I used to love reading those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books; didn’t you? It was fun skipping pages and then going back to get a different ending. Usually I’d try to be smart and think the way I would if it was really happening to me… I almost always chose the path that ended in me dying. But it was still fun, interacting with the different companions and villains. Well, on my quest for obscure audio drama that needs showcasing, I found one that brings all the fun of those CYOA books to life. Ever wanted to star in an audio drama? Now you can, with Codename Cygnus.
What if someone told you that Leonardo DiCaprio was making a TV series? How would you feel about that? Excited? Confused as to why he was doing that? Well, that’s not happening, so don’t worry about it. But the equivalent did happen sixty years ago when Humphrey Bogart (star of Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and The African Queen, among many other influential films) and his wife Lauren Bacall (a top actress herself) decided to star in this series, which employed a unique technique that worked every time. So let’s take a look at what that technique was in this old-time radio show, “Bold Venture”.
I admit, that photo up there isn’t the most enticing ever considering what I want to talk about. But that’s what I’ve got to work with; it’s the only photo with the title of the show that they ever put out. Anyway, what am I even talking about? Oh yeah, Hamilton. Remember that Broadway play Hamilton? It was, like, the most popular stage play of 2016 or something. It was nominated for sixteen Tony awards, and won eleven… remember that little play? Well, the reason it had such a large fan base is because it made rap music, musicals, and history all more appealing to a much larger audience than those three genres usually garner. And this audio show has done the same thing. It has taken a specific genre and made it more enticing to those who would have taken no interest in the subject before. Let’s take a look into “Night at the Ballet”.
This one’s actually got no cover art, so I had to improvise. There’s a scene from the show that one might imagine to look like this. Anyway, that’s not even the point of this post. A few years ago, a friend of mine commented on my wierd obsession with both silent films and radio shows, and as a joke, he said, “Well, can you find a silent radio show?” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it might actually be possible to make a radio show without words and only sound effects. So I looked for two and a half years, searching for such a show. Hadn’t somebody tried it? Lo and behold, dear reader, after all that time of looking, I finally found it. And it’s this very show, “The Revenge”.
Don’t freak out, dear reader. I have not stooped to the low of entertaining myself with reality shows. No “Real Housewives”, “Meet the Osbournes”, or “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” here. This old-time radio program pushed the boundaries of what was considered okay to air on national radio, and it is widely considered to be the first reality show ever used for the purposes of entertainment. Let’s have a look at “Night Watch”.
As great as old-time radio is, usually it’s alot easier to pull out single episodes of shows that qualify as “the best” of radio, but whole shows are often difficult to label. This is because most of them are anthologies, which means that no episode has anything to do with any other episode in the series. So big shows like “Suspense”, “Escape”, “Mercury Theater”, and stuff like that are really hard to talk about when taken as a whole. That’s why modern audio drama tends to be alot more entertaining to current audiences: there’s alot more of a call for continuing sagas nowadays, and not so much for anthologies. This show is no exception to that, and it happens to be one of the first bits of modern audio drama that I ever heard. Allow me to introduce you to “The Blackburn Gaslight Adventures”.
Here’s another modern-day audio drama that, for some reason, no one is listening to. And why not? It’s freakin amazing! Actually, this show is alot like an updated version of “Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police”, but with scifi thrown in. I’ve seen plenty of World War II dogfighting movies and shows (i.e. The Dawn Patrol, “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, etc), but I’ve never seen or heard a show focus on both that and a spyfi element at the same time. But this show did. That’s why I’m blogging about it. So let’s have a look at “The Dixie Stenburg and Brassy Battalion Adventure Theater”.
Alright, we’re finally back to looking at some old-time radio. For all you radio buffs out there, I know there are the big shows like “Suspense”, “The Shadow”, “Mercury Theater”, and shows like those, but I’m more interested in the obscure shows that are just as good if not better than the few radio shows that are still somewhat well-known today. I mean, everyone knows about “Sherlock Holmes” and “Superman”, which were fine old-time radio shows, but there are other great ones out there totally worth looking at. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do, so let’s talk a bit about “Adventures by Morse”.
You may be wondering when I’m going to get back to the old stuff, since this post is about another newer audio drama, and the two posts before this were also about modern audio dramas. Worry not, dear reader, you will hear more about old-time radio when the time is right. But I couldn’t skip over this one, especially since it’s brand new and needs all the support it can get. It’s a fantastic show, and I don’t know when I’ve heard a modern audio drama this refreshingly old-fashioned. That doesn’t make sense, I know, but let me try to explain as we take a look at “The Orbiting Human Circus of the Air”.
If I’m going to talk about what makes good audio drama, and how to successfully engage an audience of upper teens and early 20-somethings in the 2010s, then this show has to be mentioned. It encapsulates everything that is modern storytelling, and yet it retains that classic aura that is necessary to the framework of any good audio drama. But a quick listen to any episode of the show might easily put off a first-time listener for how strange the show is. So how did this series set in a world devoid of any rules that we might consider necessary to follow a plotline become the most popular podcast in America in 2013? Let’s find out as we explore “Welcome to Night Vale”.