Back to Jaw About Odyssey

Continuing storylines are the heart of Adventures in Odyssey, plain and simple.

There are many things that make Adventures in Odyssey great. I could probably list a least a dozen, such as interesting characters and witty dialogue. But of all of the traits of AIO, I’d have to say the one that is the most unique are the storylines.

Certainly there are secular series of programs that have storylines, such as the many dramas on television, but there are very few Christian drama programs, for children or adults, that have continuing storylines. There are various reasons for this. First of all, and probably most importantly, is that continuing storylines are difficult to write. It’s a whole lot easier to simply write a big collection of disconnected stories than to write a series. Another reason is perhaps that when you have continuing storylines, it is often harder for a new viewer to jump into the program if they aren't initiated into the storylines. They have to figure out everything that’s going on before they will get a lot of the story. On a related note, especially for children’s entertainment, it is far easier to use a single story in a Sunday School or Bible study session than it is to use a series.

For these reasons, and probably others, most Christian drama series simply do a line of stories, possibly with the same characters, but mostly with completely self-contained stories. Look at McGee and Me, the Children’s Bible Hour, VeggieTales, and any of the dramatized Bible story videos for examples. All contain simple one part stories that really have few ties to the other stories in the series beyond the basic characters. These series have the potential for great stories, but for me, they aren’t as attractive because we don’t get to see the characters grow and change.

Adventures in Odyssey is much different than those series. The primary reason that Odyssey has a such a dedicated following, I think, is due to those continuing storylines. Throughout the years we have seen characters such as Connie and Eugene and many of the "kids" grow into different people. They have had adventures that moved their lives in different paths, just as our lives move and change. You don’t usually get that sort of development from single stories.

These storylines also add excitement to the series. It is not possible to build up as much drama in a half hour program as can be built up from years of anticipation and development. And what other example can we use but the Blackgaard story? We could simply have had a villian show up for The Nemesis and The Battle, had the villian be vanquished, and get a new villian. Waylaid in the Windy City could have been completely disconnected with a brand new bad guy, but just the fact that Blackgaard was there increased the tension because we knew him.

A Name, Not a Number furthers this example. In the second half of this episode, so much of what we know about Adventures in Odyssey is brought up and it rewards those of us who have been listening for years. Why do you think that Darkness Before Dawn is by far the most talked about album among Odyssey fans? It’s because that series was the ultimate fan treat. We got to see characters growing and changing, many of our favorite storylines brought up, and conclusions finally put in place. Continuing storylines keep people listening.

Lately in Odyssey, we’ve seen an end put to most continuing storylines. Sure we had Blackgaard pop up, but that did not add anything to the whole Blackgaard storyline. To be a good storyline, the story has to fit in with what we already know and give us more information about things that have already happened. Blackgaard's Revenge did neither of these things.

The shameful thing is that we haven’t heard from Jack, Jason, or Katrina since Malachi's Message. They seem forgotten. And have you noticed something else? Look at Eugene’s character in the last few episodes. For a good many years, Eugene was developing in his character and finally became a Christian. And then for years after that, he grew in his faith. Lately, however, we have heard nearly nothing about him. He is simply there to serve as a prop for the kids. The same seems to becoming true for Whit and Connie. Nothing happens to them anymore.

So why is this happening in Odyssey? We’ve all heard that they’re trying to gear the series more toward children. Evidently then, they’re saying that they’ve been doing the series wrong for thirteen years. Throughout those thirteen years, thousands of children listened as we had characters like Eugene and Connie featured prominently and as we had many storylines working together. Evidently, for those thirteen years, kids could pay attention and understand these stories. You don’t get that kind of following on a kid’s show from purely adults.

There are dozens of Christian programs out there for children, but AIO is the only one with real storylines that can be interesting to adults and children. Sure, I like VeggieTales. They’re funny. But they don’t hook me because they don’t have continuing threads from one show to the next.

So what should AIO do? Perhaps, as has been argued, the storylines we’ve had are old now. Okay. We’ve done just about everything we can do with Blackgaard. Okay. So does that mean we should throw out storylines completely? Absolutely not. Let’s get some new interesting storylines. Don’t just go to the completely self-contained stories; that’s the easy way out. I don’t think the writers are giving themselves enough credit by doing only short stories. They’re capable of more.