Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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This American Life experienced a first this past weekend: host Ira Glass devoted an entire episode to a retraction. It seems that many of the facts in a previous story about Foxconn and Apple were not checked properly, and they turned out to be fabricated. Credit to Glass and his This American Life cohorts for not simply mentioning this retraction quickly then moving on, but then, an entire episode devoted to retraction is EXACTLY what makes the quirky, original content of This American Life so compelling. Is it any wonder, then, that the iPad edition of This American Life is a potential purchase for the show's legion of fans?
The This American Life iPad app is everything a fan might want, presented in about as clean and spare an interface as can be created. There's a simple white, black and orange homepage that serves as a jumping-in point for recently aired and popular episodes. From there, users can navigate to a listing of all shows, or organize them by contributor, staff favorites, or their own faves. The app has the ability to stream new episodes lives, and there's even a countdown clock for those who feel the need to micromanage their days and weeks around the next occurrence of the show. While the countdown page initially seems pretty, but useless, closer investigation reveals an active stream of twitter feeds from the show itself and from those who mention @thisamericanlife in their tweets.
Long-time fans of the show will no doubt enjoy the Extras section of the app, which includes a variety of commentaries about strange happenings on the show, videos from stage shows and presentations and other behind the scenes goodies. The material here is nicely organized and easy to navigate and (hopefully) updated frequently enough to keep it interesting.
For every episode available through the app, users are able to save it locally to their iPads, share it via email, Facebook or Twitter and favorite it. There's also the strange option to subscribe to the This American Life podcast via iTunes, though why anyone would want to do this is beyond me, since all of the This American Life content is already available to download or stream through the app.
Unlike so many other public radio and television apps (think the NPR, PBS and NPR Music apps), This American Life is not free, nor is it cheap. $4.99 won't break anyone's bank, but it's pricey given the current state of the app economy. This might be a fan's dream come true, but for everyone else, there are podcast catchers that can deliver most of the same content for free.