Many years ago, yes even before my time, folks gathered around the radio to listen to shows: variety, drama, comedy and music.
Many of these dramas took place as radio plays, from Sherlock Holmes to The Shadow to Dragnet. Of course, this has never fully died. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has been incarnated as a book, radio show (multiple times), TV show, live show and movie. I have fond memories of the BBC version playing in the 90’s on NPR. No other media has bettered that particular version, not even the book (books rarely, in my book [had to go there], are bettered by anything). Another that stands out is a BBC radio version of The Iliad. There’s even a recent children’s radio show Adventures in Odyssey, an enjoyable comedy-drama.
All of these shows/plays had their place and great moments. While the production element may not have been as strong, even my kids enjoyed the old Sherlock Holmes show (although The Adventure of the Speckled Band kind of freaked them out). Why do we like them? Is it lazy reading? No, it is a different experience. First, it can be communal; I listened to Hitchhiker’s Guide with my brother (we were at school together); the tears of laughter flowed. Had I not been able to share Douglas Adam’s moments of hilarity, my enjoyment would have been diminished.
Along with the benefits of community are those of imagination. No Zaphod Beeblebrox on TV or in Theater has matched our mind’s eye:
Admittedly, I really didn’t care for the TV show; the movie was OK but, ya know, it’s a movie. I love movies but they just can’t do what books can. With books (written and narrated) and radio, we are co-creators with the author of the story’s characters. Moreover, it works not only in what we see, but in what we don’t see. I write this on Halloween, so am reminded of my childhood when I had the you-know-what scared out of me listening to the thumpdty-thump-thump from The Tell Tale Heart! I, at least, find this scarier than any movie can make it.
So while I love movies and I will, for example, love seeing Ender’s Game (very soon, it’s out tomorrow as I write this), nothing beats Ender’s Game Alive, the dramatized version rewritten as a radio play. I go into a deeper dive here but suffice it to say for now that the folks at Skyboat Media have really taken it to another level with casting, sound effects and original music). Second comes the multi-voice reading of Ender’s Game about which more here.
So gather friends and family and laugh ’til you cry at Douglas Adams or dive full force into the drama that is Ender’s Game. Your mind will see what you’ve been missing.