The Beck-tator: I’m Figuring Out “Radiolab”

Okay, I liked it.

Last week, I addressed my undying devotion to “This American Life,” and decided to finally evaluate the hypothesis of many of my peers that “Radiolab” is a similar, but ultimately better program.

With this, I disagree. It’s not better. However, I found it to be intriguing to the extreme. I listened to the two most recent episodes, called “The Cathedral” and “The Fix.” Since the show has been on for years and I only jumped on board for the last few additions, I feel reluctant to generalize about the whole program in its entirety. Still, I gleaned enough about the show in those two episodes in order to draw a few comparisons to “This American Life.”

“Radiolab” focused on one main story per topic instead of several. What that means is that while you don’t get the same glimpse into the parallels between the complex layers of each featured subject, you do get a more thorough story. “Radiolab” seems a lot more scientific than “This American Life,” as though it is examining why things are, as opposed to how they are. The implications of this difference are twofold.

Both radio programs sit in your head after you listen to an episode, but not in the same manner. Since “This American Life” works its way through a handful of different narratives, it leaves me feeling introspective. I reflect on the implications of the story and of my role in them. However, “Radiolab” inspired more curiosity in me. It presented a line of inquiry and asked me to keep following it after the episode ended.
Both shows, then, are intriguing—both are phenomenal instances of radio journalism. Would I say “Radiolab” is better? Nah. But would I say that “Radiolab” gained a new regular listener this week? Absolutely.

See you next time, when I’ll tell you about a program that falls a little more off the beaten path!