What's this? A new blog post so soon? Today, the Odyssey Scoop posted an article written by Marvin Grant that asks the questions: "Is Odyssey Stuck in the Past?" For a while now, I have wondered the same thing. And Marvin's article does a good job at making me arrive at a conclusive answer.
Yes, Odyssey is stuck in the past.
Mr. Grant's article focuses on the now dissolving relationship between Eugene and Katrina. His fear is that in the show's attempt return to its roots, the show's overall quality is digressing.
I personally think that Katrina's absence has been purely unintentional and that she is in no danger of becoming the new Maude. Like most TV sitcoms, once the fan-favorite's couple gets married, they simply become much less interesting than they were previously. We originally fell in love with Eugene, and not Katrina. Eugene will always be numero uno. It's simply natural that Katrina will fade away from the spotlight on occasion.
But Marvin Grant has a worthwhile point. Personally, I feel as if the creators of Adventures in Odyssey have misunderstood the fan's complaints. When we say "Odyssey isn't the same as it used to be", we don't mean that we want Odyssey to continue to be that old show where Eugene and Connie immaturely bicker at Whit's End while dishing out ice cream. Sure, some things should always stay the same; Whit's End should always be that place that helps out the town's citizens and witnesses to its community. That's the heart of the show. Guys, we've seen the show work without Whit at its center, and likewise, people forget that Connie and Eugene have not always been on the program. Even during those periods, the show was certainly still very successful.
Just the other day, I commented in a review that Connie was too "happy-go-lucky", and a fan responded that "Connie has always been like that". Not true. She used to be a sour brat, and eventually the producers brought out her comedic side and kept wringing it out every episode. She has digressed, rather than progressed, in my opinion. No, I would not be mad if she began going to college. Do I think that she wouldn't be same "Connie" kids know and love if she spent less time behind the counter? Of course not. Like Whit, I think Connie should always be attached to Whit's End--but I also believe the show needs to continue to let her grow, so that the audience can grow and learn with her.
With every step forward, Odyssey takes two steps back. Remember when Adventures in Odyssey hired two new employees? Anyone recall Nick Mulligan and Aubrey Shepherd? I don't remember anyone truly despising the decision to bring them about. In fact, Nick Mulligan, as many know, is probably one of my favorite characters. He became Connie's new and successful bickering partner, and offered loads of laughs in every show he was in. He had so much potential, including a storyline about him becoming a Christian. But what did Odyssey do? Once Eugene came back to the show, poor Nick Mulligan was never heard of again. The show didn't even have the decency to bring him to Christ, or to write him out. He simply disappeared. Poof! At the start of every season, I browse the episode descriptions of upcoming shows, anticipating his return. I understand when beloved characters like Tom, Bart, or Bernard need to leave the show. But why get rid of poor Nick? He was one of the only characters that kept many teenagers glued to Adventures In Odyssey. One step Forward, Two steps Back. The only real reason why the producers would do such a thing is because they wanted to return the show to its original roots.
Next up: Jason Whittaker. Didn't he mature, became less reckless, and also became a missionary? One step Forward, Two Steps Back. Nope. Maybe the producers thought that, again, kids would think he is not the "same character" if he stopped being that spy we knew and loved in "A Name Not a Number". And Jason, you're acting an awful lot like that old one-dimensional spy character these days.
Should I mention the consequences of not letting characters grow? Answer: they become like Rodney Rathbone. We eventually grow so tired of repetitiveness and the same old thing that people complain and ask why they are even still around. And then they disappear. I don't feel challenged by Connie and Eugene as I once did. I loved watching Eugene learn how to drive, Connie and Eugene learn to deal with one another and mature, Eugene develop a relationship, Connie search for a job, Connie almost getting married, both characters become a Christian...
And nowadays? I love...hmm...Eugene getting a haircut?
Some things should always stay the same. Whit should always be offering advice. Eugene should always be smart. Bernard should always be moody. Cryan Brian Dern should always be a big jerk. Connie should always be...wait...what should Connie always be? Oh yea, that's right, growing. People always loved Connie because she always learning and changing throughout different periods in Odyssey. Don't let that stop.
The problem with Odyssey is that its producer's definition of change on the show means to simply bring in new characters--but they don't seem to realize that they have dozens of characters running about that could simply be doing more. Is this the reason why the storylines from "Take it From the Top" and "Cause and Effect" deal with 90% new characters? And what are the main characters doing during this time? The same thing, really.
I couldn't have said it better myself, Marvin. The very best episodes on the show have been about characters making drastic life-changing decisions or milestones in these character's lives: "Coming of Age", "A New Era", "Malachi's Message", "Gone", "Living in the Grey", "The Graduate"...and tons and tons more...
Let characters grow, Odyssey. Let our favorite characters change. Yes, we hate change. But we also desperately need it.