Tag: Old Time Radio

Three Old Time Radio Detective Shows That Could be Rebooted in the 21st Century

Most old time radio programs work in part because of the era they’re set in. For most programs, trying to update them to modern times would be silly. Taking Philip Marlowe, Barrie Craig, Nick Carter, or Candy Matson out of their original contexts wouldn’t make sense.

Of course, it’s always possible to do a period piece. Although modern period pieces often suffer from creators deciding they need to transport twenty-first-century sensibilities back into historical periods.

However, some old time radio detective programs could be made well set in modern times, with a few tweaks thrown in:

1) Box 13

The original concept: 1940s series starring Alan Ladd. The reporter and mystery writer Dan Holiday places an ad in the paper, “Mystery wanted, will go anywhere, do anything.” A few episodes in, Dan hired a secretary named Susie. It seems she had undiagnosed inattentive-type ADD, which unfortunately got her dismissed as ditzy at the time.

Twenty-first Century updates: He would post his ad online and receive replies to an email address with “Box 13” sneaked into it believably. He could be an adventure blogger who posts about his adventures and lives on Patreon income and Google AdSense revenue. Also, Susie could be portrayed as not being so dumb while steering clear of making her a Mary Sue.

2) The Big Guy

The original concept: 1950s radio series starring John Calvin as a widowed single father raising his two kids on his own while also being a private detective.

Twenty-First Century Update: I always thought the original concept of the show had a lot of unrealized potential. Probably the most important thing would be to pick a tone. The surviving episodes vary too much. Some try to be adult crime dramas, while others would have appealed more to kids. I would propose making it a good family show with some comedy and the kids stumbling into his cases.

3) Mr. and Mrs. North

The original concept: A publisher and his wife solve mysteries together.

Twenty-First Century update: It’s been too long since we have a loving mystery-solving couple. Tampering would be minimal. Pam and Jerry are already equal partners in the mystery- solving department.Listening to the radio programs or watching the TV episodes, it’s a coin flip as to who’ll provide the solution.

She could have a separate career which leaves plenty of time for sleuthing, such as a photo blogger. Whoever wrote it would need to be careful to avoid turning her into the  “Strong Independent Woman” stock character that has replaced the damsel in distress. Pam North’s portrayal on radio and TV is witty, resourceful, funny, and fairly well-balanced. That should be maintained in any adaptation.

Honorable Mention: Night Beat

The original concept: Reporter Randy Stone roams the night in Chicago in search of stories. He writes mostly human interest tales of the best and worst of humanity in the night. Randy has a touch of cynicism, but also a lot of compassion and morality which motivates him. He’s part philosopher, as he paints broad pictures of humanity through each encounter.

Twenty-First Century update: Wouldn’t Work.

Night Beat makes a tempting target for a Twenty-First Century reboot. However, I don’t think it can be updated successfully.

Randy Stone is at the heart of the series. Unlike Box 13, you couldn’t just have him writing for a blog. He also couldn’t still be working on a newspaper.

If there were ever reporters who were close to Randy Stone, they’ve gone extinct. In the last sixty-five years, people have become more cynical about the press, and the press has become more cynical about people.

Reporters want to bring change but through partisan reporting that brings about systemic societal change. Randy Stone’s goals were nonpartisan: to be a decent person and to call other people to be decent too, regardless of politics. His nonpartisan perspective no longer flies in modern journalism. It may have been a bit fanciful in 1950. In 2018? Totally unrealistic.

The only thing a TV or radio creator could do with a modern-day Night Beat would be to ruin it by making it partisan. This would probably happen even if it was attempted as a period piece.

However, I welcome reader comments on the programs I’ve mentioned as well as any others that you think might (or might not) work with a modern day reboot.

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EP1904s: Screen Guild Theatre: Whistling in Dixie

Red Skelton
Wally “The Fox” Benton goes down South to solve the murder of a woman’s boyfriend.

Original Air Date: May 17, 1943

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The Top 10 Philip Marlowe Radio Episodes

The Adventures of Philip Marlowe starring Gerald Mohr aired from 1948-50 and then returned in the Summer of 1951 and is one of the best radio detective shows of all time. Here are my ten favorites. Right click on each link to download if you’re curious about an episode.

10) Where There’s a Will (Original Air Date: October 17, 1948)

Marlowe is hired by three heirs to help them locate their inheritance. It’s a great character story and very noirish.

9) The Anniversary Gift (Original Air Date: April 11, 1950)

William Conrad does a great job filling in with Mohr in a great story with a perfect pitch ending, and a superb performance by Conrad that makes me wish he had been a radio detective more often.

8) The Old Acquaintance (Original Air Date: December 26, 1948)

Marlowe engages in a race against time on New Year’s Eve to find a missing fiancée before a dangerous escaped convict does.

7) The House that Jacqueline Built (Original Air Date: December 31, 1949)

Another New Years Eve story. This one a quirky but well done tale of Marlowe searching for a missing house.

6) The Grim Hunters (Original Air Date: March 12, 1949)

Marlowe gets called to a house, only to find he was being used as an item on a scavenger hunt. This equates a light-hearted start that turns very serious when a body turns up.

5) The Big Book (Original Air Date: September 29, 1950)

Marlowe investigates an apparent suicide of a has-been actress. It’s an engaging story with a solid ending.

4) The Red Wind  (Original Air Date: September 26, 1948)

Marlowe lands right in the middle of a plot involving murder and blackmail. This is the only time the CBS series adapted an actual Marlowe story by Chandler, and it’s sad they didn’t do more.

3) The Iron Coffin: (Original Air Date: July 12, 1950)

Marlowe investigates a strange case where for a woman who fears for the life of her daughter’s fiancé. It’s a very clever and imaginative tale that find Marlowe in a medieval castle (that’s been moved to California) and has a superb conclusion.

2) The Lonesome Reunion (Original Air Date: February 12, 1949)

Marlowe goes to Phoenix carrying papers and finds himself robbed, and thrown into a battle with robbers and murders in the small town of Lonesome, Arizona.

1) The Little Wishbone (Original Air Date: December 10, 1949)

Throughout the series, Marlowe flirted with many women (and vice versa), but is the only episode where Marlowe truly falls in love, but he finds out the lady has a secret. Mohr is at his absolute best, particularly in the last few minutes, and the powerful final scene ends with a twist that hits you like a punch in the gut.

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EP1829: Philip Marlowe: The Good Neighbor Policy

Gerald Mohr

A mix up with his phone lines leads Marlowe to a snippy neighbor and a gun in his back.

Original Air Date: July 28, 1951

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EP1822: The Avenger: The Melody of Murder

A man is shot suddenly while standing near his wife who is blamed for the killing.

Original Air Date: December 13, 1945

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