In 2022, we played 312 regular daily episodes of the Great Detectives of Old Time Radio, plus several specials and also twenty-nine episodes of the Amazing World of Radio. From these, I’ve chosen my top 10 podcast episodes of 2022:
10) Sam Spade: Caper with Two Death Beds (EP3849)
Sam is hired by a client who needs a deathbed statement to clear himself of a murder. Then everything goes sideways. This is actually a really clever mystery, with Spade doing some great detective work and coming up with a clever way to catch the real killer.
9) Burns and Allen: Gracie Sends Sam Spade to Jail (EP3950s)
Gracie Allen hears an episode of Sam Spade on the radio and becomes convinced that Sam got the solution wrong. She sets out to harass Sam (as actor Howard Duff) into clearing the innocent radio murderer. Gracie is at her most hilarious, and plays well of Duff. The production is great to start to finish and all the little touches, including Bill Goodwin working a pitch for Maxwell House coffee right into the story.
Steve is sent to Istanbul to find a reporter and listen to a reel of tape with sensational information on it. However, the reporter is found dead and the reel of tape provides a clue of some danger but leaves Steve with a lot of questions and very little time to find the answers. This episode has a lot going for it. Steve has to do some of his cleverest detective work as he’s racing against the clock. The ending is superb with an exciting high-stakes race to the finish. Easily the best Dangerous Assignment episode we played this year.
An insurance company has a lead on a man guilty of robbery and murder. They could turn this information over to the police, but the insurance company is afraid they won’t get their money back. Instead, they have Johnny take a cross-country road trip with the killer and two other motorists. Johnny knows this is a bad idea, but the insurance company insists, and Johnny gets to find out how bad an idea it is.
6) Man Called X: The Plot to Kill the NATO Pact (EP3737)
The Man Called X has to thwart an ex-Nazi scientist to stop the mass extermination of NATO leaders at a conference in Lisbon. Great action and a superb high-stakes story.
5) Mr. Chameleon: The Titled Husband Murder Case (EP3802)
By the fall of 1950, Mr. Chameleon had become a highly popular but also ludicrous program, full of the over-the-top characters that were typical of programs produced by Frank and Anne Hummert. In this one, the series really leaned in, and the lead character played to the maximum the absurdity of fake noblemen, gold diggers, and the social-climbing wealthy family that deserves them.
4) Suspense: The Khandi Tooth Caper (EP3795)
This hour-long episode of Suspense was an adaptation of two episodes of Sam Spade from 1946, in which two characters from The Maltese Falcon, Kasper Gutman and Joel Cairo, return with a brand-new MacGuffin to hunt – a valuable piece of dental work. Oh, and because the showrunner of Suspense was Robert Montgomery (who starred in the film Lady in the Lake), we got a Philip Marlowe cameo in a Sam Spade story. While the story isn’t equal to the original and repeats a lot of the same beats, it’s nonetheless an entertaining hour of radio. It also serves as a nice exploration of Spade as a character, and we get to see differences between Howard Duff’s take on Spade and the previous literary and cinematic takes on the character.
3) Sam Spade: The Dry Martini Caper (EP3885)
Sam is called by a lawyer who wants Sam to protect him, but the man is gunned down right before Sam’s eyes. Sam has to figure out which of the horrible people in his would-have-been client’s life committed the murder. This story walks a really fine line because it manages to be entertaining while featuring characters who are the worst. Yet, it manages to do this in an entertaining way, with some of the greatest insults uttered this side of Pat Novak for Hire. Howard Duff does a great job portraying how irritated Spade gets in this episode.
2) Tales of the Texas Rangers: Cactus Pear (EP3704)
Ranger Jace Pearson is one tough hombre. We have played multiple episodes where he continues on despite having been shot and requiring hospitalization. This episode best showcased the strength of Pearson and the Texas Rangers. The first part of the episode is a standard criminal investigation. The second part is an epic hunt for Jace to get his man before he crosses the Mexican border. Jace’s quarry is a cunning criminal with a big head start. This is an episode that shows that while you can evade the Texas Rangers, you have no margin for error when facing them.
1) The Man Called X: Operation Cabal (EP3785)
“Operation Cabal” ended The Man Called X’s eight-year odyssey as an on-again network-hopping radio spy/adventure program. The episode left open the possibility of a return but no episode could have beaten this one for a thrill-packed, insane finale. The Man Called X, the paragon of Democracy, faced his most dangerous and diabolical opponent in a shocking twist that makes for one of our most wild episodes.
Do you disagree or have other episodes you enjoyed more? Feel free to comment here or on social media.