Focus Friday: Adventures in Odyssey—Not Just for Kids Anymore

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 Almost as far back as I can remember, I’ve been a big fan of radio. One of my earliest radio memories is of me in bed with a small transistor radio, covers pulled over my head, listening to Top 40 hits on a Glasgow, Mont., AM station.

Fast-forward in time to my early junior high school years (we didn’t call it middle school back then) and I’m living an hour north of New York City. I could pick up WABC, one of the most influential radio stations in the country. My very favorite radio features were question-and-answer-narratives dreamed up by the NYC Deejays. They worked like this: A DJ would ask a question and then answer it with a short clip from a song, and thread numerous Q&A’s together until he/she had worked up a three-minute humorous mini-tale of sorts. I found these incredibly funny.

In light of my love for radio in general and mini-stories more specifically, I have a feeling that if Adventures in Odyssey (AIO) had been around when I was growing up, I’d have been under the covers listening, too. I think I might’ve had the same love of radio-based stories that my mother did, who was raised in the golden age of radio drama. She describes her experience as:

The radio was the best part of our day. We did homework first and then the radio went on. We physically sat as close to the radio as we could get and listened to shows like The Shadow and The Lone Ranger. As kids we loved the Saturday programs, but of course our chores came first. You can imagine how quickly we cleaned our rooms!!

My mom will be the first to tell you that snuggling up to the radio happened because there was no such thing as television. Once her family bought a small black & white, the time spent around the family’s radio went precipitously downhill (and I assume the beds went unmade more often).

That’s why I find it interesting that despite (or maybe because of) the fact that we have 500-plus cable offerings, people are again engaging in radio dramas like Adventures in Odyssey in huge numbers, dropping by Whit’s End and letting their imagination take them on an, er odyssey. Perhaps, you’ve never hung out with Eugene, Connie, Whit and the gang. Perhaps, you haven’t in a long, long time because you (frankly) think you’re a bit old for AIO. “Isn’t that a drama for kids?” you ask. Well, yes and no. But consider this email:

My name is Lindsey and I am a college student from Kentucky majoring in theatre. I am writing to say thank you. I started listening to [Adventures in] Odyssey when I was about seven years old. I still listen to it every day. I know it may sound strange that a college kid would do that but its true! I always ask my parents for a volume every Christmas (even when I moved out), I search for the ones I don’t have, I have Odyssey on my iPod, and I’m saving all my CDs for my kids one day. The show is hilarious, for one thing. I may just be easily amused but I’ve heard some episodes probably fifty plus times and still laugh.

If you’ve found yourself channel surfing through hundreds of stations, finding nothing to watch (and haven’t we all!), I want to shamelessly pitch AIO as a great alternative—and in so many ways, an antidote to imagination-less entertainment (as well as the problematic content that’s so rampant in today’s media).

To make it even easier, check out this free (yes, free) full AIO episode, “Wonderworld“. You might be surprised just how Lindsey-like you are after listening (or re-listening).

The good news is that if you enjoy what you hear, there are 57 albums (738 episodes … and counting) of AIO material where that came from—easily downloaded via Christian Book Distributors, Amazon and iTunes! Once downloaded, pull the covers up over your head, and whoosh off to Whit’s End. I promise you it’ll be a much better trip than one to True Blood, Blacklist or Amish Mafia.

Editor’s Note: Check out this recent video of an Odyssey fan named Cara Strickland, and read her AIO-centric blog post.

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Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

--It's been a long time since I was up to date on Odyssey, largely because the longer it's been, the more character info I've missed, and I'm not sure I have time to play catch-up. I still appreciate the dramas from when I was a kid, though, although a few of them have aged less well than others. I credit Odyssey, Focus on the Family Radio Theater, and this little show called Jungle Jam & Friends (anybody else's station played that one?) with my love of audio dramas today. :)

Charity Bishop More than 1 year ago

--Thanks, Briana. :)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

--I'm twenty years old and still listen to Odyssey nearly every day. We play it during lunchtime, so all of us except Dad are really into it. (Even our Mom likes it, and reads the Official Guide.) It's sort of like the best soap opera ever. And the introduction of the character Emily Jones fixed my biggest complaint with Adventures in Odyssey, namely that there had never been a female kid character with whom I could identify.

@charitysplace You can listen to the daily broadcast of AIO on their website for free. That's six shows a week! (I would post the link but am concerned that if I do this comment will not post.)  Editors added link for you, Briana:  http://www.whitsend.org/radio

Danielle P. More than 1 year ago

--When I was a kid, my favorite part of each afternoon was when I and my siblings would gather around the radio at 4 PM and listen to Adventures in Odyssey. We checked out tapes from our church library, and our mom bought them for us as Christmas gifts. Whenever we went on a long trip, she'd buy a new set to listen to in the car. Then life got in the way, and I stopped listening for a few years. Whenever I thought of AIO, I did so fondly, but reckoned I'd grown out of it.

A few weeks ago, I spied a set of Darkness Before Dawn CDs that we had bought some time ago, and downloaded it onto my iPod on a whim. I was a bit nervous. I'd enjoyed them as a kid, but what if AIO was like that regrettable movie Cats and Dogs, which I had also enjoyed as a kid?

As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Hearing Connie and Eugene again was like reconnecting with old friends. Jack Allen and Richard Maxwell were just as awesome as ever, Regis Blackgaard just as terrifying. The climactic scene in the tunnel under Whit's End still had me on the edge of my seat. Connie's mishaps with her brand new credit card still made me laugh. "The Time Has Come," where Eugene becomes a Christian, is one of the most well-done in the saga.

AIO is a quality program. It's a rare thing to make a program directed at kids and still engage adults, but AIO does so brilliantly. I'm saving CDs for my kids, and I plan to buy more.

Katarina Rorstrom More than 1 year ago

--Oh my, I could go on about AIO FOREVER. I too am a college-aged student and have been listening to Odyssey for as long as I can remember. When my friends and I were tweeny boppers we would throw elaborate sleep-over birthday parties, and one way or another, they ended with one of the "scary" AIO stories with the ominous parent warnings in front of them. We would huddle together in our sleeping bags on the floors of living rooms and scream as bodies were discovered in closets or Whit was "kidnapped" by Lester, or Jason was in some perilous situation. Don't worry, we went to sleep eventually and they always had a lesson. I think there are more college fans then you guys realize. Kids my age, if you can call us kids, still enjoy a well-told story, and in all honesty, I find that many of the recent episodes are speaking directly to problems I'm facing in my life. I'm about Connie's age, if Connie has an age, and I have been touched by many of the struggles she has had recently, and after today's episode...well I won't give that away. Anyway, I am constantly blown away by the staying power of Odyssey, probably because the characters continue to grow and become better people while remaining human. I have listened to every episode and will hear them all again at some point. They have made me laugh, cry, pray, sometimes all at once, and I could never fully express the impact they have had in my life. Thank you to everyone involved! See, I told you I could go on forever:).

Charity Bishop More than 1 year ago

--I haven't listened to AIO in years, but that's because I can't find any local stations who play it. I used to listen faithfully on Saturday mornings and even collected some of the sets -- my favorite was the Darkness collection, in which Blackaard took over the town. Brilliant stuff. Listening to something on audio really makes your imagination come alive. I've enjoyed many of the Radio Theatre presentations as well. I wish you'd do Heidi. The book really is very religious and no one has ever done it justice.

Emily White More than 1 year ago

--I am very much like Lindsey. I have been listening to AIO since I was little. I am now in college, moved out and I still listen every day! It's a great show for EVERYONE, not just kids! I hope it continues for years to come!