30 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.

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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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