Here’s the deal with today’s breaking news that Tom and Ray Magliozzi, “Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers,” will no longer be taking new calls from listeners as of this coming fall: Unless you’ve been a very consistent fan of “Car Talk,” you may not even notice.
That’s because NPR will continue broadcasting an archival version of the program, an undertaking that’ll draw from 25 years, 1,200 shows and 12,500 callers. (The show has been on Boston’s WBUR for 35 years and on NPR member stations for 25). And the material that’ll funnel into the archival programs won’t be run-of-the-mill calls, says NPR spokesperson Anna Christopher. “Our producers have rated [the calls] based on how funny they are,” she says. Those calls will get priority treatment on the re-aired episodes.
Over the past two years, says Christopher, the 74-year-old Tom and 63-year-old Ray have been easing their way into automotive retirement, taking fewer fresh callers, and NPR remains elated with the results. “The show has continued to perform extremely well. Listeners continue to find them funny regardless if the call was recorded yesterday or if the call was recorded five years ago,” says Christopher.
But really: How long can NPR exploit these archives? They’re not bottomless, after all. A year or two more, perhaps?
Christopher on that matter: “Our producers could go eight years without having to repeat any calls – we plan for the series to live on much longer.”