Soaplessly Undevoted
Is Adventures in Odyssey in danger of losing its timeless appeal?
By Ben Warren | January 22, 2012

Back in April 2011, the ABC network decided to pull the plug on its two longest running soap operas, "All my Children" and "One Life to Live", with "One Life to Live" airing its last episode a few days ago. And with the cancellation of the long running "As The World Turns" a year ago, it would seem like the genre is quickly coming to an end.

Do I care? No. I've never watched a daytime soap opera. That said, the news made me think of the episode Soaplessly Devoted, where Erika Clark reveals her love for the soap opera "Medical Center of Love".

The news about Soap Operas made me realize how dated that particular episode might become in future years. "Soap whatas?", some listeners might begin to ask. One thing that makes Odyssey such a great show is how timeless it is. I'm often able to revisit those earlier shows without being distracted by the fact many of them came out of the late '80s and early '90s.

There are, of course, a few exceptions. The earlier music is probably one of the easiest way of finding out when an episode aired. Although I'm personally accustomed to those older tunes, any child approaching the show for the first time today might find them a little off-putting; in fact, some might refuse to listen to them at all because of how dated they sound. Understandable; after all, when I begin watching a television show mid-series, I'm often afraid of going back and watching the series' pilot because of how awkward it might feel compared to the period I was been introduced to.

Then I begin to think about all the episodes that may never have existed if they were written today. The characters in Stormy Weather and Flash Flood might have benefited from having a cell phone on one of them. And the military secrets in Waylaid in the Windy City
might have travelled more easily if someone had an external hard drive, or at least, email―instead of carrying a giant laptop computer around. With the advancements made in virtual reality, could both the Imagination Station and Room of Consequence themselves seem outdated in a few years? Does the Imagination Station feel a little less interesting now that we've got things such as the Wii, compared to when it was first introduced?

What has helped the show remain timeless is its decision to stay away from parodies. Parodies and pop-culture references date shows quickly. Adult comedies such as "30 Rock", "Family Guy" and "Saturday Night Live" rely on current happenings to be funny and will probably be awkward to watch 10 years from now. Yes, Odyssey has referenced Star Wars, James Bond, and Indiana Jones, but I'm pretty sure kids decades from will still understand those references; others, such as the Twilight Zone, they'll have to figure out on their own.

In fact, a lot of other popular children's shows revolve their humor around pop culture references. While The Mystery at Tin Flat was a parody of the RealityTV craze and Odyssey Sings! was spoofing "American Idol", those seem to be the most blatant pop-culture references made in recent years. On the other hand, episode titles such as The Amazing Loser, and the upcoming "The Bible Network" and "Groundhog Jay" are further evidence that the show is, perhaps, dangerously moving in that direction. That's up for debate, however.

Yes, Soaplessly Devoted may start to feel dated in a few years, but what truly matters are the messages. Will the messages start to feel dated in a few years? I don't think so. Or at least I hope not. Once messages start feeling outdated, it means that there was a problem with the message or a problem with the current zeitgeist. Although I don't know many kids who enjoy going to the "arcade" anymore, the lessons that Jimmy Barclay learns in The Prodigal, Jimmy still stand. And although it is considered more socially acceptable for a woman to choose to have an abortion nowadays, Pamela Has a Problem
should forever remain a problem. And while the show has begun to portray more ethnically diverse, adopted, or even broken families, it should always retain the view that the family unit is important and divorce is rarely a solution.

So, tell me, readers: what do you think will begin feeling dated soon? And, aside from my few examples, what feels dated already?

On a further note, there seems to be a lot of debate on TheToo about Adventures in Odyssey needing to start dealing with more "current" issues, such as this one, in order to remain relevant in today's society. Although I won't throw my input into that particular discussion, I believe that, as Adventures in Odyssey once decided to mention DVDs, MP3s and Social Networks in the show, they will also have to decide which topics at the height of discussion in our society are worth ignoring, which are worth waiting on, and which are worth enlightening children about
right now.


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Ben Warren is an Adventures in Odyssey fan and frequents The Odyssey Scoop. He reviews the latest episodes for our Reviews feature and maintains his AIO-related blog: The Changing Times.

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