Oh, it’s a rainy Friday here in the darkest jungles of Appalachia, and I’m hunched over my computer, mixing audio for a new radio drama episode. It’s been a wet, cold week, and surprisingly little has happened. No adventures, no sudden disasters, even my bills have been boring. I’m just biding my time until October. So, as my readers know, I have been on a mad audio drama kick all through the past month or so. I’ve listened to everything I can get my hands on, old stuff, new stuff, you name it, I’ll give it my ear. And that’s what I’m going to be talking about today: audio drama.
So there’s this audio drama company called Decoder Ring Theater. According to its Wikipedia entry, it’s a Toronto based company founded by writer Gregg Taylor (who also plays The Red Panda; more on that in a bit). Taylor wrote some radio shows in a comedic imitation of 1940’s radio shows (like the Shadow), in hopes of landing on traditional radio. That didn’t quite work out, but it eventually led to the two shows I’m about to talk about, which go out as online podcasts. They have won Parsec and Podcast Awards, which is quite the accolade in the podcasting world.
So the show that more or less started it all is The Red Panda Adventures. The Red Panda takes place in pre-WWII Toronto, and details the adventures of Shadow expy, The Red Panda. (to tell the truth, I didn’t know what a red panda was, and looked it up online. It’s a real creature — see here — and not just a colorful version of the Asian bear). Like the Shadow, the Red Panda is a rich man-about-town August Fenwick (though they play very coy about his name for several seasons), who has turned his money and his skill at hypnotism toward fighting crime. At his side is his girl-sidekick The Flying Squirrel (her dayjob is as his chauffeur, Kit Baxter). The two of them have nine seasons of flirting (LOTS of flirting, all very fun), witty banter, and butt kicking on organized crime and lots and lots of mad scientists and other villainous types. After season four, WWII started, and our heroes find themselves embroiled in the machinations of Nazi supervillains!
What I like about this show is that it captures the flavor of classic pulp radio drama, complete with music, the overwrought delivery of the announcer, and really REALLY fun (and funny) dialogue and acting. The chemistry between the two leads (creator and head writer Gregg Taylor plays The Red Panda, and Clarissa Der Nederlanden Taylor — the last name is no coincidence — plays The Flying Squirrel) is palpable and delightful, the acting is spot-on, and the writing just makes me smile.
There are nine seasons so far, and still going strong. They have their own page on TV Tropes. Moreover, there are several novel tie-ins, also penned by Taylor, comic books and some YouTube videos. But you can find that all on the Decoder Ring webpage. For me, it’s the audios first and forever. I’m just crazy that way. Here, give it a listen; they don’t have a promo to play for you, so I’m just linking to episode one. (it won’t let me put a player here on the page, so just follow this link)
Next, also on Decoder Ring Theater: Black Jack Justice. Now you don’t often see me talking about the Hardboiled Detective genre here on ClarksonPunk. Nothing wrong with that genre; it’s just my personal tastes run more toward the fantastic, rather than straight crime stories.
But for Black Jack Justice, I’ll make an exception. BJJ is also written by Gregg Taylor, and it has his same light touch with dialogue and banter. Just love that. In this one, the setting is not so clear; just some Americo/Canadian urban center. The main characters are tough-as-nails P.I. Jack Justice (played by Christopher Mott) and his business partner, lady P.I Trixie Dixon (played by Andrea Lyons). The two of them are as hard-bitten as they come, and a delight to listen to. Again, this show rates its own page on TV Tropes. It hits all the classic Chandleresque tropes, but with fun modern twists. Like the fact that they practically never get bopped on the head (which annoys the crap out of me, even when I end up writing something like it myself), and that Trixie rescues Jack about as often as the other way around. What I also like is that there are real plots and mysteries to follow; nowadays people sometimes forget that it’s still supposed to be a mystery, not just a pastiche of setting, character and attitude.
Again, because of the way Decoder Ring Theater has their page set up, I can’t just put a player on my page, so here’s a link to an episode, so you can hear what I’m talking about. Granted, I’m less familiar with this show as I am with Red Panda, but I’ve listened to about half the shows available (they’ve been going for eight seasons) and enjoyed them all. Which is saying something for somebody who doesn’t go for the hardboiled genre if there’s something Lovecraftian to be had instead. Give it a listen.
One more thing about Decoder. On their “Shows” page, they have a section called Showcase. This is just what it says, a showcase for other writers, alternate takes on existing shows, behind the scenes stuff, etc. It’s not as comprehensive or as consistently gripping as Red Panda or Black Jack Justice, but still definitely worth a listen.
And I think that’s it for me! Next week, Monday will bring us a new short story, with some wild outer space adventure: space pirates for the win! Until then, you know the drill: share, tweet, comment, email. If you have any suggestions for Fun Friday, you can contact me on Facebook or, more reliably, through the email addy listed on my About AJ page. Until Monday, be good! And if you can’t be good, then don’t get caught! Ta!