Many of the most popular and memorable silver age radio storytelling has been horror- or suspense-based, which only serves to highlight the niche that Adventures in Odyssey has carved out for a specific, Evangelical Christian audience. Odyssey is designed to be “values-based” entertainment; created by Focus on the Family in November 21, 1987, and continuing to air in syndication on many American and overseas radio stations, this show’s longevity may as yet rival BBC drama The Archers. It’s also a particular favorite of Vice President Mike Pence, who has described listening to it with his family on long road trips.
Odyssey is, like the Simpsons’ Springfield, a small town of indeterminate location*, where the adventures take place at the local ice cream shop, Whit’s End (a pun on the name of its owner, John Avery Whittaker). Like The Simpsons, hundreds of episodes have been broadcast, with tie in books and other media. (Last but not least, Pamela Hayden, who portrays Milhouse on The Simpsons, also appeared on Odyssey, playing 16 characters over a decade.)
Many well known voiceover artists have appeared on the show, such as Andre Stojka (21 characters, including the leading role as Whit), and Corey Burton (112 characters), but Katie Leigh has been with the show from the beginning, and continues to appear, in her main role of Connie Kendall, or as one of the 55 other characters she’s played in the last 30-odd years.
Odyssey also had a charming link to old time radio, with the late Alan Young (Alan Young Show, Mr. Ed) and Janet Waldo (Meet Corliss Archer) appearing a number of times.
The impact of Odyssey is not only in its sheer number of episodes, and its passionate fanbase, but through inspiration of a new generation of audio creators, namely the Audio Theatre Central podcast (and its production company, Porchlight Family Media), and members of the Audio Drama Alliance, a new industry group interested in making audio drama, whether explicitly religious or not, that can be listened to by an all-ages audience.
* We definitely think Odyssey’s in Ohio.