Hello readers, I’d like you to meet Focus on the Family. F.O.T.F was a childhood friend of mine and old schoolmate. F.O.T.F, these are my readers, excellent blokes, they have put up with my ramblings for quite some time. Here, I’ll let you two get more acquainted.
Well, as he said, I am Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization dedicated to making clean media and books for the entire family. With my movies, documentaries, books, magazines, and audio dramas I strive to bring the family together by teaching valuable lessons. What about you? What do you do for a living? … (That would be your turn to answer. Go on. Don’t be shy. Just be you).
What about your family, how many siblings do you have? …. Interesting. You seem like a very nice person, Jared is lucky to have you as a reader.
Well, I’m back. I know you’re probably wondering how Focus on the Family and I ever became friends in the first place. Well, it’s a bit of a long story, but my family has, for as long as I can recall, listened to an audio series called “Adventures In Odyssey”. This audio drama series has become a part of my life. With over 60 volumes of 12 or so episodes each, there is a nigh endless wealth of amusement for the long drives which my family has so often.
I have grown up with the series, with the characters. Alex Jefferson and Richard Maxwell were my heroes as a child; I loved it. As I grew older, I noticed the professional quality of the voice actors, many of which you would recognize from old Disney animated classics, “Fox and the Hound”, “Robin Hood”, “Bambi”, and so on. The talents of Will Ryan, Walker Edminston, Alan Young, Earl Boen, Dave Madden, Hal Smith, and Katie Leigh were what really brought this series to life.
Many of those names are big names in the voice-over world, Alan Young had is own television show and a tv series called “Mr. Ed”, about a talking horse. Hal Smith has hundreds of credits to his name, but notably he is Otis, the town drunk from “The Andy Griffith Show”.
Many of these people were inspirations to me growing up, to have that voice, that inflection. Adventures In Odyssey was part of growing up, more than that, the stories the series told inspired my to write stories of my own. AIO was one of the first exposures I had to brilliant storytelling, I’m still pulling ideas from them that were used in stories from years back.
Up until two or three years ago, I could’ve said that Adventures In Odyssey was the best long running audio drama of all time… Up until two years ago. Then, like all long running series, the older voice actors began to die off and others moved out. The cycle used to be seamless, to add a character in place of another, or to transition one in and another out. Back then, you loved the characters for who they were and the fact that they were normal and believable. Many of them I thought were actual, real people and not just voices.
Used to, the transitions weren’t forced. They didn’t used to have to explain themselves, why they were there and how they got there. It was always assumed that whoever came in had always been around just not heard from. Then, the producers took Odyssey down a politically correct track, adding a hispanic family, a politically correct world, and realistic world problems. They don’t get it. Odyssey was great because it was a world where we could get away from our problems, not one that just brought up our problems again so that we could be reminded of them.
The characters now are nearly completely different from the ones that were there just a few short years ago. They feel forced, awkward, plastic, and entirely stupid. The situations are ridiculous, the main spiritual character who used to be utterly outspoken about his beliefs, when faced with spiritual situations now laughs them off and dances around touchy subjects.
The figures that kids used to look to for council, wisdom, or even just a laugh are now too confused and messed up with problems of their own to give good advice. The secrets that only the audience knew, the ones that made them feel important and added a suspense element to the series… Well, they’ve been exposed and destroyed.
The epic characters have left, the funny characters have become stupid, the wise characters are now just old and weird. This is not what a good story looks like. To top it all off, they have now a main character who must’ve been born of the devil himself to destroy this inspirational series. A high-pitched, ultra-annoying half-wit character who has, in my opinion, singlehandedly wrecked what remained of the series intelligence levels. The seasoned actors voicing beloved characters try desperately to salvage some sensibility, but I fear the producers and scriptwriters have carried the show too far to save.
There are times I wish they would make an episode where the town gets blown up and then end the series there. The way they have changed this beloved series has ruined my childhood. I feel like I have to lower my intelligence to listen to the episodes now. Plus, their target audience is younger children and pre-teens, most of their premises go over their heads completely… Marriage counseling? No 9 year old cares about marriage couseling, yet they destroy characters by putting them into these situations just for the content’s sake.
I say all of this with the utmost respect for what the series once was. I aim no hostility at the voice actors, it is the producers and scriptwriters who have let me down. I still listen to and enjoy the former episodes, they are still not outdated and I encourage you to look them up, you might really enjoy them.
Okay, I’m done. I would like to encourage you, to learn from these innumerable mistakes. A story needs an ending, and I’m afraid AIO will never get one. The world of Odyssey has outlived its time and the producers refuse to accept that. Every step they take ruins its glorious history a little more. Your characters are one of the strongest appeals you have as a writer. Don’t compromise them for anyone’s sake and please, please do not acquiesce to political correctness even one inch.
The world of your story is one the reader escapes into to leave the troubles of their own. Don’t create a world that magnifies the problems the world is already facing.
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist