‘A Prairie Home Companion’ Is Dead: Show Will Be Renamed, Old Episodes Retired

Decision comes after accusations against longtime host Garrison Keillor

“A Prairie Home Companion” is dead.

The long-running variety show, once synonymous with public radio and a staple of relaxing weekend drives, is losing its name after former host Garrison Keillor was fired by Minnesota Public Radio on Wednesday over accusations of “improper behavior.”

MPR announced the rebrand of the 43-year-old weekly program in its statement on Keillor’s firing, saying the show, currently hosted by Chris Thile, will continue under a new title. MPR will also stop rebroadcasting past episodes of “Prairie Home Companion” hosted by Keillor.

It is a stunningly swift end for a show beloved my many listeners for taking things slow. The folksy music, hokey jokes and gentle parodies felt like a throwback to a time when Americans looked to their neighbors for entertainment, and their neighbors provided it in the form of plucked strings and charming stories.

Seen by many as the Johnny Carson of public radio, Keillor created “A Prairie Home Companion” in 1974. It was set largely in the the fictional town of Lake Wobegon — “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

It also inspired 2006’s “Prairie Home Companion,” the last film directed by Robert Altman.

Keillor, 75, told the Associated Press of his firing over email saying he was terminated over a “story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.”

Keillor handed the show off to Thile last year. He continued to produce “The Writer’s Room” for American Public Media after leaving “APHC,” but MPR and APM said it had severed “all business relationships” with Keillor, effective immediately.

“Garrison Keillor has been an important part of the growth and success of MPR, and all of us in the MPR community are saddened by these circumstances,” said MPR President John McTaggart in a statement. “While we appreciate the contributions Garrison has made to MPR and to all of public radio, we believe this decision is the right thing to do and is necessary to continue to earn the trust of our audiences, employees and supporters of our public service.”

MPR said in a statement it had fired Keillor after retaining an outside law firm to investigate the allegations.

“Last month, MPR was notified of the allegations which relate to Mr. Keillor’s conduct while he was responsible for the production of A Prairie Home Companion (APHC). MPR President Jon McTaggart immediately informed the MPR Board Chair, and a special Board committee was appointed to provide oversight and ongoing counsel,” read the statement. “In addition, MPR retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations. Based on what we currently know, there are no similar allegations involving other staff. The attorney leading the independent investigation has been conducting interviews and reviewing documents, and the investigation is still ongoing.”