Your typical half-hour after-school dramatic comedy show about life in a small town. Except that it promotes Christian values and Biblical messages. Oh, and it's a radio show.Adventures in Odyssey (1987-present) is set in the fictional town of Odyssey (in an unnamed State, but likely the Midwestern USA—the original version of the show, Family Portraits, identifies it as being in Ohio). The centerpiece of the town is the kids' discovery emporium and ice cream shop, Whit's End, run by John Avery Whittaker ("Whit"), who acts as a wise old grandfather to every kid who walks through the door. Whit is a devoted Christian, the rich owner of an encyclopedia company, former consultant for the National Security Agency, and a somewhat wacky inventor. Most of his inventions are permanent starring attractions in Whit's End. The most famous (and frequently used as a plot device) is the Imagination Station — in simplest terms, a virtual reality time machine. Whit's End is also home to a fair number of mysterious rooms such as: the secret hidden room in the attic that held clues to a treasure hunt, the secret hidden room in the basement where a murder occurred, and Whit's secret computer room with wall-to-wall TV screens and the master computer that runs every invention in the shop — and talks.Some of the most recurring characters are the employees at Whit's End. Over the years, this has included: rebellious teen-turned-convert Connie Kendall; super-techno-genius Eugene Meltsner; his distant cousin and professional window-washer, Bernard Walton; Eugene's wife, a substitute teacher named Katrina; part-time spy and Whit's son Jason; and Whit's friend and local antique dealer, Jack Allen. The show has also had various casts of kids such as chronic troublemaker Curt Stevens; budding journalist Lucy Cunningham-Schultz; sisters Robin and Melanie Jacobs; cousins Alex and Cal; another rebellious teen-turned-convert, Aubrey Shepherd, and Jared DeWhite, who moved away when his father was put into the Witness Protection Program (money-laundering issues involved with a Take Over the World plot), as well as his younger brother Trent.Aside from the individual half-hour segments, the show has featured two long-running (and more mature than usual) arcs. The first dealt with the plots of Dr. Regis Blackgaard to take over Whit's End to gain access to a rare mineral in the Underground Railroad tunnels below the building that was the crucial ingredient to creating a deadly, invincible virus to use as a bio-terrorism weapon. (Whit was, unfortunately, away on a secret archaeological expedition in the Middle East during the finale.) The second arc dealt with a plot by the communications company Novacom and a computer program they created that would brainwash the entire world, in which Eugene was a major, if completely absent, player. A third, shorter but sequential 12-part serial "The Green Ring Conspiracy", concerning a counterfeit ring, has been also been released, notable again for its level of maturity in storytelling.The series is created by the American Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family and is the flagship program of FOTF Radio Theater. It currently airs on numerous radio stations in the US and Canada, and is available in compact disc and cassette albums. Episodes are also rotated daily on the official website, going back about a month. An Animated Adaption airs on some Christian broadcasting stations.
Adventurer Archaeologist: Whit and Leonard Meltsner, in a slight subversion, they are trained modern archeologists and conduct realistic archeological practices... until villains drive them into adventuring at gunpoint.
They have done so many of these that they've literally ran out of Bible stories to adapt (A quick skim in the bible will tell you why the stories they have not adapted will never be adapted). The show now tend to focuses on reenacting events in Christian history.
Annoying Younger Sibling: Jimmy Barclay to Donna; Tamika Washington to Marvin; Bethany Shephard to Aubrey (the latter of whom has fantasized more than once putting her in a dungeon or something of the like).
The Atoner: Richard Maxwell, Monica Stone (although slightly subverted, since neither wished to become Christians, and were not pressured afterwards).
Belligerent Sexual Tension: YMMV, but Eugene and Connie have their moments (Eugene does get engaged to and eventually marry a completely different woman whom he loves very much, though). Parodied in the radio episode "I Slap Floor".
Big Red Button: Used to start up the Imagination Station, though the newest model (introduced in album 50) doesn't have it.
Cast as a Mask: Bob Lutrell plays AREM while Steve Burns plays AREM's secret identity, Robert Mitchell.
The Cast Showoff: Some recent Odyssey episodes feature Eugene Meltsner playing the ukelele (based on voice actor Will Ryan's skill at playing the instrument). Also, Aria Curzon (who played Mandy Straussberg on Odyssey) showed off her singing talents on a few episodes.
Chekhov's Gun: In an episode about the underground railroad, a priest at the church that would one day become Whit's End mentions a mineral in the tunnels under the building. This mineral turns out to be key in a compound to drastically increase the deadliness of the Ruku virus and was Blackgaard's main goal when he took over Whit's End.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Most of the child voice actors (and consequently their families, Dr. Morton being an exception) tend to get quietly dropped from the show around the time their voice changes.
There have been exceptions, including Jimmy Barclay and Jared DeWhite.
Many of them had cameos during Album 50.
Christmas Episode: They usually introduce at least one new Christmas episode a year, and as Christmas approaches, play previous Christmas episodes. Given the show has been going on for about two decades, this leads to practically a month of Christmas episodes.
Circus of Fear: A G-rated version: Uncle Archie's carnival in The Green Ring Conspiracy.
Cloud Cuckoolander: Harlow Doyle (Private Eye!) and to a slightly lesser extent, Wooton Bassett.
Clueless Aesop: Averted in an episode that teaches An Aesop about cursing. Though it would seem impossible to teach such a moral in a Christian children's radio show, where you obviously aren't supposed to use curse words, it manages to pull it off by having some kids thinking that a certain word is a curse word and using it in such a way. It's a bit odd, but it actually works pretty well.
Co-Dragons: When Dr. Blackaard attempted to take over Odyssey, Professor Bovril, Jellyfish, and Philip Glossman assist him with brains, brawn, and public appearance, respectively.
Collapsing Lair: Richard Maxwell somehow programmed Blackgaard's computer to blow up his business. Blackgaard wanted Maxwell to hack into the Imagination Station, but instead the code caused a power surge that set the building on fire.
Concealing Canvas: A safe hidden behind a picture of a safe in the episode "Hold Up!" Mr. Whittaker has a weird sense of humor.
Continuity Nod: All over the place. Even when they aren't doing clear-cut story arcs of one kind or another, continuity is remarkably strong.
Cool Old Guy: Whit is one of the normal, down-to-Earth variety. Usually.
Crack Fic: Bethany's Flood. The Ark is a wet dry vac, Shem, Ham, and Japheth are really Sam, Hamlet and Jefferson, and Christopher Colombo caused the flood!
Did You Die?: In a story from Bernard's childhood, "The Girl In The Sink."
Disability Immunity: In the episode "The Perfect Witness," Jenny was taken hostage by thieves who supposed that because she couldn't see, she wouldn't know where they were going with her and thus couldn't tell the police where their hideout was. Jenny, once returned to her friends, was able to nail the criminals by using her other senses to narrow down their location (sounds played a large part in this).
Double Aesop: Kids frequently went on an adventure in the Imagination Station and learned an Aesop from the Aesop the characters in the adventure learned.
Downer Ending: Although usually upbeat, the show will occasionally throw a curve-ball and produce an episode without any definite happy ending.
One episode involved a character's model train getting stolen and a girl with a history of delinquency being the prime suspect. She denied it and Whit acted as the strongest voice in her defense. It turns out she did throw it away out of spite and was completely unrepentant when caught. Whit was very shaken up and forced to face the fact that treating someone with kindness does not mean they will accept it.
Easy Evangelism: Zig-Zagged. In some cases, 5 minutes and a commercial break is all that's required to get a conversion. In other cases, especially those involving main characters, it could take years after they're introduced before they convert, and some simply don't for whatever reason. And you can be sure that recurring characters still have lessons to learn.
Everyone Can See It: Eugene and Connie in earlier episodes. At one point, a man who was in the middle of trying to rob Whit's End says that they were made for each other.
Everything Is Online: Justified for Whit, as he is a legitimate computer wiz and a retired NSA technical analyst.
Evil Twin: Inverted; Dr. Blackgaard has a good twin, Edwin, who runs the local theater. After his initial episodes, he was used mostly as comic relief — completely independent from his brother's story-lines.
Face Death with Dignity: In fact Whit was so dignified and calm that it unnerved the would-be-killer into running away.
Dr. Blackgaard pretended to die so he could orchestrate his plans discreetly before showing up in Odyssey, alive and well. Granted, the only person in the town who thought he was dead was Jason, but still.
Jason Whittaker, who faked his death so his enemies from his spy days won't go after him.
Fire and Brimstone Hell/Fluffy Cloud Heaven: One episode had Whit attempting to explore the concept of the afterlife using the Imagination Station. Unfortunately the program succeeded a bit too well. Whit ended up in a Edenic garden and Eugene found himself in hell (the episode implied that this is largely because Eugene was an atheist at that point but had internalized more Christian theology than he realized; the writers presented Christian theology as is, without making any judgements on Eugene's moral character).
Whit ended up having had a heart attack as he didn't want to leave and Eugene ended up having a week-long Heroic BSOD . Of note, this is one of the scariest and most mature story lines in the entire series.
Geographic Flexibility: For a supposed Midwestern small town, Odyssey has: multiple malls, a community college, a water park, multiple high schools, a TV/radio station, possibly an airport and (if the animated series can be believed) multiple skyscrapers. Originally, the writers hewed very closely to the idea of Odyssey being a one-street town, but different buildings and areas got added as the plot required over the years.
Hobbes Was Right: Discussed and believed by most of the main characters and was actually the point of an episode where Connie and Eugene debate this (Connie taking Hobbes's stance, Eugene taking Rousseau's); a stranger then comes in, robs them, and even mentions that he personally agrees with Connie.
Hollywood Atheist: Leonard Meltsner, who was held prisoner for years, had his wife die, and his son kidnapped by his hated rival therefore he has a rather legitimate grudge against God. However, he is presented as nothing but an honorable man.
One episode was a quite blatant homage to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with the Cross of Cortes replacing the Grail.
The episode "It Happened at Four Corners" seems to be a partial retelling of the novel McTeague by Frank Norris. Both narratives revolves around two men fighting over an accidentally stumbled upon stash of gold in a desolate locale, one manage to kill the other, but not before he handcuffs his killer to his soon to be corpse. But considering how obscure the source material is, this might be unintentional.
The bigger inspiration for this episode was It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The opening scene of "The Smiler" ripping the map in half was taken directly from the start of the film nearly verbatim.
Hostage Situation: usually with Connie as the hostage, although Whit, Eugene, Jason, and Tasha have had their turn. Gradey was the newest one, I think.
Ivy League For Everyone: OK, not a direct example obviously, but what are the chances that Whit would have two high school valedictorians (Eugene and Connie) working for him simultaneously? (And sacking them simultaneously.)
Also somewhat averted as both characters winds up attending the perfectly serviceable (if somewhat second rate) community college in Odyssey.
It's never explained why a genius like Eugene is doing in Odyssey and working part time in a ice cream parlor when he could have had his pick of the universities. One episode explained that he was falsely framed for plagiarism at Stanford was was blackballed by academia (but the entire thing was made up for a mystery dinner).
Bernard Walton once told a new kid, "Whether you meant to or not, you played out a Bible teaching in what you did today." Simon thought it was weird, but Bernard assured him, "Happens all the time around here."
Whenever a voice actor was unavailable for recording (i.e. Whit's, since he died), their character would be represented by a message on a very choppy, staticky answering machine made of clips from previous episodes. Jason once commented to Eugene while he was fixing one, "Am I the only one who's noticed how often these glitch up around here?"
In one episode Katrina mentions to Connie that she hasn't changed since she last saw her (5 years ago from the listener's point of view). Connie then says that she never changes, a reference to the fact she's the show's perpetual teenager.
"Feels like I've been sixteen FOREVER."
Large Ham: Connie whenever she really gets excited or irritated
The character of Edwin Blackgaard (played to Shakespearean perfection by Tony Jay soundalike Earl Boen) was created largely for this very purpose.
Limited Wardrobe: Averted in the series itself. What did you expect? It's a radio program. Played straight in the official artwork.
Long Runners: 23 years and counting, though if you count the series that eventually became Adventures In Odyssey, Family Portraits, then it has been around for at least 25 years.
Lotus-Eater Machine: Jason Whitaker once modified the Imagination Station to allow disabled children to experience life without their disability. The final scene of the episode finds Jason having a Heroic BSOD surrounded by handicapped children desperately pleading for an extra moment in the Station.
Mr. Imagination: Lawrence Hodges (specializing in fantasy and scifi), Jared DeWhite (more into conspiracy theories), and Jared's brother Trent (whose fantasies are closer to reality than either Lawrence's or Jared's).
No Denomination Given: While all the Christians on the show are all vaguely Evangelical, no specific denomination has ever been named and all of the theology and Aesops presented are kept firmly in ecumenical territory. The closest they've every gotten to acknowledging theological differences is a throwaway mention that the Catholic concept of sainthood carry a bit more baggage than the Protestant one.
Not Allowed to Grow Up: Played straight for much of the show, where Connie Kendall is the perpetual teenager. Averted with everyone else, leading to Connie still being a teenager even though kids from 20 years ago have grown up. Eventually, Connie graduates from high school, and so in later episodes she just ages very slowly.
Also seems to have occured in Rodney Rathbone, since he's been a middle school bully for about fifteen years and has shown no signs of age.
Whit, on the other hand, is not Allowed to Grow Old, his official portrait did not change over the past twenty years and he maintains the activity level of a 60 years-old man despite the fact that he should be in his late 80s by now (he fought in WWII).
The Patient Has Left the Building: The Green Ring Conspiracy arc has Monty Whitaker (Whit's grandson who had become a Secret Service agent) slip out to find out who betrayed him (working undercover) after being in a plane crash attempting to track down counterfeiters.
Pet the Dog: Dalton Kearn, kidnapper, trafficker of archeological artifacts, instigator of a minor genocide, but is a very good and caring father, which is rather ruined by the fact that his "son" is actually Leonard Meltsner's, whom he kidnapped out of malice. He did grow to legitimately love the boy, however.
Phrase Catcher: When Eugene lapses into his overly complex way of explaining something, he is frequently met with cries of, "In English, Eugene!"
The imaginary characters that Trent dreams up in The Present Long Ago, all of which are spoofs of real life TV personalities
Id: Arnold Schwarzenbanger
Ego: Bill Crosby
Superego: Detective Colimbo
Prayer Is a Last Resort: The show did the "Atheist in the Foxhole" storyline twice, in one case with Cryin' Brian Dern (who gave in and prayed for his life) and once with Leonard Meltsner (who didn't). Interestingly, the writers were much more critical of Dern for his moral cowardice than Meltsner.
Put on a Bus: Eugene, after his voice actor left the show, supposedly due to "creative differences." The actor and character have since returned.
Jared DeWhite, which actually turned out to be a plot device in the Novacom Saga. The Bus Came Back.
Also, minor villain and CorruptPolitician Philip Glossman was written out as having been forced to resign due to a scandal involving a racial slur targeting the Japanese. The decision came after Glossman's voice, frequent Odyssey writer Paul McCusker leaving for a position in London. TheBusCameBack; though as Glossman managed to turn up at the state Department of Transportation and finally as part of a crew with the Environmental '''Detection''' Agency before leaving for good when his character was arrested at the end of the Blackgaard/Darkness Before Dawn saga.
Readings Are Off the Scale: Whenever something went wrong with the Imagination Station, which always happened when someone was in it.
Recycled IN SPACE!: "Passages, part I & II" and the novel spinoffs. Children from Odyssey are transported to a parallel Earth, where biblical history from our world is repeating itself against a different setting (kind of like Narnia without the mythological creatures).
Renaissance Man: Whit: soldier, NSA consultant, businessman, resident theologian, archeologist, encyclopedia publisher, computer, neurology, and engineering (and whatever other subjects are required to build a working Imagination Station) genius, and the maker of the best sundaes in the county.
Road Movie: Or the radio version thereof, with Bernard and Eugene. The trip was a bit of Real Life Writes the Plot, as the actor who voiced Whit has suddenly died and the arc was created to give writers and directors enough time to retool the show.
Later, a road trip plot arc was given to Connie and Joanne.
Running Gag: Connie's complaints about being the last person to learn of something big happening in Odyssey.
She's Not My Girlfriend: Genderflipped; during "A Class Reenactment," Mandy Straussberg spends almost all of her time saying this about Trent who, ironically, actually will end up marrying her in the future.
Those Two Guys: Odyssey's resident Large Ham Edwin Blackgaard and assistant Walter Shakespeare (also an example of Fat and Skinny). The episode Odyssey Sings is the only episode where Shakespeare appears without Edwin Blackgaard.
Tuxedo and Martini: Averted in most cases for Mitch (FBI) and Jason/Whit (NSA). Although Jason is quite good at doing James Bond-y one liners.
Vengeance Feels Empty: In the episode "Waylaid in the Windy City, Part 2" Wit gives a Crowning Moment Of Awesome speech to Richard Maxwell about the futility of revenge, focusing on how how pursuing revenge will harm Richard. Keep in mind that this is while Richard has the man who ruined his life at gunpoint.
Don't you understand that when you go out for revenge, you've got to dig two graves! One for the person you're after and one for yourself! Richard, there's no such thing as revenge, not really. It never replaces what you lost. It never restores. It doesn't even satisfy. You're out of the detention center now. You've got you're whole life ahead of you! Now please, give me the gun!
Villain Episode: Rodney Rathbone once starred in and narrated his own episode.
Virtual Ghost: Dr. Blackgaard as a rogue Imagination station program.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Monica did several jobs for Novacom, including infiltrating the Missions Board to steal a disk from Jason, mentally seducing him, and threatening to kill his friend, because she bought the story that their technology was going to be used to help the handicapped, like her brother.
Where the Heck is Odyssey: It's probably somewhere in the eastern Midwest area (it's east of Iowa, west of Chicago, and north of the Mason-Dixon), the clues do not get any more specific.
You Are Not Ready: Whit to Connie and Eugene in the first episode with the secret computer (Mabel) room, with full Adam and Eve and the Forbidden Fruit-analogy.
This was in the episode "A Bite of Applesauce" in the album "Daring Deeds, Sinister Schemes".
Year Inside, Hour Outside: Most of the Imagination Station adventures fall into this trope (anyone inside can go through large periods of time in history; but leave with little time having passed outside).
Your Mind Makes It Real: the Imagination Station, the Room Of Consequences, and the Transmuter. They all run according the rule that govern the Star Trek holodeck: it is perfectly safe until it isn't.