Wonder, Excitement & Discovery [Part 2] – My List of 10 Recommended Episodes

Last time on “A Few of My Favorite Things,” we went over my personal background with Adventures in Odyssey as well as the people behind the stories and characters of the audio series. But now the time has come to talk about the stories that AiO tells by discussing some of my favorite stories. Now with almost 30 years worth of episodes there are some that I have not been able to listen to. With this is mind this not going to be a top 10 list where I rank the best episodes, but rather I will just list ten episodes that stood out to me personally. In addition I will only talk about episodes do not require a lot of context to understand what is going on, so that means no episodes that relate to bigger story arcs. Now that’s out of the way let’s talk story.

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“On Solid Ground” (Episode 210)

I choose “On Solid Ground” as an example of a series of episodes I enjoyed listening to. It starts off like a regular Kids Radio program which is a format that AiO adopts from time to time to tell a story or a series of stories, but the broadcast is “interrupted” by OT Action News which follows the events that take place in the Old Testament of the Bible as if they were really happening. For this episode they follow the story of Abraham or Abram as he was once called and his nephew Lot and how their lives are affected by the choices they make. This first OT Action News story is great start to a great format that AiO would continue to use in future episodes.

 

“B-TV: Compassion” (Episode 345)

Like “On Solid Ground,” “B-TV: Compassion” is one in series of episodes where window washer Bernard Walton is the host of a show called B-TV where he and others tell stories that relate to particular topic they are covering. If couldn’t tell from the title this B-TV episode is about compassion and it probably has one of the funniest intros with Eugene Melstner mistaking the topic of compassion for compression. All in all this is one of the greats of the B-TV themed episodes.

 

“Hidden in My Heart” (Episode 321)

This one is a pure Kids Radio presentation that demonstrates the importance of scripture memorization but with an interesting twist. They spoof a number of TV shows including Rescue 911 (it’s a real show) renaming it Rescue 119 (after Psalm 119), Lassie or Laffie the Wonder Dog, and Star Trek aka Star Trip. It is fun listen especially if you enjoy a funny impression of William Shanter or Shattered as he is called in this parody. 

 

“A License to Drive” (Episode 194)

For those who are familiar with the series, Connie and Eugene are at odds with each other quite a lot with Eugene sometimes lording his high IQ over Connie’s more average intelligence. But despite Eugene’s success in academics he has failed to get his driver’s license, something Connie was able to pass with flying colors on her first try. With Whit’s insistence, they set up driver’s lessons so that Eugene can learn how to drive as well give Connie experience in teaching. Needless to say it is a fun ride (get it fun ride) while showing diligence in action on Eugene’s part as the student and on Connie’s part as the teacher.

 

“Welcoming Wooton” (Episode 472)

This is the episode in which we are introduced to Odyssey’s eccentric mailman, Wooton Basset. We learn right off the bat that he loves people and he does what he can to help out, even if his job performance suffers. Unfortunately his boss fires him for taking one too many well-meaning detours from his postal route. While the ultimate outcome seems a bit cliché, we get to know Wooton as a person and have a lot of laughs along the way.

 

“Called On in Class” (Episode 539)

A fun episode told from the perspective of Trent DeWhite who is facing the worse fear of his life: giving a report in front of the entire class. His exaggerated imagination is working on overdrive thinking of what could go wrong and how he is going to escape the horror that is public speaking. But in all seriousness “Called On in Class” exemplifies the fear of public speaking and the fact that is being narrated by a kid gives it a degree authenticity along with a dash of humor. Give it a listen and get caught up with Trent as he tells his story.

 

“Sunday Morning Scramble” (Episode 552)

While this episode has the simplistic set up of the a family getting ready for church, for the Washington’s it becomes Mission Impossible. While giving lots of humorous scenarios, it also reveals an important lesson about taking the time to worship God. “Sunday Morning Scramble” is one of those episodes that you have to hear for yourself in order to understand what makes it so funny.

 

“Odyssey Sings!” (Episode 572)

American Sings has come to Odyssey to find new talents and many enter into the singing competition believing it is their chance to become famous. This episode provides AiO the opportunity to satirize singing competitions series you find on TV all the while teaching that true affirmation comes not from men but from God. Additional plus for the original songs that were performed as a part of this episode especially Wooton Basset’s “Ode to Macaroni.”

 

“The Great Wishy Woz” (Episode 453-454)

Another quasi-musical and a parody to boot, “The Great Wishy Woz” is of course parodying The Wizard of Oz. It is presented as a Kids Radio program written by Mandy Straussburg who also plays Dotty. She and her little dog NoNo are swept up by a tornado and end in a different and strange world. To find their way back home the Fairy Oddmother advises they follow the Big Fat Road to ask the Great Wishy Woz for the answer. Along the way she meets Manny Kin (portrayed by Tom Riley), Metal Guy (portrayed by Bernard Walton), and Mystic Mountain Lion (portrayed by Jack Allen) who also are meeting the Woz so their wishes may be granted. “Great Wishy Woz” serves an allegory for the Christian life and you can pick up on things the more you listen. I can not recommend these episodes enough.

 

“A Lesson From Mike” (Episode 412)

For the last episode I decided to share an episode that really hit home for me. It is a story about how a girl named Julie comes to terms with the death of classmate named Mike. As Julie gets to know who Mike was she found they shared a lot of common interests and in the process begins to regret that she had never taken the chance to know him while he was alive. “A Lesson From Mike” doesn’t pull any punches and it tackles a difficult subject with depth and realism. Through this episode AiO shows us how important it is to reach out to those who are lonely. As someone who had their lonely moments in high school I agree with Julie that having a few friends can make all the difference.

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While there are many more amazing Adventures in Odyssey episodes these ten are my recommendations from what I have listened to thus far. Who knows maybe I will update this in the future, but for now this will suffice. Thank you reading and I will see you all next week.

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Wonder, Excitement & Discovery – Listening to Adventures in Odyssey

Hi I’m Kendra. You are about to travel to a place of wonder, excitement and discovery! Welcome to Adventures in Odyssey! In honor of the last month of summer for elementary, middle and high school as well as college students I decided to talk about one of my favorite audio series. The fact that Focus on the Family has produced this audio series for nearly 30 years demonstrates how many people enjoy and identify with the stories and characters from the fictional small town of Odyssey. Adventures in Odyssey has something for everyone from children to adults.

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Adventures in Odyssey (1987-Present)

I remember being aware of the series for most of my life but it was not until in late elementary school that I began to listen it on a regular basis thanks to a local radio station. At 6:30 PM on weekdays (Mon. – Fri.) the station would air previously released episodes of Adventures in Odyssey while on Saturday at 8:30 AM they would aired the newer episodes. This radio station still maintains this schedule to this day and every now and again I tune it to hear the odd episode or two.

After being properly introduced to the series my family bought a number of AiO audio albums, which contain a set of episodes. One of the albums entitled “Countermoves” was recorded on tape cassettes, which I would listen to when I was younger to help me fall sleep at night. When I was older I would even listen to them in car as I drove to locations as part of my merchandising job since I had an older car with just a tape player (Oh the HORROR!). I still have this album, unfortunately I am short one tape because it got stuck in the tape player of my first car and after it was sold and exchanged for my second one I never saw it again. In light of this I am hoping to purchase a CD version of “Countermoves” sometime in the future in order to replace my incomplete cassette tape version.

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John Avery Whittaker: Shopkeeper, Inventor and Teacher.

Anyway enough talk about tapes and CDs, and let’s get to the amazing people behind the scenes of Adventures in Odyssey. This includes the amazing voice actors who have taken on the role of Whit’s End’s owner and operator John Avery Whittaker (or Whit to his friends) throughout AiO’s time on the air. The first voice of Whit to grace the airwaves was none other than Hal Smith, best known for his role of the town drunk Otis Campbell in The Andy Griffith Show. Upon his death in 1994, the search began to find an actor to voice the ice-cream shop owner. Two years later in 1996, Paul Herlinger became the second voice of Whit, and this was the Whit that I grew up with. Many people may unfairly compare him to Hal and while I do note some differences in performance, I believe Paul did an amazing job considering the big shoes he had to fill. Upon Paul’s retirement in 2008 (passing away only 2 years later), yet another actor by the name of Andre Stojka came in to take on the role of Whit starting in 2009 and is currently playing him in the series.

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Hal Smith (1916-1994)
Paul Herlinger
Paul Herlinger (1929-2010)

 

 

 

 

 

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Andre Stojka (1944-)

Of course AiO is not complete without its two other iconic characters who are employed at Whit’s End. Enter Connie Kendall voiced by Katie Leigh and Eugene Meltsner voiced by Will Ryan. Just like it’s hard to imagine Odyssey without Whit, it is equally hard to imagine not having Connie and Eugene working alongside him. Connie’s youthful enthusiasm and Eugene’s unsatiated thirst for knowledge give them an interesting dynamic to their relationship to Whit as well their relationship with each other…by that I mean friendship. Their voice actors Katie and Will are also good friends in real life and have recently wrote a book together called Adventures in Oddity in which they talk about their work both on AiO as well other projects which include Disney’s Little Mermaid, An American Tail, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and much more.

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Whit’s End Trio.
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Bernard Walton…Window Washer.

Besides the Whit’s End Trio as I like to call them there are a number of memorable characters that have been played by talented voice actors over the years. This includes actors have since passed on: Walker Edmiston, the voice actor for Whit’s friend Tom Riley and business rival Bart Rathbone, Dave Madden the voice actor for pragmatic window washer Bernard Walton, Alan Young who voiced Jack Allen a childhood friend of Whit and Janet Waldo who voiced Jack’s wife Joanne Allen (nee Woodston). Other talented voices who are still alive include Chris Anthony, Earl Boen, Steve Burns, Townsend Coleman, Corey Burton, Aria Cruzon, Jess Harnell, etc. Of course none of this would be possible without the talented directors, producers, writers and sound designers which include Phil Lollar, Chuck Bolte, Paul McCusker, and Dave Arnold just to name a few.

If you can’t already tell there is a lot to be said about this series and I have not even got into the stories yet. That will be saved for Part 2 coming up later this month. Hope you see then as we look at the episodes of Adventures in Odyssey.