Kids’ Radio didn’t start out as a station for comedy skits and sketches. In its first episode in Album 2 it attempted to be a serious station, reporting on the news, traffic and the weather. The only entertainment it offered was that it played music in between the gaps of reporting. No wonder most of the kids abandoned it so quickly. Even in the episode The Winning Edge, which aired after The Big Broadcast and yet was already included in Album 8, Kids’ Radio serves as a way to report the news in baseball and commentate on the games. But with the station’s relaunch in this episode, which was pushed back to Album 9, it takes on a whole new attitude. It’s no longer a station run just by kids, for kids. Now kids are barely involved. Whit and Tom take the reins this time, and ironically the result is much less serious and probably more enjoyable for kids in the listening audience. Eugene comes along too, playing a main character, while just two kids appear, Lucy and Jimmy, and they only play the minor roles. The funny skits in this episode tap into the same style of humor first explored in Lights Out at Whit’s End and Gifts for Madge and Guy, and the show comes off the better for it.
This episode starts off with a familiar occurrence. Just like the beginning of Gifts for Madge and Guy and The Case of the Secret Room, it begins with Whit and Tom lifting something heavy at Whit’s End. Interestingly, The Big Broadcast takes elements from both shows, blending the genres of comedy and mystery together. But before we get to the actual radio show, let’s look at the episode’s opening with Whit and Tom. It’s a short scene, only two and a half minutes long, and then the radio show begins. And although it’s the obligatory set-up, it isn’t a wasted scene. Tom says, “We could recapture that feeling we used to get when our favorite programs would come on the radio, remember? Kids don’t have anything like that now.” Whit replies, “I’m not sure kids will take to radio like that.” Tom says, “Oh, sure they will. If it’s done right.” The characters are talking about Kids’ Radio, but in a way they’re also talking about the creation of Adventures in Odyssey. It’s an amazing thing that in an age when almost everyone else had moved away from radio drama, Focus on the Family brought it back to life. Our favorite AIO characters’ appreciation for good radio drama and the work they put into it serves as a tribute to the cast and crew who have worked hard to make Odyssey a success.
The show is full of advertisements for toothpaste, which is perhaps a humorous attempt to counterbalance the fact that in the previous appearance of Kids’ Radio Mr. Whittaker advertised a deal on ice cream at his shop. Now that parents are complaining about the cavities it seems Whit has had to distance himself from his sugar-filled treats. Speaking of changes, Lucy Cunningham is introduced in this show as Lucy Schultz, thus creating Odyssey’s second biggest goof in its history. If she had reverted to being called Lucy Cunningham in future episodes, the name Lucy Schultz could have easily been passed off as a stage name created for the Kids’ Radio show. Lucy’s new last name is revealed on a gameshow called Fact or Fiction, but unfortunately it never comes up as one of the questions. Still, the gameshow is hilarious as it has Lucy scoring points left and right, while Jimmy is left flustered and frustrated on the sidelines. And after his antics in Two Sides to Every Story, it’s hard to feel sorry for him. Lucy on the other hand probably needs some cheering up. Behind the scenes she lost her father in a car accident and her mother remarried, which was eventually revealed as an explanation for her change in last name.
By the time the segment Sam Martian, Private Eye begins (after an interview with the Man in the Street, played by Eugene, and another interview with Coach Fred Zachary), it’s clear there’s something missing from this show. There’s no Connie Kendall. It wouldn’t have been hard to make her Eugene’s sidekick on this adventure. But apparently she’s too busy wiping down tables and clearing dishes to join in the fun. Lucy, however, gets lucky and is given another minor role—this time as a girl named Lucy Cutie. That’s a third last name! Maybe we should call her Lucy Cunningham-Schultz-Cutie. Besides, Curt is always saying how Lucy has a cute voice so it fits. But maybe it would have been better if someone else had been given her role. Lucy plays a girl whose father is missing and is found half-dead on the side of the road. That should hit a little too close to home for a girl whose birth father was recently killed in a car accident. And come to think of it, lots of characters on AIO would have been uncomfortable about this part. For instance, Connie’s dad walked out on his family and now lives in California, while Eugene’s father was presumed dead at this point in the show.
The retelling of the Good Samaritan is hilarious and full of quotable lines. After Sam Maritan tracks down the religious leader, he explains he was visiting the Annual Religious Leaders’ Convention at the Jericho Inn where “We sit around the pool and sing controversial theological songs. Oh, it’s a lot of fun.” Funnier still, when questioned about the missing man, he says, “I am a religious leader, young man. You can’t expect me to know anything.” The things Odyssey can get away with. The Levite is also a funny character and is pushed into revealing everything he knows by the threat of a damaging editorial in the Jerusalem Times. The only major issue with this story is that the whole point of the parable is the Samaritans were a hated people who were looked down on by the Jews. The groups weren’t to associate or even walk through each other’s’ territory. The religious leaders and Levites wouldn’t have been caught dead conversing with a Samaritan. That’s what makes it so revolutionary for a Samaritan to even be on the road to Jericho at all and to have compassion on a Jew and pay for his recovery. But this retelling elevates Sam Maritan to a position of power in society. Unlike a Samaritan, he would have no reason to resent the man he's helping, which strips the parable of much of its significance. Nevertheless, the episode is top-notch in other respects. It’s funny and its skits are very memorable. It gets 4 out of 5 stars.