Cartoon’s stars, writers
will be Car Talk’s guys
Will Car Talk's staff statistician Marge Innovera get a cameo? Will the writers build an episode around chauffeur Picov Andropov?
With the huge list of largely imaginary staffers named at the end of the weekly public radio show, there's no shortage of potential characters for the planned TV version, which would be PBS's first animated series.
Howard Grossman, the Connecticut producer who took the series idea to Car Talk and PBS, will reveal only that the infectiously cackling brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi and their longtime producer Doug Berman will write and star in the TV version.
Call-in guests on the radio show and "a host of surprise characters" will also show up in Car Talk: The Animated TV Series, Grossman says, since it will include real phone calls from the Magliozzis' radio show as well as scenes from their office at Harvard Square, their famed garage elsewhere in Cambridge, Mass., and their supposed personal lives. Another recurring character: fictional radio executive Virginia Pipeline, pronounced "pippilini."
PBS programmer Coby Atlas told station programmers last month that the producers were close to signing an underwriting deal, and the series could air as soon as summer 2005.
"We really think this could be a breakout series for us," she said.
The Car Talk team has written a pilot script and the characters have been designed, Grossman said, but he has not yet hired an animator for the planned mix of 2-D and 3-D images. The debut will be scheduled after an underwriter signs on, Grossman says. "We haven't had either a total turndown or a greenlight yet," he says. PBS is contributing a small amount toward production, according to Grossman. He's going for an underwriter that will give the show the creative freedom that it has on NPR.
Grossman has produced a wide range of projects for TV and theaters, including a Beach Boys comeback concert for HBO in 1980, the American Playhouse production of Sam Shepherd's True West with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise in 1983, the American Rock series for NBC, and the mystical murder thriller Apprentice to Murder with Donald Sutherland later in the 1980s. Grossman's firm, Moviemakers Co. LLC, is based in Norwalk, Conn.
He's high on the potential of a TV translation of Car Talk. The radio series has 4.2 million listeners, he says, which far exceeds the reach of any basic cable network, and it appeals to an audience that could help bring down the average age in PBS-land.
Indeed, Grossman has stayed bullish on the idea since first pitching it to the Car Talk crew three years ago.
Berman, who has polished the show with the Magliozzis over the years, refers questions to Grossman but endorses the idea of a cartoon version.
"We always felt the guys were larger than life on radio," Berman says, "and the only possible way to capture them visually would be animation."
This could mean Marge Innovera and Picov Andropov have a chance, because the same could be said about them.
Web page posted May 24, 2004
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