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Podcasting Drama: The Golden Days of Radio Serials are Returning

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Podcasting has been used to great effect to promote independent music and musicians. It’s been used to promote various political opinions and ideologies. And it’s being used by various religious groups to “spread the word.” Corporations are making use of podcasting to promote their products. Many news outlets used podcasts to extend their Olympic coverage. NPR is podcasting in a big way. What else can there be?

Radio drama.

Some out there may remember the days before television, when radio ruled. Others, like me, have heard about “the good old days” of radio. And now, with the advent of podcasting, the radio drama is making a comeback.

I’m using drama, of course, to include any theatrical performance on the radio, whether comedy, mystery, or actual serial drama. And there are a LOT of these types of podcasts out there, in many different genres, that people aren’t aware of.

I’m not talking about podcast novels; there is a difference here, though it’s often slight. Novels that are podcasted are different in tone than dramatic serials, especially when it comes to exposition and narration. The podcasts that I’m talking about are true to the tradition of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s radio serials.

The latest addition to the fold is the much-promoted Silent Universe podcast. It tells the story of a future gone wrong; the peace and harmony that was supposed to come with space travel didn’t materialize. Mercenaries and megacorporations rule the day. The first episode of Silent Universe aired on February 15, and the second is in final production right now. Fans of sci-fi should not miss this podcast.

There are more, though. Decoder Ring Theatre produces two podcasts, both set in the 1930s. Black Jack Justice tells the story of hardboiled gumshoe Jack Justice and his partner, Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective. The style is very much in keeping with the style of the 1930s detective serials, right down to the sound effects used. The other serial that Decoder Ring Theater produces, The Red Panda Adventures, is a superhero serial set in the same time period in Canada. This one is unfortunaltely on hiatus until April. Both are certainly worth downloading and listening to. And who can forget The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd? This is a radio serial in the classic sense of the word. There are a lot of people who are re-creating the feel of the Golden Age of Radio.

There are also some podcasts that broadcast actual 1930s radio serials. The Adventures of Superman is one such podcast; Speed Gibson Of The International Secret Police is another. These types of podcasts are fascinating looks back at another time.

The best resource for these types of podcasts, both classic and modern, is Dramapod. There are directories for each genre of radio drama, and a voting system so that you can see which podcasts are, if not the best, at least the most popular.

Podcasting has a lot of potential, and creative people are using it for some very creative purposes. Go check out a dramatic podcast today – you won’t be sorry!

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About Warren Kelly

  • It’s too bad we have to rely on the internet rather than use radio itself to do this again. XM Radio should take advantage of it’s freedom and use Old Time Radio for a block of programming.

  • Bliffle

    There are several places on the net for old time radio. Several years ago I put together a bunch of old radio serials for a friend of mine who was dieing of cancer. It meant a lot to him since he hadn’t heard them since he was a boy and it eased his final days.

  • Wow great article. I didnt even know these where out on the net. I’m excited to hear more of these and maybe do my own.

  • I’m not sure why XM and Sirius haven’t jumped on this — the new dramas that I’ve been listening to are high quality. Of course, if you listen to the interview Rob Walch did with the Sirius folks on Podcast 411, you’ll know that they really don’t have a clue about what podcasts are out there, and what quality they are.

    Podcasting is giving new life to a lot of old serials, simply because by now they are in the public domain, so there aren’t licensing issues to deal with. I’d love to hear some of the old stuff broadcast again.

    For some reason, I neglected to link to Spaceship Radio, which does a great job of rebroadcasting great old sci-fi serials.

  • Bliffle

    You can get a lot of compilations of old radio programs on eBay. Just look for your favorites. They’re usually MP3s on CD. I started looking around for podcasts of old serials and was disappointed at the paucity compared to eBay CDs.

    Radio theater is very effective and it’s disappointing that it’s not used more often. Perhaps podcasts will change that. As Stan Freeberg pointed out years ago, radio can do things that TV can never do. I suppose that the best modern example is Gary Keillors weekly program. Too bad that Joe Franks had to suspend his terrific “Works In Progress” series that appeared regularly on various public stations (you can get some of them at his website, perhaps he’ll make them podcasts – you haven’t heard good radio unless you’ve heard Joe Franks). Meanwhile, the Firesign Theater has a regular friday AM live broadcast sometimes available on Pacifica stations. Of course, at 5:35 AM sunday morning one can get 2 minutes of “Ian Shoales” before he signsoff with “gotta go”.

  • Firesign Theater is podcasting — http://firesigntheater.com/podcasting/ is the RSS for their podcasts. Not sure if it’s the same show that airs on Pacifica or if it’s just older stuff that’s off old albums, but they’re doing it.

  • One disappointing thing about podcast drama is that original programming is updated so infrequently (except for Dr. Floyd, which updates faithfully each week, but goes on an extended ‘vacation’ every 13 episodes or so, and Decoder Ring which updates biweekly). Episode 1 of Silent Universe, for example, was February 15. Episode 2 will be out “by early/mid April, but we don’t yet have a solid release date.” And they aren’t the only example — I’ve got a subscription list with at least 4 drama casts that haven’t updated in almost a month.

    The nice thing is that they really aren’t taking up space, so I don’t have to delete them. But I wish that drama podcasters would get a little bit of a show buffer so that they can update fairly regularly. If anything, that’s the biggest weakness of the genre.

  • Tom

    If you’re into radio drama, please check our shows out at pendantaudio.com! We’re on iTunes too in the podcast section. Just search for Pendant. We are continuously putting out epsiodes. We have several shows and a new epsiode of each comes out every month.

    Remember, these things take time to put together, especially since we all have day jobs and do the drama stuff for fun in our spare time.


  • I wasn’t aware of most of that, nice one

  • Old days are coming back. Radio dramas vanished as TV took over. And now the serial broadcasting on radio are back once again.

  • Very impressive!!!! 🙂

  • Jim Dolan

    I would like to sugest our old time radio podcast RADIO ENTERTAINMENT NETWORK it is on itunes or at http://www.radioent.com We post 5 one hour old time radio podcast a week