“Click & Clack’s As the Wrench Turns” aired on PBS in 2008. It was an animated series based on Tom and Ray Magliozzi’s “Car Talk” radio show, which NPR announced Friday would end original episodes this fall.
Jokes about NPR and PBS in “As the Wrench Turns” would seem to indicate a serious level of Magliozzi engagement in the series. PBS’ page for the show describes Click and Clack as “Boston-bred brothers who own a small neighborhood car garage and co-host a nationally syndicated talk radio show,” which is produced by “Beth Totenbag.” In one episode, the brothers outsource their show to India, and ratings grow, so they receive bonus checks. “Oh that’s right, you guys have never gotten one before,” Beth tells them when they express confusion about what those are. “It’s an extra payment from your employer.”
The program lasted for 10 episodes, perhaps disproving the theory that an animated series could serve as a gateway drug to NPR (median listener age 49) for kids the way “Car Talk” serves as one for adults. But it was an interesting cultural moment, even if, as Ginia Bellafante wrote in her New York Times review of the show, it “lacks the magic of the Magliozzis unplugged.”
Something else to ponder: This wasn’t just an attempt to move a public radio show to TV (“This American Life” did that, to mixed results, for two seasons on Showtime) but also a shot at opening up a whole new audience — maybe you and your kids could be chuckling about the same sort of jokes. Of course, “As the Wrench Turns” wasn’t really a kids show — in its debut episode, the brothers run for president as a way to raise money for their radio network and get zero votes but end up raising $5 million in corporate and union donations.
This clip, about a car powered by pasta, also features a rip on “Antiques Roadshow”:
Full episodes of the show are still available online.