CLICK & CLACK'S: AS THE WRENCH TURNS - 2 DISC SET|
Written by Mahamari Tsukitaka
October 10, 2008
Chances are, if you listen to NPR, you’ve at one point tuned in to Car Talk, the internationally recognized talk show run by grease monkey brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Since the late 70s, Tom and Ray (who also go by the monikers “Click and Clack” and “the Tappet Brothers”) have been gracing the public airwaves with auto mechanic advice that—while perhaps not the most PC or necessarily always practical—is cheerfully and consistently delivered with goodwill and a generous dose of irreverent and self-deprecating humor.
Premiered nationally in July earlier this year, Click & Clack’s As the Wrench Turns is PBS’s 10-episode, PG-rated animated caricature of the Car Talk hosts, featuring the voices of the celebrity mechanics themselves. Following the lives of Click (Tom) and Clack (Ray) both on and off the air, the series puts the brothers in various outlandish situations as they try their best to make their radio show a success while simultaneously running their auto repair shop, Car Talk Plaza. Click and Clack are joined by a cast of fictional oddballs, including Armani-suited Fidel, eccentric professor Crusty, grumpy Coleslawvanian mechanic Stash, and anxiety-ridden radio show producer Beth.
Much of the humor style of the Car Talk radio show carries over into the cartoon series, even through episodes that bring up potentially touchy issues such as outsourcing, presidential elections, and green energy. Then again, if you’re familiar with the radio talk show, I’m sure this won’t come to you as a surprise; with the Magliozzi brothers, just about anything and everything is worth joking about, and they approach most subjects with an almost childlike frankness and levity that has won them a spot in NPR’s programming for 20 years running.
Admittedly, the full spectrum of Tom and Ray’s spontaneous wittiness doesn’t quite come through in the cartoon series. Perhaps it’s just the scripted nature of the episodes or the intended cartoon audience, but while the brothers themselves are still pretty funny in their own right, the overall writing comes off as a bit cheesy and forced in comparison to the original NPR radio show. For a caricature, though, maybe that’s to be expected—and PBS deserves some brownie points for poking fun at itself in the very first episode.
Nevertheless, Click and Clack are the only characters that I actually found entertaining, and even so, their typical modesty seems to go a bit overboard this time. Instead of coming across as clever mechanics pretending to be sleazy loafers, they’re merely presented in the cartoon as sleazy loafers. Sadly, the supporting cast does no better; though based on amalgams of real people that the Magliozzi brothers have met during their careers, the cobbled-together bevy of misfits offers little more than a supplementary handful of flat stereotypes that adds little to the show.
Meanwhile, the digital Nickelodeon-esque art and animation style isn’t bad to look at, but it’s nothing particularly special, either. The soundtrack, composed and performed by Carl Finch and Brave Combo (who previously produced music for the American versions of the YuYu Hakusho and Dragon Ball anime shows, as well as an episode of The Simpsons) is decent, typical cartoon fare, presented in 2.0 stereo sound.
Overall, As the Wrench Turns doesn’t stand out, but it’s roughly on par with other silly cartoon shows out there and is certainly no worse than most children’s programming. It just doesn’t have the pizzazz of the Car Talk radio show, if that’s what you’re looking for.
The PBS Home Video DVD retails for roughly $30 (though you can find it for $20 or less if you look around) and includes all 10 episodes of the first (and, thus far, only) season of the show in widescreen format on a set of 2 discs. There are no bonus features, and the 10 episodes run for roughly 5 hours total. Purchasing the DVD supports PBS programming, but videos of full episodes are also available on the PBS website if you decide to check out the series before buying or would rather pass on the DVD.