|Album 33: Virtual Realities|
Episodes:418: Opening Day
419: Another Man's Shoes
424: Blackgaard's Revenge, Part 1
425: Blackgaard's Revenge, Part 2
426: The Buck Starts Here
427: Something Cliqued Between Us
428: The Eternal Birthday/Imaginary Friend (Split)
429: The YAK Problem
430: Blind Girl's Bluff
431: Where There's Smoke/The Virtual Kid (Split)
432: You Win Some, You Lose Some
433: The Treasure Room/Chain Reaction (Split)
Adventures in Odyssey used to seem like a variety show, with something for everyone, but the episodes in this album seemed to made to prove otherwise. So much for the adults in the audience as far as most of these episodes are concerned. It's almost as if the writers knew few of these episodes would be as appealing as previous episodes to adults and decided to put Blackgaard's Revenge in just to keep them happy. Too bad Blackgaard's Revenge may be one of the most disappointing of the bunch. All of this leads to the weakest album since way back in Album 20: A Journey of Choices.
The feature episode of the album is the much-ballyhooed Blackgaard's Revenge. I've argued, debated, written, and pounded my fist enough about this episode already, so I won't do much more here. I do not think that this episode was the worst AIO episode or any such thing like that. The sound quality was excellent, the performances were top-notch, and the writing was quite good in some places. However, I do think that using this episode in AIO was unacceptable. It simply doesn't fit with what we know about the series, what we know about Blackgaard, or any of what AIO is really about.
The album begins with the overly tired Opening Day. Not that much happens in this episode. It sounds like the episode needed to start the Timothy Center and introduce the Sheperd family and didn't really know how to tell a good story with it. It just goes on for about twenty minutes and at the end of the episode we look back and say "Was that it?"
Many of the other less than excellent episodes in the album suffer from exactly the opposite problem. Instead of telling a rather uninteresting story in a half hour, they try to pack a story that could be interesting into about ten minutes. The first two split episodes that AIO attempted are just not very good. They move too quickly and don't have enough in them to tell a good story. The Eternal Birthday and Where There's Smoke could have been great episodes if they were more thought-through and developed better, but now they simply feel rushed. Imaginary Friend and The Virtual Kid aren't really very good or original stories and wouldn't work whether they were half episodes or full episodes.
One split episode defied this rule, however. The pair of The Treasure Room and Chain Reaction were the best halves and certainly made for the best whole episode of these split ones. The Treasure Room is not an especially original idea, but it works due to its cute scenes (Aubrey's daydream, Bethany's poem) and some good scenes with Whit. Chain Reaction is one of the best just plain fun AIOs in recent memory. Like most good "lite" episodes, it also has some good things to consider at the end, especially where David is convicting himself with his own words.
The remainder of the album consists of "slice of life" episodes. They are all either pretty good or really good. The Buck Stops Here, Something Cliqued Between Us, and You Win Some, You Lose Some are in the pretty good category. Fun episodes that can be touching, but nothing especially new. Another Man's Shoes, Blind Girl's Bluff, and The YAK Problem are in the really good category. Another Man's Shoes has some appropriately disturbing scenes toward the end and a very good, thoughtful conclusion. Blind Girl's Bluff is quite creative, and has a good conclusion. It's too bad that it seems like most of this episode was invalidated by Treasure Room. The YAK Problem was another good Marshal parody, though it didn't quite have the hilarious sting of a few of his past ones.
In the last album, I fretted that AIO was in a cycle in that it only had about three episodes about current storylines and one of every other kind of episode. This album has about a total of one episode about the stuff that's going on in Odyssey right now (never mind Eugene and Katrina, Jason, Eugene's job, Jack Allen) and about ten slice of life episodes. No Bible stories, no history ones, and no adventure ones aside from Blackgaard's Revenge. You can't simply throw just any action episode in and expect to hold a part of the audience through other disappointments.
I'm not saying this is a bad album. Rather, there are some good, interesting episodes, but when you ignore storylines, and aim just about all episodes at a pre-ten-year old level, it gets tiresome...fast.
Favorite Episode: The Treasure Room/Chain Reaction (Split)
Rating: 3 stars
Read the Soda Fountain Review
The pre-release cover art for album 33.
The album versions of episodes does not contain the AIO short skits that appeared in the broadcast versions.
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