OK, it's a huge question. And maybe not one generally applied to television. But the metrics of success determine whether a television show lives or dies. (If this is the sort of topic that seems frivolous, consider the billions of dollars TV and other copyright industries contribute to the U.S. economy. The stakes start feeling higher.)
So that's one question. And here's another that we're sure has been bothering many of you for years. What happens when you give a bird a guitar? Well, you'll get your answer at a new exhibition opening Saturday at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. It's called "From Here to Ear."
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Picture this: One room, 70 zebra finches, 14 tuned and amplified guitars, no fingers.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block.
"American Idol" is back for its 12th season tonight. The show's huge success gave rise to an entire genre of reality talent shows on TV. For the last few seasons, though, ratings for "American Idol" have been off. So they've freshened up the format and brought in some new judges. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans says "American Idol" is trying something new: being nice.
After 15 months of acrimony, the longest labor dispute at a major American symphony orchestra has ended. The Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians reached an agreement last night and players will return to work on February 1. While all sides are relieved, most admit the hard work of rebuilding some seriously damaged bridges is just about to begin.
Here in our D.C. headquarters last week, we were lamenting the bitterly cold weather - how it freezes you to the marrow, saps your strength, makes you want to curl up in a warm hole with a warm blanket, and do not a darn thing. Then one of us made this confession.
MELISSA GRAY, BYLINE: When I can't take it anymore, I put on "Superstition," by Stevie Wonder.
When German farmers and activists descended upon Chancellor Angela Merkel's office building Wednesday morning, they brought along some special guests — 17 pigs. The stunt was the latest European backlash against a proposed free trade deal with the U.S. that could lift restrictions on American meat sold in Europe.
Under the watchful eye of German police officers, the pigs munched happily on straw strewn across the pavement to keep the herd from running amok.
The Senate Intelligence Committee today delivered its analysis of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed in that attack, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. It's a bipartisan report. Democrats and Republicans on the committee agreed, among other things, that the attack might have been prevented if the State Department had taken better precautions at the Benghazi post.
In other personnel news, the president has nominated Stanley Fischer to serve as the next vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. He would replace Janet Yellen, who's been promoted to chairman of the central bank. Yellen reportedly recruited Fischer personally to serve as her deputy. He spent much of the last decade running Israel's central bank.
As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, Stanley Fischer is credited with helping that country weather the financial crisis better than most and with training many of the world's top economists.
The prime minster of Thailand says she plans to go ahead with next month's elections, despite opposition protests that have blocked much of the center of Bangkok. The anti-government demonstrators want the current, caretaker prime minister to step down, to be replaced with an unelected "people's council". The political turmoil is also impacting the local economy.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in a case testing laws that establish buffer zones to protect patients and staff going into abortion clinics. In 2000, the court upheld 8-foot buffer zones that move with individuals as they walk into clinics. But now the issue is back before a more conservative court, and the conservative chief justice appears to hold the outcome in his hands.