Month: March 2013

Radio’s Most Essential People Countdown #7: William Conrad

8,9, 1012-1114-1316-1518-1720-19,22-2124-2326-2528-2730-2933-3136-34,

39-37,42-4045-4348-4651-4954-5257-5560-5865-6170-66,  71-7576-80,

81-8586-9091-9596-100

7. William Conrad-

William ConradConrad’s great overarching claim to radio fame is a significant one. He played the role of Marshall Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke for its entire 9 year run. Gunsmoke began its run after radio in 1952 after television had eclipsed radio as a profit making enterprise  Nevertheless, Gunsmoke began its long run and also spawned a slew of new adult Westerns in the latter 1950s and Conrad played a large part in that. He also became a symbol of television’ shallowness when he was denied the ability to continue in the Dillon role on television due to his weight.

However, Conrad was more than just the star of this classic Western. He was also a great character actor often playing heavies or policemen in programs such as Tales of the Texas Rangers, Pat Novak for Hire, The Lux Radio Theater, I Was a Communist for the FBI, and Yours Truly Johnny Dollar among others.  His deep distinct voice also served to make him a good announcer, most notably on Escape and Mr. President.

He was a consummate team player who in radio and every other medium he appeared in, was  a true professional willing to step into any role, no matter how large or small and play it with great talent.  This made Conrad a great career in all mediums, and made his nearly two decades on radio truly phenomenal.

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EP0908: The Line Up: The Senile Slugging Case

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Guthrie investigates a series of brutal muggings that have targeted elderly victims.

Original Air Date: February 8, 1951

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Radio Drama Review: Powder River, Season One

Colonial Radio Theater’s most successful radio series has been Powder River, which just concluded its six season. This remains an improbable series: A successful western produced at a time when the western genre is practically moribund and the series is produced Boston of all places.

The first fifteen episode season was originally released in 2004. It follows Britt McMasters (Jerry Robbins) and his son Chad (Derek Aalerud) as he starts a new life for himself as a rancher in Claremont, Wyoming near the Powder River in Wyoming. McMasters had been a U.S. Marshal but had retired after an incident he’d rather not discuss.

However, his past will not leave him alone. The series begins with the Ryan gang attempting to kill McMasters, and it becomes clear that it’s either McMasters or the gang.

There is much to like about this first season. Robbins is great as McMasters. In addition the character of Doc (Lincoln Edwards), the town doctor who is even more handy with a gun than he is a doctor’s bag is well-developed and fun. In addition, the show has a great sense and feel of Old West life with a dedication to realism without becoming hopelessly dark. At its best, it feels ike Have Gun Will Travel or Gunsmoke.

At times, this first season does stumble, mainly with stories that just don’t feel right. Episodes that found Chad trying to help a disabled girl with an overprotective mother through riding horses,  or where the McMasters helped a war deserter, or the one where Mark Twain shows up and spouts famous quotes the whole episode were ones I bore more than enjoyed.

However, the show’s inconsistent quality took a decided turn for the best that moved it from 3 stars to 4 stars with the last few episodes that dealt with the resolution of the Ryan gang story line. The last episode had an absolutely stunning plot twist that has to be heard to be believed. It’s an incredible finale.

The series wasn’t originally intended to become the multi-season success it has been. As such, the writers felt free to kill off some significant characters. The old west was a harsh place and that’s definitely reflected in these stories.

Overall, I give it a solid 4.0 out of 5.0 stars.

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EP0907: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Hampton Line Matter

John Lund
Johnny investigates an “easy case” of a bomb aboard a ship where the identity of the culprit is apparent but Johnny finds the case won’t be as easy as advertised.

Original Air Date: August 3, 1954

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EP0906: Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Red Headed League

John Gielgud

Sherlock Holmes investigates when a League for Red Headed hires a pawn broker and then promptly disappears.

Original Air Date: January 16, 1955

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