Saturday, August 04, 2012

Hopes for Album 56

We have a season full of trips in Whit's inventions coming up (or already gone, if you downloaded all the shows and listened right away). The Grand Design's episode titles and descriptions have been revealed, and since I haven't heard any of them yet I'm going to offer my predictions based on the information that's been released.

"The Perfect Church"
This is one of the few Bible stories AIO hasn't done (or at least hasn't done fully), so it's nice to get this one presented on AIO. We haven't had a Bible story dramatized on AIO since "The Imagination Station, Revisited," and although I don't greatly enjoy this genre of shows a Bible story is long overdue. I also like the title of this episode. :-)

"Great Expectations"
I'm not sure what to expect from this episode--the whole idea of going back to see Whit as a child reminds me of "Thank You, God," but of course Whit's not telling a story here (which to me sounds like a much better idea for a show than everyone's favorite character Emily going back to see his childhood). Nathan Hoobler and Paul McCusker are both good writers, so that gives me hope that "Great Expectations" will be Odyssey in fine form.

"For Three Dollars More"
For our first Room of Consequences experience of the album (and this new period of AIO, if I'm correct) and third "inventions story" of The Grand Design we have an episode about tithing, which is a new theme for AIO to address (if I'm correct on that--with over 700 episodes to think back over, you'd think that tithing would've come up, but maybe not). It's a good topic to address and the ROC may be an adequate, if not altogether ingenious, way to present a story about tithing. I also look forward to seeing how the title ties into the story.

"The Bible Network"
"The Bible Network" (hereafter referred to as "TBN" ;-) ) sounds like Marshal Younger trying to replicate his success of "Hidden in My Heart," which is obviously not at all likely to happen but still an admirable pinnacle to aspire to. Even the theme of this show--reading your Bible--, is the same as "Hidden in My Heart." A crime drama called "BSI" should be the highlight of this episode, as long as there's enough humorous nods to procedural shows. Since "TBN" is a Kids Radio show it can also be obviously didactic without being annoying, because the whole point of these kind of shows is to illustrate a particular truth through the stories, and the quality of the stories is tied up in how well it gets across the intended message. This could be a highlight of the album or just get lost among the other episodes--it could easily go either way.

"Happy Hunting"
This is a Penny show, which pretty much says it all. Didn't we already have something like this in Album 54? It sounds a bit familiar. Expect a lot of "Penny humor" (which is slightly different from "Wooton humor," but not too much so). Clever title is in the show's favor, though.

"The Holy Hoopster"
A silly name for an episode that sounds like a Younger slice-of-life episode (which he admittedly can pull off quite well, sometimes). I'm indifferent to Ryan's character and I don't usually go for sports stories, so this is going to have to be quite entertaining for me to enjoy it.

"The Lost Riddle"
Matthew and Emily look into another one of their mysteries, which usually turn out to be very uninteresting. For this episode to succeed for me it'll need to have some seriousness to it, and a decades-old mystery may help provide that gravitas that is usually missing from their boring investigations.

"Groundhog Jay"
I'm tired of this Groundhog Day storyline. Haven't we seen this enough in popular entertainment? Even AIO has done the Bill Murray movie before, in the (thankfully only 10-minute long) "The Eternal Birthday" (which took place in the ROC as well, by the way). Possibly having two characters (Jay and Priscilla) experience the same thing over and over again might help this feel fresher than it might otherwise, but I have my doubts. Where this episode will succeed or fail for most listeners will be how humorous the show turns out being. That's pretty much always the case with the Groundhog Day cliché--if you're not laughing then the episode's not working--, and the inclusion of Jay will definitely add comedy to the episode. I'm not that much of a fan of Jay though, so my feelings for "Groundhog Jay" will probably pale in comparison to most AIO fans.

"Home Again"
I'm looking forward to this episode the most of all the ones coming up this season. It has the potential to be full of serious drama, with some light-hearted touches. Poor dialog or a pointless storyline (à la "Something Old, Something New"), particularly too much silly humor with characters like Wooton or Penny, may let the show down. Will it also possibly address Connie's 30-album-old crush on Jason? I doubt it, but we can only hope that this episode does a lot of addressing and leaves the "fluff" to other episodes in this album.

"Push the Red Button"
This is the live show, from what I hear abbreviated to fit into the designated time slot for AIO. Considering that by all accounts this is something of a silly episode I don't really like the fact that this closes off the season and I don't expect to like this episode a lot, but at least they're not expecting listeners to part with $15 for a copy of the live show like they did last time! I expect this to be an "event episode," but one that makes actual little impression on me.

I think by the end of this album I'll be quite machined-out. The IS and ROC are best used occasionally, and having around five episodes (three with the IS and two with the ROC) featuring these inventions will probably be too much, especially since recently taking trips in Whit's inventions has become a somewhat rare occurrence in comparison with when these inventions were newer. Isn't it just a bit irritating to go through those routines again--"Push the red button," "woah woah woah!," "Hey, where am I?," etc.? All this is, or at least has the potential to be, too predictable a formula, not taking advantage of every available second for engaging audio drama. But it looks like this season has some nice variety in it, while avoiding big epic episodes like we got last season, and I like that. I want my second-favorite small town (after Coleraine, of course) to feel like a small-town, with real characters and interesting events. Are these waiting for me in The Grand Design? They just might be.

Monday, June 04, 2012

It's Great Being Single!

Now that the fall season of AIO is over, it's probably time that I offered some thoughts on what's happened in Odyssey lately. Consequently, here's a quick look at my feelings on The Deep End.

  • It's Jason, it's an overseas location, it's action-adventure espionage. "The Labyrinth" was a show that should've worked, but just didn't (for me, at least). It all felt rather silly, with a totally forgettable storyline and an overload of corny humor. An intense and thoughtful ending is to the show's credit, but it can't make up for all that went before it. Whatever "The Labyrinth" may be, it certainly is nowhere near the fun, excitement, and memorability that is "A Name, Not a Number." 6/10.
  • You can hear what I thought of "Sgt. York" on AIO Blogcast #35. This probably was the best of the three multi-part shows of the season, but its length and themes made it feel more like a Radio Theatre presentation than an AIO installment (apart from Eugene and Red's attempts to force us to remember that this is AIO, not RT, that we really are listening to). 6/10.
  • Without wanting to sound harsh, "Something Old, Something New" was a disaster of an episode. It's likely that it's been a year and a half, with "Grandma's Christmas Visit," since we last heard such an obviously poor episode. Nothing--not even the return of Mitch--worked for this episode. Maybe it's nice that the subject of Mitch has been definitively dealt with, but did it have to be in such a ridiculous two-parter? As is far too often the case, Matthew and Emily's investigation was very uninteresting, while Penny and Wooton were more annoying than funny. Connie's issues should be dealt with with more seriousness, instead of being slotted in to a comedy episode. 5/10.
  • As this blog title hints at, the real winners this season were the three one-part episodes. "To Mend or Repair," "Mistaken for Good," and "Child's Play" were all great episodes--gentle, heartfelt stories that used strong characters well. I particularly liked the storyarch involving Eugene and Katrina's inability to have children, which let us see Eugene and Katrina dealing with an issue together. Katrina has not always had the best writing since Audrey Wasilewski came in to voice her, but thankfully that seems to be changing since last season's "How to Sink a Sub." Oddly enough, it seems that my previously-held belief that multi-part episodes are usually better than single-part episodes isn't holding true anymore for me. 7.5/10 or 8/10 for each of these shows.

So, the final word on this season? A real let-down. Why? Maybe because it tries too hard. Mitch returning, a secret agent mission with Jason, a serious historical episode, Eugene and children: all that is what fans want to hear and should make a wonderful album. And, from what I've heard, many fans are saying that it does make a wonderful album. But I have to disagree. What makes a season or an album great is not so much what happens in it, but how it happens--how well the shows are written. There's some good writing going on in The Deep End, but some less-than-stellar scripts have also made it in here as well. That's a disappointment, because AIO both can and should do better.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Well We Don't Know Where the Time Has Gone, It Obviously Flew!"

I've been missing in action for a while--sorry about that. A few observations about what's been happening in the world of AIO lately:
  • Album #54 aired, and was actually quite a good album. Hopefully I'll find some time to comment on each of the episodes individually soon, but you might be interested to know that for some reason I liked most of the episodes in Clanging Cymbals. This album may be my favorite of the new AIO era so far (with the possible exception of The Green Ring Conspiracy, although I like that album #54 has a bit more variety than that album). This is no doubt helped by the fact that Clanging Cymbals is a theme album: as Christian A. notes in his review of "Anger Mismanagement,"
    the reason many of the episodes in this season so far have such great morals and takeaway values is that, because the writers decided to base the album on 1 Corinthians 13, they had to start with the moral and then work out the episode--rather than working the other way around, starting with an entertaining episode idea and then fitting the moral into it.1
    Right now the Avery Awards are on, and while there's no masterpieces to vote for there is still much to like about this season's nominations. I'm predicting that "Never for Nothing" will be the biggest winner this time around, and probably with good reason.
  • Fans have gone off the deep end about The Deep End. It seems to me that with every new season now there are those who say, "Well, this season's definitely going to bring back that pre-hiatus magic," and wind up disappointed when it doesn't completely do that. So to avoid disappointment, let me put it plainly: For some of you, AIO may never achieve its "former glory." AIO is always in evolution and not everyone will like the stage that AIO is in at that particular moment. If you're one of those people who struggle with the new episodes, my advice is to change (or, dare I say it, lower) your expectations. AIO may not be the wonderful show that you grew up with anymore, but who said it should be? To put it bluntly, maybe the problem with pre-hiatus AIO is not the episodes, but the fans. Something to consider at least. :-)
  • AIO has announced some vague plans to celebrate its 25th anniversary. These include the opportunity to audition to play a role on AIO and a live show in Dallas, Texas. What I'm most excited about, however, is the new official guide coming out in September. The "Get in the Show!" contest seems more gimmicky than anything to me, but naive young fans should be excited by it if nothing else. Live shows may be fun for those who go, but don't always transfer so well to radio. Take, for example, the rather poor AIO episode "B-TV: Live," spawned out of the last live show. I have no doubt it was really fun for the audience to watch (some of that can definitely be seen on the video clips in the CD/ DVD package), but to listen to it's weak. So the way I see celebrating AIO's anniversary is that it has to be done well and lead to quality entertainment for all AIO fans, not just for the relative few who might see the live show.
It looks like AIO has a lot of great stuff planned for 2012, but admittedly I'm a bit of a skeptic. Let's see if I can track this "rocky relationship with modern-day AIO" a bit better this year that I have been in recent months!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The One With the Lack of Curses

While I procrastinate on getting out my thoughts on the next two album 54 shows, why not listen to my new review of "For the Birds" and find out if I think Eugene was out-of-character in this episode, if Wooton was a welcome addition, and my other opinions on the show?

Friday, October 07, 2011

My Review of "Wooton Knows Best" and a Few Episode Predictions

First of all, I have a review of "Wooton Knows Best"! Let me know if you prefer audio or written reviews if you want. :-)

Also, I have a couple of thoughts on upcoming shows, based solely on their descriptions.

Anger Mismanagement
I see that Abuelita's in quite a few episodes this season, which may or may not work out to be a good thing. Her starting up a salon in the Parker's living room sounds interesting--more so than Olivia and Valerie together again! 

Forgiving More...or Less
Red Hollard annoys me and I doubt this episode will change that. It might be nice to hear Camilla as the main character in a show, but making a forgiveness list sounds a bit dull.

You're Two Kind
Not looking forward to this one at all. Both storylines sound like they'll be lacking (although maybe in different ways).

A Penny Earned
I enjoyed Penny in TGRC and I want to hear more from her! For that reason all three episodes in this album featuring her are ones I'm looking forward to.

Never for Nothing
This show sounds like it's got a lot of potential, especially considering that Kathy Buchanan wrote the remarkable emotional-story-within-a-story episode "Something Significant." It's also got the highest rating out of all the album #54 episodes on AIO Wiki (99.9% from 14 votes). If it's done right, this could be my favorite show of this album.

Emily, the Genius
This sounds like a bad episode. Bob Hoose isn't a particularly talented writer and Emily isn't a particularly good character, so I have no hope for this episode.

How to Sink a Sub
This is looking to be the season of Kathy Buchanan episodes, which had better mean that we're not going to get five episodes as bad as "Opposite Day"! Despite that surprisingly poor episode in album #52, Kathy's become a great writer since her shaky early days on the show ("The Imaginary Friend," "Slumber Party," and so on) with great shows like "Now More Than Ever" and "Something Significant." Anyway, the thing I like best about this episode so far is its title--never would've guessed that "Sub" was standing in for "Subsitute [Teacher]"!

Unbecoming Jay 
I'm not a Jay fan, so just because this episode's all about Jay does not make me excited about it. I do not want to see this character over-used!

Childish Things
Penny's going to become a Christian in this one. Otherwise, this sounds like a pretty uninteresting episode to end the season with. We'll see if this show delivers on the higher expectations placed on a season finale, but I'm quite looking forward to this one.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The One With Baseball and Asian Stereotypes!

If you're a good AIO fan then you should know that the title of this post refers to "Target of the Week," the fifth episode from Take It From the Top (which I've been plodding my way through reviewing). Here's my thoughts on the show.

On a more exciting note, the fall season of AIO starts on Saturday, and there looks like there'll be some enjoyable stand-alone episodes in store for us over the next few months (unless you've already got all those twelve episodes listened to in one feel swoop, in which case you've already had most of your AIO enjoyment for the fall). I'm looking forward to making my way through this batch of new episodes, especially the ones involving Penny, and letting you guys know my thoughts as I listen. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The One With the Bad Script

Just in case that title doesn't clarify my thoughts on "Game for a Mystery," I'm sure this audio review will!