Please hire new writers for Prairie Home Companion and let them breathe new life into it.
PHC is starting to feel like the wheezy old relative you dread to see coming up the walkway because he rattles on with the same spittle-infested stories every week or makes even new events sound moldy.
I never found Guy Noir charming, but I tolerated it for the first couple of seasons, figuring you’d run the gamut with it and be done. But it was introduced in 1995 and it's still on most weeks. Assuming that Guy Noir is at least partially your alter-ego, it’s depressing and awkward to hear him try to hook up with women in his role as a mediocre detective. I know it's a parody of old radio-hour detective shows, nevertheless, it feels a little—I hate to say it—Woody Allen-ish.
As for Life of the Cowboys—I continue to think the whole premise of early American cowboys juxtaposed into modern times is clever, and I wouldn’t mind hearing it occasionally as something you could revive for special occasions. But not every week, please.
There are a thousand other stories and characters that you all could be presenting instead of Guy Noir or the cowboys. Why not have a contest and let young playwrights submit their short radio plays for your ensemble to perform—do a new one every week and have listeners vote on their favorite at the end of the year. Present the winning playwright with an award during the last show of the year and/or give them a one-year writing gig or internship at PHC. Or, at least, solicit ideas for new characters or new skits from your listeners.
Also consider letting writers from a publication like The Onion contribute something once a month or even weekly—something weird and new, presented in under three minutes. Let people submit tall tales or real life stories on tape and fly in the best people to sit there and perform them—once a year or once a month.
While you’re at it, stop relying so much on sound effects to fill the time. Your sound effects people are very talented at what they do. It’s just that they shouldn’t be doing it so much of the time, or they should be doing it in the background, to add depth to the performances.
Even if you did nothing else but your brilliant, suddenly inspired "News from Lake Wobegon" in each show, it would be enough of a contribution to any PHC. The problem is that I have usually turned the radio off these days before you get there. I miss it.
Your past and future fan, Beth Blevins