BOSTON — Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers of NPR's Car Talk fame, are just two low-ego lugs. That's why their ambivalence about their new public television series rings true.
”I hope that people look at it mercifully,“ says younger, stockier, talkier Ray (Clack) about As the Wrench Turns, a half-hour animated sitcom that includes social and environmental messages.
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Premiering at 8 p.m. Wednesday on KET2, the show follows Click and Clack's exploits co-hosting a nationally syndicated radio show and running a car-repair shop that mirrors their real-life Good News Garage in Cambridge, Mass. The show will air in two-episode blocks for five weeks.
But will the humor of As the Wrench Turns compare to what we've come to expect from Car Talk, the most-listened-to entertainment program on NPR?
”It's lame enough that people will laugh at some of the lame stuff,“ Ray says.
Tom and Ray voice their animated selves in the TV series, executive-produced by Howard Grossman. They had never done voice-over work before, but they ”were one-take wonders,“ Grossman says
Story lines include Click and Clack's loony fund-raising efforts for their bankrupt radio network — which involves their joint run for the White House — plus outsourcing their radio show to India and creating the first-ever pasta-fueled motor vehicle.
Wrench's expanded cast includes oddball auto mechanics Crusty, Fidel and Stash; perky radio producer Beth; and the chunky female garage receptionist and bookie, Sal.
Car Talk executive producer Doug Berman, who runs Car Talk's parent company, called (for real) Dewey, Cheetham & Howe, and has worked with the Magliozzis for more than 20 years, wrote nine of the show's 10 episodes.
So how did the brothers get into prime time?
”We felt sorry for Howard,“ Tom says quietly. ”He'd been working on it for so long.“
An independent producer of telefilms and TV specials, Grossman cold-pitched an idea for an animated show involving actual, taped Car Talk phone calls to Berman in 2001. The show went through several transformations and network rejections before PBS bought Wrench in 2006.