Welcome to Just Another AIO Blog, a site that is dedicated to the popular radio drama Adventures in Odyssey. We provide news, reviews on the latest episodes, articles, features, and we also are home to Adventures in Connellsville, a unique look at the town next to Odyssey through book form, We also provide a U.S.S. Response page that gets updated every other day. This page provides a response to recent comments on The Soda Shop Message Boards. And just recently, we started a unique Adventures in Odyssey podcast: called JAAIOP, or Just Another AIO Podcast. Feel free to post comments or subscribe to this site by email or with Google Friend Connect. Thank you!

Alex Jefferson, creator and operator of Just Another AIO Blog

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Episode Review: The Ties That Bind 10/12/14

     (Note: This is my review of an album that has not fully aired yet, so there will obviously be some pretty heavy spoilers.  Don't say you haven't been warned.)

     There are ostensibly four different types of AIO episodes that fans can classify: slice-of-life (the most common), action-adventure/mystery (the most consistently praised), drama (the ones everyone in general loves, but sometimes they cause you to shift uncomfortably, wondering whether to laugh or cry), and the Whit's inventions/Kid's Radio/Bible/Historical/Whatever (the ones that everyone skipped over as a young kid, but love now).  I call the action-adventure/mystery the most consistently praised because it's the truth.  The "dramas" might be the most inspirational or spiritually fulfilling, but, then again, you never really hear about an AIO fan bragging about how they listened to the entire Eugene and Katrina relationship saga in one day like you would with Novacom or Blackgaard.  The truth is, the "action-adventure" tag is one of AIO's most profitable.  And for good reason, too.  All four of the "major" action sagas have been intriguing, suspenseful, deep, though-provoking, well-plotted and well-acted.  Though really, in AIO's case, the term "action-adventure" is a bit misleading, because when you think about it, AIO's "action-adventure" is James Bond's "romantic comedy."  Because of the constraints of a radio drama as well as the creator's beliefs about violence in entertainment, there's always very, very little genuine action in AIO, even in the episodes that are clearly labeled "action-adventure."  Still, AIO's new album "The Ties That Bind" is an all-time low in action quantity, even by AIO standards.  Whereas Blackgaard had burnt-down barns and castles, as well as electrical stunners, beat-up kids and blown-up tunnels, and Novacom had dead fathers, human slavery and world domination, and even the usually tame Eugene and His Father Saga had a broken vase here and there (or, in GRC's case, a broken cell phone), "The Ties That Bind" feels lacking in all these things.  True, Whit passes out, and true, Wooton's house gets burned down, and true, Buck gets beaten up, but two out of three of these things have nothing to do with "the bad guys" as the action in the other four sagas did.  I'd like to emphasize that I don't think this lack of action is a bad thing at all; in fact it's a very good thing.  I appreciate that AIO is making an effort to deviate from the "action-adventure" cliches that they're "supposed to" put in.  And please don't think that my low rating of this album is due to me being some sort of Hollywood lover who wants more fights and explosions.  Perhaps I shouldn't have opened the review up like this at all, but I thought it was an interesting observation that deserved to be made.
     I shall officially start off the review with all the positive things I have to say about the album, for it is by no stretch of the imagination a complete failure. To start off, I absolutely love the fact that AIO is addressing the issue of marriage, and what it means in our modern society. They did it very tactfully (since this is AIO, nothing was explicity stated, though it's obviously meant to be a good springboard for parents to talk to their kids about these issues, which it succeeds beautifully at), but it's still probably the gutsiest thing they've done since "Pamela Has A Problem." It's an issue that needs to be addressed, but a lot of children's programs are too scared to address, so bravo to AIO for stepping up.  In general, I have to say that the whole Mrs. Adelaide/Let's Get Together Festival is the only storyline on the whole album that I enjoyed all the way through.  I have an eensy-teensy problem with the storyline involving her brother, but I'll get to that in the negatives.  The last couple scenes with Randall and Whit were probably the best scenes on the whole album, and the only time I ever really felt any sort of emotion while listening to it.  Having Jules back is a nice surprise as well, as I didn't expect her to be back until - oh, what am I saying, I didn't expect her to be back ever.  She really is one of the greatest post-hiatus characters, because I feel she's the first character AIO has ever made who actually represents what the "stereotypical teenager" at the time would be.  And she had some great character development throughout the whole thing.  I know that if she ever comes back, the writers will probably turn her into some sort of "new Connie," but even if she does become a Christian and the sweet little girl Connie seems to think she is, I for one hope she never completely loses that teenage edge.  It's what makes her character.  I also loved hearing from Harlow Doyle again, even if he wasn't quite in top-form comedy wise.  Still, not quite top-form Harlow is better than the bottom-form Wooton the writers have been feeding us for the past four years (Darnit, I'm already getting into negatives.).  That brings me to Wooton's cousin.  I personally liked him, at least for the first several episodes.  It's odd.  In many ways he's a lot like Wooton, but he's unlike Wooton in just as many.  He's actually a bit more complex than what I first gave him credit for, and even if I don't totally like the way they wrapped up his storyline, I still wouldn't mind hearing from him again.  It's great to see Olivia and Jay around, even if they played pretty small parts.  Olivia is really starting to grow on me, even if she is just another Lucy  Her little speech about marriage was surprisingly mature.  Jay is his usual self, which is of course great, as no one would want him to be anything else.  As for Camilla's new voice, I don't really see what everyone's complaining about.  To be perfectly honest, I like it better than the old one.  It almost gives her a completely different character, a character I prefer.
     Alright, now on to the negatives.  Sorry the positive paragraph was short and mostly involving the characters that I like, but this album wasn't really my favorite.  I'd like to start off the negatives by copying a Soda Shop post from Arkan Dreamwalker (with all due respect).

Jules came back! Eugene & Katrina adopting Buck! The Jones & Parker Detective agency with Harlow! Wooton proposing edto Penny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
As you can see, the usually reserved and decorous Arkán is "fanning out". 
*whew* *pant*

     Mr. Dreamwalker's post summarizes how a lot of AIO fans (who have heard the whole thing) feel about the new album.  And I don't disagree with them at all.  It's amazing to see Eugene and Katrina adopt Buck or to see Wooton propose to Penny.  But I guess I just feel like this is all the stuff that the fans wrote to the producers about on the Official Podcast, all the letters that we never expected Paul McCusker would listen to when we wrote them.  It feels like AIO are going out of their way to give the fans "exactly what they want" after they gave them "exactly what they didn't want" in Album 55, what with Mitch getting married and Eugene and Katrina not being able to have children.  So I guess you could call this AIO's "apology" for Album 55.  But the thing is, AIO didn't need to apologize for arguably their greatest album in a long time.  Of course that's just my opinion, but I always thought it was the producers' opinion too, what with all the schtick about "having children would change Eugene's character too much." In fact, as a semi-new SS user called TigerShadow pointed out in the Album 58 discussion topic, the writers mock themselves through Wooton's fan Q & A at Comic Connellsville by having him say that Captain Absolutely having a love interest would "change his character too much."  So perhaps this means that the writers have changed their minds about Wooton and Penny and/or Eugene and Katrina and now want to throw at their fans everything they've asked for.  But maybe the writers were right.  Because while I don't believe that Buck's constant presence would have anything but positive effects on a character like Katrina, I'm wondering what kind of effects being a dad will have on Eugene.  It could be great, sure, but it could also be the straw that broke the camel's back for his beloved intellectualism.  This may seem like an odd opinion, but if you think about it, Eugene has become less and less like his old self wih each new album.  The big words and scientific thinking show up occasionally - but they usually feel forced, as if it's what Eugene is supposed to say, as opposed to the classically genuine intellectual rants of albums gone by.  I personally liked it when Eugene would rant for hours about the life cycle of the gnat.  Like it or not, that's his distinguishing feature as a character.  It's obviously not his only feature, but without it, he becomes almost like a younger version of Whit or Jason.  I feel similarly about Wooton and Penny, though that probably won't be quite so bad.   However, it would be much, much worse for the writers to simply tease the fans by promising a marriage out of nowhere at the end of a saga and then not fulfilling that promise in the the next album.  So *heavy sigh* it seems Wooton and Penny will just have to get married.  Oh, well.  As long as AIO handles it right.  I mean, as cool as the idea of a bunch of mini-Wootons bouncing around Odyssey is, I feel like it would get exhausting after a while.  But really, none of this has happened yet, and I'm basically just complaining about hypothetical situations, so I won't consider this paragraph a "negative" one.  Just some of my thoughts on the potentials for negative character development that this saga brought with it.  Or perhaps think of it as a plea to the producers of AIO: PLEASE DON'T COMPLETELY CHANGE EUGENE'S CHARACTER LIKE YOU SAID YOU WOULDN'T!!
     Anyway... *ahem* on to the official negatives, which actually starts with a positive, that positive being that, like most fans, I really liked the first episode.  It set the whole story up rather nicely, and I was curious to see where it would meander off to from there.  It was what prompted me to blow 15 bucks on the digital download, so it was obviously pretty intriguing.  I expected things to unfold at a pretty quick pace from there, but was surprised to find the story moving as slow as an inchworm.  Every single darn scene was just another conversation about something or other, and though most of the conversations were interesting at first, it got extremely tiresome when very little seemed to be actually happening.  In fact, this may sound completely crazy (it probably is), I believe that you might be able to listen to just the first two parts of the saga and the last two parts of the saga in that order without really missing that much of the meat of the story.  I don't recommend doing this, but I don't think anyone would be super confused by the end, assuming that they had someone condense the 10 parts in between into a 30-second synopsis.  I would like to clarify that I am not at all against Odyssey doing long story archs.  I think it's a fantastic idea, one that they should try again soon.  But whereas GRC was constantly moving, that is, it felt like each part was leading up to a big finish, The Ties That Bind kind of plateaus after the first two parts and never really picks up steam again until Mrs. Adelaide's brother dies, the only event that is an exception to my complaints in this paragraph.  And the events that are meant to be dramatic and story saving feel, unlike GRC's earth-shattering events, forced and unnecessary.  These include: Whit passing out, Wooton's house getting burned down and/or broken into.  I'm almost tempted to add "Wooton proposing to Penny," but that is somewhat exciting and doesn't really deserve to be criticized, even if it was a completely random way to end the album.  I was especially disappointed at the ridiculously anti-climatic "who burned down Wooton's house" scene at the end.  Hadley is a pretty good character, to be sure, but it's just insulting to the fans to explain a pretty monumental moment in the saga as a stupid accident by Wooton's cousin.  I don't think AIO has ever done anything like that before, and, though it was certainly a bit of a surprise, it wasn't a nice surprise.  
   I'll spend this paragraph going over all the smaller aspects of The Ties That Bind that bugged me.  Sorry I'm such a pessimist, guys. :) AIO have always been masters at coming up with convincing, unique villains for their sagas.  Not so, here, however.  I mean, to be perfectly frank, are we expected to get a sinister vibe from a middle school bully playing comic book nerd?  I guess it would've been fine if they had played it light, but Vance and Jules seem to take themselves so seriously that it's nearly as laughable as the comics they're stealing.  I suppose that from Part 1, I was expecting some big scheme from Vance and Jules, possibly relating to the Let's Get Together Festival.  Instead, it relates entirely to Wooton's storyline, which I never found particularly interesting anyway.  The Soda Shop was abuzz about who the Perilous Pen was, and the majority (rightly, I might add) said it would be Jules.  Someone piped in and said that Jules couldn't be the Perilous Pen, because that would be far too predictable for Odyssey.  I forgot who said this, but I believe the AIO writers would be wise to take their advice.  Predictability in Odyssey occurs occasionally in minor two-part mysteries and such, but I believe we can all agree it has never really turned up in a major saga like this.  And when you consider that the Perilous Pen's identity was really the only mysterious aspect AIO had going, it's a pretty bad move on their part.  Even making someone like Hugo Wells or Dee Grant the PP would've been more satisfying, for the sole reason that those are the people you'd expect to be PP.  it'd certainly be refreshing for a mystery's culprit to be the one we did expect to have done it.  I mean, that'd be unexpected, right? ;)  The AIO team tried their best to raise no suspicion for Jules, and, in doing so, they increased suspicion in huge amounts, essentially ruining the mystery aspect of the 14-parter.  It was great to see Buck back again of course, but I felt he was almost a little too perfect.  He was basically the down-home country nice boy, which is great for him as a person, but makes for an almost obnoxious character.  I would've rather seen a character who did his best to do the right thing and ultimately did, but struggled with some inner demons along the way.  Also, it's quite obvious that... Um, he didn't really do anything.  He was just kind of there just to be there.  For this album at least, his purpose was basically to fulfill fan letters.  Nevertheless, I hope he sticks around and AIO gives him a bigger role In the future,  The pointless storyline with Jay and the movie set was similar, obviously a desperate effort to involve Jay, a very popular character, (and rightly so) in the story.  Now, on to the only problem I have with the Let's Get Together storyline.  It's actually a pretty small one, but I feel it's worth mentioning.  The storyline of Mrs. Adelaide and her brother so closely paralleled that of Duncan Mathis and Monica Stone that it felt less like a nod to the past and more like AIO running out of ideas.  It doesn't take away from the power of the story, but it's worth mentioning.  Finally, I got a constant feeling of disconnect between the stories.  The only two that they actually combined (at least, in the GRC way of intertwining stories) were Jules's storyline and Wooton's.  You could say that Camilla's and Buck's were connected too, but I felt that Camilla was more of an extension to Buck's storyline.
   I suppose what it boils down to is that I don't understand exactly what genre AIO is marketing The Ties That Bind with.  Action-Adventure? No, there's not enough action (or adventure, for that matter) to slap that label on.  Comedy?  Too much drama and (in a seemingly contradictory statement that actually makes at least a little bit of sense) action.  Drama?  Maybe some parts, but the overall feel is somewhat light-hearted, and the fact that there's a couple of mystery elements sets it apart from, say, the drama of Eugene and Katrina's dating years.  Slice of life?  A little too out there (and long) to be considered a reflection of normal life. And it obviously won't fit into historical, inventions, story, or Kid's Radio genres.  Thus, it seems that The Ties That Bind has singlehandedly created a new AIO genre.  We'll call it: The Action-Adventure Comedy Drama Slice of Life AIO Genre.  And while that idea may sound somewhat interesting on paper, it translates to a pretty messy 14-parter.  I'm sorry, Paul McCusker, I respect you enormously as a writer and you are obviously the single biggest influence this show has ever had, but this saga has nothing on GRC.  It's disappointing, and I know you could have fleshed it out a little more.  For that reason and all the others I gave, The Ties That Bind is truly AIO's first saga that was a half-fauilure.

The Ties That Bind Rating: 6/10

     Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Episode Review: No Chemistry Whatsoever 9/1/13

     Installment 12 of AIC is up!  You should read it too, whether or not you follow AIC.  There's a fun surprise at the end.  In the meantime, however, I will be reviewing last week's episode...

     "No Chemistry Whatsoever" is an episode full of contradictions.  The A-side of the episode (Connie's chemistry class, which is extremely alliterative and fun to say), contradictory to almost every other episode with two stories, is worse than the B-side.  Penny has risen to become a major character since GRC, but her pointless role in this episode contradicts that.  The moral of Connie's experience contradicts the moral that's slapped on the episode description.  It's such contradictions like these that make it a confusing episode.  The parts you expected to be satisfying (Penny, the idea of Eugene teaching Connie chemistry) wind up unsatisfying, and the parts you expected to be unsatisfying (Barret and a seemingly cliche storyline surrounding him) wind up satisfying. 
     For the first couple scenes, everything was going as planned: Penny's song was fairly amusing if a bit awkward, Eugene was shaping up to be an interesting chemistry teacher, and Barret's storyline seemed like filler.  Then, around the time of her presentation that turned her hair blonde, I stopped caring about Connie's predicament, because her behavior was, in essence, another contradiction.  She seemed to be failing the class on purpose, but she still complained about it to Whit.  I didn't understand Connie's behavior at all until later in the episode, and even that explanation has its flaws.  That storyline had lost me, so I began to pay more attention to Barret in his dilemma.
     There was also a turning point in that storyline that made me pay attention to it.  It was probably around the time he explained his plan of memorizing ridiculously short verses to Olivia.  We've seen Odyssians try to take the easy way out before, but this was regarding the Bible, making it a bit more serious.  I was actually amused by Barret's plan, and eagerly awaited what would come of it.  Olivia seems to be the new Lucy in that she tries to steer her male friends out of trouble (Remember Isaac and Curt?).  This is a good role for her, and she works well as a "goody two-shoes".  The story continued to captivate me until the very end, and it's one of the few times in recent memory where I've really enjoyed a slice-of-life story starring kids (of course, there's "The Friend Formula", but that's next week).
    Meanwhile, I only half paid attention to Connie's predicament, but I did catch the scene with her and Eugene, where the real reason for Connie's lack of excitement was explained: Eugene, her friend and rival at the same time, was in a position of authority over her.  Connie had to humble herself and admit Eugene was better than her in this subject, something no one really wants to do.  That's the reason I'm confused about the moral: "The value of hard work"?  I can see it with Barret of course, but I personally don't believe Connie's problem was laziness.  The scene with Eugene proved that.  This is yet another contradiction, and it makes me all the more confused.
     Ultimately, I'll split this review in half: Barret's storyline, the B-side, gets an 8/10.  Connie's storyline, the A-side, gets a 5/10.  What's the average of 8 and 5?  Just a little over 6/10.  This episode was quite surprising, and the surprises weren't always good.  It benefited from a great B-side storyline, but the rest of the episode leaved a lot to be desired. 

     No Chemistry Whatsoever Rating: 6/10

     Don't forget to check out the new AIC!
     Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The 100 Greatest AIO Episodes Of All Time (In My Opinion)

     Well guys, I've finally completed it.  It was quite a grand project, and I hope some of you at least sort of agree with it.  What is it, you ask?  Why, The 100 Greatest AIO Episodes of All Time!  I will be writing a quick paragraph for #10 - #1 on why the episode deserves to be in the top 10.  So, without further ado, here they are, in order, from the 100th Greatest Episode to the Greatest:

 #100: Relatively Annoying

#99: Into Temptation

#98: Prequels of Love

#97: License To Deprive

#96: Tom For Mayor

#95: Secrets

#94: Opportunity Knocks

#93: War of the Words

#92: The Top Floor

#91: A New Era

#90: Telamachus

#89: First-Hand Experience

#88: The Imagination Station, Revisited

#87: The Jubilee Singers

#86: Last In a Long Line

#85: Odyssey Sings!

#84: Two Sides To Every Story

#83: Prisoners of Fear

#82: The Chosen One

#81: Plan B: Resistance

#80: Truth, Trivia, and ‘Trina

#79: A Prayer For George Barcaly

#78: I Want My B-TV!

#77: Sheep’s Clothing

#76: The Return

#75: Coming Of Age

#74: Red Herring

#73: The Highest Stakes

#72: Hold Up!

#71: Sergeant York

#70: Always

#69: It Is Well

#68: Over the Airwaves

#67: A Lamb’s Tale

#66: A Bite of Applesauce

#65: Broken Window

#64: The Painting

#63: The Turning Point

#62: My Girl Hallie

#61: The Labyrinth

#60: My Fair Bernard

#59: Tornado!

#58: Living In the Gray

#57: The Pact

#56: The Visitors

#55: First Love

#54: Pokenberry Falls, R.F.D.

#53: Top This!

#52: Thank You, God

#51: It Happened At Four Corners

#50: The Triangled Web

#49: Hidden In My Heart

#48: Something Blue

#47: A Question About Tasha

#46: License To Drive

#45: A Most Intriguing Question/A Most Surprising Answer/A Most Extraordinary Conclusion

#44: Love Is In the Air

#43. For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls

#42: The Twilife Zone

#41: I Slap Floor

#40: Two Friends and a Truck

#39: A Touch of Healing

#38: Connie Comes To Town

#37: Aloha, Oy!

#36: It’s a Pokenberry Christmas!

#35: Suspicious Minds

#34: The Search For Whit

#33: Sunday Morning Scramble

#32: Plan B: Collision Course

#31: The Underground Railroad

#30: Castles and Cauldrons

#29: Exit

#28: Karen

#27: A Name, Not A Number

#26: The Perfect Witness

#25: The Mysterious Stranger

#24: Unto Us A Child Is Born

#23: Back to Bethlehem

#22: The Battle

#21: The Triangle

#20: Greater Love

#19: Clara

#18: No Way Out/No Way In

#17: Gone/…But Not Forgotten

#16: Recollections

#15: Where Is Thy Sting?

#14: The Nemesis

#13: Waylaid In the Windy City

#12: A Lesson From Mike

#11: The Imagination Station

#10: Someone To Watch Over Me: It's just, in general, a classic staple of the brilliance of early AIO.  It combines action, heart, spirituality, and a constant sense of adventure in a mind-boggling melting pot of beauty.  It's my favorite Jimmy episode of all time and I think many would agree it deserves to be here.

#9: Do Or Diet: This may come as a shock to some, as "Do Or Diet" seems to be a very minor episode at first.  It's a simple comedy with a simple plot and few characters.  It's mismashed with all the other episodes from that season, and it's not built to stand out.  But it achieves its purpose (to entertain and amuse) far better than any comedy AIO has ever produced.  It's Kathy Werienga's crown jewel as a writer, and it deserves the Top 10.

#8: Connie: Fairly self-explanatory, I suppose.  Connie had only been around Odyssey for about a year at this time, but her conversion is extremely powerful nonetheless, and the flashback scenes are done extremely well.  But who can forget Eugene's appearance in the episode as well?  Strangely enough, my favorite scene of the episode is Eugene's entrance into Whit's End.

#7: The Green Ring Conspiracy: This is probably the most shocking placement of all (except maybe the #1), but I wholeheartedly believe it's a masterpiece, just like Darkness Before Dawn and Novacom.  Except there's one difference: DBD and Novacom weren't all one episode.  GRC is.  If it was split into different episodes, do you think I would place any of them this high?  Heck, no.  But when looked at as a complete package, GRC is a truly fascinating web of intrigue and suspense.  Almost like a psychological thriller in that it has no action, but manages to seem suspenseful the entire time.

#6: The Case of the Secret Room: Again, pretty self-explanatory.  It's the first true AIO mystery, and easily the best.  The story itself is well known to all AIO fans, and there are enough twists and turns to keep first-time listeners guessing.  But, of course, the greatest line of the show is one word: "Whitake-rrr".

#5: The Final Conflict: This deserves to be here because of the tunnel scene with Blackgaard and Jack alone.  Probably in the top 3 scenes of all time.  I also love how they picked off each villain before it was just Blackgaard left.  The highlight of the DBD saga, and the 2nd best episode of the album.

#4: The Forgotten Deed: This'll come as a shocker as well, but I think it's a fantastic summary of everything Odyssey is, and, if the show were to ever end, it would be an even more fantastic ending episode.  The last scene still gives me goosebumps.  Overall, this deserves the #4 spot, and it's a rare work of art among the modern episodes (though I did say Album 50 was the greatest of all time).

#3: The Mortal Coil: Conceivably the most beautiful and complex episode in the entire AIO canon, this is a true tour de force of a drama, and a definite candidate for #1.  Walker Edminston's performance throughout the entire episode is amazing, and the subplot with Eugene is chilling yet beautiful.  Definitely #3 material.

#2: The Time Has Come: Another self-explanatory Top 10, though many of you are probably surprised it is not #1, and, if you didn't already see it, wondering what the heck #1 could be.  There isn't much to be said about "The Time Has Come" that hasn't been said already: it's the most powerful episode of all time.  But not the most inspirational.  That honor will be reserved for #1...

#1: Malachi’s Message: Every time I listen to this episode, I'm inspired to do something.  It will always set off a trigger that springs me to action. There's a transcendence about it: an angel visiting Odyssey.  It's the one of the only times when something supernatural occurs in the town, and it's written expertly by Paul McCusker.  The actor who plays Malachi (I forget his name, but I'm aware he's on Radio Theatre) is easily the greatest one-time actor the show has ever had.  The scenes with all the major characters in one room are not meant to be dramatic and powerful, but just hearing Whit, Connie, Eugene, Tom, Jack, Joanne, and Jason all in the same room is among the most powerful things AIO has ever done.  This is a beautifully mysterious, and mysteriously beautiful episode, and it is arguably the only genuine work of art AIO has ever produced.  This isn't to say it's the only great episode they've ever produced, but it's the only one that has crossed the line between entertaining life lessons and true art.

     Well, that's it.  If you read this post, please comment, because I really feel it's the biggest post I've ever made on this blog, and I'd like to hear all my readers' (if I even have any anymore) thoughts on this list.  I'm willing to edit it if you convince me I should, and I'd love to just get a second opinion.
     Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Episode Review: Your Servant Is Listening Pt. 2 8/17/13

     Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 of Your Servant Is Listening feel disjointed in a way.  There are many differences in the story: Hanna is in Pt. 1, Eli is in Pt. 2.  Samuel is a baby in Pt. 1, but a boy in Pt. 2.  And Lucia and Eva figure more prominently into Pt. 1, whereas Camilla is central in Pt. 2.  Disjointed two-parters are generally a bad thing, but in this case, I suppose it was nessecary and of course the stories were entwined together by several threads.
     The episode begins with a "Previously In Adventures in Odyssey" segment, which is often used as a filler when a Pt. 2 or Pt. 3 is too short, but this time it would seem its function is to compensate for a lack of commercial breaks in the radio version of this episode.  The first scene of Pt. 2 naturally begins where Pt. 2 left off: Eva and Lucia are about to get their throats slit because they won't give a temple priest their lamb sacrifice.  Blah, blah, blah.  As I said before, I didn't like the ending to Pt. 1, and I still don't really.  But the episode quickly moves on from there, and goes through all the events of the story according to Scripture.
     I believe the voice of Samuel is the same actor as the blind kid from "The Imagination Station, Revisited", though I can't be sure.  He always reminded me of Sam Johnson, but it can't be the same actor...  I will confess to a certain feeling of déjà vu with the Camilla-Samuel scenes.  It just seemed like AIO had done those kinds of exchanges before in previous IS episodes.  I did find the bit about Samuel telling Camilla to leave the tabernacle as Camilla constantly came back against her will slightly amusing, and that may be the first time any reviewer has ever used the word "amusing" to describe an "Imagination Station" episode.
     I would also like to commend whoever voiced God.  That was probably my favorite God/Jesus vocal in all of AIO.  It sent chills up and down my spine, and John Campbell's music was fantastic.  It was just in general a beautiful scene, probably my favorite of both episodes, and I hope it gets nominated for an Avery.  The final stretch of the episode is often depressing.  The Philistines attack, Eli's two sons die, the Ark of the Covenant is in enemy hands, and Eli drops dead from utter despair.  I think the writers handles these scenes quite well.
     I promised I would talk about the spiritual side of the episode last week, so... I'll keep that promise.  I think the two best spiritually inspiring scenes in the whole episode were Hanna's conversation with Camilla in Pt. 1 and God's conversation with Samuel in Pt. 2.  Unfortunately, Camilla's monologue about her new perspective on Christianity at the end didn't really move me, but I think it was overall a good spiritually-driven episode.
     So, was Pt. 2 as good as Pt. 1?  Yes.  Maybe even a bit better.  But Pt. 1 was not exactly the greatest IS adventure of all time, so that's not saying a ton.  There was nothing inherently wrong about this two-parter: it's a good, solid season premiere.  It just didn't seem quite as inspired as it could have.  It was stiff, but you could argue it was supposed to be.  I will point out a lot of good things in the episode, though: it was accurate and lined up with the Biblical version without being boring for those who know the story, it had a colorful collection of characters, and it had hints of humor and fun, two things these kinds of episodes aren't generally associated with.  Is it a masterpiece?  No.  But it doesn't need to be.

     Your Servant Is Listening Pt. 2 Rating: 8/10

     Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Episode Review: Your Servant Is Listening Pt. 1 8/10/13

     The interesting thing about the Imagination Station is that it has always, is always, and will always be the main invention at Whit's End.  The Room of Consequence, the Transmuter, the Inspiration Station, none of them had a chance at replacing the IS as Whit's crowning technological achievement.  The constant upgrades of the machine don't really mean anything, it's always the same station as it always was for the listener.  Dozens of characters have entered it, from Digger Digwillow to Dr. Blackgaard.  That's why an IS episode has become a bit of a cliche in the AIO world, and that's why I'm always skeptical of a new one.  The new episode always has to measure up to that first one where Digger met Jesus.  If it doesn't, and it's just a good episode, I feel a bit disappointed.  That's what happened with "The American Revelation" and "Bernard & Jeremiah", and I didn't want it to happen again with the season premiere of Album 57, an album I have high expectations for.
     That's why the first couple scenes made me doubt the episode's strengths, and dwell on it's weaknesses.  There where just too many things that seemed wrong.  Camilla has a new voice?  Since when is Lucia comic relief?  Do we have to have an episode where the only normal characters are the three worst parts of the Parker family?  But all these concerns were resolved in the final stretch of the episode.  It turns out, Camilla's new voice might be okay.  Lucia's constant jokes aren't that funny, but I guess I can deal with it.  David's actually the worst part of the Parker family; I kind of like these three.  This doesn't make the episode perfect, or the pesky annoyances at the beginning less annoying, but it improves my opinion of the episode.
     I think this is also the 1st time AIO has explored the story of Samuel in depth.  It's a good story, but I'm not sure it's the perfect one for Camilla's problem, considering her lack of faith problem could be resolved early on, when God answers Hanna's prayer.  But, I will give points for having a kid actually discuss their faith (or, in this case, lack of it) with adults.  That hasn't happened in a while, and I was hoping it would.  The kids of Odyssey are often portrayed as normal Christian preteens, not questioning Christianity but not always talking about it (Seth Young is the obvious exception).  So to have one of the kids have a crisis of faith is, well, refreshing.
     Like many Nathan Hoobler episodes, the pace of "Your Servant Is Listening" rather fast.  There are no excess scenes, and everything moves along like it should.  This doesn't always work for certain episodes, but it certainly works here.  I like that the IS can just skip entire years.  It's obviously convenient, and works well for Hoobler's writing style.  The IS is so adaptable writers can tailor it for them.
     The acting was kind of hit or miss.  Eva stood out to me for the first time ever, and she seems she could be a great adult character if she's used enough.  Hanna was very believable and overall good.  Michaela Dean sounded a bit young for Camilla, and I wasn't extremely impressed with her performance overall.  Lucia is a character who's drifting farther and farther from my favorites list.  I haven't genuinely liked her in an episode since her first one, "Grandma's Visit".  I almost feel she's just cluttering up the IS, and I don't like the idea of more than two people entering the Imagination Station in the first place.  The sound design was spot-on as usual in historical episodes, and the music, while not anything incredibly special, fit the mood just fine.
     As far as the spiritual side of the episode, I think I'll have to wait for Pt. 2 to give my final verdict. I enjoyed Hanna's conversation with Camilla, but I'm not sure whether I'll be moved spiritually in Pt. 2 or not.  The story of Samuel has plenty of potential for these things, and I'm eager to see Camilla's dramatic epiphany.  I will say I didn't particularly like the last scene.  Obviously, Phineas is not going to kill Lucia and Eva, and it seemed like a half-hearted attempt to have a dramatic ending.  But overall, it's a good Pt. 1.

     Your Servant Is Listening Pt. 1 Rating: 7/10

     Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pound Foolish Wisdom #4 6/30/13

     I have been saved once again from writing a post by the amazing PF.  Here is his latest Pound Foolish Wisdom... this time on a character I don't have a whole lot to say on... Barret.  Savor his eloquent musings...

                Pound Foolish Wisdom

               Where AIO Characters Are Put Beneath the Microscope

#4:  Barrett
When it comes to fiction, the little guys are the big guys.
Side characters leaven a story to perfection. Who do we remember from Macbeth? Not Macbeth, Lady Macbeth. Tintin? The Thompsons. The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe? Tumnus, yet he barely gets any lines.
The reason is we like them, so we want to see more of them. But the key is we’re denied that. We catch only glimpses, and so they become like beautiful sea shells. We can’t have the entire beach in our room, but shells give us crumbs of a much greater beauty.
But if a sibling were to take a box of beach sand into our room to make a sand castle on our floor, we would be… well, displeased. A box of sand would be more of the beach than a shell, but still we would… maybe get a little grumpy. Okay, we’d pull our hair, say some rather nasty things, yell for our parents, and then storm downstairs and write in our diary how horrible our sibling is.
The magic of shells is that they’re only crumbs of the beach.
Therein lies the balance. It can be difficult to turn a side-character into the main character. In general, it’s best not to attempt it. (Remember Cars2, starring Mater? If you’d managed to forget, I apologize for reminding you.)
Barrett is one of those characters who started as a shell. But now he’s grown. Is he beautiful beach, or a bunch of messy sand in your room?
We first met Barrett in album 51, Game for a Mystery. This episode has taken some online abuse. People always find something to complain about in it.
The mystery’s too complicated. The mystery’s too simple. Emily’s voice is too childish. Emily’s voice doesn’t sound enough like a child. Matthew is too uninvolved. Matthew is too involved.
Now, frankly, these arguments are like clean shoes and a mud puddle. They cannot coexist. People may dislike the episode, but reviewers have yet to hit on a concrete problem with it.
Except one:
You don’t care about Barrett getting his game back.
However, this is only a problem… if Barrett’s the one you’re supposed to latch onto. He’s not. Emily is the star of the episode. What detective with a love of questions wouldn’t be interested in finding something missing? And so, the missing game matters to her. And she matters to us.
Barrett is, after all, a side-character at first.
 In, When You’re Right, You’re Right, Barrett, without a great and glorious “Verminoids” fetish to panic over, comes off as more mature. He has a good line or two: “I’m sure she loved it. Make her eat the whole bowl.”  In his birthday song for Priscilla, he’s still buffoonish, but on purpose. This, subtly developing him, shows us he can be funny on purpose but still be the same person.
Next stop, Stage Fright. Ah, by now, we’ve come to know Barrett. The charming actor, the remarkable singer, the smooth flirt… wait, what!?
In many ways, Barrett acts not at all like himself in this episode. Barrett was none of these things until now. Yes, we heard him practicing the trombone a bit, but why is he suddenly so good at singing? Lessons from Selena Gomez?
Also, Priscilla flirts with Barrett in a coquettish voice. Priscilla is either “Knee Deep in Love” or her “Wells Fargo Wagon” has gone around the bend. And one can almost see Barrett’s romantic smile when he says, “Charm is locked and loaded, Miss Adelaide.” It’s a wonder our romantic Emily didn’t put on a cheerleader outfit and hop and down yelling, “Yay, Barrett, make ’er swoon!”
But all that rather throws out the buildup we’ve had till now of Barrett the Bumbling Blunderbuss. But not entirely. Barrett, after-all, is a scaredy cat in this episode. He’s still a buffoon, just a buffoon with talent and a girl who adores him. So, Barrett is developed in this episode into someone more relatable and rounded. Well played, Kirby Atkins, McCusker and Dave Arnold.
Barrett is back to his silly self in the thought-provoking slice-of-life episode Opposite Day and the entertaining, The Malted Milkball Falcon, with amusing results.
But then trumpets, The Amazing Loser. Emily is apparently off spying on people with binoculars in a tree or something, Barrett is now a full-fledged protagonist on his own. But do we care? The show tries to make us focus on his rivalry with Jay, but since Matthew’s the one who solves all the clues, Barrett’s really competing against Matthew. And what would be so bad about Matthew beating Barrett?
Then comes, Unbecoming Jay. This well written episode feels like a black-and-white movie classic rewritten to star kids. It has all the subtlety and emotion, and lack thereof, of a Cary Grant film, and for that, it earned an impressive, “91.4” Odyssey Wiki fan-rating. At the center of it all is Barrett, the witty Barrett, the pleasant Barrett, the… huh? Now, where did this come from? In this episode, Barrett gently cracks a number of quick little jokes, making Jay’s cousin Cindy, and the listener, laugh.
Who are you, and what’ve you done with Barrett?
Are you the same guy who yelled, “I’m proud of you for admitting that you have a problem!”? Are you the same person who said, “Your flute playing was very… flute like.”? Since when do you easily know what to say?
We all like this episode, but what’s up with Barrett?
Then comes his latest appearance, his first three-parter, For Three Dollars More. And his metamorphosis is complete. Now, the tables have turned! Now we can see Matthew be absurd, with his rat-disease inflicted Katrina! Come see Connie spontaneously program the ROC (how exactly did she do that?) to absurdly make a bank explode. But is Barrett absurd? Oh heck no.
Barrett? Absurd? Never.
Instead, he’s frustrated how absurd everyone else is. And where is all the humor he had in his last episode? Does he see any of the hilarity in his situation? Does he try to make even one joke? Oh no, he’s just mad. And don’t forget, there’s more! Whoopy! Whit teaches Barrett a lesson by making us listen to him as a grouchy, stingy miser for ten minutes. Oh joy.
Some months ago, a commenter on the AIO podcast said something like, “Does Barrett have a personality? He seems to have a different one with every episode.” I chuckled, ignored it and forgot it. I can’t even remember who said it. Now, we can see the commenter was right.
This isn’t to say Barrett is a bad character. Barrett is a fairly good character. All his appearances, even Three Dollars, are enjoyable on their own. Some are unforgettable.
But put together, they’re problematic. Barrett is glaringly inconsistent. First he’s just plain nuts. Then he’s a talented musician with a girl who adores him. Then he’s a clever joke-making gentleman. Then he’s mature but grouchy and never makes a single joke.
Those are facts.
And Barrett will have to deal with them if he’s to endure.
It’s shape up time, Barrett. Or else, get back in your sister’s shadow, and be a side-character again. You must either be a lovely shell or a beach. But if you’re going to be messy sand in our room, hit the road. We hate vacuuming.

     Bravo!  Bravo, Mr. Foolish!  I do hope you enjoyed that.  It's certainly longer and more complete than anything I could do. (Unless I spent more time on my articles.  Hey! that's an idea.  I'll make a note of it.)
     Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


     So... I half fulfilled the promise I made yesterday.  No review, but I do have a new AIC out: Installment 11.  I may or may not be able to write the review of "The Nemesis" tomorrow, but I hope so.  Anyway, I hope you're at least a little satisfied with just an AIC.  The series is starting to head into slightly darker territory with the Brothers and a new character called "The Shadow", so let me know if it's getting too dark for you.  Anyway, that's it.
     Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

AIO Article: Top 5 Reasons Why Wooton Must Change 6/25/13

     Yes, yes, that's right.  I'm not dead.  And neither is JAAIOB.  I have made three promises involving JAAIOB to myself:

     1. Before this blog ends, I will finish AIC (I'm not telling you when it ends, but I will say it's soon).

     2. Before this blog ends, I will release the Top 100 AIO Episodes of All Time List I talked about earlier.

     3. Before this blog ends, I will review all 12 episodes of Album 57.

     PF recently dubbed this blog "Just Another Silent Black Hole".  And he's right.  But he also claims that Wooton has been greater than ever since the relaunch.  And he's wrong.  Or at least, that's what this post is trying to prove.  So here it is, the Top 5 Reasons Why Wooton Must Change...

     #5: He's lost much of his spirituality.

     Many have pointed out that Wooton never bothered to ask Penny if she was a Christian when he became romantically involved with her.  This is true, but it's only part of the reason why I believe he's lost his spirituality.  When is the last time Wooton explicitly referenced God or Jesus?  You know, it might have been in "The Highest Stakes", which was, what, 7 albums ago?  I believe he's mentioned praying once in the post-50 episodes he's in, but I'm not sure that quite counts.  I have no problem with Wooton not mentioning God in every episode he's in.  He doesn't need to.  In fact, I have no problem with Wooton mentioning God in every album he's in.  But in a Christian radio drama, particularly when he used to be a very Christian character, it is a bit unacceptable.  I don't believe AIO itself is lacking in spirituality, but the character of Wooton certainly is. 

     #4: He doesn't play a large-enough role in enough episodes.

     Lately, Wooton has not exactly been involved in the plot of his episodes.  He's certainly been involved in the episodes themselves, but as far as the plot, he could be taken out of the whole episode with little to no effect.  Take "Opposite Day".  What is Wooton's purpose?  To talk to Barret about social networking, right?  Well, I believe, in that particular episode, Whit talked to Barret as well about social networking, and warned him of the dangers of obsessing over it. Wooton did that a bit as well, but Whit did it better.  If Wooton was removed, the only thing that would be removed with him is airtime.  The plot would go along just as smoothly.  Airtime is really the key here, obviously.  What is Wooton now?  Filler.  This is the case for several other recent episodes: "Target of the Week", "Anger Mismanagement", "Something Old, Something New", "Home Again".  Shall I go on?  It's fine if the guy is a minor role in a few episodes, he just needs to be a major role in a few episodes as well.

     #3: His jokes are not as... good.

     I suppose I could've come up with a better word than "good", but whatever...  Anyway, humor is a matter of opinion.  That's true.  But, as I will say in Reason #2, the general consensus is that Wooton's humor is far more juvenile than before.  For examples, read my review of "Happy Hunting".

     #2: More people think he was better before the hiatus than after.

     This is self-explanatory.  Now... PF, and apparently his siblings as well, are exceptions, but on message boards, blogs, and basically anywhere where AIO fans meet, complaints about the "new Wooton" are quite common.  There aren't as many "Wooton Lovers" as there were 4 or 5 years ago, and AIO isn't reading off letters praising Wooton on OAIOP anymore.

     #1: He was such a phenomenal character before.

     This is the real reason, the #1 reason that we have a right to complain.  Honestly, my complaints have more to do with the character Wooton was before than who he is now.  He was ridiculous,. he was kind, caring, purposefully goofy, spiritual, clever, likeable, wise, spiritual, and, more than anything... hilarious.  Those are the things we loved about him before, and most of them are basically absent.  Or perhaps not absent, but just not done in the right way.  He was goofy before, but now he's too goofy.  He wasn't really supposed to be a cartoon character.  He deserves to be multidimensional.  Like he was... before.

     I'll hopefully have a review and an AIC out tomorrow.
     Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

1st Anniversary

     Well guys, it's been a year.  I still remember the day I started this blog.  I had attempted to start a couple AIO sites before, but this one seemed different.  I think it was the right time to start it.  It was the dawn of summer, a new message board had popped up, and I felt I knew enough about AIO to start an AIO site.  And though I realize my blog is not the most popular AIO blog, nor even the best, I believe it to be special in its own way.  I'm curious to see where it will go next.  Well, that's it.
     Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

And Update (And an AIC) 5/18/13

     Gosh, haven't heard from me in a while, have you?  I figured I'd squeeze in a couple more posts before I go on my epic, 5-week trip throughout June.  But anyway, I will be writing a new AIC and posting it today.  I'm not sure if anyone cares about it anymore, but I'd like to finish the series before... before it's too late.  Also, if I can find a better computer, better recording software, better microphones, and a better idea, I might think about releasing Episode 3 of JAAIOP (that basically means the podcast is done for).  In all honesty, since I'm writing an AIC, I really do not want to write a review.  It would probably be sloppy.  But I will try to write one more review before I leave.  Until then, I'm Alex Jefferson, and this is... an update.  Don't forget to check out the new AIC.
     Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

AIO Article: Whit vs. Tom vs. Jack 4/9/13

     I'm sorry I haven't been posting regularly, but I had company last week and I was really sick this weekend, so I kept forgetting about this thing.  But, I'm back, at least for the moment, with an interesting AIO Article...

     Elderly people are fascinating.  There's something mysterious about them, as if they know some massive secret that no one else knows, or they have generations of wisdom locked inside their minds that they won't show anyone.  Each elderly person has many quirks and oddities, but, at heart, they all have the same basic traits: a constant devotion to the past, occasional irritability, (this is for a variety of reasons) and a love for their own children and grandchildren (if they have any).  They also don't have any fondness for 21st Century appliances.  If the entire world were populated by old people, smartphone companies would go out of business.  And yet, elderly people are more experienced than us in many, many ways.  The same goes in Odyssey.

     And so, that brings me to the point of this article.  I simply put in that introduction in order to give a complex definition of old people, so you might understand the article better.  The real purpose of the article is to debate the three main elderly people of Odyssey: Whit Tom, and Jack.  I could add Bernard to the list, but he's never come across as an old man to me.  Maybe he hangs around Wooton too much...  Anyway, unlike what many other bloggers would do, I'm not, at the end of this article, simply going to say: "Well, all of these characters are good in their own special ways, so I just can't decide who's the best."  Oh, no no no no no no.  I'm going to decide a winner.  I will rate them all in several different categories and add up all their points.  Here goes...

     Elderlyness -- This is basically whether or not the characters follow the traits I laid out earlier for elderly people.  Old characters should either be really out of character (like Whit, who's basically a ninja in a space suit) or in character without being too stereotyped (like Tom).  In the case of Whit, he's not really supposed to in general act like an old man, so, in this category, he's out.  Tom is a stubborn farmer who's always saying his back hurts.  Very elderly.  Jack is a wise, for the most part unadventurous man who loves antiques.  So overall, it's a race between Jack and Tom.  But in my book, Tom wins.  Why?  He's just more of an old man!

     Wisdom: -- This is pretty obvious.  Advice-giving skills, quick desicion-making, ability to remain calm.  Once again, one of these characters seems to be lacking in a couple of these things: Tom.  I don't believe I need an explanation, if you've heard even 5 episodes with Tom.  Whit and Jack are both superior when it comes to wisdom.  Whit has been giving advice since the early days, and Jack has proved himself useful as a beacon of wisdom as well.  Ultimately, though Whit doesn't really fall short in his advice-giving, Jack's is slightly superior.  He also can be cool under fire, and demonstrate many other wise desicions.  There are those who disagree with me, but I give the Wisdom category to Jack by a thin margin.

     Warmth: -- Old men must be warm and friendly as well.  The characterestic of a grandfather is something the kids of Odyssey look to in Whit, Jack, and Tom.  All of them deliver, but I think it's obvious Whit has a clear edge in this category because of his unfailing friendly nature.  I will give it to him.

     Complexity: -- Now the score is tied up, and this last category will produce a clear winner.  All characters must be complex, and the elderly are no exception.  All 3 of these characters are good in this category, so it's difficult to tell who excels the most.  Whit is an ice cream shop owner, an inventor, an adventurer, a spy, a grandfather, and a strong Christian at the same time.  Jack can be willing or unwilling to accept adventure depending on his mood, and he and his wife somehow maintain a happy marriage despite the fact that they have vastly different personalities.  He also is involved in many Odyssey sagas, despite his contemplative nature.  Tom is a cowboy and a farmer, as well as a former mayor and business owner.  He's stubborn yet sensitive, and, despite all this, he loves kids.  Any of these could take home the prize of "Best Old Man" just because of this category, but I suppose, for Complexity, it should be given to... (I am having a horse race in my head between Whit and Tom now... yes, I should have decided who would win before I started writing.) Tom.

     Are you surprised?  Well, you'll get over it.
     Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekly Feature 3/24/13

     Yup, yup, the weekly feature's back.  I'm beginning to see it was a mistake to limit myself to just news and reviews, so I'm bringing both the Weekly Feature and the AIO Article back from extinction. 
     Today I will be giving you the "Top 5 Worst AIO Characters of All Time".  The only stipulation I have for the characters is that they have to have appeared in more than one episode (one-time characters don't count as "characters" in my book).  Enjoy...

     #5: Mary Hopkins -- This name might come across as a bit of a surprise, but I've always considered Miss Hopkins one of the driest AIO characters in the show's history.  She came in as the owner of "Mary's Story Shop" and preceded to become Whit's new "boss" as the one overseeing the construction of the new Whit's End Connellsville.  This lady had almost no distinct qualities or traits about her: she was an old lady, almost always whining about another problem that Whit's End Connellsville faced.  Fans had to put up with her for 6 episodes (4 of them from the Danger Signals album, which was almost completely spoiled by her presence, along with the episode "Snow Day") and, though not everyone disliked her, she has often been cited as a weak character.

     #4: Cody Carper: I don't really know what it was about this kid, but something always got on my nerves.  He just seemed so... boring.  Once again, there was nothing special that stood out to me about him.  Basically, he popped up out of nowhere (like all the other kids on AIO back then) in "The Pushover". 
That episode is often cited as a low point in Marshall Younger's usually excellent writing skills, and Cody's appearance was one of the main reasons why it is panned.  Also, no offense to Dave Arnold's son Landon, but I never thought they got a very good actor to play this already dreadful character.  In my opinion, Landon did a better job as Scrub, another relatively weak character.  Thankfully, Cody's life on AIO was a short one, but I cringe every time I hear his voice come up again.

     #3: Heather (whatever her last name is): Ugh... I don't think there's a single good thing about this character.  She's extremely inconsistent, openly obnoxious, and just bad on multiple levels.  If you're wondering what I mean by "inconsistent", I shall tell you.  I don't know if it's just her hormones, but Heather seems to have drastic personality changes.  In "Poor Loser" and "A Lesson From Mike", she comes across as a whiny, if well-meaning, pre-teen girl.  In "More Like Alicia", she acts like an unpopular yet kind, insecure person.  In "You Win Some, You Lose Some", she's simply a bully.  Finally, in "Chores No More", she's an organized, determined leader who doesn't always have the greatest ideas.  For a character who was only in 5 episodes, that's a lot of personalities.  I could go on about her voice and her shallowness as a character, but that's enough for now.

     #2: Valerie Swanson:
     Possibly the most shallow AIO character of all time, (well, maybe Rodney beats her, but at least he was funny) Valerie is almost universally disliked by AIO fans.  On message boards, people like T.S. (Myself) are vocal Valerie haters, and I agree with them.  Valerie has never shown anything special that previous bullies like Rodney didn't have, except good looks.  She has often played "the bad guy" in the story, and, generally, the listener is supposed to want the good guy to win and the bad guy to lose.  Instead, however, in Valerie episodes, I simply want the bad guy to leave Odyssey forever and I don't care if the good guy wins or not.  She also possibly has more cringe-worthy lines than any other AIO character, and her presence has poisoned many episodes, such as "You're Two Kind" and "Anger Mismanagement".

     #1: Edith Sutton: Hahaha, yes.  I know many people are going to disagree with me on this, but I do have a couple reasons for my decision.  I don't actually believe Miss Sutton would've been such a terrible character if she had had a crush on anyone else but Whit.  Because Whit is the soul of the show: the main character, the ultimate asset, the Cat in the Hat of AIO, and Connie and Eugene are Sally and Conrad.  So, having some old lady come in and try to steal this beloved character's heart (though she does fail at it) is infuriating to any AIO fan.  Many have overlooked this character because she only appeared in two episodes, but she still should always be remembered as a mistake on AIO's part.  I have never found "Edith" to be amusing, and I hope that most true fans wouldn't find her amusing either.  Almost everything about her, from her voice to her behavior, is obnoxious and flawed.  The concept of her character is too ridiculous for AIO, and all the scenes she was in were very awkward for me.  Her role in "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" was thankfully only a small one, but it still put a damper on the episode.  And in "Broken-Armed and Dangerous", she was completely unnecessary, only there because the writers wanted her to be.  Every time she came on the scene, I just wanted her to go away.  And that's the sign of a bad character.

     Well, that's it.  I actually have no doubt you disagree with me, but... I have my reasons.  I hope you enjoyed that feature, and I look forward to writing another one!  Until next time, I'm Alex Jefferson telling you to be on the lookout for more JAAIOB posts!  (And possibly more AICs)
     Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

AIO News 3/17/13

     It feels  like it's been a while since I've done a regular news post. I guess the last 3 posts were kind of random, as I was still getting used to blogging regularly. I shall now be writing my first news post in over 2 months, using the same style I used once back in January. But before I get started, I'd just like to show you guys the cover for Album 57 (though you've probably already seen it, since it's been out for about a week) before I forget and it gets too late.


     Sorry it's just a link to another site, but I'm actually typing this on an iPad, and I can't post the actual image. Oh, well. Here's the news...

     Hello, I'm Alex Jefferson, coming at you live from... An organization.  I would tell you what this organization is called, but unfortunately... we don't know.  Not entirely, that is.  Apparently the title has two words, and we have received word that one of them (the 2nd one) is "More", but no one will tell us what the first word is.  So, as is tradition at this station, we will simply refer to the 1st word as "Something".  However, as it bothers me to refer to a distinguished organization as "Something More", I will try to discover the actual 1st word. So, I will call then and ask what the 1st word of their organization is.  I will, in a manner of speaking, make "A Call To Something More".  And it's interesting I should be doing this right now, because "A Call To Something More" is also the one thing that is in the minds of AIO fans everywhere.
     Album 57, "A Call To Something More" looks as if it might be the best AIO album since "The Best Small Town".  The title seems to suggest AIO will be taking a more serious approach to making episodes (not that they weren't serious before, but you know what I mean) as opposed to the often comedic approach of the past several albums.  The episode that's getting fans most excited is the three-parter "Life Expectancy".  It looks as if this episode could be a medical drama in the tradition of "A Touch of Healing" and "A New Era", but nothing is known for certain.  The cover art appears to be drawn from this episode, as it depicts Connie sitting amongst artifacts from her family life, referencing Bill Kendall's role in the episode.  "Life Expectancy" is also the episode Get In the Show! Winner Shona Kennedy will appear in.  The episode is written and directed by Paul McCusker, and is expected to be broadcasted this fall, with the rest of album 57.  Another episode announced for this album is "The Friend Formula".  This is a one-parter written and directed by Bob Hoose, and, as far as we can tell, it will be a slice of life show with Olivia, Barrett, and Jay.  Album 57 looks like it could be a very exciting album, and I myself can't wait for it.
     Anyway, I can't seem to get through to "Something More", so I'll try again later.  Until next time, I'm Alex Jefferson, and -- wait!  They're finally calling me back!  (Pause as I listen to the phone) Okay.  Apparently the first word of the organization is "Listen".  "Listen More" is an organization advocating for people to listen to Christian radio dramas more.  But they'll never succeed.  Everyone knows any type of radio drama is too old-fashioned for our modern world...  Television and video games are much healthier for the ears.  But anyway, I'm Alex Jefferson, and thank you for listening.  Come join us next time on... AIO News!

     Hopefully I'll have some more Album 56 reviews out soon.  For now, one of my main priorities is the 100 Greatest AIO Episodes List, which I've been working pretty hard on.  I might start AlC again if anyone still cares about it, but features like The USS Response might be pretty much over.  I hope that post was long and meaty enough for you, and I look forward to writing my next one!  Oh, and I forgot to say this earlier, so I guess I'll just say it now -- Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone!  Though the phrase "Go Green!" Is generally used for the environment, I suppose it can be said on St. Patrick's Day as well.
     Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

AIO Article: The Trash Bucket 9/25/12

     I just realized that I actually didn't have 100 posts, because one of my posts was a draft.  About 6 months ago, I started an article called "The Trash Bucket", but never finished it.  Apparently, Blogger counted this as an actual post, and so they said I had one more post than I actually did.  And so, in order to actually have 100 posts and not have to write a whole lot, I resurrected unfinished piece of writing from the JAAIOB vault, and now I shall release it to the public.  I would finish it, but, first of all: it would take a while, but also, it is, in a way, a part of my blog history, and it would seem wrong to finish it now, after 6 months of forgetting it.  So, here is the article from the "Trash Bucket" of drafts...  (You can just pretend this is the 99th post and the post entitled #100 is the 100th, by the way...)

     I felt I should really do an article today, but I wasn't sure what it should be about. So I actually looked at the Wikipedia article on Adventures in Odyssey and was shocked to find it was not very comprehensive. But that's beside the point. Anyway, I looked at the article and found no inspiration, but I saw the name Walker Edminston in the actors list and decided to click to see what his Wikipedia page contained. It wasn't too big either, but remembering how the Odyssey team dealt with Walker's death inspired me to do an article on why characters are dumped altogether.
     Also, I will be releasing on Sunday: (a) A very special Intereview, (b) A new AIC (finally), and (c) Possibly Ep. 1 of JAAIOP. So that'll be a busy day to close September off. But for now, I just have an article...

     Bernard, Tom, Bart, June, Cal, Alex, Isaac, and the entire Washington family. What do these characters have in common? All were dumped in, as I call it, 'The Trash Bucket'.
     The trash bucket is the black hole, the well, the point of no return. Many characters have gone there, both kid and adult alike. These characters just dropped off the face of the earth with no explanation whatsoever.
     I believe that, for the most part, AIO handles almost everything perfectly. But dropping characters falls into the 'not so perfect' element of AIO. Though the Barcalys goodbye was brilliant, many other characters just left, and new 'citizens' came in to take their place. In this article, I'll give you some prime exampls of this:

     Bernard: Bernard was in 87 episodes, quite a few for an AIO character. He was one of Odyssey's beloved characters, beating almost all other characters in popularity. Dave Madden did an excellent job as him, but, I'm sorry to say, he made his last appearence in The Triangeld Web, though he stuck around for a live show that I haven't even heard. What's the deal? I understand that Dave Madden is in, as Wikipedia put it, 'semi-retirement', but they could have at least said something about him, like that he went away to Florida as Dave Madden did.


     Well, here we are at the 100th post.  Exciting, isn't it?  It certainly took me a while to get here...  I suppose it wouldn't have taken so long if I had posted every day like I did in July...  But I'm rambling...

     Anyway, I hope you're at least just a tiny bit excited at this anniversary, because, when you think about it, most AIO blogs don't get to 100 posts.  And, though I am fully aware my blog hasn't reached the greatness and popularity of "The Odyssey Scoop", "The Ceiling Fan", and "The AIO Blog/Blogcast", I still consider it to be a relatively successful achievement of mine, and I'm happy I started it.  However, I also believe that "The Golden Age of JAAIOB" (meaning in June, July, and August, in my peak of creativity and posting) is all but over, and it is conceivable that I will end this thing this summer.  Just keep reading.  Anyway, that's about all I'm going to say.  I did appreciate the comments on last post, by the way.  I really wasn't expecting comments, considering I had been on a two-month hiatus.  Thank you.
     And thanks for reading!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Um... Hello Again!

     I hesitated to make a new post because I didn't believe anyone would read it, since I've been gone so long. But, if there's any incredibly loyal follower of JAAIOB (though I frankly don't think there is) who's been checking every week, searching in vain for a post that just won't arrive, your efforts have paid off: I have returned, though I'm not making any promises to post every day, every other day, or even every week.  But, I believe that the two-month hiatus JAAIOB just experienced will be the longest break it will have in a very long time.  I have toyed around the idea of ending this blog, but have decided not to, at least not until its 1st Anniversary in May.  So, for now, it's business as usual.
     I am pleased to say this is my 99th post, and I will be having a bit of a commemoration of this blog and AIO in general on my 100th post. (Nothing big of course, just a little mini-ceremony).  For now, all future ideas for this blog are being put on hold, except one that I've had in my head for a while and have decided to bring to life: a list of the best AIO episodes. Now, before you jump to conclusions, I will tell you right now this isn't some "Top 10 AIO Episodes" list.  If it works out the way I hope it will, this will be a "Top 100 AIO Episodes of All Time" list.  I think I will choose the episodes for this list myself, and present it to some trustworthy, dedicated AIO fans in our online community.  This list will take a very long time to compile, so expect it to come, at the absolute least amount of time, within the next month.  I am also temporarily putting a stop to the AIO Articles I normally have 2 days a week, as well as the Weekly Feature.  For now, I shall only have news and reviews.  I realize this is a disappointment to many of you, but I simply don't have a whole lot of time to keep this blog up.  Perhaps in the summer...
     I have nothing left to say.
     Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

AIO News 1/5/13

     Well, it's a new year, everyone! I'm sorry about the 16 Days of Christmas, I suppose you at least got a few Christmasy posts from me.  But, I will now be starting fresh with a new AIC that will most definitely come next week, as well as constant reviews of Album 56.  As for the podcast and the USS Response, their fate is now uncertain, as I'm not sure I will be able to run the podcast, and I'm leaving SS tomorrow. But, as I haven't done a news post in a while, I figured it was time to present some... new news.  What I mean by new is that I shall be expanding on the idea of Alex Jefferson reporting, and I will put him in different situations each news report that have something to do with the news, just to make news even more fun for readers...

     Hello, I'm Alex Jefferson, reporting at you live from the Family Friendly Art Gallery, a delightful establishment run by the illustrious Mr. Glover Gillicudy.  Gillicudy is a father of seven children, and a good one at that, but he also is a huge painting enthusiast.  In particular, he loves portraits of other famous families.  He says that, "The purpose of me lil' art gallery is to educate our youngins' on the importance of hartwork, but present this hartwork in a... family friendly manner."  And Mr. Gillicudy seems to be succeeding in this, as many families have flocked to the recently opened gallery: The Washington family, the Barcaly family, the Jacobs family, and many families from the dusted off series known to all AIO fans as Family Portraits.  And what better place to announce the release of the original Family Portraits collection than in an art gallery filled to the brim with portraits of families?
     Anyway, in case you don't know, the 13 episodes included in the Family Portraits collection were released in 1987 as a pilot series to a bigger drama, a drama we now know as Adventures In Odyssey.  And now, for the first time ever, these episodes will be released from the vault and put on Disney DVD - I mean, AIO CD.  For more information on Family Portraits, check out Whitsend.org.  That's about it for now.  If you need me, I'll be looking at a portrait of the Lincoln family.  Until then, I'm Alex Jefferson, and this is... AIO News!

     I apologize if the "Family Friendly Art Gallery" thing was overdone, but this new news format will take a bit to get used to. I will have another Top 5 list tomorrow, so keep watch.  And, as a last word before I wrap up this post: It's good to be back.
     Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

AIO Article: Pound Foolish Wisdom #3 12/16/12

     I apologize for not posting the last two days.  I'm afraid blogging was not my highest priority.  But, PF saved me yet again with a new Pound Foolish Wisdom.  It's not Christmas-themed, but... eh, who cares?  But before I get to PF's article, allow me to write a short introduction to it...

     Magazine and website articles are often made to sway the reader's view on things.  This is not the case with newspaper articles, as newspaper articles are boring little things that are "fair and balanced".  I actually enjoy reading the newspaper, but not because I think it's great writing.  Articles on the other hand, can be rich of information and opinionated at the same time, and that's what makes them so great.
     And there are some articles that don't make a dent in the public's view on a certain subject.  These articles are weak and void of meaning and good writing.  I am embarrassed to say that I have written some articles such as this on this blog, mostly because I was in a rush, or I didn't really know what my opinion was on a particular subject.  But either way, those kind of articles do nothing to sway anyone's opinion or even give information on something.
    But there are other articles that do stir things up just a bit, and do change the someone's view on a subject just a bit.  I believe I can safely say I have written a couple of these as well.  These articles could be considered merely "good" or "average", as they're certainly not bad and certainly not fantastic.
     And, finally, there are those articles that might cause an earthquake, metaphorically speaking of course.  These articles are so brilliantly written that they can sway a reader's opinion on a particular subject, even if they give both sides of the argument.  These articles can cause a good or bad effect, depending on what the writer's stance on an issue is.  I can also safely say that I haven't written a single one of these kinds of articles.  But I believe PF has.
     Now, you may be wondering where this intro is going.  It hasn't mentioned the article yet at all, and I apologize for that; I will get right to the point now.  This article might be PF's best yet, though admittedly the Liz one could arguably be his best.  I will tell you right now that this article is on Emily.  For all you Emily-haters out there, prepare to have your view on Emily changed forever.  Well, if you are a really stubborn Emily-hater, this article may not change your view completely, but it sure makes a good argument for the brilliance of Emily's character.  So I will now present you with: an article that could cause an earthquake.  (Metaphorically speaking, of course)


          Pound Foolish Wisdom

               Where AIO Characters Are Put Beneath the Microscope

#3:  Emily
     In Defense of Goin’

“Some characters…. Won’t do much, and they fade out of the strip. Others, like Snoopy, just take off, and will do anything. These are the characters that stay.”
Charles Schulz, the Peanuts Golden Collection

    Such a character is Emily. She can do anything. She behaves terrifically, recklessly, then sadly and humbly regrets it. And, one of the most amazing moments of Emily is… she giggles lovingly with Buck… then, with a clearing of her throat, assumes a business manner of authority as she begins her case of Buck’s missing phone.
    Some months ago, I made this remark (here it’s a bit shortened):
    "I'm a bit sad as I find that so many AIO Soda Shop Board Members look down on Emily. She is charming and wonderful. The very things so many despise about her are the things that make her amazing: her passion, her boldness, her incredible natural talent for knowledge and deduction, her forcefulness, yes, even her rudeness. Emily is all that a woman should be, and possibly the best role-model of all the female characters in the show today. YES, she is forceful. YES, she outspoken. YES, she speaks her mind. And that is what a female should be.I cannot say it passionately enough. Thank you, AIO, for Emily Jones."
Mr. Thinker – err, that’s a pet name my friend “Suzylou” came up with for CreativeThinker101, aka “Alex Jefferson.” You know, the guy who runs this awesome blog. Anyhow, here’s a bit from an article he wrote, in which he used my remark to represent the side for Emily, and then tried to debunk it:

     “Sorry Pound, but I think your hearing aid needs to be adjusted. (No offense, if you're reading this! :) Emily is by no means the best of the new child characters… And I wouldn't call Emily 'naturally talented'… a small sense of deduction does not mean you are at the same level as Mozart. And in episodes like 'Game For A Mystery' and 'Stage Fright', she almost seems to just stumble upon the solution without doing a whole lot to solve the case. And she even got the wrong culprit in 'The Malted Milkball Falcon'. For someone who's a naturally talented detective, that's bad.) And you said that Emily was rude, so how does that make her the best role-model?
     Emily is very complex. She is stubborn, bossy, ambitious, perceptive, helpful, and a normal girl all at the same time. I like that AIO has an incredibly complex character, and I like that we get to see a lot of different sides of Emily. But her voice is rather annoying, and all that complexity gets to be too much. And so, Emily is my least favorite AIO kid character, though she's not too horrible.”
     Oh, did you notice he said she’s “not too horrible”? Isn’t Mr. Thinker so kind? Anyhow…
     The debate, as all you Soda Shoppers know, rages on. Mostly, it has evolved into a ridiculous everlasting showdown of shamelessly absurd remarks and fake insults. On a whim, I formed the club  E.R.K. on the Soda Shop. (the Emily RULES! Klub.) Which led to… well, mayhem, including a barrage of people starting their own “Emily Klubs” as they unsurprisingly came to be called, particularly the E.S.K. (Emily Stinks Klub) and both E.R.K. and E.S.K.  now have their own separate, independent site!  http://emilyrulesklub.wordpress.com/ http://emilystinks.webs.com/
      Months later, E.R.K. and E.S.K. are still consistently towards the top of the first page of the Character forum.

     The battle still rages and new miniature character wars, about Mitch and Camilla, are springing up, but so far nothing has challenged the Emily monstrosity that reigns continuously over the character section. But this is all just the tip of the iceberg. Just about every single big AIO blog has snapped at Emily, revised their opinion of Emily, and praised Emily, and condemned Emily to death. Everyone, for some reason, has something to say about Emily (!):
     “In previous episodes, such as "Stage Fright" and "The Malted Milkball Falcon", she's been the bossy, know-it-all. I'm surprised she didn't flaunt her test results in front of everyone's faces or tell Matthew or Barrett they could be as smart as she was if only they worked a little harder. And yet, today's episode takes the stronger and more attractive sides of her personality--her dedication, her willingness to persevere--and combines it with a dash of much needed humility, giving someone I could easily empathize with for 25 minutes.”

Ben Warren in a review of Emily’s first title-episode, Emily the Genius
“… disliking Emily Jones (She grows on me)…”

The Josh and Ally Company, Out of Control in Odyssey
“…to me, Emily Jones has been the most annoying new character. This episode made me change my mind about her. She was embarrassed by all the attention she was getting for being a "genius" and then when she was told that she wasn't, she brushed it off and took the advanced placement test anyway. I really admire that in a person.”

Odyssey Thoughts
So, why all the controversy? Just what exactly makes people get so insanely and irreversibly opinionated about Emily, with others lost in the middle unsure what to think?

      Before we answer that question, we must understand Emily herself.
     How mysterious Emily is. She falls in love and giggles, then clears her throat and calmly sets about piecing together clues and investigating. She bosses Matthew around, yet values him as her best friend and closest companion. She is everlastingly confident, yet doubts herself.
     Mr. Thinker complains she is “too complex.” SS moderator T.S. suggest we cannot understand her, cannot see where she is going, cannot piece together who she is or what God may wish for her.
     Nor can she. She is soul searching. Wandering. Are we meant to understand Emily? Or is she to be mysterious, (an interesting idea, since then, her cases could be seen as a metaphor for her own being.)     However, before we assume Emily to be impenetrable, let’s take a careful look at her. That’s my job with these, after all.
     One of the most basic, everyone-knows-this elements of making a character is there has to be something they want. They have to desire something. After all, it’s what we want that so often determines our destinies, and what we sometimes must sadly abandon when called in the opposite direction. So, what does Emily want?

1.    She wants love.
We know that from Buck and the lengths she went to maintain Matthew’s friendship. She goes about trying to make her peace with Matthew, desperately.
    Emily Hater Interruption: “But she blackmailed him!”
     Yes, but that’s the point. She did things she knew were unkind to get what was important to her heart. That’s how badly she wanted it. Now, I’ll conveniently move on.

2.    She wants meaning.
     As I said, T.S. once was wisely pointed out: “She is… like pieces of gravel or sand. I know that God must have a plan for her, that these pieces, however small, fit together to form a creation of determination and flame for God, but I cannot see how the pieces fit to form that being. I wonder whether Emily knows that that being could one day exist.”
     It’s true. She doesn’t know who she is. But she wants to. She needs significance. All she does can be seen as striving for significance. Every case, every time assertion of her opinion over another’s, every argument and bossy remark.  Every time she asserts herself. She wants to have direction. Purpose.
Emily Hater Interruption: “But all that means is she’s bossy! She’s out to control everyone! She’s overbearing to Matthew! She’s a BRAT! Argh.”
     No it doesn’t. Emily is seeking who she wants to be. She is trying to have an impact on the world. Her forcefulness shows her desire to head in particular direction. In her heart, she wants to make a difference. If you think she’s doing it the wrong way, fine. The point is she’s trying.

3.    She want to be heard
     She wants this so badly. She just can’t contain herself. Her own emotions and thoughts explode out of her. Her energy has to get out. She knows her opinions have worth and shouldn’t be ignored.
Emily Hater Interruption: “I  think they should be ignored!”
     I’ll ignore that.

4.    She wants to love
     Maybe tonight, true love will show-owww, under the mistletoe… sorry. Ahem. You may be rolling your eyes right now, but it’s true. Emily wants to show love to people. She doesn’t just do things for her own benefit. In fact, to quote myself (ahem) we “People accuse her of doing things for her own benefit, yet we never see her doing a deed that only she benefits from.”
    Emily Hater: “Yes we do! Who else benefits from all her griping!? Huh?”
     She thinks she’s right. She’s trying to fit the world into her view of perfect. Yes, mostly she just can’t shut up. But she does care about others.

     So, there’s Emily in a nutshell. She’s wandering. She doesn’t know who she is. She’s a growing, changing girl. Emily wants love, importance, other people to pay attention and know what she thinks, and she wants to love.
     Does that seem all that unlikable to you?
     If you really just can’t like Emily, then you just can’t. But maybe we just can’t get passed what at first seems brattishness and her “annoying” voice. Maybe we haven’t really tried to care about Emily. Maybe… dare we admit it… we’re not really listening to her?
     Emily is all a woman should be. Her rudeness is one of her ways of being strong. We aren’t meant to constrain ourselves. Emily dares to show us this.
     She’s Emily.
     In closing… how can I resist? Emily RULES!
 “She stinks! She stinks! You hear me!? STINKS I tell you!”
     Oh, shut up.
     My view on Emily was, in truth, not completely changed after reading this article.  I still think she has an obnoxious voice and attitude, but I can see her more clearly now.  I suppose that's the point of "putting AIO characters beneath the microscope": so you can see them clearer.  So that's it. 
     Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

JAAIOB 16 Days of Christmas: The Ideal AIO Christmas 12/12/12

     Ooh, I just noticed the date is 12/12/12!  This will be the last time in 89 years that the month, the day, and the year would all be the same, so I think this calls for a moment of silence in honor of those three beautiful 12s above you... *silence* 
     Okay, great.  After that completely random first paragraph, I shall get my post grounded back in reality with an AIO Christmas Article of... um, epic proportions...

     There have been many great AIO Christmas episodes: Gifts For Madge and Guy, Back To Bethlehem, Unto Us A Child Is Born, and Silent Night.  But I wonder... what would the perfect, the ideal AIO Christmas episode be?  In this article, I shall attempt to shape the ideal Christmas in AIO.  I will not include a plot, merely a theme, a cast of characters, and other information to make the perfect Christmas based on the success of past Christmas episodes.  I would like to give a challenge for all you readers: once I give you the info on the ideal Christmas episode, you can construct your own plot.  This doesn't have to be anything in-depth, just a basic plot that lines up with the info I have here.  If I get enough entries, I might even have a contest to see who has the best plot.  So comment below if you read this and write your plot!  And now, here is the info...

     Episode Title: (This is simply to give you a hint for what the plot should be, though it could be interpreted multiple ways) O, Christmas Three

     Characters: (In no particular order) Whit, Penny, Connie, Jay, Santa Claus, Eugene, Angel, Jason, Spencer Hicks

     Theme: True Christmas Spirit

     Writer(s): Paul McCusker, Nathan Hoobler

     Director: Nathan Hoobler

     Sound Designer: Chris Diehl

     Year: 2012

     Quality of Episode: 5 Stars

     Number of Parts: 2

     Music Composer: John Campbell

     Genre: Holiday/Drama/Comedy (It would have a bit of both)

     So, that's all the info I shall give.  Now it's up to you to write up a plot.  Just leave it in the comments...  For now, that's it.
     Thanks for reading!