Thursday, August 4, 2011

Odyssey In Review

As a show grows things are bound to change. Odyssey has had many changes and phases over the years even before the ones we're seeing now. If you look back at album 1, you'll find shows such as Recollections, Connie Comes to Town, Madge and Guy, and others that are the foundation of Odyssey's history. Although classics, these episodes are more of spring boards, the ones where the main characters are just starting on their roles. It isn't until later that they get more comfortable and adapt to their character. In this album each episode pretty much centered around a different kid. Although an interesting angle, it didn't give the listening audience a chance to attach to any of the kids. In albums 2-15 we get characters like the Barclays, (a favorite family for most fans), and Lawrence, amongst others. We find out more about Whit's past in episodes like Thank You, God, Rescue from Manatugo Point, and Operation Digout. As we start to get the feel for main characters and really get attached to them, that's when things start stirring. In albums 16-26 all sorts of things happen. In The Mortal Coil we almost lose our beloved John Whittaker, In album 17 George loses his job, (And later they move from Odyssey) In 25 Odyssey is hit with the conclusion of the Blackgaard saga with Darkness Before Dawn and it's still popular among fans today.

Odyssey went into a short slump with albums 33 and 34 where some of the episodes were two 15 minute ones. After those, Odyssey was hit by the Novacom saga. This saga is popular amongst fans and for good reason. It's packed with action and intrigue.  But the thing is it lost a lot of its reality at this point. Main characters Whit, Eugene, Connie, Alex, Jason, Tom and some new characters such as fan favorite Mitch, battle try to put a stop to a company that is trying to take over the world with mind control using technology that coverts radio waves to brain waves. The thing that makes Odyssey so different from TV show and regular entertainment is the way it relates to reality and can connect with the listeners lives with lessons and morals that are important. Novacom still has the lessons and morals, but it loses the relation to the listeners that older episodes has.

As Novacom passed, we began to see more of those down to earth episodes. Including the conclusion to the Mitch-Connie story-line. Then we get eugene back in Odyssey and more brain-wave whatcha hoosey... But after Eugene comes back and gets his memory, we hear a saga that isn't wildly out there; The Search for Eugene's father who was lost on an archeolgical expedition years ago, and Eugene found out that he was still alive while on a mission trip to the same Ashanti village Leonard had once been to. This story line is a favorite of mine, because it's not way out there like Novacom, and someone isn't trying to take over the world or Odyssey. This saga covers episodes in albums 45-49. In album 50 we hear episodes with a wide variety f characters, and at times it seems that they just wanted to bring as many back as possible for the 50th album.

Albums post 50 are ones that seem to hit the fans hard. After two years of nothing, when it finally gets more new episodes it returned with all sorts of changes that didn't  seem to go over to well with some fans. For one thing, Paul Herlinger retired as Whit and a new actor Andre Stojka was hired. Some think that Andre sounds younger than Paul, while others think he sounds older. In 51 Andre didn't seem quite in the role of Whit yet, but that's to be expected with any part. The fans also were introduced to new families and characters namely The jones and Parker families, Red, Jay and Wally. And the style of the art has also changed quite a bit too. Not to mention the fact that key roles such as Bernard, Tom, The Rathbones, Washingtons, McKays, and a few others have seemed to slip into the background of Odyssey.  Some seem to think that the writers have taken a step back in quality. But is that the case? In some ways maybe the writers are trying to bring the focus back a little, make things simpler for the younger viewers while bringing in complaints from the older ones.

In album 51 we visited shows focusing on the Parkers and Jones' families mostly. Most of which were hard to swallow for many. Inspiration Station, Clutter and Game for a Mystery were it's four opening shows which gave a pretty weak start. They're not bad persay, but it's where the target age is obvious. Under age 12 kids are more likely to like them compared to 16+. Whereas with older episodes, they seemed more timeless and anybody could enjoy them. Target of the week was one of the best in the season. It was added to the short list of baseball episodes and gave Wooton opportunities to be well himself. Many have said that post-reboot Wooton is too goofy and never seems to be serious. Perhaps this is true. He used to be more of a neutral character that had quirks, but also could teach kids lessons if given the chance. After this one were For the Birds, When You're right You're Right, Grandma's Visit and Finish What you. For the Birds  seemed unrealistic by some, but that begs the question. If that is a main issue, why was Novacom so popular for the fans when mind control is pretty out there too?  The four mentioned again seemed more aimed for the youngers. The quality wasn't bad at all, just not what fans wanted nor expected. The Season Ended with a great three parter The Jubilee Singers, that almost everyone agrees is a great episode.

After Album 51, 52 was a good improvement. Part of the deal with 51 was that so many characters were just getting into their roles. Andre as Whit, the new families etc. In 52, we see more of a balance between story lines. Not every story revolves around the Parker and Jones' families. The season starts with a great two parter, The Mystery of the Clock Tower where we get to go along with the characters as they solve a mystery surrounded by love and heartbreak that really turns out to be a diversion so the bank can be robbed! Following this was Wooton's Broken Pencil Show. This episode was a wacky take on the theme that entertainment should have a point by not having a point. (Slightly confusing I know...) Then came Stage Fright, fast as I can, and The Owlnapping. Stage fright was a weak episode as was Game for a Mystery and The Malted Milkball Falcon. The Emily Jones detective agency episodes while they may appeal to kids, they seem rather difficult for the listener to try to solve the case with the characters. They point fingers one way, then another, and then finally the real solution is found. Fast as I Can presented an episode on fasting in a way that pointed out that there are multiple ways to fast other than just food, and sometimes different people get different things from them. The Owlnapping along with Fast as I Can, A Thankstaking Story and The Mystery of the clock Tower were highlights of the album. The Owlnapping brought us a basketball episode centered around an owl that went missing. Although simplistic, the theme not to put trust into petty things is a good one to remember. the rest of the album includes Square One, A Thankstaking Story, An Agreeable Nanny, The Malted Milkball Falcon, and Grandma's Christmas Visit. Square One was a decent episode, but of these, A Thankstaking Story is the best of them. It presents a new Thanksgiving Story as a parallel to The Grinch That stole Christmas similar to what they did with a Thanksgiving Carol. Odyssey always seems to try to come what with creative ways to keep the listeners interested and to bring their point across, whether it be with BT-V, Kids radio, one of Whit's inventions, or a thought or game by Whit. They usually try to bring in unique ways that will bring in the listeners and post 50 episodes we don't see that quite as much. The rest of the episodes mentioned seem to be a theme from chaos. A good approach to reach kids to get humor from chaotic events, hence An Agreeable Nanny, and Grandma's Christmas Visit. The season started off well, and then sputtered here and there in the perspective of an older listener.

And all this brings us to the most recent album The Green Ring Conspiracy. In the GRC we find old faces returning, several new faces, as well as familiar faces from 51 & 52. It takes us on a wild chase to conquer evil. One of the story lines includes Wooton and new character Penny Wise having a sort of "romantic chemistry". In the episodes Wooton is in it seems he's there for more comic relief than anything else. The greatest twist of the whole story was that The Stiletto turned out to really be Jason Whittaker. This album definitely seemed like the "Old Odyssey", like Darkness Before Dawn and Novacom. Some fans still seem to complain, but many more like it.

The main problem that some fans have is comparing the new episodes to the old and saying this is a rip off of this and things like that. If you take the episodes and look at them for what they are without comparing them, they aren't really all that bad. Some of them may seem lacking luster as if more aimed for kids, but good quality all the same. In fact, the writers should get more credit for what they are doing than some give them. They're keeping a timeless show going even through actor, character and family replacements. So are post-50 albums really that bad? It all just depends on how you look at it.

Wow...I think this is my longest post ever!... And I'm sorry for that. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This looks really good! Sorry I don't have time to read it tonight, but I will certainly read it tomorrow and give you my thoughts.