Howdy! Y’all come in and sit a spell! Sorry I wasn’t home when you came visiting on Wednesday; an old schoolmate had returned for a short visit to the darkest jungles of Appalachia and Big Sister and I — thoughtful, self-sacrificing people that we are — were generous enough to let him buy us lunch. We had pizza, talked about everything under the sun, and fought off an evil cult that was trying to reanimate the dead in a vain attempt to take over the world, and needed the blood of a lawyer to complete the magical Elixir of Evilness.
Okay, maybe not that last bit.
But anyway, we missed out on Wednesday. But today is a new day, a Friday, in fact. So what fun are we looking for today? How about radio drama? I’ve made no secret of the fact that I write for modern online radio drama (if you want to check out my shows, look here, here, here and here). I don’t want to get into a lot of discussion of history of radio drama right now; I’m planning to do a much more comprehensive talk later on down the line. Today I just want to point you toward some fun shows that’ll whet your appetite for more! My biggest problem is there are just so many fun shows out there on Teh Webz that it’s difficult to narrow it down to just three!
Okay, quick caveat: all the shows I’ll be talking about today are amateur production: with a very few exceptions (like only two or three that I know of), there are no professional actors, no professional writers, no professional technicians, etc. And sometimes it shows in uneven writing, clumsy line delivery, mixing faux pas, etc. But DO NOT let that dissuade you from taking a listen; 95% of the work is good. They stumble every once in a while, yes, but it’s surprisingly rare. And all of them are 100% fun, or I wouldn’t be recommending them to you. These amateurs are doing all this work because they love radio drama and they love the stories they’re telling. And that love shows.
First off, the one that got me started in online audio drama: Tales from the Museum, on Darker Projects. This show, written by Charles Russell, only ran for thirteen episodes. But they were the first online audio shows that I ever listened to, and they got me hooked. The show is about a museum that gets more supernatural visitors than flesh and blood ones, and you never can tell exactly how paranormally dangerous the exhibits are. Perry Whittle plays our hero, Keith Nash, a former cop who thought taking a job as head of security at this museum would lead to a quieter, less stressful life. Yeah, right!
What I love about this show, what got me hooked (besides creepy crawlies; I love horror!) is the lighthanded Chandler-esque tone of the writing, and of Whittle’s acting. It feels pulpy and slightly irreverent, like a tongue-in-cheek take on The Maltese Falcon with bogeymen added. Good, fun stuff.
Tales from the Museum promo:
Since we’re already at Darker Projects, let’s jump over to probably the most famous of the modern online audio drama shows, The Byron Chronicles. The Byron Chronicles are the beloved brainchild of Eric Busby, who does most of the writing, producing and directing. It stars David Ault in the title role of Byron, who may be an avatar of Autumn, may be thousands of years old, and lives in a tower in Portland Oregon. He has magic which he doesn’t often display. A greater power for him is his knowledge; he knows waaaaay too much about the supernaturals that secretly live in our world, and they know and fear him. He uses his knowledge and power to help those around him, and to further a mysteriouos agenda that has never been articulated fully in the story. The writing in this one is more consistent than the norm in amateur audio, and the acting is much better; David Ault in particular (whom I believe had some formal training) is the best actor in the amateur world, so far, and brings this odd character very much to life. It’s an addictive show, and I recommend it. (It even has its own TV Tropes page, here!)
Quick note: Darker Projects was the host of The Byron Chronicles from 2005 to 2013. In 2013, Byron Chronicles (and Cascade, another Eric Busby brainchild) was moved to its own website, called Eric Busby Presents. You can also find them on YouTube.
Byron Chronicles is more grimdark than Tales from the Museum, and Byron himself is a darker, angstier character. The story mostly reminds me of the The Shadow, a lone man standing against the forces of darkness. If, you know, The Shadow had been a near-immortal with magical powers, supernatural foes, a serious case of melancholy, and no mafia to fight. Here’s their promo:
The Byron Chronicles promo:
“Part private eye, part adventurer…all pulp hero. Set against a 1930’s backdrop, Jake Sampson: Monster Hunter is a tribute to the cliffhanger-laden, classic radio serials of yesteryear.Join Jake and his companions, Texas Holdem and Lucy Carter as they journey to the four corners of the earth to put supernatural evil in its place.”
In my mind, this show is what would happen if Indiana Jones and Sam Spade decided to have a baby, and made Robert Howard the baby’s nanny. It’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek, pulpy mish-mash of hardboiled detective, Alan Quartermain, The Shadow, and Bram Stoker. The plot is just what the promo copy says it is: Sampson and his buddies travel around the world, fighting supernatural evil, righting wrongs, having adventures. Straightforward, fun, funny at times, never dull.
There are several writers contributing to this show, Mark Kalita and Bill Hollweg chief among them. They also play the two male leads, Kalita playing Jake Sampson, and Hollweg playing Texas Holdem; they are joined in the lead spot by Lyn Cullen, playing Lucy Carter. The acting is more than satisfactory, the writing is playful and fun, and the mixing is as close to flawless as an amateur company can get. BTW: I LOVE their music choices; delightfully retro.
They don’t have a promo audio on their webpage, so I’ll just link to the first episode instead.:
Jake Sampson Monster Hunter:
Whew! Narrowing it down to just those was hard work. One of these days, I need to make a comprehensive list of all the shows I think you’ll like. In the meantime, keep tuning in here, and don’t forget to share, tweet, comment, and email. If you have a recommendation for a Fun Friday showcase, contact me through the email on my About AJ page.
Drat! Now the rest of my day is lost. I’m going to end up archive binging on these radio shows!
EDIT: 08/29/14 I forgot to put in a link for Broken Sea Audio or for Jake Sampson! Shame on me! Fixed.