As a response to the recent Adventures in Opinions podcast on whether and how Adventures in Odyssey should end, I offer the following thoughts.
I fear you may be right about Eugene. Apart from a genius impressionist in the line of Rich Little (whose Jimmy Stewart impression was sometimes touted as better than the original), I tend to think Will Ryan is about as close to irreplaceable as it gets.
If the team decides to “kill him off,” as you put it, my hope is that his death is noble and heroic. Some sort of Last-Stand-Against-the-Enemies-of-Christendom kind of thing. Or at least saving Buck from the tentacles of the Jules-Monster. (Only kidding, there.) No more lingering illnesses and car crashes, I beg.
I would say the same if Whit ever dies. If the Ultimate Odyssey Hero goes out with anything less than an earth-shattering stand against a Western-Civilization-Ending-Threat, I want my money back.
(Fortunately—or not so fortunately—we seem to be awash in Western-Civilization-Ending-Threats these days, so at least there’s no lack of inspiration for such a tale.)
However, Phil Lollar has (with whatever degree of seriousness) floated the idea of Whit as a Time Lord; or (in a recent conversation in the Adventures in Odyssey Fan Club Facebook Group) subject to a kind of Brigadoon-like magic that makes him age much more slowly.
I like that idea. So we have a sort of Gandalfian (or Elrondian) magic to bestow a mantle of immortality on Whit, as has apparently been done with such luminaries as Enoch, Elijah, and (according to some) Nicholas of Myra.
Not everyone’s cup of tea, to be sure. Odyssey has been all things to all men, and some don’t care for the more fantastical elements of the show.
But for me, the fantasy element ties into the question of when or whether Adventures in Odyssey must come to an end. Perhaps it must, some day.
But not necessarily.
After the days of the first Arthurian stories, men of later generations wrote new ones. Same with St. George, Beowulf, Sir Gawaine, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Zorro, the Lone Ranger, The Shadow, and Doc Savage.
Just so, if we begin to think of Adventures in Odyssey as more than just a timeless Christian kid’s story franchise—and more like a late twentieth-century American small-town mythology—then we can envision a longer, generations-spanning life for this Odyssean Book of Tales.
I imagine the AIO Team has given some thought to the legacy of Odyssey, and what its future might be beyond their time. Will there be new works in the late twentieth century and beyond? What if Focus on the Family closes shop some day? Who will carry on the storytelling, if anybody?
Fan art and fan fiction already exist—my oldest daughter has written some good stuff, including an ongoing story exploring what might have happened had Bernard been more involved in the fight against Novacom: you can read what she’s posted so far here).
And there have been a few times where Odyssey went beyond mere Fiction to venture a bit into the realm of Literature. But what if that became more normal? Imagine a world with:
Odyssey Epic Poetry
Odyssey Sculptures (perhaps a modern-day Michelangelo creating a marble reproduction of the confrontation between Jack and Blackgaard in the tunnel below Whit’s End!)
Personally, I’d love to see a Shakespearean take on Odyssey. Something like this, perhaps:
Shall we to ancient quarrels now return?
‘Tis always thus: To action would I bend,
While thou, a tour of finding facts must take.
Forsooth, because such action, rashly ta’en,
To problems unforeseen shall ever lead!
Dost thou recall (I know thou surely dost)
Th’ Imagination Station? What befell?
Of that, no hurt of lasting sort did come,
Nor will: O Nuncle Jack, I know thee not,
Nor understand the thought that causes thee
To merely sit while deeds of valor wait!
That I but sit? ‘Tis false, dear Jason, false!
And grieve I that the son of mine old friend
Should think thus of me. Sit? Not I, but kneel—
The better to importune Heaven’s hand.
But what of that? I see the bent of all
That we have said. The Israelites are yours:
To take the reins thine aim. Guess I aright?
Aye, sir. Thou speak’st with perfect verity.
No pow’r have I to stay thine hand; nay, none
More puissant than I had to bar thee from
The actions thou hast ta’en in recent months.
Hast told me, Nuncle, many times, that I
Am stubborn, like unto my father’s way.
Stubborn thou art. But, like thy father? Nay.
Think of that as just a small sample of what could be with an Odyssey-as-Mythos mindset.
Even if such high culture works never materialize, one can still imagine a future with Odyssey films, novels, short stories, audio dramas, paintings, and the like. If not an Odyssey opera, perhaps an Odyssey rock opera?
The point is, Adventures in Odyssey can have a much longer lifespan if its makers view it less as a show, with episodes and seasons, destined to end when something more popular comes along or when the funding runs out; and more as a collection of tales, with histories and legends, and the potential to grow and expand beyond this Age of Man.
To fulfill such a vision, I imagine they will need to take purposeful steps in that direction, investing in projects consistent with the concept of Odyssey as Mythos, and working with the understanding that this wonderful franchise has more long-term potential than most have realized.
This isn’t a criticism, by the way, just Wond’ring Aloud. For all I know, the AIO team is way ahead of me on this, maybe with something even better.
Gentlemen, much obliged for the thought-provoking podcast.