Episode Reviewed: The Amazing Loser (693)
Writers: Dave Arnold, Kirby Atkins
Director: Dave Arnold
Sound Designer: Christopher Diehl
Theme: Love is not self-seeking
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:5
Original Airdate: 10/15/11

Review Written by: Ben Warren, Staff Writer

Rating (out of 5):


Episode Summary

When Whit's End sponsors a band camp, Matthew, Jay, and Barrett compete in a musical scavenger hunt.


The Review

As I was listening to The Amazing Loser, I realized this certainly wasn't a lazy episode. I doubt Dave Arnold and Kirby Atkins rushed to finish it, quickly handed it in to the team, and then went to watch the football game. There was care involved. I bet history books were opened and several hours were spent brainstorming ideas for the scavenger hunt. Looking at Dave Arnold's past works especially, it's clear the man likes to go the extra mile (The Jubilee Singers, A Thankstaking Story). And while both Atkins and Arnold' have contributed to less than perfect shows, it usually isn't because of a lack of effort.

The Amazing Loser is a praiseworthy episode because it is completely invested in the topic of music. I am not a musical connoisseur, but years from now children will have listened to this episode countless times (because that is the very best thing to do!) and will be able to repeat its random musical trivia. Adventures in Odyssey should always be educational. By listening to this show, I got to know the names of Francis Scott Key (By Dawn's Early Light), Horatio Spafford (It Is Well, The Other Woman), Paul Revere (The Midnight Ride), and countless others. Whether it is teaching about the Bible or simply teaching how to spot of a fake dollar bill, Adventures in Odyssey should always be teaching, and children, in turn, will always be quoting. If they aren't, chances are the writer isn't writing anything interesting.

And while The Amazing Loser is interesting, there is certain difficulty writing about children running around in a scavenger hunt on an radio show. The characters must summarize quickly where they are in relation to the other team while also sounding completely natural. This is much easier to accomplish on-screen where you can visually see how close one team is to another, who is winning, or whether they are neck in neck. The Amazing Loser works hard to make up for the audience's inability to see. We always had a clear sense who was where and what was happening; we'd hear one team think aloud in the background while the another team gives their lines in the foreground. Along with John Campbell's music which gave each environment their own signature tune/melody, and a quick musical montage to quicken the pace of the show, I thought the show pulled off the scavenger hunt portion impressively.

This episode will be compared to Treasure Hunt
, another episode about a scavenger hunt. That's fair. Oddly, I'm reminded of The Malted Milkball Falcon. These kids sure do have fun together. With every kid-centric episode that passes, there is noticeably greater chemistry between these new actors, as well as a greater sense of camaraderie. Although great kids have come and gone on Adventures in Odyssey, there has rarely been such a consistent group of them participating in activities together.

Think about it. The show has had many famous pair of friends (Jimmy and Lawrence, Alex and Cal, Liz and Mandy), but it wasn't uncommon for some kids to never run into each other. For instance, despite being on the same show for years, Jimmy didn't often share episodes with Lucy. Kids, on this show, have always appeared inconsistently, showing up in episodes randomly, and rarely giving us a clear idea of who was friends with who, and which kids were still around. Due to the show's recent emphasis on large child "ensembles" (Stage Fright,
When You're Right, You're Right, The Malted Milkball Falcon), I believe Adventures in Odyssey is fixing this problem by presenting the same consistent group kids in nearly every episode that passes. In other words, they simply feel like a tighter group of friends..

While Jay and Matthew were the more entertaining pair, Priscilla and Barrett had some decent moments as well. This leads me discussing the elephant in the room. Yes, Priscilla has a crush on Barrett. I say, so what? Fans grumbled back in
When You're Right, You're Right and are still grumbling about it here. Having Priscilla say "Did you know that your nose crinkles up when you get excited?" is not nauseating, nor is it encouraging child relationships...it's funny. How boring would it be if this chemistry between Barrett and Priscilla wasn't there? Kids have crushes. That's life. If Priscilla and Barrett were going on dates, writing their wedding vows, or planning their retirement, it'd be a different story...

Something else that makes The Amazing Loser different is how we aren't given an obvious hint of its theme/moral until later on. Halfway through the episode, you might even wonder "what's going to be the theme of this show?" My initial guess was "competition". Close, but no cigar. Some may say that its third act involving the girl and the shoes feels too randomly tacked on. I argue that the show, as it is, is constructed pretty effectively; we are so involved in the competition that we are struck by a sudden distraction right when Barrett is. A random event occurs: a child needs shoes. Barrett then forgets the competition and chooses to provide. Then and there, we learn as Barrett learns: competition means nothing if we forget how to be decent human beings. Yes, this "random event" seems to be disconnected from the earlier half of the story but its late timing in the episode is appropriate and quite effective in delivering the show's theme.

Let's sum things up. While The Amazing Loser is fun and energetic because of the good performances, it is Dave Arnold and Kirby Atkins who ultimately make this episode stand-out. The story is told at a nice, brisk pace, and there's plenty of cool facts to enjoy and new Odyssey locations to visit. You may be surprised that I'm giving it four stars, but somehow I think both kids and their parents will enjoy this one together. That's always worth an extra star.






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