Episode Reviewed: Wooton's Broken Pencil Show (669)
Writer: Paul McCusker

Director: Paul McCusker
Sound Designer: Nathan Jones
Music: John Campbell
Theme: Entertainment should have a point
Original Airdate: 10/16/10

Review Written by: Ben Warren, Staff Writer

Rating (out of 5):


Episode Summary

In a last-minute replacement, Wooton Bassett hosts his own Kids' Radio show and is forced to ad-lib for a half-hour. Will his show have a point?


The Review

"Wooton in Wonderland: A Defense of Wooton's Broken Pencil Show"

It was Lewis Carroll, author of "Alice in Wonderland", who helped popularized the "nonsensical literature" genre. For years, fans have been searching for some sort of concrete meaning in his book, but like Alice, we discover that the world of Wonderland has no real meaning at all. Try as we might, the Mad Hatter's riddles, the rules of the Queen's croquet game, and the confusing Dodo's caucus race, are all exactly that: confusing. Nothing logically makes sense.  Essentially, Lewis Carroll wanted to show that life does not need to be interpreted, because there is nothing to interpret about the events in our lives; life is random, plagued by moments that are simply "curious and curiouser"...

Is Lewis Carroll right? Is there such a thing as chaotic, disorganized, and nonsensical occurrences? Although it sometimes feels like one goes through life encountering "random" moments, Wooton's Broken Pencil Show tells us there is a greater force out there, sometimes orchestrating, but always providing meaning in our lives.


Just because an episode doesn't follow the typical storyline model, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is a bad show. Yes, the episode doesn't follow a single coherent storyline, and frankly, the episode is as messy and disorganized as Alice in Wonderland is. And like the novel, Wooton's Broken Pencil Show ingeniously places layer after layer of different instances, strange moments, and digressions (Eg: Connie's lost keys, Wooton's success on the show, the intricate workings of a car analogy, Harlow's squirrels, Red Hollard's dimensionality theory, Wooton's captain absolutely...etc...) in order to subvert the idea that life is simply chaotic and meaningless. In other words, the episode's chaotic form demands from the listener to have, as Hercule Poirot might say, "little grey cells", to sort through and figure out the meaning from all of these bits and pieces. Eugene interrupts the goofiness and hyperness of the episode to ask "Does this show have a point?" to remind listeners to ask that very same question. And as Chris notes at the end, "only Wooton could've created a show that made a point of having no point" or "did it have a point without trying to make a point. You tell me!"


Children are often spoon fed, and to be fair, Adventures in Odyssey holds one of the largest spoons. The show's writers often create predictable and over-structured stories, featuring a "theme" at the end to tie everything together neatly. We expect there to be a "cause" and therefore an "effect"; an "action" and therefore a "consequence"; likewise, if Matthew Parker sins we expect Chris to wrap up the show discussing his sinful deed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing. But here is an episode that does something different. Wooton's Broken Pencil Show cautions young listener not to simply accept what is shown in entertainment, but to search and to have trained-eye (in this case a trained ear) and to be on the lookout for what the world has appointed "unimportant".


Times have changed. We live in the age of postmodernism; the idea of objective truth--what is right or wrong-- has been thrown out the door. And the media and children's entertainment confirms that idea. Nowadays, kids are subjected to senseless Saturday morning cartoons that teach nothing; movies get poorer reviews for being "preachy" but are praised for being purposefully morally ambiguous; and, in the news, Christians are portrayed as persecutors rather than persecuted for pushing their own moral agenda onto others. These are all examples of how our society is moving towards the loss of "absolute morality", and people then start to believe whatever they feel is right for themselves; "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes". As Eugene states, "It is within our humanity to seek meaning and all of our experiences in all of of our experiences no matter how frivolous", Eugene says. "To do anything else is to reduce us to our animalistic behavior." I doubt that God wants us to begin viewing His creation as meaningless, purposeless, or useless. Rather, He wants us to believe strongly that He governs, and that He has given meaning to everything in our lives.


Focus on the Family has a way of expressing their stance on controversial subject matter without making the controversial issue the focus of this episode. For instance, consider how delicately FOTF dealt with the issue of abortion in A New Era. Amidst all the silliness and stupidity, I appreciated how loaded Wooton's Broken Pencil Show was. Eugene, almost too subtly, targets the problems with the evolution theory, and describes that just as the world and the events in it have meaning, so do we as His creatures. "God created in our bodies an intricate inter-workings that connects all of our biological and anatomical systems in a way that many scholars would argue couldn't have happened by random or evolutionary chance. And it is a reflection of the intricate unity that he himself has." Wonderful.


Today's show featured Jess Harnell and Andre Stojka in Avery Award-winning performances. Their delivery, at certain times, was nothing less than perfect. I find it amusing that although all three Whits sound relatively similar to one another, the differences between their non-Whit roles are so unlike the others'. For instance, Andre Stoijka acts in a way I could never envision Hal Smith act; his alternate character as Thug Clotgripper (spelling?) sounds much more stereotypically villainous and malicious compared to Hal's own great big husky sounding characters, such as Grim in Someone to Watch Over Me or the Sea-Captain in Return to the Bible Room. The differences between Hal and Paul and Andre are amplified ten-fold when they are required to take on a different persona.


Also, Connie, Eugene, Red, and Harlow were all welcomed additions and were each used to the best of their abilities. I haven't completely warmed up to Red Hollard's character. I certainly don't mind him, however, I feel his character is catered to appeal to those who mourn the loss of Tom and Bernard. If this is the case, Red certainly has big shoes to fill. But, maybe the reason I can't enjoy his character is because I have trouble imagining what he looks like, so instead, I imagine Mater, from Pixar's 2006 Film "Cars". Their voices are nearly identical. And though I have no objection to world of Pixar crossing over into Adventures in Odyssey, I do have a problem with Whit conversing with a talking tow truck.


I think there's a difference between a "dumb" episode like Fairy Tal-e-Vision and a "dumb-episode-that-is-purposefully-dumb-and-does-'dumb'-well" like Hidden in My Heart. Yes, I am generously giving this "dumb" episode four stars. This is an experimental episode that contains enough bubbling energy, humor and good performances to stand-out from its counterparts. I also appreciate shows that don't sacrifice the realistic side of Adventures in Odyssey but properly channels the show's sillier side through the use of Kids Radio.


This whole review could have turned out completely differently. I wasn't sure whether I should review this episode while bearing in mind the rest of the season. I tried to ignore how much "suspension of disbelief" the listener will need to have to get through this season, or the fact that Wooton has gone from a supporting character to co-star of the show--resulting in Odyssey transforming into a Veggie Tales-like show rather than one older listeners can enjoy. This episode does a lot of what I normally hate but finds ways to excuse its bad behavior. Its theme, or lack-of, justifies almost everything that takes place.


Most listeners will have a greater problem with today's show than I do. However, we should admit that for what it intends to do, it does well, and succeeds. I've heard complaints about the show having no plot. Well, I'm not quite sure if the episode would have been able to convey the same message with one. For once, we don't have some poorly made episode to communicate a very simple and childish theme, but rather, we have a well-made episode that communicates something more ambiguous and more important to today's children. And though you searched and searched the meaning and grew angry, frustrated and confused, realize that, perhaps, that was the point.






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