Saturday, March 7, 2015

AMAZING! editorial by the AIO Update

The AIO Update has just released a great article about what AIO should do next. 
To see it at the AIO Update, click here, or read it below on this site:

Adventures in Odyssey
You’ve probably heard that Adventures in Odyssey is going to start producing albums with only six episodes instead of twelve. But you shouldn’t panic because they will still be releasing the same number of episodes a year, twelve through albums and twelve through the Odyssey Adventure Club, equalling twenty-four in total. The more frequent album releases at a lower cost will help to spread the word about the show to a greater audience. With two albums being produced every year instead of one, that means we’ll be getting twice as many album titles as we’ve had in the past couple years. Who knows if this change will be permanent, but in any case I thought this announcement about the future of album releases was a good opportunity to come up with a few of my own album ideas. You’ll find twenty of those ideas below, listed in no particular order.

1. Rules of Engagement

This album would focus on the relationship between Wooton and Penny, including a possible engagement, as they learn how to adjust their lives to each other. It could feature premarital counselling, perhaps with Pastor Juan Reyes, and deal more with God’s design for marriage and family, building on the foundation made in Album 58. The set would also look more generally at how to communicate with others and include examples such as the Meltsners and Buck Oliver, Connie and Jules Kendall, and any number of kids learning how to get along. Clashing personalities are not only entertaining for the purpose of drama, but they can also offer valuable lessons for listeners.

2. Tales of Mystery & Imagination

Tales of Mystery & Imagination is the title of a collection of works by 19th century American author Edgar Allen Poe. It features a few of his short stories, which can include some pretty scary stuff. And when you consider some of the classic mysteries that AIO has done in the past, such as The Case of the Secret Room and The Mysterious Stranger, they had some downright creepy moments as well. This album would get back to Odyssey’s roots with a truly chilling mystery—basically the farthest thing away from the unimpressive Album 51 episode Game for a Mystery. And of course, this show is also all about imagination, so the title of Poe’s book sounds like it was basically made for AIO. 

3. Crossroads

This package would have characters deciding what paths they want their lives to go down. Many would seek God’s will, and others might try to go their own way. For instance, Jay Smouse could take a big step towards being less of a bully and more of a genuine friend. He doesn’t have to lose his comedic side in the process, but he should make a choice not to manipulate others. On the other side of the equation, Vance King could take a big step towards becoming more of a criminal. And as Jay and Vance become further and further apart, there will undoubtedly be conflict between the two of them.

4. In the Presence of My Enemies

Psalm 23 describes the Lord as a shepherd leading you through the valley of the shadow of death. Verse 5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” This album would have the people of Odyssey encountering some nefarious characters who they come to view as their enemies. Those who trust in God will be comforted and won’t have to fear evil. But at the same time, these “enemies” shouldn’t be totally caricatured. Matthew 5:44 says to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I’m sure Mr. Whittaker will be able to explain how to do that even in difficult circumstances.

5. Driven to the Limit

This collection would explore situations in which frustration levels are high. This could easily be achieved with the Parkers. Grandmother Lucia is always close by, ready to get involved in whatever the family is up to, and has been known to be slightly overbearing. And of course there’s Eva’s sister, Rosalita, who would probably cause havoc if she ever returned to the show. Another family that would fit nicely into this scenario would be the Kendalls. Connie’s father Bill can be very frustrating because of his selfish attitude and at some point Connie and him will inevitably have another confrontation.

6. The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

This title is a paraphrase of the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, a novel set during the French Revolution. The album might look at some major event or situation which affects different characters in opposite ways, for better or for worse. Some people could be very frustrated with how things in their lives are going, while others could find life quite easy. Episodes would explore how both of these extremes have the potential to negatively impact one’s faith. This theme would also be the perfect opportunity for focusing on the various character foils in the show.

7. Counting the Cost

Is being a Christian worth it? Why would someone choose to limit themselves with religious rules? And if it’s impossible to be perfectly sinless, as God demands, what’s the point of trying? This package would explore these questions about the reason for following God. It would focus on examples of righteous people from the Old Testament who had to deny themselves and trust in God. They had to put God and his divine will first above all else, a very difficult decision to make, but one that would make all the difference. The prophets especially were persecuted for their unshakeable faith, which sometimes cost them their lives.

8. The Missing Link

In a possible follow-up to Counting the Cost, which would deal mostly with Old Testament characters, The Missing Link would move to the New Testament to further explore the reason for trusting in God. It would put the most emphasis on Jesus Christ and talk about how he is the center of the Christian faith. He brings salvation and is the cornerstone that the church is built on. This collection could explain the purpose and importance of Jesus’ mission, and maybe talk about how faith in Jesus is far different than any other religious system. Without Jesus, the missing link, we have nothing.

9. The Turn of the Tide

Album 55: The Deep End uses a water metaphor and so does Album 59: Taking the Plunge. So I think an album called The Turn of the Tide would fit perfectly into Adventures in Odyssey. It would deal with some changes in town. Connie’s love life, for instance, could develop. We heard Connie in the episode Something Old, Something New express her regret over her failed relationship with Robert Mitchell. Then in the episode Life Expectancy, her first love Jeff Lewis shows up and just so happens to have become a Christian since they last met. This album would allow Connie to move on in her life, which would involve making a decision whether to pursue a new relationship with Jeff, or put the possibility to rest once and for all.

10. Merry Adventures & Divine Comedies

The title of this set of episodes alludes to two works: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle and The Divine Comedy by Dante. Both works sound light-hearted by their titles, but actually involve some serious themes. The Divine Comedy is particularly dark and there’s nothing funny about it. Similarly, this album might appear humorous and carefree on the surface, but tackle important themes at the same time. A return of Hadley Bassett could work well here. He already brings comedy with him, but he’s also been known to get himself into some tight situations. In Album 58 he found himself broke and out of business, and I have little doubt we’ve heard the last of his difficulties.

11. Back to Basics

Similar to Album 4: The FUN-damentals, Back to Basics would return to some of the foundational teachings of Christianity. Mr. Whittaker could take on a teaching role and talk about a variety of topics, such as faith, forgiveness, redemption, reverence for God, resisting temptation, discipleship, etc. Meanwhile, Katrina Meltsner in her role as a school teacher could also do an effective job in that context. For instance, her history class might be studying World War II and the impact author C.S. Lewis had during that time. They could be reading his work, Mere Christianity, which compiles together his broadcast talks for the BBC. (You can learn more about this by listening to Radio Theatre’s production C.S. Lewis at War) The book skillfully removes barriers that would otherwise prevent people from considering the Christian faith, and it would be the perfect guide to structure this album.

12. The Way of the Cross

In the book The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, there is a chapter called “The Royal Road of the Holy Cross,” which inspired this album title. The chapter begins by saying, “Deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow Me,” a quote from Matthew 16:24. This album would have the theme of sacrifice. It would look at the importance of following Jesus’ lead and practicing selfless love for others. Near the end of the chapter Kempis writes, “Realize that you must lead a dying life; the more a man dies to himself, the more he begins to live unto God.” The character of Jason Whittaker, who has been soul-searching recently, might attempt to use this principle as he takes his life in a new direction.

13. Milestones & Misadventure

Connie graduated high school in Album 31 and finally began college in Album 53. And who knows—maybe she’ll graduate from Campbell County with a degree one of these days. That’s one of the milestones this package would include. Other important events could include weddings, funerals, or pregnancies. And what about some literal milestones along the roadside? AIO needs another road trip that its characters can go on. Eugene and Bernard travelled to California in Album 21 and Connie and Joanne went to Washington, D.C. in Album 41. Maybe it’s time Wooton, or Jason or Penny went on an adventure on the open road.

14. The Element of Surprise

A little spontaneity isn’t so bad from time to time. This collection could do just that by having Leonard Meltsner contact his son Eugene. And just like that, the Meltsners could return to visit Africa. It would be a welcome surprise since Leonard’s last appearance on the show was before the hiatus in Album 49. Plus, we could spend a lot more time getting to know Eugene’s brother, Everett. Meanwhile, Mr. Whittaker could be planning his own surprises, such as getting more opportunities to reach out to kids with a brand new invention or addition to Whit’s End.

15. Through Many Dangers, Toils & Snares

The title of this album comes from the lyrics to the hymn “Amazing Grace” by John Newton. It would feature some inspirational stories of Christians from history and discuss how their lives were changed as a result of a relationship with Jesus. This could coincide with some difficult times for the characters of AIO, as they go through their own dangers, toils and snares. But they will find the strength to persevere if they keep their focus on God. Just as the hymn says, “‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home.”

16. Talk of the Town

This set of episodes would follow a mayoral election in Odyssey. We’ve heard other elections in the past, such as the election of Tom Riley and Margaret Faye. But the town’s current mayor, Spencer Hicks, was elected off-air without much drama that we know of. This election cycle, however, would bring back the drama of mayoral politics to the show for a season and give the reporter Dale Jacobs a chance to shine interviewing candidates and writing up news articles. Issues that the candidates raise such as the role of Christian institutions like Whit’s End or the Timothy Center could get everything involved in the debate.

17. Signs & Wonders

Adventures in Odyssey has had its share of spiritual encounters. In Album 18 people flocked around a piece of cloth believed to have come from Jesus’ robe. In Album 32 an angel named Malachi suddenly showed up, causing controversy wherever he went. But we haven’t had too much of that recently. In the album Signs & Wonders, Detective Don Polehaus would be front and center, investigating a modern day miracle. It would have to be something serious to get the police involved. Either that or Polehaus could do a little off-duty detective work for himself, searching for an explanation for the unexplainable.

18. Many Happy Returns

Whit’s daughter Jana and his granddaughter Jenny haven’t visited Odyssey since Album 7. Monty dropped by briefly in Album 53, but he was unconscious for half the time so I’m not sure that counts as a proper visit. In this collection, the Whittaker family would come home for the Christmas holidays once again, just like old times. Jana, Jenny and Monty would all be there, along with Whit and Jason of course. But just like old times doesn’t mean everything will be jolly. As you may know, the Whittaker family doesn’t always get along, so there will be plenty of opportunities for conflict and eventually reconciliation.

19. The Armor of God

There are six pieces in the armor of God mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18. There’s the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit. That’s one piece of armor for each episode in a six-episode album. Whit already has the full set of armor on display in the Bible Room, but a detailed story dedicated to each spiritual concept which the armor represents could be very beneficial, and also be a great way to unify an album.

20. Riding the Wave

For this last collection I decided to go with another water metaphor, just because AIO seems to like them so much. The title implies good times and adventure. Perhaps a family vacation could be involved? We’ve heard a lot from the Parker family lately, but the Jones family hasn’t been heard together for some time and definitely deserves to have more airtime. If the Jones do go somewhere for the summer, I wonder how Emily will be able to continue her mystery-solving career without Matthew. She’ll probably try to recruit her brother Barrett for her schemes, which could lead to some hilarious moments. For those who find her character annoying, hopefully some fresh air and a change of setting will have a positive impact on Emily.

Of course, the Odyssey writers have their own plans about what stories they will tell in the future, but writing this editorial was still a great experience. It was exciting to speculate about the adventures our favorite AIO characters may stumble upon in upcoming albums. And it helps to pass the time as we wait for the next set in the series, Album 59. I’m excited to hear what imaginative adventures the AIO team has in store for us.

-By David Hilder

Pretty good stuff, huh? Well that's all for now, see you next time!
-Trenton Landmark

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