This is Adventures in Odyssey’s third episode and it’s the first one not to focus on a single kid. Whit’s Flop is all about the klutz Davey Holcomb and The Life of the Party is all about the comedian Craig Moorhead. Both kids are one-offs defined by a single characteristic and they both go running from their problems. Then they finally have a talk with Mr. Whittaker and learn a lesson. Whit encourages them and then they don’t feel so bad after all. Those end up being pretty average stories. But Lights Out at Whit’s End breaks from that formula. It decides not to present a kid-focused story, but a story driven by its adult characters. And as a result it’s a stronger episode. It also pushes aside the normal straightforward way of telling a story to instead present a series of fun skits for the audience to enjoy. It sounds like a precursor to Kids’ Radio or B-TV. You can tell a lot of creativity went into putting it all together and overall it comes out very well. Even with its less than spectacular rap song, it does raise the bar for what the show can accomplish. Two episodes later, Gifts for Madge and Guy builds on that foundation and does something really out of the box and enjoyable, which may not have been possible without Lights Out at Whit’s End to lead the way.
The show starts off with the gang at Whit’s End gathering together to make a movie, which already sounds very similar to the filming of a B-TV episode. If this show had been made ten years later, I think there’s a big possibility it would have been dubbed B-TV: Communication. Making a movie is the most exciting premise for an episode so far and lends itself to countless possibilities. Hollywood has come to Odyssey and there’s no predicting exactly what will happen next. If Connie Kendall had arrived in this episode instead of the next one, she would have felt right at home. She was after all an extra in a movie when she lived in Los Angeles. But the kid Bobby Novak does appear, so perhaps this episode helps explain his desire in the next one to make the trip to California to become a star. The power at Whit’s End goes out and deprives Bobby of his big debut, which is very similar to the power failure which disrupts the unveiling of Davey Holcomb’s invention in Whit’s Flop. But before we blame Whit for not fixing the wiring in his building, it should be noted that this latest power outage affects the whole town of Odyssey and is caused by some downed power lines, not a blown fuse. Another difference this time is that Bobby is not this episode’s main character so the show can still go on without him in the spotlight.
Someone who’s closer to the center of this episode is Officer David Harley. He’s quite a character and ironically seems to be an expert in miscommunication. He starts off all serious because he’s on duty, and then he suddenly snaps out of that frame of mind and without being prompted he blurts out the words “Yes, fine, very good. I mean not just good, great! Ha, that’s what I wanted. I mean, what is all this stuff anyway?” Maybe singing rap music is the only way for him to speak clearly. Thankfully for all of our sakes, Whit and Harley aren’t the only two adults around when the power goes out. Tom and Marianne arrive just in time to do some of this episode’s heavy lifting. In an adult-driven episode, four is a good number. Otherwise we might have witnessed scene after scene with Whit and Harley playing off each other time after time, which would have gotten old pretty fast. As much as Whit’s idea to create lights using candles and pie tins is innovative, it doesn’t exactly translate in an audio drama. But what does translate is a well-acted series of sketches and skits, which is exactly what we get.
The skits are all about the origins of different forms of communication and they’re reasonably funny. Every second line in it brings a laugh and the humor is almost at the level of Gifts for Madge and Guy. It’s a departure from the usual style into uncharted territory which is more goofy than anything else. For instance, Tom appears playing the 3000-year-old man. Whit interviews him and Tom makes plenty of jokes and even does some grunting. But my favorite sketch is the invention of the printing press, or as I like to call it: Gutenberg’s Flop. Whit plays Johannes Gutenberg and Marianne plays his cleaning lady. (Since Marianne only appears in this episode, she probably has more lines as the character of the cleaning lady than she does as herself.) Gutenberg is perhaps the funniest character in this particular show. His command of the German language, or lack thereof, is hilarious. Gutenberg is also an inventor, just like Whit, and he creates a flop, just like Whit did two episodes ago. But instead of a pizza popping out of the invention, a Gutenberg Bible is the result of this little mishap. It turns out to be a fun, comic retelling of Whit’s Flop with an actual laugh track provided by the audience of kids at Whit’s End.
But it’s not all enjoyable. Seemingly out of nowhere a rap song that nobody asked for begins to blare out loudly, which I suspect would prompt many listeners to turn the volume down. After that song I don’t think I ever want to hear the word “communicate” again. It’s the most hammered-home message ever delivered on AIO. After the lights come back on the kids are annoying because they want to sing another verse of the song. Whit is confused by this, and so am I. Why would they want it to continue? Obviously the kids took Whit’s advice to use their imagination seriously and they used theirs a little too well. They must have imagined that the song was actually better than it was. And even after all that, Chris tries to rap the chorus of the song as well. It’s the song that keeps coming back. It serves as a poor and easy resolution to an episode which had been doing an admirable job at being compelling. But it would be unfair to allow the Communicate rap to overshadow the good parts of this episode. Overall it is a step- up from the previous shows. It gets 4 out of 5 stars.