32 search results for "Audio Drama tradition"

Audio Drama Review: Mutual Radio Theater, Volume 1: Week 1

During my recent series on the American Audio Drama Tradition, I was intrigued enough to check out Radio Archives Mutural Radio Theater, Volume 1 set through the Hoopla App.

Mutual Radio Theater was a 1980 series that continued the Sears Radio Theater only on a different network and with a multitude of sponsors so Sears could still advertise on him but not have to foot the whole bill. The series was an anthology with five formats. Mondays were for drama and were hosted by Lorne Greene of Bonanza, Tuesdays were for Comedy and were hosted by Andy Griffith, Wednesdays were for Mystery and were hosted by Vincent Price, Thursday was about love and human relations and it was hosted by Cicely Tyson, and Fridays were for Adventure and were hosted by Leonard Nimoy (a replacement for Richard Widmark from the Sears series.)

The set collects the first four weeks of the series or twenty episodes of about 45 minutes in length. As an overall review of the set quality, let’s just say I doubt these recordings sounded quite as good to people listening to it in 1980. The sound quality is pristine, it’s top-notch. Any complaints you have with the set can’t be due to Radio Archives.

The commercials are a real time capsule. The AT&T “Reach out and Touch Someone” commercials encouraging people to call their friends on long distance were prominent, but there were so many sponsors. Probably my favorite commercials were the country-music-style commercials for Motorcraft Parts. The Agree Shampoo commercials also aged hilariously.

But what about the stories themselves? When you’re talking about twenty stories across five genres, you get variable quality. Some are good, some are not so good. But I don’t think that does the production justice. Over the next five weeks (we’ll take Christmas off), we’re going to look at each of the twenty episodes, starting with the stories from the first week. I also note Golden Age radio stars involved in each production.

The Shopkeeper: A shopkeeper keeps two outlaws from robbing his store by using a gun hidden under his apron. The sheriff suspects he might be part of an outlaw gang about to rob a mining payroll. Golden Age Stars: Vic Perrin and Mary Jane Croft.  

Review: This is a somewhat average Western story, helped by a nice bit of Suspense over who the protagonist is and what decision he’ll make. I had an inkling early on but the story does a good job throwing up red herrings. Grade: B 

Our Man on Omega: A sci-fi comedy imagining a celebration of the man who made first contact with aliens, a somewhat dimwitted computer tech who connected with aliens who experienced time backward and forwards and were shaped like U.S. mailboxes. Golden Age Star: Richard Krenna 

Review: This story has potential, but is mostly told through narration by our unnamed Master of Ceremonies.  The story tries to get political and offers up some dull one-note villains. It’s unengaging and comes off as just a bit of silly fluff and not all that good. Grade: D

Long Distance:  A man about to fly to St. Louis on business receives a warning from his aunt that it’s not safe to fly. He ignores her because she has a fear of flying. However, her call makes him late, he misses the plane, and it crashes. But that’s just the start of her warnings of doom that keep coming true. Golden Age Stars: Janet Waldo, Jerry Hausner, Bill Zuckert 

Review: This is a pretty standard spooky mystery setup. The solution was obvious early on, but I think the story did a good job taking us on the journey. I also liked the main characters. This is enjoyable if somewhat predictable outing. Grade: C+ 

Love Conquers All: A modern British teenager falls in love with her teacher and begins to read romantic literature on how to snare him. Golden Age Stars: None 

Review: I enjoyed this. The story starts off slow but develops over the course of the running. I like Cicily Tyson as the host/narrator and she’s given some good material to work with. While I initially found the teenage girl characters over-the-top, the main character became more realistic, even though she’d embraced a lot of silly ideas. I also liked the teacher. He had chastened a fellow teacher for marrying an ex-pupil but has a fondness for this teen girl. Will he hold onto his ethics or discard them? It’s an interesting story, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. I was nervous it was going to go off the rails, but it didn’t.. It’s actually a lovely story that found a good way to resolve it’s issues ethically. Grade; B+   

The Ship: One of the world’s biggest oil platforms is hijacked. A member of the gang convinces a naïve provisioner to supply the tanker with food in exchange for his life and a cut of the takings. Golden Age Star: John Dehner. The play stars Brock Peters, who was best known for playing Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird. Mr. Peters is best known in the audio drama world for being the radio voice of Darth Vader in NPR’s Star Wars adaptations.

Review: So far, this is  the story that most easily could have been told during the golden age of radio, although probably not with an actual African character as a protagonist. Otherwise, this would have been an average episode of the radio anthology series Escape. Peters performance makes it worth listening to. Grade: C+ 


To be continued…next week.



Audio Drama Review: The Red Panda Adventures, Season Ten

The War is over and young Harry Kelly is back, although his absence during his time in the military is still unexplained. The Red Panda and Flying Squirrel are now parents. With the Red Panda well into his middle-aged years, he’s looking for an exit. Could the new superhero emerging be the key to giving Toronto’s Terrific Twosome a chance to ride into the sunset?

The Tenth Season of the Red Panda Adventures (unlike the previous nine) is only six episodes long. The season deals out another run of pulp fiction adventures as the Red Panda takes on old foes and new and also manages some clean-up of all the mad science and magic running about in his world during the War. There are some really solid battles and fun adventures to be had.

Yet, the series overall theme is of transition. There’s a sense that at this stage, our heroes are being pressed to the limit of their abilities and dealing with threats that might begin to get beyond them. Emotionally, they’re ready for the exit, they just need the confidence to know the city is left in good hands. The finale of Season Ten is satisfying and makes for a good chronological close for the adventures of the Red Panda.

The season is a cumulation of years of work. Writer and star Gregg Taylor to take his characters on a journey through a heroic career from close to the start of their career to finish. The Red Panda and Flying Squirrel began their careers during the Depression at a time in real life where mystery men like the Shadow, the Green Hornet, Doc Savage, the Spider, and the Black Bat captured the public imagination. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, they began to be supplanted by the cape and costume crowd: Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Wonder Woman. The Red Panda and Flying Squirrel clearly fit into that former tradition, stayed around during the War, and chose to give way to the new generation of heroes at the end. It’s a really imaginative way to do the arc, and Taylor did a tremendous job plotting this out and also helping the characters to grow and change over the series without becoming unrecognized for who they were at the start.

While this marks the end of their chronology, with 114 half-hour episodes over the course of a career that spanned fourteen or fifteen years, there are plenty of lost opportunities for “lost stories.” And we’ll get around to reviewing many of them here eventually.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

The Red Panda Adventures Season Ten is available for free from the Decoder Ring Theatre Website

Audio Drama Review: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (BBC)

There have been multiple books as well as an American audio series from Jim French Productions released under the name, The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This BBC version was a little late to the party airing between 2002 and 2010 on BBC Radio 4, but is certainly a memorable take.

The sixteen episodes (eapproximately 45 minutes in length) eac tell a Holmes story based on some reference in an original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story. The last story, released in 2010 was a two-episode story that harkened to a previous Further Adventure.

Each of the stories is written by Bert Coules, who does a great job capturing the spirit and feel of Victorian times. Given their release date, there’s very little revisionism to suit modern fancies and tastes.

The soundscape is minimal but sufficient for capturing the Victorian era. The supporting actors are really superb, boasting a very solid professional cast. I’m no expert on British Television but Mark Gatiss, Siobhan Redmond, Stuart Milligan, and Tom Baker (Doctor Who actor who also played Sherlock Holmes) were all names I recognized. Even those I didn’t know gave compelling performances.

I will admit it took me a while to settle in on Clive Merrison’s Holmes. While he had appeared in adaptions of all the classic stories, I’d not listened to them. Still, I think he does do a good job with his own take on the character, which is  true to tradition and I’ll have to seek out more of his work.

Most of these stories are quite solid although I have my favorites. “The Savior of Cripplegate Square” is a great listen due to Tom Baker’s superb guest performance and the way Holmes as a young detective finding his way. I also quite enjoyed “The Abergavenny Murder”  is an unusual case because it mostly is Holmes and Watson (played by radio legend Andrew Sachs) trying to solve the death of a man who died at 221B Baker Street before the police arrive. Other than “the client” being heard briefly, the play is just Holmes and Watson and is a great opportunity to examine how they work together as well as a bit of their personal relationships.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the original Doyle stories and want to hear stories in a similar style performed by a top flight cast and crew, this product is a much listen.

Rating; 4.5 out of 5

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Audio Drama Review: Black Jack Justice Season Six Review

After five seasons and thirty-six episodes, Black Jack Justice had established  the main characters of Jack Justice (Christopher Mott) and Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective (Andrea Lyons). Season six features a fair share of experimental episodes.

“Cops and Robbers” is a story told mostly by the supporting cast, “The Sky’s the Limit” is a story of a Poker game where the players try to suss out what happened on a case where no one has all the facts. “Man’s Best Friend is told from the perspective of the office dog, King.

Of the three, I think “Sky’s the Limit” was probably the best. It’s definitely fun to hear the story pieced together and to be learning details as the characters are. The ending is a bit ambiguous but it’s still a lot of fun. The other two stories have their moments but don’t work as well. The side characters are not as interesting as Jack and Trixie so that limited my enjoyment of “Cops and Robbers.” As for, “Man’s Best Friend,” the dog narration part landed flat. The approach seemed to be, “I’m a dog who thinks he’s a detective.” I think it would have been funnier had he been thinking more like an actual dog.

I personally preferred the other three episodes which were more traditional Justice and Dixon mysteries. “The Albatross” was my favorite as Lieutenant Sabian (Gregg Taylor) hires them to look into the murder of a black girl in a tenement which his superiors want him to lay off of. The episode examines the idea that certain unresolved cases haunt detectives, whether official or otherwise.  It’s a well-done episode.

Overall, while I’m not crazy about all the experimental episodes in this season, I still enjoyed it pretty well.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

You can download Black Justice Season Six from Decoder Ring Theatre.

Audio Drama Review: Red Panda Adventures, Season 5

Season 5 of the Red Panda Adventures from, “Decoder Ring Theatre” was originally released between 2009-2010 and is set in late 1930s Toronto.

This is the first season with Kit Baxter (Clarissa Der Nederlanden Taylor) and the Red Panda (Gregg Taylor) married and it’s fun to watch their relationship evolve. Events of this seasons do appear to take place over a long block of time as at the start of the season they’re newlyweds but in the second half of the season, they’ve married well over a year.

Season 5 offers its fair share of traditional Red Panda episodes involving supervillains, and mysterious deaths. On the supervillain front, the “Puzzle Master” is one of the more solid episodes of the series so far.

Yet, at the same time, the pre-World War II stories continued to heat up as Gregg Taylor (who also wrote the series) laid the ground for the next four seasons of World War II stories. The Red Panda and Flying Squirrel keep getting in the way of the Nazis mad preparations for war and their efforts to acquire magical objects. While they have a fair bit of luck against them, the season finale makes it clear the overall effort to stop the Nazis hadn’t gone well as the Stranger arrives seeking their help to limit the damage of the defeat suffered by the Council of Mages. In addition, towards the end of the season, we meet Colonel Fitzroy, an Army officer who would play a big role in Season 6.

Overall, Season 5 was a solid season of The Red Panda Adventures. It lived up to the high standards the previous set while doing a very good job laying the groundwork for the future.

Rating 4.5 out of 5

Season 5 of the Red Panda Adventures is available for free download at Decoder Ring Theatre

Audio Drama Review: Jimmy and the Star Angel

In Colonial Radio Theatre’s musical Jimmy and the Star Angel, Jimmy and Samantha, a young brother and sister, are dealing with their first Christmas without their dad. On Christmas Eve, Jimmy destroys one of his father’s Christmas tree ornaments which leads to them being shrunk to the size of ornaments. All the ornaments on the tree come alive. Jimmy and Samantha need their help to reach the top of the tree by dawn to ask the Star Angel for help or risk being turned into Christmas ornaments forever.

If you like Babes in Toyland or the Wizard of Oz, Jimmy and the Star Angel is that type of journey, so you’re sure to enjoy it. This magical quest up a Christmas tree is full of imaginative and fun characters. It’s also an emotional journey for Samantha and especially Jimmy.

The music in this is great. The songs alone are worth the price of the purchase. They vary in tone, mood, and purpose, but they’re all fun. I loved the swinging “Snowman Spectacular” and the penultimate song “Star Angel” is still bouncing around in my head more than a week and a half after I listened to it.

While the plot is a fantasy, there’s an emotional through line for  Jimmy and Samantha that’s moving. I also found the use of the Christmas trees to be interesting. Jimmy’s family has passed down ornaments for years and the idea these ornaments serve as a family connection through the generations is well-presented, and it helps to serve as a solution to the problem.

The plot has minor issues that adult listeners will pick up on. The villain, the pirate Scrimshaw (Jerry Robbins) feels like he’s  been written because these stories need a villain which leads to the less than satisfactory way in which he’s dispatched as well as the strained way he’s brought in. That said, though Scrimshaw’s not necessary to the plot, Robbins (who wrote the play) is a lot of fun in the role. I like the idea of a Christmas Tree ornament seeking revenge against the boy who broke him.

Overall, this is a great production for the whole family. I recommend you try it out and see if it becomes a tradition like your favorite Christmas tree ornaments.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Disclosure: I received a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

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How Fans Can Create a New Golden Age of Audio Drama

In last week’s article, I wrote about what audio drama producers could do to create a new golden age of audio. Now let’s turn to what fans can do.

1) Don’t Pirate Modern Audio Dramas

Anti-piracy talks from big corporations generates eye rolls from many. It’s hard to feel sorry for a multi-billion dollar corporation and its multi-millionaire producers, directors, and stars. However, modern audio dramas typically operate on a much smaller profit margin. For them, the consequences of piracy can mean they are unable to produce as much new material as they would like,

or may be unable to continue in business at all.

Most people who produce audio dramas professionally do so, first for the love of the art form, but they have to be able to support themselves, their actors, and their crew in order to be able to produce top-notch work. So this point is important.

2) Enjoy Audio Dramas through Legal Means.

How can listeners legally enjoy audio dramas? There’s the obvious answers of purchasing them through either the producers’ websites or through audible.com or the ITunes store. On occasion, an audio drama producer will make a large selection of their works available through a site called HumbleBundle. It allows downloaders to pay whatever price they choose for a whole bundle of video games, books, and occasionally audio dramas.

There are legal ways to listen to audio dramas for free. For example, some audio dramas are still broadcast over the air. Colonial Radio Theatre is on the Air with a brand new series on affiliates in Seattle and in Troy, Alabama with live internet streaming available from the Seattle station. The Twilight Zone radio series is syndicated throughout the U.S. and strong ratings can be a boon to the program. In addition to traditional radio stations, BBC Radio 4 Extra offers listeners a wide variety of radio programs from its own library of programs. It has also broadcast episodes of the Twilight Zone and in the past has featured Big Finish Doctor Who plays.

Also some audio dramas may be available to borrow from your local library. If a particular audio drama isn’t available, you can request the library purchase it. In addition, check and see what electronic lending services your library offers. I found hundreds of audio dramas available through one of the apps my library offers. In addition, Big Finish offers hundreds hundreds of audio dramas through Spotify.

These electronic services can allow producers to earn a small amount of royalties for each listen or download which can be better than the library buying one copy and all the royalties they receive are from the sale of one disc. As I stated, this does depend very much on companies using an active distribution system.

3) Promote Good Audio Dramas

Good Audio dramas need to be talked about. Reviews are always welcome if you have the time to write them. Even a short post on social media that you enjoyed something can be helpful in getting the word out about good audio dramas. Again, most of these companies don’t have a huge PR budget. You honestly sharing what you like is of immense importance. In addition, if you do purchase audio dramas through Audible or through Itunes, you can rate your purchase without writing a review which can also be helpful.

Also consider giving the gift of audio dramas to people who you think might enjoy them. I was once leading a committee and I found there was an awareness of old time radio. I decided to give every member of the committee one of Colonial Radio Theater’s Father Brown CD sets because I thought that would be the most likely thing they would enjoy.

Of course, the gift of an audio drama CD would not appropriate for everyone, and the most important thing to consider in choosing the gift is the recipient. But if there’s someone on your gift list who you think might enjoy a good audio drama, you might open a whole new world to them with a gift no one else would think to give.

4) Join Audio Drama Crowd Funding Efforts

Crowdfunding is one of the more exciting developments of the 21st Century. Under the old model that dominated innovation and entertainment, consumers had to wait and see what would be offered to them by corporations. What food would they buy? What movies would they watch? The power of crowdfunding is that entrepreneurs and artists can bring their idea to people who can choose to invest a small amount of money in making it happen.

Audio Drama crowdfunding will come in two forms: Kickstarter and Patreon. With a Kickstarter campaign, an audio drama producer may ask people to help cover the cost of producing an audio drama or a series of episodes. There will often be rewards at various levels of support where you might get the physical product or a download when the item is released commercially.

With a Patreon campaign, you give monthly to support the audio drama production. It may be producing a podcast where all of its episodes are offered for free for listeners to download and rely entirely or mostly on listener support to continue going.

Whether it’s Kickstarter or Patreon, the concept is the same: You help support the creation of the art you enjoy and become partners in creating a new golden age of audio drama.

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Audio Drama Review: The Avengers: The Lost Episodes, Volume 3

Volume 3 of Big Finish’s Avengers: The Lost Episodes recreates four more lost episodes of Season 1 of the Avengers which featured John Steed (Julian Wadham) and Doctor David Keel (Anthony Howell).

The Springers: This story finds Keel undercover in prison as a notorious convict he hopes to impersonate. The story is a somewhat typical crime story but feels a bit more playful in places than some of the stories in the first box set. It’s a solid if unremarkable tale.

The Yellow Needle: An old friend of Keel’s is Prime Minister of an African nation about to declare its Independence from Great Britain. After an attempt on the Prime Minister’s life, Steed and Keel become involved in the case from several thousand miles away. The story reflects the process of breaking up the British Empire as former Colonies became Independent and the politics that often went into that. This gives it a definite historic value. Beyond that, it’s a taut and well-written political thriller.

Double Danger: Dr. Keel is kidnapped by desperate men who want him to treat a man they kidnapped so they can extract the secret of the location of stolen diamonds. This is set up like a traditional crime story but has a bit more going for it than many earlier stories. First of all, Keel’s adventures apparently have given him a bit of an edge of toughness as he’s far more calm than one would normally expect. There’s almost a hard-boiled aspect to some of the dialogue, and there’s more menace in the villains in this story than in many “thugs of the week” who have appeared before . The story moves at a fairly quick pace, and there’s a very effective use of humor with the old landlord.

The Toy Trap: This story takes a look at the seamier side of London life with a bit of a personal touch for Keel. Keel is to play chaperone to the wide-eyed innocent daughter of a friend, who has taken a job in London at a shop. They find one of her friends missing and that she’s been drawn off into a pornography racket exploiting naive young women. It’s a very well done crime story and it also introduces some genuine conflict between Steed and Keel. In the early going, Keel sharply disapproves when Steed starts doing his typical ladies man routine around his young charge, and then when Steed’s method for breaking the ring puts her jeopardy, Keel really lets Steed have it. Overall, this is probably my favorite episode in this series so far.

This collection contains some of the greatest Avengers Best Episodes Big Finish has produced and is my favorite of the four I’ve listened to.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles is like the Christmas Carol. You don’t watch or listen to an adaptation to find out what happens but to see how well the creators have captured the story. Big Finish does a superb job of capturing the spirit of the Hound of the Baskervilles in  a very traditionalist adaptation. Amazingly, the entire program was recorded and rehearsed in a single day.

The cast is  wonderful. Richard Earl has got the part of Watson nailed and that’s vital since most of the story centers around him. John Banks and Charlie Norfolk did Yeoman’s work, playing five parts and three parts respectively. They did it so seamlessly, I didn’t know they didn’t have separate actors for each part until I listened to the Extra’s CD. Samuel Clemens is very compelling as Sir Henry Baskerville. And of course, Briggs is great as Holmes.

Of course, what  makes the piece so atmospheric over audio is the sound design and music, coupled with Earl’s narration and they did an incredibly good job in post-production. It captured the spookiness and suspense of the story. Overall, Big Finish does Doyle’s most legendary story justice in a superb adaptation.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: The Reification of Hans Gerber

The Reification of Hans Gerber is an original Sherlock Holmes audio drama written in the twenty-first century. However, if you weren’t familiar with the Doyle canon, you’d be hard pressed to know that this was written by Doyle himself.

The plot captures the feel and atmosphere of Holmes without retreading over old ground. Holmes is called in to investigate the death of a wealthy man who left behind three nephews and a niece who expect to inherit until the will disappears, then one man is set to inherit. At first, it’s the eldest cousin, but a disowned relative named Hans Gerber emerges to claim the estate. It appears he’s out for more than the old man’s money when one of the cousins is murdered. The mystery is thoroughly engaging from start to finish.

Nicholas Briggs turns in his usual superb performance as Holmes, and Richard Earl plays Watson perfectly in the Edward Hardwicke tradition. One of the reasons the story feels so authentic is the amount of narration and description involved and Earl is a superb narrator. The other outstanding performance was Terry Malloy who plays Inspector Bainbridge, a police inspector who shows an amazing amount of competence.

It’s hard to overstate how much I enjoyed this. Pastiches so often fail to capture the feel of the original or are so busy inserting modern sensibilities and personalities into the story that they feel out of place. The authenticity of the story is outstanding. It’s tour de force  in writing, acting,  and production values.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Final Problem / The Empty House

The second series of Big Finish’s Sherlock Holmes range kicks off with the adaptation of the two Sherlock Holmes stories. “The Final Problem,” where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attempts to kill Holmes off,  and “The Empty House,” where Holmes returns.

As writer/star Nicholas Briggs admits, these are not traditional adaptations.  In the previous adaptation, a bonus talking book of “The Speckled Band” was released with a word-for-word reading of that story. This is similar but this production dispenses with “He said.” Otherwise this is a  straightforward, almost word-for-word adaptation of Doyle’s stories with most of it told through Watson’s narration or Holmes narrating to Watson what has happened previously. As such, the strength of these adaptations rest on the strength of the underlying story.

However, Big Finish does add some nice touches. There’s an emotional core in these stories that Richard Earl, as Watson, does a superb job of capturing. Briggs turns in a solid performance as Holmes, playing the character perfectly as written, even when he’s being smug in “The Empty House.”  And one of the most interesting and subtle things they do in “The Final Problem”is tell the narration as Watson writing this down, and we hear the pen crossing the paper and the sound of pen will change and become more pronounced at certain emotional points. It’s a simple bit of sound design, but it’s  clever and adds something interesting to the production.

These are solid, dramatic readings with a good soundscape added in. However, given the wealth of material and the countless adaptations of these stories, the appeal of this release is limited and this would be the last time Big Finish used the format for Sherlock Holmes.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.00

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Audio Drama Review: Star Wars: The Original Radio Drama

Following the success of the first Star Wars film, George Lucas sold the rights to do a radio adaption to National Public Radio for $1. Adapting movies to radio was a tradition that dated back to the 1930s with the Lux Radio Theater. And in some ways, the resulting Star Wars radio drama bore some similarities to the old Lux Radio Theater with two stars (Mark Hamill as Luke, and Anthony Daniels as 3CPO) returning for their original while other actors filled in other lead roles.

But in other ways, the production was entirely different. Instead of condensing a story like Star Wars into an hour, this expanded it into 13 25 minute episodes, allowing for an expanded narrative.

So how did it work?

The expansion of Star Wars into a multi-part audio epic makes a lot of sense given that it’s modeled after golden age sci-fi serials.

The sound design is absolutely gorgeous as it’s done with Lucasfilms cooperation and the same sound from the original film. But they do a good job of creating soundscapes in other areas including the race through Beggar’s Canyon.

The actors who take over roles played in the film are mostly just as good as the original actors, which is a testament to the strength of the story. I actually thought Ann Sachs was a slight upgrade from Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.

Most of the expansions of the story were  thoughtful. The series begins with two episodes that serve as establishing shots for Luke and Leia prior to the events of the film, and it’s  nice to hear. We get to have Luke racing through Beggar’s Canyon and we also get to see him interacting with Biggs and trying to soldier through his uncle Owen’s constantly putting him off about going to the Academy. His frustration comes off as more reason and less immature.

The audio drama really fleshes out Leia’s character beautifully. She’s far stronger than in the film and more relatable. I really loved everything new they wrote for Leia. One highlight is a much better, more emotionally engaged reaction to the destruction of her home planet of Alderaan than in the movie.

The plot arcs for Luke and Hans Solo were also improved. You really got the sense growing throughout the story that Hans was or had once been more than just a smuggler out for himself in a way you don’t get from the film. Also, there’s enough time to discuss the insanity putting a back country pilot with no experience in space in charge of fighter as the radio drama has time for concerns to be raised about the efficacy of sending Luke Skywalker into battle.

These slight changes made the journey of Hans and Luke far more engaging. Hans’  journey reminds me of Rick from Casablanca (only with the Milennium Falcon) and Luke’s journey contains echoes of the Bible’s David.

We got a little bit more of a taste of the political intrigue on the Death Star and some insight into Grand Moff Tarkin’s decision to remain on the Death Star during the Rebel attack.

While most of the cast are obscure players, there are a few future stars featured. Perry King played Hans Solo three years before getting the lead in Riptide. David Alan Grier made his acting debut. Adam Arkin also features.


Perry King isn’t bad as Hans Solo but he’s a  downgrade from Harrison Ford, who’s the hardest member of the cast to replace.

While most of the material added was interesting, that greatest bane of serialized drama from the Adventures of Superman to Doctor Who shows up in the form of several scenes that are padding. The worst offender was a scene in which Obi-wan Kenobe taught Luke the proper stance for holding a Light-saber. That’d be boring TV, but it’s  mind-numbing audio.

Most of the production holds together because of the strong story and great sound design. There are several scenes where the lack of skill and experience in transferring visual adventures to an aural medium become apparent. Examples includes the Trash Compactor scene or Luke swinging Leia across a chasm in the Death Star.

The final scene may have been the worst. The production crew wanting to recapture every single moment of the film couldn’t figure out how to do the scene where Luke, Hans, and Chewie received medals from Leia so instead they had Hans and Luke bickering  with Leia joining in the arguing. Not a good way to end.

What’s odd about this is that the Star Wars Audio Drama was produced in Los Angeles in 1980, when many of the people who made the Golden Age of radio so magical were not only alive, but also active in productions like the CBS Mystery Theater. I wonder if it ever occurred to NPR to see if any of these people would have been willing to volunteer their services. If they had, this might not have had so many bumpy spots.

The one really odd change in this was that Darth Vader doesn’t appear during the climatic Death Star battle scene. It’s mentioned that he’s out leading the attack, but we don’t hear him inside his TIE fighter getting a lock on Luke Skywalker before the Millennium Falcon swoops in and that does hurt the drama of that vital scene.


I used to watch the original Star Wars film several times each year, and did a couple times watching through the entire series in one sitting.

Yet, I haven’t done this for more than a decade. Part of it was growing up and not having time to watch 90 minute movies often, part of it was the prequels which, while having their highlights, replaced the fun, adventure, and heroism of the originals with annoying side characters, big CGI effects, and darkness. Along the way, the prequels’ portrayal of both Anakin Skywalker and the Jedi Knights was disappointing to say the least.

What I loved about this Audio Drama is it managed to recapture the fun and excitement when I watched and rewatched the original Star Wars film so many years. Of course, it’s not easy to get over prequel fatique as I found myself thinking how amazingly off-base Obi-wan’s description of Anakin was based on what I’d seen in the prequels. It wasn’t gilding the lily. It was gilding the skunk cabbage.

I found to properly enjoy Star Wars again,  I needed to follow the advice of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. I had to unlearn what I’d learned. And this wonderful audio drama helps to do that as it immerses listeners in the wonderful and fascinating world of the original Star Wars characters.

It has its weak points, as well as some unnecessary padding,  and could have stood some more expert direction to make this an even better production, but there’s no denying that it does a great job of capturing the essence of a movie grabbed the attention of the world and still holds a place in the hearts of fans to this day.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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The Bob Bailey Matter, Part Five

Continued from Part Four

Her father was dead.

Roberta Goodwin had come to accept this It’d been nine years since she’d seen him. She’d tried to find her dad, Bob Bailey. She’d contacted all his friends, the studios, the talent agencies. No one knew where her father was. There were many things that could have happened to a prematurely aging alcoholic in his fifties who’d lost everything, and none of them bore thinking about. She moved on with her life, got married, and started a family.

One day in the early 1970s, she got a phone call.

The voice on the other end said, “Hello, this is your dad.”

“This is not funny, whoever’s playing this joke on me—!” 

“No, it’s me.”

Bailey convinced her. He’d drifted around for many years until finally going a rehabilitation center in Antelope Valley in North Los Angeles County and getting clean. And for two years, his life was going well. He found renewed purpose in life at the rehab center, helping others to recover from addiction and get on their feet again.

Then in 1973, Bailey suffered a debilitating stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side and confined to a convalescent hospital for the rest of his life.

What About Bob?

During most of his final years, Bob Bailey thought his radio work had been forgotten. We don’t know if he actively was bothered by this, but there was no doubt he thought this. Old time radio programs were never intended to be replayed forever. It was assumed once broadcast, they were gone forever. Even after transcription recording disks were sent out to stations, it was expected that they would be destroyed. The idea of reruns was rarely considered. More often than not, when a radio series wanted to reuse a script, it would have actors perform the same script over again rather than rebraodcast a previous performance. It was only late in the Golden Age of Radio that Television programs began to see the value of reruns and series like Dragnet and I Love Lucy  began syndicating their old episodes.

Of course, there were first-run syndication programs that aired at various times and on various stations with local or regional sponsors. Yet, most syndication of Golden Age Radio drama had stopped by the early 1960s domestically. The networks archived a handful of their own recordings and would trot out a few clips here and there, mostly of old comedy programs. Those programs which the networks didn’t save were destined to be lost forever

This is where Old Time Radio collectors took a hand. Thousands of individual collectors, large and small acquired transcription disks and tape recordings of old time radio programs. Fanciful stories about how this happened arose. However, the truth was far more mundane. Super collector David Goldin explained how he accumulated his collection: “Most of the transcriptions over the years have been bought, usually ten or twenty at a time, from record stores, radio stations, syndicators, advertising agencies, the performers who were on the programs and some special situations as well. Many people involved with these programs have allowed me access to personal collections

These sort of stories are told hundreds and thousands of times by many collectors both large and small in many places through the sixties and seventies. Taken together, they explains how golden age radio programs have survived the fickleness of networks.

In the 1970s, there would be renewed public interest in old time radio. It would be one of many trends in the 1970s. It was fed by genuine nostalgia. In an era defined by Vietnam and Watergate, the old-fashioned patriotism and innocence of many old time radio programs were certainly appealing during a difficult era.  There also was some appreciation for radio as a comedic and dramatic medium that would lead to many radio revival attempts (see parts one, two, and three of my look at the 1970s.) Of course, the fact is that so much of the golden age of radio had such enduring quality. Listeners got to enjoy the radio works of comedians like Jack Benny and Red Skelton who’d remained active on Television long after radio ended while also discovering or rediscovering Fibber McGee and Molly, The Shadow The Mercury Theatre of the Air, Suspense, X Minus One, Sam Spade, and of course, the Yours Truly Johnny Dollar serials.

In the 1970s, there would be old time radio rebroadcasts throughout the U.S. and radio shows where old time radio stars were interviewed. The seventies also saw the formation of collectors clubs. Organizations began long histories of preservation The Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety And Comedy (SPERDVAC) was founded in 1974, and in 1976, the first Friends of Old Time Radio Convention (FOTR) was held in 1976. SPERDVAC would begin hosting its own conventions in 1984. The Conventions brought together collectors, fans, and surviving cast and crew from the golden age of radio. There would be interviews and panels with surviving performers and crew from the Golden Age of Radio. Recordings were often made, capturing living history while it was still alive. These conventions would also feature recreations of old-time radio programs with the original actors when possible.

Many fans wondered what had happened to Bob Bailey. Bailey was far from the only old time radio figure to drop off the radar. In those days before the Internet, it was far easier to lose track of people. Yet Bailey was the most notable radio figure who couldn’t be accounted for. Other figures from the Golden Age of Radio who knew Bailey best were asked about him, but if they knew anything, they weren’t telling.

Denver-based old-time radio host John Dunning, who would go on to become one of the Golden Age of radio’s foremost historians, was well aware of the mystery. He had played all of the available Yours Truly Johnny Dollar serials from start to finish on his programs twice. Bailey became quite popular with listeners in Denver who asked Dunning if Bailey was alive, what he was doing, and if they could write for him. Dunning could give his listeners no answers. Then in the early 1980s, he sent copies of the serials to a radio station in Grand Junction which played them for the first time. The Grand Junction radio station got a call from a woman who identified herself as Bob Bailey’s daughter, Roberta Goodwin.

Dunning got in touch and arranged an interview which occurred on February 7, 1982 and is probably the most quoted interview about the Golden Age of Radio. Goodwin shared keen insights into not only her dad’s career challenges but also her perspective on the Golden Age of Radio from someone who saw it up close and personal. She’d called her dad when after speaking to Dunning to set the interview and he was excited that she knew something he’d done was still being listened to.

. Towards the end of their time, he brought up Goodwin’s statement that he’d disappeared from her life for nine years and asked if that was something he could ask her about. She said that in most cases she would have said no, but that, it might help someone, and she told the story of her Dad’s struggle with addiction and his disappearance. On the air, Dunning provided the address for his listeners to send a card or letter to Bob Bailey.

In June,  Representatives of the Board of SPERDVAC made the journey to the convalescent hospital; om Antelope Valley to and surprised Bailey with a birthday cake and a card for his 69th birthday. They also sent him materials for honorary membership and tasked a local member of SPERDVAC with going back to visit him just to make sure the material was received. Bailey told the man how much the birthday celebration had meant to him. Bailey hadn’t realized that he hadn’t been forgotten.

For about a year and a half, fans who enjoyed Bailey’s work could contact him with a letter, a card, or a large print book, although he was unable to write back due to his paralysis. On August 12, 1983, Bailey became sick and was moved to the hospital and died the next day on August 13, 1983 two months after his seventieth birthday.

Bob Bailey Travels the Information Super Highway

Old Time Radio persisted as a major hobby but it faded from the public imagination. Over time, many radio stations dropped old time radio replays or played them late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. Conventions continued to be held but there were fewer old time radio stars to attend as the years went on.

The Internet came and brought major changes and challenges to the old time radio hobby as it did to so many things. While we could go on at length about both the good and bad, there were two things that made a huge difference to Bob Bailey.

First, is how the Internet made collaboration easier across geographic lines. With the increasing prevalence of broadband, it made working with large files (ex: a high quality digital version) of an old time radio program) easier. It became far easier to come together, pick through possible versions of performance and choose the best ones to release to the public.

Secondly, broadband and increasing storage limits made it easier for the average listener to enjoy the full breadth of Bailey’s work. In the 1980s and 90s, if you were a retail old time radio fan, you were limited to a relatively small selection. You could buy a cassette with old time radio programs on both sides. Or maybe you might find an album with five or ten cassette tapes with ten or twenty programs in it. Of course, you listen for free to what was played on the air. But even then you were limited to what the radio station had. For example, John Dunning in 1982 had a very good collection for the time. In the interview with Goodwin, Dunning offered to share tapes of Bailey’s performances with him. He said he had all but five of the Yours Truly Johnny Dollar serial episodes,forty or fifty episodes of Let George Do It, and about fifteen of the later Yours Truly Johnny Dollar half hour episodes.

Today, anyone can listen to all of the Yours Truly Johnny Dollar serial episodes (although four are missing an episode in the middle), they can listen to two hundred episodes of Let George Do It, and more than 180 episodes of the Yours Truly Johnny Dollar half hours.

And listen they do. Bailey’s performances are uploaded to so many places online that it’s impossible to track it all: YouTube video plays, archive.org and other old time radio download sites, podcasts, and more. Not all of the places his work is posted provide an easy way of calculating downloads and hits, but those that do show millions of interactions. Bailey’s work is not just remembered by people who heard it when it first aired, but also by people from all around the world who were born after he died.

Bailey’s enduring popularity explains why Radio Spirits released The Bob Bailey Collectionin 2020. As part of the collection, Radio Spirits reached out to super collector Jerry Haendiges and obtained rare recordings of obscure programs Bailey appeared in. The interest Bob Bailey is such that nearly 40 years after his death, people would buy an album of old time radio shows containing episodes of the Public service show Illinois March of Health just because Bailey appears in them!

While there were many solid actors who played detectives during the Golden Age of Radio, there was something really special about Bailey’s portrayal of Johnny Dollar that resonates with listeners to this day and causes to stand out from his peers.


In the end, Bailey was a creative and talented person who dreamt big and had a lot of disappointments. He never landed a great film or television role and he never got close to becoming a director.

Yet, Bailey also achieved many goals that others would envy. He got to act with Laurel and Hardy, he wrote a story that became a movie, as well as a dozen TV episodes. He also spent twelve years as the star of two very successful network radio programs, both are listened to and enjoyed forty years after his death.

The last third of his life was filled with sad and tragic turn of events that you wouldn’t wish on anyone. But at the same time, unlike many, he escaped addiction. He got to try to rebuild his relationship with his daughter, as well help others find their way back. He lived long enough to know that his best work and hadn’t been lost and for his grandchildren to hear it.

Bailey’s work is an essential part of the American Golden Age of Radio. As long as it’s remembered, Bailey’s work will be as well.


John Abbott provided some really great insights as I was researching this series of articles. His Bob Bailey page has a lot of great characters of Bailey throughout his career as well as a very good breakdown of his radio and screen work. John also gave a fascinating presentation via Zoom to the Metropolitian Washington Old Time Radio Club. on the life of Bob Bailey from start to finish. The presentation features a lot of great details, including a whole story about Bailey’s color career as a young man around the Chicago World’s Fair that I just couldn’t fit in here.



A Look at Jago & Litefoot, Part One

Big Finish’s audio drama series, Jago and Litefoot will soon release it’s twelfth series. It follows theater owner Henry Gordon Jago (Christopher Benjamin) and pathologist George Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) as they team up as investigators of all things infernal in late 19th Century London.

What are the origins of this series and how did it become popular? The story of Jago & Litefoot is the tale of a long overdue spin-off and the freedom audio drama gives actors to play roles they would never be allowed to play in a visual medium.

In the course of the next four weeks, we’re going to take a look at the entire series over the next four articles.

The Origin

Jago & Litefoot

Jago and Litefoot originally appeared in the Doctor Who TV story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang,” in 1977 which finds the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson) travelling back in time to the late Victorian Era. It’s a story that’s noteworthy for its period feel. The Doctor abandons his typical suit and long scarf for a Sherlock Holmes outfit complete with deer stalker cap while Leela trades her short jungle dress for a proper Victorian look. In the story, the Doctor investigates a series of strange murders and he obtains the help of Litefoot the pathologist, and Jago, whose theater is at the center of the killings. However, the Doctor meets the characters separately during his investigation and the two only come together in the last episode.

However, when they came together, the dynamic was great.They were praised as a fine double act. Writer Robert Holmes reportedly liked the idea of the two having their own spin-off series.Many fans over the years would agree, but no one at the BBC saw this as a worthwhile project and nothing came of it.

Benjamin and Baxter certainly knew little of it and didn’t  work together for the next 30 years. Both had very prolific careers with a combination of stagework and television appearances. Benjamin’s career was the picture of a character actor as attested to by his 168 acting credits through IMBD. His credits read like a history of British Television with appearances in series such as Foyle’s War, the Tomorrow People, Rumpole of the Bailey, Yes, Prime Minister, and the Return of Sherlock Holmes as well as appearing as another character in the revived series of Doctor Who as a different character. Baxter’s career was no less prolific, but it was focused more on the stage and included play writing as well as appearances in a few films.

By 2009, Benjamin was 74, and Baxter 76. It was safe to say their time on a Victorian Doctor Who serial was little more than a happy memory for them.

The Pilot
Mahogany Murderers

Benjamin and Baxter worked together for the first time in more than thirty years on the Mahogany Murderers, which was released by Big Finish in June 2009. The story was officially released as part of Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line of audiobooks. The Mahogany Murderers was strikingly different than other releases in this line as it was not really an audiobook, but a two-handed audio drama and it became a backdoor pilot for the series. In addition, despite featuring the Doctor Who theme music, the Doctor doesn’t appear.

The plot involves Jago and Litefoot meeting up at the Red Tavern and telling each other about strange encounters they had. For Professor Litefoot, the case begins to get strange when a body is pulled from the Thames and turns out to be a very well-detailed mannequin or is it?

It actually proves to be a part of a plot by a gang of criminals who want to live forever, and they are assisted by the mad genius, Doctor Tulp.

The story is brilliantly acted as Jago and Litefoot recount the tale with gusto. The story becomes more complex and creepy as it develops and the truly diabolic nature of the business is revealed.


The release was a critical and commercial success. It showed the potential for a series of Jago and Litefoot adventures.

The Series Begins

The Jago & Litefoot series has had a very consistent feel to it over the course of the last eleven box sets, aided by the continuing presence of most of its key principles. The series is produced by David Richardson, with scripts edited by Justin Richards, and\ directed by Lisa Bowerman.

In The Mahogany Murderers, Bowerman took on the functional role of the minor character, Ellie Higdson, the barmaid. The role grew to become the main supporting character through the entire series. Conrad Asquith, who played Police Constable Quick in the Talons of Weng-Chiang, reprized the role as Sergeant and later Inspector Quick in every box set except for Series 5.

The cast and the creative team were in place and thirteen months after the Mahogany Murderers was released Jago & Litefoot released their first series box set. Each box set would contain four stories, written by three or usually four different writers. Details of the first two series with minimal spoilers follow.

In this first series, the show is very entertaining but it’s clearly trying to find its feet. While there was a single villain behind the scenes, each story has a different flavor as there’s a sense of trying to discover what works best. The first story “The Bloodless Soldier” is a werewolf tale and it’s followed by “The Bellova Devil” which is a more traditional detective mystery, then “The Spirit Trap” has them taking on what they think is a phony medium but who turns out to be far more dangerous than they imagined, and then wraps up with “The Similarity Engine,” which has a very strong steampunk feel to it.

The series set down a few key precedents. Because it is set in the same universe as Doctor Who, the infernal things that Jago and Litefoot investigate will tend to have causes that are naturalistic, alien, or mad science related. Even if there’s a werewolf, the series will offer a natural explanation for it rather than suggest an ancient curse or something of that sort.

The first series also had to be concerned with the character development of Jago. Jago has endearing traits that make him a fun supporting character but that could pose a problem as a lead. Jago can be a pompous and is almost always the over the top impresario ready to drop a grand alliteration, such as, ‘Slumbering somnambulists to the slaughter!’  In addition, if written in the wrong way, Jago could easily be one dimensional and the teaming of Jago and Litefoot would be that of the erudite Litefoot and blustering cowardly idiot Jago.

The series chose to go another direction and right from the first episode, Jago is established as something different. Jago faces a fateful decision, a moment of truth at the end of “The Bloodless Soldier,” that forces him to take action and spurs his journey towards being a believable hero of the story. And rather than Litefoot being smart and Jago being dumb, the series establishes the duo as complimentary. Litefoot is better read and expert in scientific investigation, however Jago’s years of experience in the theater have brought him a specialized skillset and a sort of street smarts that helps him catch things Litefoot might miss.

Overall, the first series does a great job of laying the groundwork for the whole Jago & Litefoot audiodrama.

In the Winter of 2011, Series 2 of Jago and Litefoot was released. This second series had a much darker feel. It kicked off with Litefoot abandoning Jago for a new partner in Gabriel Sanders in “Litefoot and Sanders.” After killing off Ellie’s brother in the Series 1 opener, Ellie herself dies in the opening story and our heroes take a spooky night train to ensure the safe burial of her remains only to discover foul experiment afoot among the bodies in, “The Necropolis Express.” In  “The Theatre of Dreams,” Jago books an act that can make your dreams come true but of course, this promise has a dark side. Finally, in “The Ruthaven Inheritance,” Litefoot is fired and Jago is tricked into selling his theatre. Both men get 500 pounds and the villain’s endgame comes into play.

“The Theatre of Dreams” is probably the outstanding story of the series with its mind-bending plot and the way it challenged listeners’ perceptions. The series strengthened the relationship between Ellie and our heroes. They show obvious care for her. When they find out she’s not really dead but has been transformed into a vampire by the villain of the story, Litefoot sets out to cure her and Jago takes care of her despite her making him nervous. Her vampirism is gone by the end of the series but some of the after effects play a role in Jago and Litefoot stories for years to come.

On a negative side, the final story put Ellie, Jago, and Litefoot in serious straits and the finale offers cheap solutions that aren’t entirely satisfying. In addition, the tone of the stories was too dark for the lead characters, particularly in the second box set.The first two box sets were well-written but it’d be hard to describe the series as fun. The series had some strong stories but they needed to find the right tone. They’d take a big step towards that in Series 3 and they’d do it with some old friends and new writers. We’ll talk about that next week.

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The Biggest Show on Radio

In 1950, NBC produced won of radio’s greatest spectacles of talent, a 90 minute variety show.

The late 40s had been bad for NBC as rival CBS had raided their stable of talent, luring Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Harold Peary (Star of The Great Gildersleeve) over to their network with higher wages.

NBC had not come up with an answer for how to challenge Jack Benny’s Sunday Night supremacy and from this was born, The Big Show. It was planned as a 90 minute variety show, which was extraordinary.  There had been other variety programs that had been an hour in length such as The Shell Chateau, The Good News programs of the late 30s and early 40s, The Kraft Music Hall,  and Fred Allen’s Texaco Show of the early 40s. However, 90 minutes was unpreceded for a radio variety show outside of a few specials.

The Big Show alternated between Hollywood and New York, allowing it to access most of America’s major talent wherever they happened to live. With a budget of $30,000 an episode, they managed to land solid talent, producing a fine mix of comedy, music, and drama. The Big Show had many great ingredients:

Tallulah Bankhead

Tallulah Bankhead“The glamorous unpredictable Tallulah Bankhead” was the show’s host. Her voice was one of the most recognizable in radio. It was deep and distinct. She called her guests “darling.” Bankhead was best known as a stage actress on Broadway and in London. The highlight of her film career had been Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. Finding other movie roles that suited Bankhead’s unique personality was a challenge.

Bankhead was a rare talent. Her range of duties included comedic banter with the guests who, in the tradition of old time radio variety shows poked fun at her age, her low voice, her offkey attempts at singing, and her rivalry with Betty Davis. Bankhead also would get a chance to showcase her dramatic talent, performing several pieces including several one woman scenes. She also did her fair share of comedic performances.  Bankhead also mixed in occassional sincere moments such as when she paid tribute to the nation’s troops overseas or a great performer. She would signal the station identification on each half hour by saying she was ringing her chimes, which would signal the famous NBC Chimes.

The Comedians

The Big Show played host to some of the greatest and best loved comedians America ever produced.

The Big Show’s most frequent guests were Fred Allen and his wifeFred Allen Portland Hoffa. Allen had had his own show for many years, but a combination of declining ratings, declining health, and the rise of television led to the end of his program.

Allen was known for his biting satirical wit which stood as Allen’s unique genius in this era. Allen got off the show’s most memorable line when he declared the reason television was called a medium was because nothing was well done.

Jimmy Durante as host of the Colgate Comedy HourJimmy Durante was also a frequent guest on the program. His mangling of the English language, self-depreciating manner, and jolly singing made him a delightful addition to the show.

Other comedians making multiple appearances included Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, Eddie Cantor, Ed Wynn, Joan Davis, and Martin and Lewis. These programs led to some interesting combinations. In one episode, Groucho groused about having to play straight man to Jerry Lewis at this point in his career. Dean Martin would have a similar thought a few years later.

Every comedian I’ve listed so far had their own radio shows, so The Big Show is a great way for OTR fans to find new comedy favorites. In addition, two men who would have great careers in television (Danny Thomas of Make Room for Daddy and Phil “Sergeant Bilko” Silvers) made an appearance each.

Music and Meredith Wilson

The musical portion of the show included top shelf talent with appearances by Ethel Merman, the Andrews Sisters, Jack Carson, Mindy Carson, Judy Garland, Ethel Waters, and Railroad Hour host Gordon McRae among others. Perhaps the biggest novelty of the show is the three appearances by then-first Daughter Margaret Truman.

Meredith WilsonHowever, the musical  delight of the show remained Meredith Wilson, the music director who was charged with a 40-piece orchestra. Wilson not only came up with great arrangements, the first season of the Big Show was punctuated with several original Wilson songs. Wilson’s creativity was not limited to music. In the only full Season 2 episode in existence, the cast performs scenes from Wilson’s novel, “Who Did What to Fedalia?”

Perhaps Wilson’s greatest hit was the show’s closing anthem, “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You.” Bing Crosby called it a song of faith and good will. On the Big Show, the song was sung at the end by the week’s entire cast, including those who weren’t regular singers. Each would distinctly whether it was Groucho Marx or Fred Allen or one of the dramatic stars. Those who couldn’t sing would speak their parts including Tallulah. This gave the show a memorable and classy ending.

Even after the Big Show ended, Wilson’s creation endured. “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You” has been performed by artists as diverse as Tammy Wynette, Bing Crosby,  Jim Reeves,  and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It’s an enduring classic and the biggest thing to come out of the Big Show.


The Big Show took a few episodes to live up to the show’s promise of providing drama in addition to the comedy and music, however when it did, it it did the dramas well.  Movie actors would come and perform scenes from new film releases or when the Big Show was in New York, radio audiences could get a taste of the latest Broadway play, including many who would never make it to New York to watch the performance. Actors who made dramatic appearances on the show included Peter Lorre, Edward G. Robinson, Rex Harrison, and George Sanders.

The Big Show would often follow up a serious well-done drama with uproarious comedy.  Tallulah and male guest star could perform a deadly serious piece and then a comedian like Jimmy Durante would ask permission to perform his version of the scene. After the heavy scene that came just before, the humorous takeoff was made even more funny.

The Demise of the Big Show

Sadly, the Big Show didn’t last but two seasons. It couldn’t have done much better. Television was coming on strong and advertising dollars would not support the Big Show’s big budget. Indeed, one of the advertisers for The Big Show was RCA which promoted it’s new television console. The day of big radio were clearly numbered.

The entire First Season of The Big Show survives to this day but only 1 and 2/3 episodes of 31 survive from Season 2. Still, what remains is a fantastic program put on by some of the finest talent radio produced. Truly the Big Show was worthy of its big name.

Further reading:

The Digital Deli’s Definitive log of The Big Show.

May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You” as performed on the Big Show.

All 27 circulating episodes of “The Big Show”

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