A “Family Show” is Not a “Kids Show”: Adventures in Odyssey (Stories for the Ear #2)

Now that’s what I call an intriguing title. Now I have to actually make this blog post interesting to match it, huh? Well, I’ll try. This post is alot like my TV Showcases on “Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman” and “ChalkZone”, because this show is targeted mostly for kids, but it’s also more designed for families to listen to together, so it’s really targeted for all ages. And guess what? Those TV shows I just mentioned are not family shows. Neither is “Fairly Odd Parents” or “Dora the Explorer”. On the other side, “Little House on the Prairie” is not a kids show. So how do you make a show that’s targeted towards family and kids, instead of inevitably falling into either the “family” genre or the purely “kids” genre? Well, you can’t. I’ll talk about this more down below.

“Adventures in Odyssey” was started in 1987, and it still continues to run today, with a current episode count of 818 episodes, most of them a half hour long, with 17 half-hour video episodes and 78 books. In the mid and later 1980s, old-time radio shows were experiencing a revival by hardcore showrunners who didn’t like the death of radio shows in light of television. Unfortunately, none of these rebooted shows lasted very long, because, lo and behold, no one was into radio shows anymore, which happens to be the reason most of them went off the air in the 60s. Shoot, by 1987, even the “CBS Radio Mystery Theater” was off the air. So how did a show starting at such an awful time for radio shows become so successful that it’s still going strong in the 2010s?

“Adventures in Odyssey” (AIO for short) managed to combine several elements that made it unique in the annals of radio drama. It has always been adaptable to modern styles of entertainment, so even though a kid today might not find an early AIO episode to be very relatable, it certainly would have been considered so when it aired in 1987. And the show’s recent episodes are very relatable to children today and even teenagers. As AIO’s fanbase has grown up on the show, many still listen into their teens and adulthood, and thus the show has grown its target audience to essentially all ages.

In addition to its modern styles of entertainment, AIO still continues to hold to traditional formats of old television and radio, and they often incorporate themes and elements directly from the classics. In their early days, AIO starred Hal Smith from “The Andy Griffith Show”, Alan Young from “Mr. Ed” and the original “DuckTales”, Janet Waldo from “The Jetsons”, and numerous classic film and radio actors guest starring throughout the show. So are you a fan of old movies and radio and know who these actors are? Then you’ve been missing out on some of their finest work in this show.

Let’s get back to what I was talking about in the intro. If there’s no such thing as both a kids and family show, then which one is AIO? As mentioned before, AIO has adapted to target all ages in its audience, which makes it a family show by definition. So why did I make a big deal about it in the intro? Because oftentimes people hear the term “family show” and associate it with “kids show”. But nothing could be further from the truth. AIO is targeted to all ages, so you have your moments of younger kids learning stuff or making obvious jokes, but there are also plenty of instances of real suspense or mystery that thoroughly engage even an adult listener. It’s truly targeted to the whole family.

Another thing that has kept AIO alive is the fact that it is a Christian show that often communicates Christian morals. Being a Christian raised in a Christian home, I’m okay with that, and alot of Christian families praise the show’s quality while also not having to worry about any risque content that is so common in modern-day “family” shows (i.e. stuff like “The Real O’Neals”… like, are you serious?). And it’s true, even for the non-religious families, if you’re okay with some Bible lessons and Christian ideas, then you can sit your kiddies in front of AIO and not worry about anything coming across the airwaves that you’ll have to explain later. And unlike the show’s counterparts, like “Jonathan Park” and “Unshackled”, AIO continues to be both successful and high quality.

Being that “Adventures in Odyssey” is over 800 episodes long, and technically it’s all a continuing story arc, there’s too much I could say about it and it’s different sagas to write here. Go listen to it yourself! It’s not as easily accessible as the old-time radio shows, but the last week of episodes that have aired on radio can be found on the show’s site, whitsend.org, and a few of the early episodes are available on YouTube. If you give it a try, let me know what you think about it in the comments below here. Happy listening!

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