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'Car Talk' hosts' radio success did not translate to TV

June 08, 2012|By Patrick Kevin Day
(PBS )

The hosts of "Car Talk," brothers Ray and Tom Magliozzi, had a long, wildly successful run for 25 years on NPR. They're currently planning to hang up their mics later this year and get out of the radio business on a high note. But the talents that made them beloved (their attitudes and their voices) didn't necessarily make them multimedia stars.

The brothers tried multiple times to branch out into TV, but with limited success. Their first attempt came in the 1995 sitcom "The George Wendt Show."

The CBS sitcom did not star Ray and Tom (or their radio names Click and Clack). Instead, it was a vehicle for George Wendt following his decade-plus run on the sitcom "Cheers." The Wendt series, created by Lew Schneider and Peter Tolan (who would both go on to much more successful shows), used the concept of two wise-cracking brothers who own a garage and host a call-in radio program but made significant changes to the Magliozzis' lives. For one thing, the show was set in Madison, Wis., instead of Boston. Wendt and Pat Finn played the brothers. The series was a ratings failure, and only six of the eight produced episodes were aired during its run in spring 1995.

The brothers' next attempt at TV success was the PBS animated series "Click and Clack's as the Wrench Turns," in which the Magliozzis' voices were used with cartoon versions of themselves. The animated series took them on outlandish adventures, such as traveling to India to outsource themselves and creating a car powered by pasta.

All 10 produced episodes aired on PBS in 2008 but received mediocre reviews. The boys' hometown paper, the Boston Herald, said that the show was "silly like a bad Saturday morning cartoon" and that their animated personas were closer to low-rent scam artists instead of silly goofs. Times TV critic Robert Lloyd said the show was "as tepid as weak tea that has been forgotten on the kitchen counter."

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