A Case for Modern AIO
An Odyssey fan makes a case against common misconceptions.
By Austin Peachey | July 30, 2016

"Odyssey isn't like it used to be." "I don't listen to the new shows anymore."

Those phrases seem to come up fairly often in discussions in the Adventures in Odyssey fan community recently. It appears that there are fans who stopped listening to AIO after Album 50: The Best Small Town. The hiatus seems to have lost several longtime listeners. Why is that? In my opinion, it's because people don't realize that throughout AIO's history, there have always been changes. New writers, actors, stories, and music. The episodes from the time period we grew up listening to are always going to seem better than the ones airing now. That doesn't mean that past shows are better than the recent ones and vice versa. It is my opinion that the modern episodes are worth everyone's time and appreciation. However, many longtime fans use different arguments and statements against the new stuff that simply aren't true or factual. Let's take a look at them.

Argument: The show isn't as it used to be.

When people use the argument, "AIO just isn't the same," they are absolutely right and absolutely wrong. Let's start with where they are right. In the early years, all the production was used on reel to reel tapes. Sound effects and music were somewhat limited because of the technology available at the time. However, the team pushed themselves to make the best possible sound for the episodes. Although it was quite a step up from the sound effects from the Golden Age of Radio, by today's standards, it is "old and outdated." The sound designers say that the two-part episode, The Imagination Station, was a real breakthrough or the biggest undertaking of sound design for AIO at that time. Re-listen to those episodes and then follow up with The Imagination Station, Revisited, and you'll hear the difference. Today, the internet, faster computers, and multi-track recording and editing software make the show sound better and more real than it ever has. In this case, the critics are right. AIO doesn't sound the same; it sounds better and draws you into the story more effectively.

Argument: The new characters aren't as good as the old characters.

"The old characters aren't on the show anymore" and "There are always new characters showing up" are additional arguments. That's totally correct. Ever since the creation of the series, new characters have appeared and old ones have left. When Adventures in Odyssey started, characters were constantly being introduced. Kid actors like David Griffin and Sage Bolte played numerous roles until they were given just one singular character to play. Kid characters are never in a lot of episodes before they leave because the actors who voice them sound older than their characters. A couple of exceptions are Jimmy Barclay and Lucy Cunningham-Schultz. Some characters stayed for years, and some stayed for just a few episodes. This is how it has always been.

Remember when Hal Smith died and the character of Whit left Odyssey? We got some great new characters out of that situation in the form of Jack Allen and Jason Whittaker. The show was fine without Whit for a while. Eugene Meltsner was missing for several years, too.

When Adventures in Odyssey returned from its first hiatus, many of the old families and kid characters were gone. Characters like Lucy Schultz, Sam Johnson, and the Barclay family were exchanged for Julie Zeeke, Jared DeWhite, and the Mulligan family. After the second hiatus, the Parker family, Jay Smouse, and Emily Jones were introduced while the Washington family, Mandy Straussberg, and Grady McKay were absent.

Like the writers say, "Adventures in Odyssey is bigger than any one character." Whit has always been the central character, but there are many other people who live in the town of Odyssey. We just haven't been introduced to them all.

Argument: The new episodes are stupid.

"The stories aren't as good as the old ones." This statement is wrong in many ways. Since the beginning, there have always been great episodes, average episodes, and poor episodes. People seem to forget that even though we got some great episodes early on like Connie and The Case of the Secret Room, duds like The Day After Christmas and Promises, Promises stand out. Let's not forget the split episodes. Those were certainly not AIO's best episodes, but from that era, we got one of the best story arcs in the show's history: Novacom. Not every episode is going to be good, but the team on Adventures in Odyssey has a track record of making more good (and great) episodes than bad ones. That's one of the many reasons we love the series.

When AIO returned from its second hiatus, many of the episodes from Album 51, Take It from the Top, were criticized as being "dumbed-down" and just "fluff" in terms of stories and lessons. However, the majority of people believe that the three-part episode, The Jubilee Singers, is the best of the bunch and, quite possibly, a new classic. The Green Ring Conspiracy saga was introduced shortly afterwards. Although not as highly praised as Novacom, it brought some missing fans back to hear what the fuss was about. Episodes like Sergeant York and Life Expectancy show that the team is still able to find new material and create engaging stories that rival early episodes. Since the mid-2000s, the writers have focused on more complex storylines that may be all in one album (i.e. The Green Ring Conspiracy) or scattered throughout several seasons (i.e. Albums 44-49). The stories of Mandy dealing with her parents' separation, Eugene's search for his father, Wooton and Penny's relationship, and others have all been spread out through multiple episodes, creating better-planned stories that help characters grow and find new purpose on the program.

Argument: The lessons in today's episodes are watered down.

"The lessons and themes are not as strong and meaningful as the early episodes." Wrong! If anything, Focus on the Family has increased its efforts to put more spiritual and teaching elements in the new shows. Of course, not every episode from the past ten years has dealt with deep messages, but certainly more than were ever discussed in the early years of Odyssey.

In the mid-to-late 2000's, issues such as divorce, abortion, adoption, and foster families became part of major storylines. The special album, The Truth Chronicles, digs deeper into the theological meaning of Christian worldview and principles. Recently, The Ties That Bind, a 14-part story arc, tackles the issues of "modern marriages" and dives into the meaning of what a real family is supposed to be. After that, Wooton and Penny learn what marriage is and what makes one work.

They say that hindsight gives you 20/20 vision. Nostalgia sometimes causes us to forget the bad things that happened or change the views we used to have. We have special memories attached to certain episodes and time periods. Fans that grew up in the 90s will certainly have a different view of the new episodes than the kids listening right now. For example, I, myself, prefer Paul Herlinger as Whit because that's who played him during my growing up years. He is the one I heard more than Hal Smith, so Paul was Whit to me. Who knows? Young fans now may say Andre Stojka is their favorite actor for Whit when they are adults.

Conclusion of the Argument

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Adventures in Odyssey is many things to many people. However, when you do not actually take the time to listen to more than just a few episodes or albums from recent years, you won't have a well-informed opinion. Just hearing reviews from other people about them will not be enough. Everyone has different tastes and, more than likely, they are different from your own. If you constantly compare the old episodes to the new ones, you'll never appreciate the wonderful elements that today's shows provide. Give the new episodes a chance. I'm sure you'll be surprised at the increased quality in sound design and storytelling found in modern AIO. Tomorrow's classic may be today's so-so episode. All series have their ups and downs, but I believe that Odyssey is at an 'up' point right now. Of course, Whit would tell you "The best is yet to come" and to find that out, you'd have to take Chris's advice and "Keep listening!"

Austin Peachey is an Adventures in Odyssey fan and frequents The Odyssey Scoop. He also faithfully maintains the AIO Blog and podcast and serves as a modern voice for AIO fans.

Leave a Comment

comments powered by Disqus

Back to Articles

Site Map | Legal Stuff | Privacy Policy | Link to Us | Contact

2000-2020 The Odyssey Scoop. Adventures in Odyssey is a registered trademark of Focus on the Family.