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Prairie Home Companion

Prairie Home Companion

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Garrison Keillor is guarded but still great on PBS' 'American Masters' Wednesday, July 1st 2009, 4:00 AM Photo: Cheryl Walsh BelvilleGarrison Keillor is the subject of an episode of PBS' 'American Masters' on Wednesday night.OverviewAMERICAN MASTERS: GARRISON KEILLORWednesday night at 8, PBSGarrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" is one of the warmest, most likable shows on the radio.

But if you're wondering about the man who's been behind it for more than 30 years, "American Masters" doesn't offer much more insight than other examinations of Keillor that came before.

Like those pieces, this one doesn't suggest anything dark or sinister lurks behind the persona Keillor has been creating on the radio and in written works since 1974.

It does periodically suggest that whatever's there, he isn't offering more than a passing glimpse to visiting journalists, however much they seem to admire his work.

So this "American Masters" produces an entertaining look at an entertaining show that is wholly the vision of an artist who's extremely good at what he does.

He lives to write, Keillor explains.

He has lived to write since the summer when he was 13 and his Uncle Ray gave him a used Underwood typewriter.

He spent that summer writing in a place his parents couldn't find because he was afraid they'd send him outdoors, and he's been writing ever since.

He was drawn to the Southern writers, he explains, including William Faulkner, who created a whole place to set his work.

Keillor has done the same with Lake Wobegon, Minn., which he populated with people of his own creation.

He first saw them as characters, he explains, but once he grew fond of them, he has felt a deepening investment in them over the years.

His skill at chronicling all the small pieces of their lives has earned him wide and deserved acclaim.

He seems grateful for that, or at least its consequences, when he says he lives a "fortunate life," in which he is solicited and well-compensated for doing what he would do anyway.

But while this show catches him interacting easily with the rest of the "Prairie Home Companion" cast, and notes that years of working together have made much of that interaction intuitive, it also notes that the relationships seem to be more professional than personal.

"He's a tough nut," one cast member remarks - not in anger, just as an observation.

Listeners have suspected as much for years, if only because so many of Keillor's stories on "Prairie Home Companion" have such a dark side.

Amateur psychology would suggest he's still dealing with a lot of "issues," which he has recast as touching entertainment.

If true, that would make him human.

He's under no obligation, of course, to let anyone any further in the door than he wishes.

He only owes us a good show, and he has delivered that for years.

Just don't watch "American Masters" expecting [email protected] by Yahoo!EmailPrintRssShareDiggStumbleUponFacebookSee all share links >>Del.icio.usMixxRedditPropellerNewsvineFurl
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