.. in which we rediscover radio drama

In the late 1980′s, radio was probably my second most important source of entertainment, after books.  Norwegian television at the time was a horrible state (near-)monopoly.  So was radio, but it was better somehow, and the highlight of the week were the Saturday drama shows: Mystery, comedy, and a children’s hour.  I think they’re all still on the air today, but they probably haven’t gotten any new listeners since 1990.

It was watching the 1951 movie Five that reminded me that I miss those radio plays.  Five was written by Arch Oboler, who I discovered was best known as a scriptwriter for radio in the 1930′s and 40′s.  He made the horror series Lights Out.  Here’s a sample episode, a nice Lovecraftian little thing.

And then I found some more episodes, and some more shows – and suddenly I’d been pulled into a world of old radio I hadn’t know existed. These aren’t the shows I listened to, decades later, but it’s more or less the same thing.

I don’t know that radio drama is better than other kinds, but it’s certainly different, and if you really want to bring out the things that make it different, listen to it in the dark.  The quality of the writing is surprisingly high in some of these shows, and darkness brings it all to life.

For a good start, try the SF show X Minus One, for instance the episode The Parade, or The Green Hills of Earth.

And yes: Lights out. Literally.