Keillor's 'Hello Love' is radio on television


Garrison Keillor, writer, master storyteller and radio star, has been all over the place lately. His book, "WLT: A Radio Romance," remains a strong seller in bookstores. Each Saturday, he writes, produces and hosts "American Radio Company," aired on 235 public radio stations.

Now he's even on the tube. In fact, "Garrison Keillor's Hello Love" is the second of three specials for PBS. The first aired in November; the third is set for April.

Garrison Keillor, television star?

Loyal Keillor fans nervous about Keillor leaving his radio days need not worry.

"Hello Love" (Friday, 9 p.m., Channel 22) does more than provide a glimpse into what it was like to be in the audience during a taping of "A Prairie Home Companion," Keillor's variety radio show for 13 years on public radio.

The hourlong show is "A Prairie Home Companion," stitching together music, monologues and sketches from the video archives of the program, with some new material created by Keillor especially for Valentine's Day.

"This program celebrates something we don't want to seem too interested in," Keillor says during "Hello Love." "We Midwesterners are naturals for radio. We have a wonderful sense of indirection, and we never look at people when we talk to them, anyway. We don't want to look too interested. So when we say to someone, 'I love you, I need you, please be with me and be my love forever,' we say it over our shoulder as we look for our car keys."

Most of the footage in "Hello Love" is taken from some of the 18 broadcasts videotaped by the Disney Channel, which had planned to bring Keillor to cable TV. It never happened. And when PBS brought up the idea of taking the "best of" collage of sketches and airing them in quarterly specials, Keillor said sure, let's do it -- but under one condition: that nothing change.

PBS obliged. "Hello Love" is an oddity because it is radio on television. But it's a nice and effective oddity. In fact, set the VCR. It's a collector's item because it's Keillor doing what he always does but with the added treat of seeing him do it.

"Hello Love" features guitarists Doc Watson and Leo Kottke performing "Just A Little Lovin'," Emmylou Harris and her Angel Band singing "If I Could Only Win Your Love," as well as some regulars, such as sound effects wizard Tom Keith.

But mostly it's Keillor, dressed in a white, long-sleeved shirt with black trousers and suspenders, standing on a dimly lit stage, singing and telling amusing stories into a boom microphone.

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