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How podcasts are reviving radio plays

Amrita V Nair | Updated on August 23, 2019 Published on August 23, 2019

Echoes: Audio plays broadcast over the radio were one of the most popular forms of entertainment before the advent of the television   -  ISTOCK.COM

Video may have killed the radio star, but podcasts are bringing it back to life. Here are six fiction podcasts to immerse yourself in

Before the advent of television, audio plays broadcast over the radio were one of the most popular forms of entertainment. To bring the settings and characters in the stories to life without visual aids, creators of these audio plays adopted inventive narrative styles and innovative acoustic effects. In 1938, for instance, Orson Welles created a radio play based on HG Wells’s alien invasion novel The War of the Worlds. Welles recreated the story for the radio in the form of realistic-sounding news bulletins that caused panic among some listeners who believed that a real Martian invasion was in progress.

After visual media emerged, audio theatre declined in popularity. The form, however, is now witnessing a revival through podcasts, spanning genres from comedy to horror. Here are some of my favourites:

Wooden Overcoats

Set in the tiny island of Piffling Vale in the English Channel and narrated by a house mouse, Wooden Overcoats recounts the tale of rival funeral homes and their proprietors. The show, which is wonderfully written, has amassed a cult following because of its wacky storylines, laugh-out-loud dialogue, and loveable characters. While each episode usually features a standalone story, the overarching story arc ensures that the characters grow and evolve from one season to the next. Wooden Overcoats is the rare audio drama with a fantastic re-listen value. Listen at www.woodenovercoats.com

Limetown

Season 1 of Limetown shot to the top of the US Tunes podcast chart within two months of its release and earned a place in nearly every single ‘best of 2015’ podcasts list. Narrated by fictional public radio journalist Lia Haddock, the podcast explores the disappearance of over 300 inhabitants from Limetown, a fictitious small town in Tennessee. The gripping storyline, rife with shocking twists and cliffhangers, makes this one of the most binge-worthy podcasts out there. Season 2 of the podcast, released in 2018, was not as well received as the first, but is still a worthy listen that provides more context to the investigation as well as the events of the first season. The popularity of the podcast has also spawned a prequel novel and a TV series on Facebook Watch. Listen at www.twoupproductions.com/limetown

Eos 10

Eos 10 tells, in their own words, the story of two maladjusted doctors in one space station. Along for the ride are a spunky nurse, a hypochondriac deposed prince who works in the food court kitchen and a very sassy AI operating system. The show depicts the adventures of this motley crew aboard the eponymous space station. With a stellar voice cast and excellent plotting, the podcast will fill the science fiction comedy void in your entertainment roster. Listen at http://www.planetm.io/eos10/

The Thrilling Adventure Hour

Created in the style of old-time radio broadcasts, The Thrilling Adventure Hour returned with new episodes in October 2018 after its initial 10-year run from 2005 to 2015. Each episode of the podcast’s first run featured recordings of live productions featuring an all-star cast of voices including Paget Brewster, Paul F Tompkins, Nathan Fillion, and Marc Evan Jackson. Current episodes are recorded exclusively in the studio.

The podcast has numerous sub-sections. Each segment features a repeating cast of characters. So, for instance, the ‘Beyond Belief’ segment depicts the adventures of a dipsomaniac married couple with an affinity for the paranormal while the ‘Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars’ is a space western. There are several other segments — each with their cast of wacky characters and irrepressible hijinks. The Thrilling Adventure Hour is fun for all ages and perfect listening for a long road trip. Listen at thrillingadventurehour.com

The Truth

If you would prefer to listen to standalone stories or like something more contemporary, The Truth might be right up your alley. Most episodes are less than half an hour long and feature short plays from a wide variety of genres including science fiction, horror, romance and comedy. The show is wonderfully produced, and writer and producer Jonathan Mitchell has been critically acclaimed for the inventive storytelling in the podcast. With rich atmospheric music and intriguing storylines, The Truth does indeed live up to its stated purpose of making movies for your ears. Listen at http://www.thetruthpodcast.com/

The Magnus Archives

Horror podcasts are fantastic for recounting tales of the eerie and unnatural — both because listening to these tales allows your imagination to conjure up spectres that are often more unnerving than any special effects creation and perhaps also because it brings back fond childhood memories of swapping scary stories.

The Magnus Archives is a clear standout in terms of plot and production. The premise of the show is that Jonathan Sims, the new head archivist of the Magnus Institute, is trying to record and collate the disarrayed and eclectic mix of statements provided to the institute over the years. Though at first the statements seem disjointed and haphazard, patterns and connections begin to emerge and forms a narrative. The podcast, though not gory or explicit, can be quite spooky and is definitely not recommended for the very young or the faint-hearted. Listen at play.acast.com/s/themagnusarchives

Amrita V Nair is a freelance writer, public policy specialist and podcast enthusiast

Published on August 23, 2019

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