Recommended Series For First Time OTR Listeners

There are so many facets to the world of Old Time Radio, it is hard to know where to start enjoying it. The truth is there is so much to enjoy in OTR, it is easy to imagine that almost anything you pick out will delight you.

But that still leaves you with the difficult job of choosing! Lets look at a few of the options: Most OTR fans get started by choosing a genre of shows they enjoy. There are Adventure programs for action fans, for those who enjoy a good puzzle there are a number of great Detective and Mystery shows. If your day isn’t complete without a few good laughs there are several comedy programs, ranging from sketch driven variety programs to character rich situation comedies.

The great thing about enjoying OTR today is that there are so many ways and places you can enjoy it. For many of us there is nothing that makes a commute enjoyable than following an exciting adventure serial program. At the end of the day it helps to remove the stress of the work day by trying to solve a mystery along with a hard boiled detective during the drive home. Time spent working in front of the computer goes a lot better listening to the songs and jokes of a variety show. With a good set of noise-reducing earbud speakers attached to our pocket MP3 player or cellphone, some of us are even known to enjoy listening to the cowboys in Western programs while mowing the lawn!

Many purveyors of Old Time Radio try to sell their programs on the nostalgia appeal. Sadly, most of the people who are nostalgic for these shows are no longer with us. Most of the series and shows are very enjoyable in their own right, but we feel that knowing a little bit about the actors and the programs make them even more enjoyable. Hopefully they will whet your appetite to know more about these great shows.

Some of our favorite genres and and shows include:

Mystery and Horror:

These are the late-night shows that make you want to pull the bedsheets up over your eyes! Most will agree that the most blood-curdling ghost story is even more frightening on radio!

Mystery In The Air features one of the creepiest voices and personalities ever to grace the screen, Peter Lorre.

The Whistler is a collection crime stories where the justice always comes to the villain, but not a way that he or the listeners would expect!

Suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat with nearly a thousand episodes of “Radio’s Outstanding Theater of Thrills!”

Lights Out! was one of the original late night thrillers with stories written by two of radio’s greatest talents, Wyllis Cooper and Arch Oboler.

Inner Sanctum Mysteries is like having Halloween every week with creepy stories, dark jokes, and creepy thrills.

Weird Circle brings us a collection of classic ghost stories.

Adventure:

These shows will take our imaginations to the far corners of the world.

Escape! features some of the greatest stars Hollywood, Broadway and radio in some great original and adapted stories.

Cloak and Dagger is based on true stories of the Operatives of the OSS, predecessor of the CIA.

The Adventures of Superman. Much of the legend of the original comic book hero was actually developed on the radio.

 

Comedy:

There can never be enough things for us to laugh at, and Radio brings us some of the best!

You Bet Your Life, developed as a sort of game show, the program was really a chance for Groucho Marx to simply be Groucho!

Fibber McGee and Molly is nothing but good-hearted fun featuring a well meaning schemer who seems to have never held a steady job and his long suffering but happy wife along with his friends and neighbors.

The Jack Benny Program is a collection of music and skits built around a character who was everything that the real Jack Benny wasn’t, vain, cantankerous, and cheap!

Crime and Detective:

Whether we are following the wits and bravery of hard working policemen and brave private eye, or pitting our wits against one of the great detective, everyone enjoys Crime and Detective stories.

Dragnet starring Jack Webb is a series of exciting stories based on true cases of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Tales of the Texas Rangers brings us more true crime stories from the Oldest and Most Well known law enforcement agency in North America.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar is the story of an investigator for insurance companies with an “action-packed expense account”.

The Adventures of Nero Wolfe is a humorous collection of the cases of a rather eccentric but incredibly intelligent crime solver whose effectiveness isn’t hampered by his girth.

Drama:

More serious stories, but still greatly entertaining, our dramas include tales from literature, great movies, and even “serial dramas”.

Academy Award Theater, adaptations of Hollywood’s best movies, all Oscar Winners.

Dr Christian was one of the great wash-tub-weepers that kept house wives entertained with their continuing stories and weekly cliffhangers.

Lux Radio Theater brought the stories of the best movies to the radio, featuring a full orchestra, and usually the film’s original stars performing before a live audience.

 

Science Fiction:

Sometimes condemned as “kid stuff”, several radio programs treated Sci Fi as serious literature.

Dimension X and X Minus One had stories from the pages of great SciFi magazines and the best and most influential SciFi writers.

Space Patrol was meant for kids, but the space-opera was based on the best scientific knowledge of the time.

 

 

Westerns:

Some of these are kid shows, and others are serious adult drama, while others are treasures of great country music!

Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel were serious drama that never allowed the gritty reality of the rough and tumble West get in the way.

The Six Shooter featured the acting talent of the great James Stewart and some of the best written stories of any radio genre.

Melody Ranch featured the music of one of the screens great singing Cowboys, as well as a story or two of genuine ranch life.

 

Best of X Minus One Sci Fi Episodes

Just as with the Horror Genre, Radio is a superior medium for Science Fiction than TV or Movies. It is not a medium for the lazy Sci Fi fan: the producer couldn’t call in the CGI (computer generated image) team and have them created an exploding space cruiser. But for the fan willing to lose himself in his imagination, radio could make the loneliness of space that much deeper, the burning sands of a distant planet that much bleaker, and the evil of a rogue robot that much more frightening.
One of the best Science fiction Anthologies on radio was X Minus One. What made the series great was the stories, which were adapted from the pages of Galaxy Magazine, and later Astounding Science Fiction Magazine. Galaxy had become the leading Science Fiction publisher in the 50’s by publishing stories that dealt with social issues and not just technology and monsters.

The stories were adapted for nostalgia radio by staff writers, mostly Ernest Kinoy and Frank Lefferts, who were usually respectful enough of the material to change it as little as possible while adapting it for the half hour radio format. Some of Sci Fi’s all-time great authors were featured, including Frederik Pohl, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and Ray Bradbury.

Some of our favorite episodes include the following:

In X Minus One‘s The Cave of Night by James Gunn; A Spaceman’s craft is hopelessly damaged, and the whole world waits breathlessly as a rescue is organized. “The Cave of Night” anticipates the drama of Apollo 13, as well as the tragedy of the Challenger shuttle disaster.

In X Minus One‘s Sam, This is You by Murray Leinster; A telephone repair man has a quiet life, except for trouble with his girl friend, until he receives a call; “Sam, this is you…” It is himself one week in the future calling to tell him how to turn his life around.

In X Minus One‘s Honeymoon in Hell by Fredric Brown; Along with the treat of Atomic War, there is a decline in the male birth rate. The solution seems to be sending a man from our side and a woman from their side to the moon in order to conceive a son.

In X Minus One‘s Something for Nothing by Robert Sheckley; A Class A Utilizer suddenly appears in Joe Collins’ tenement apartment. The Utilizer is a Wishing Machine from the future, and Joe goes a little crazy, having a mansion built in a day in upstate NY, and then a palace in South America, before discovering that there really is no free meal ticket.

In X Minus One‘s The Discovery of Mornial Matha by William Tenn; A Time Traveler goes to the past to find the greatest artist in history, only to discover that he has no talent. He is almost as surprised as the artist, who discovers his work will be considered great.

In X Minus One‘s Man’s Best Friend by Evelyn Smith; The Prognosticating Computer chooses a man to assassinate the Overlord, and everyone is excited for him, even the Overlord! Yet he has trouble accepting the unreality of it. Until he makes it appear that he goes through with in, and makes an amazing discovery.

Good Night, Ray Bradbury: Sci Fi Writer Passes Away at Age 91

At the age of twelve, Ray Bradbury saw a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico. The magician took a statically electrified sword, touched it to Ray’s nose, and shouted “Live Forever!” The hair on Ray’s head literally stood on end from the electricity, and the boy determined to become a writer as a means to follow the command.

Bradbury spent many hours of his youth in public libraries, reading the stories of H.G. Welles, Jules Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury was such a fan of of Burrough’s Tarzan and The Warlord of Mars that he wrote his own sequel to Warlord.

Bradbury’s father was a telephone and power lineman, and the family moved often with his work. In 1934, the Bradbury’s settled in Los Angeles. Ray studied poetry and short story writing at Los Angeles High School but did not go on to college. He took a job selling newspapers, and spent his free time educating himself in libraries. “Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities” he would say later. “I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school it was during the depression, and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

In addition to selling newspapers and going to the library, an activity young Ray enjoyed was rollerskating through Hollywood, trying to spot celebrities. He met and befriended a number of creative and talented people in this manner, including special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and comedian George Burns. In fact, Ray’s first paid writing work was a joke he sold to the Burns and Allen radio show.

Bradbury began writing Science fiction short stories in the late 1930’s and received an invitation to join the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, which met at a cafe in downtown LA. While with the Society, writers such as Robert Heinlein, Emil Petaja, and Fredric Brown helped to shape Ray’s writing career.

Bradbury often insisted that his writing was not Science Fiction. Most of his stories had no basis in scientific fact. Rather they were works of fantasy, “a depiction of the unreal.” Some of his best known works include the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, the semiautobiographical novels Dandelion Wine and Farewell Summer, and several short story collections, including I Sing The Body Electric. Many of Bradbury’s stories were adapted as radio plays, especially for programs like X Minus One, Dimension X, Suspense!, and Escape. A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6644 Hollywood Blvd honors Ray Bradbury.

It is the world’s loss that Ray Bradbury was not able to fulfill Mr. Electrico’s instruction. Ray Bradbury passed away June 5, 2012.

Good Night, Ray Bradbury.

Enjoy this episodes of Mars Is Heaven from X Minus One (May 8, 1955):

Exploring the Post-Apocalypse with Atomic Radio

During the early years of the Atomic Age, many became concerned not only with the effects of Atomic War, but the after effects. The power of Atomic weapons is so overwhelming that it seems logical to wonder if civilization itself would survive their use.

So what will be the result of their use? Science Fiction writers have been exploring that question since before the dawn of the Atomic Age.

X Minus One: Ray Bradbury’s Dweller’s in Silence

Ray Bradbury’s tale, “Dwellers in Silence”, was broadcast on X Minus One, and is featured in our Atomic Radio Collection. Some humans have managed to escape to Mars from the inevitability of Atomic War. Many years later they are able to mount an expedition that will return to Earth, to see what has happened to their home world. The small team of astronauts is surprised to find a single family has survived the holocaust. But curiously, while the scientist father has aged through the years since the Atomic War, his wife and children have remained youthful.

http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/X-1-551110-024-Dwellers-In-Silence-OTRCAT.com.mp3

 

Suspense: Report from a Dead Planet

Suspense! brings us another post-apocalyptic story, also featured in Atomic Radio. “Report from a Dead Planet” is told from the point of view of astronauts approaching what to them is a new world. From their descriptions of their landing, the listener can tell that they have landed in a New York City that has been abandoned for decades, or even centuries. Why don’t the Spacemen realize that it is Manhattan?

http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/Suspense-600710-Report-From-A-Dead-Planet-OTRCAT.com.mp3

Science Fiction on Atomic Radio

We have been very busy for the last few days, getting ready to roll out our big Atomic Radio Collection. I think that everyone will enjoy the recordings– there has been a lot of discussion about the Cold War and we are all proud, because we know that the cat really appreciates the high quality of Old Time Radio Shows that we’ve put together for Atomic Radio.

But there is the problem; we have been so busy that no one had noticed that the cat has been missing for a couple days.

I had a suspicion, and it turns out I was right. The cat had been hiding in the Bomb Shelter in the basement. No harm, right? Well, I forgot that I hid my collection of

Amazing Science Fiction and Astounding Science Fiction Magazines down there… Over the weekend, the cat has had the garage locked, and won’t let anyone in. I think he is building either a Time Machine or a Space Ship. What ever is going on down there, I fear for Uncle Steve’s Ham radio set and Sister Kate’s 1974 Honda Civic.

The Atomic Radio Collection includes some of the finest Science Fiction radio from X Minus One, Exploring Tomorrow, Escape!, 2000 Plus, Suspense! and more, featuring the work of Sci Fi’s best authors including Bradbury’s “Zero Hour” and “There Will come Soft Rains” from 1956:

http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/X-1-561205-078-There-Will-Come-Soft-Rains-and-Zero-Hour-OTRCAT.com.mp3