The American Audio Drama Tradition, Part Twelve: The Twenty-First Century

Continued from Part Twelve

The Twenty-first Century has been a boon for audio drama. The software and equipment required to record audio dramas has become far less expensive and easier to use. In addition, it’s possible to record audio dramas with an entirely remote cast using sound mixing software.  The distribution has also become easier. While commercial radio stations remain as reluctant as ever to air audio dramas, there are options, many of which are free, to release audio dramas as podcasts.

We won’t even try to recount all the programs that have emerged on podcasts or produced a CD distributed through Blackstone Audio. There are just too many. But there are a couple of individual productions that merit some discussion.

Twilight Zone Radio Dramas:

The Twilight Zone is one of the most iconic American television programs of all time. Carl Amari and the Falcon Picture Group received a license from CBS and Rod Serling’s estate to bring the series to audio and the series went to air in 2002. The radio series mostly adapted scripts that had been performed on television. Featured actors included some older actors such as Adam West, Beverly Garland, and Stan Freberg, along with some actors who’d appeared on the TV series playing different roles over radio such as Orson Bean and Morgan Brittany. In addition, there were also fairly well-known performers cast such as Jason Alexander, Adam Baldwin, Sean Astin, and John Rhys-Davies who starred in several different episodes of the series.

The scripts would stay faithful to the main thrust of the original stories but tended to add additional details or dialogue to expand on some of the ideas as well as to make them work for radio. At the peak of the series popularity, The Twilight Zone was syndicated on more than 200 radio stations, appeared on BBC Radio 4 extra, and was broadcast on Satellite radio. The last episode was released in 2012 and the website disappeared a few years later. The series continues to be sold on CDs and as digital downloads.

GraphicAudio:

GraphicAudio came into existence in 2004. It has released more than 1,600 releases. Most of their output is a hybrid between traditional audiobooks and audio dramas. Releases tend to feature a narrator and we get to learn characters’ thoughts, but releases feature a full cast to play the characters and immersive sound design.

GraphicAudio is known for the action-packed nature of their releases. They began selling CDs, but are offering more MP3 download and App options. Their original CD plan had a clear target audience. Early CDs reference the presence of the CDs in truck stops and other roadside locations. They tended to sell six CD sets which worked great for long-haul truckers and others who had to be on the road a long time, particularly if they had CD changers. Load the six CD sets in and enjoy non-stop entertainment through a drive, Of course, more and more of their listeners are moving to app and download options which can work the same way while also serving an audience that’s not carrying a CD changer everywhere.

Graphic Audio adapted science fiction, adventure, and western stories among others. In recent years, it’s begun to adapt stories for major comic book publishers, having worked with DC, Marvel, and other comic companies including Dark Horse. With many of their DC adaptations, they adapted novels and even when doing comic book stories, they’d often perform the novel adaptation of the comic book as opposed to try to adapt the comic to the audio medium. While they haven’t done any comic adaptions for “the big two” in a while, they’ve got onto other projects that have a built-in fan base such as the anti-hero series The Boys and Mark Waid’s re-imaging of Archie comics.

GraphicAudio was acquired by RBMedia last year, but that’s not changed direction of the company. It continues to make productions with a very different feel. It’s not just the full-cast audiobook approach. They’re neither nostalgic, nor avante-garde. They’re unabashed action and adventures that offer listeners hours upon hours of escape.

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