You couldn’t make up a more cliched NPR personality than Adams.

    Noah Adams
    Contributing Correspondent, National Desk

    Noah Adams, long-time co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered, brings more than three decades of radio experience to his current job as a contributing correspondent for NPR’s National Desk., focusing on the low-wage workforce, farm issues, and the Katrina aftermath. Now based in Ohio, he travels extensively for his reporting assignments, a position he’s held since 2003.

    Adams’ career in radio began in 1962 at WIRO in Ironton, Ohio, across the river from his native Ashland, Kentucky. He was a “good music” DJ on the morning shift, and played rock and roll on Sandman’s Serenade from 9 p.m. to midnight. Between shifts, he broadcasted everything from basketball games to sock hops. From 1963 to 1965, Adams was on the air from WCMI (Ashland), WSAZ (Huntington, W. Va.) and WCYB (Bristol, Va.).

  16. Many years ago, I used to boycott all MPR and especially PHC. Then one day I realized, “Wait a damn minute. I’m PAYING for it. Screw the boycott, I’ll listen for free!” So I went back to listening to Classical MPR and PHC. I actually really enjoyed Keillor’s Guy Noir and News from Lake Wobegon segments. I tried listening to the new guy once. I couldn’t.

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