Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Almost immediately after the invention of radio, one of the first things people started doing with it was staging radio plays. The genre of radio theatre enjoyed its heyday during the 20s, 30s and 40s.
By 1964 however, radio dramas were all but unheard of. That's what made the ABC radio network's Theater Five so interesting, as it tried creatively (but unsuccessfully) to keep the theatre of the airwaves alive.
In so doing, they painted a rather odd and idiosyncratic view of the world which comes into focus as you step back and look at the totality of subjects they chose to portray. Science fiction and outer space themes were common, and coexisted alongside detective stories, psychological dramas, and just plain uncategorizable tales. In order to cram a lot of plot into their short time slot (half hour programs, including commercials), they used a lot of extreme storytelling shorthand, giving some of the episodes a fascinatingly incongruous feel.
Listen: 256 complete episodes of Theater Five