Adventures in Odyssey is unlike any other show in radio or television. Right now, each network is promoting its newest seasons as more exciting, more mysterious, edgier than any of its previous ones. They are marketed as the unmissable event of the year. Odyssey doesn't play by those rules. As we've seen with "Run of the Mill Miracle", "A Glass Darkly", and now "Wooton knows best", Odyssey likes to begin its new seasons showing that it is the same normal, lovable show it has always been. The loyal listeners will always tune in, so what does it have to prove?
I'll admit starting with "Wooton knows Best" is an odd choice for a season premiere. On paper, the episode shouldn't have worked. The episode summary, according to the AIOWIKI, states: "Olivia and Matthew Parker compete for a chance to be Wooton Bassett's camp assistant". I'm not sure how this simplistic, quite unexciting idea was even brought up in the writer's meeting. Yes, we know this album was originally supposed to come before album 54, but after the excitement of "The Green Ring Conspiracy" I wonder: why are we listening to this?
This is the sort of episode you dislike at first because you've first entered it with a negative attitude. Then you begin to miss the "good old days" and wonder why your favorite older characters aren't around anymore, which then brings you to wonder why the children aren't sounding as realistic as they used to, which then makes you miss those older John Campbell tunes, and, boy, Hal Smith...he was great wasn't he?
Then you realize, after listening to this episode a second time, that "Wooton knows Best" isn't so bad. It's, dare I say it, actually pretty good. Marshall Younger manages to take a dull premise, works hard at it, and creates a relatively decent slice of life episode--one that includes important lessons for all ages. If you put aside your initial prejudice for the story idea, or even your Wooton-phobia, you'll see that--hey!--this is sorta like your everyday classic Odyssey episode, isn't it?
There are a lot of episodes like this one in "Clanging Cymbals...and the meaning of God's Love". These episodes are simply about "love". They will not be unrealistic, larger-than-life ideas. No, Blackgaard will not come back from the dead and, no, our characters will not have to reach down and find some way to love him. Clearly, our opportunities to show love are in normal, everyday situations. The little things: A brother showing love to his sister, an older child spending time with a younger child, a sister giving up her pride and learning to forgive. Those are moments that make "Wooton knows Best" quite applicable, and actually, quite nice.
One of these nicer moments is the lengthy conversation between David Parker and Olivia Parker. I enjoyed hearing David Parker's story about Joshua Meanie, and actor Marc Evan Jackson delivers those lines well. Today's father-daughter moment is quintessential Adventures in Odyssey. Where would Odyssey be if it had followed the route of secular Children's entertainment and taken away its "father-knows best" angle that was so prevalent in classic television such as Leave to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show. Adventures in Odyssey is one of the few remaining shows that hasn't yet portrayed the father as a dumb, bumbling fool. Although, who knows, maybe Harlow Doyle is married and has kids and we just don't know it yet...
Another highlight of "Wooton knows Best" includes a change of actors. Olivia Parker has ditched Hope Levy and replaced her vocal chords with Kelly Stables'. Normally, I'd be annoyed by this, but to be perfectly honest, the change is much nicer on the ears. Kelly Stables has allowed Olivia to sound older, I believe, and therefore, doesn't sound as phony, or painfully forced in her delivery. Furthermore, Kelly Stables, having worked on "Two and a Half Men" and short lived series like "Romantically Challenged", is one of the higher profiled actresses Adventures in Odyssey is working with. In light of this, I hope she'll be able to stick around long enough so we won't need an Olivia Parker #3.
Of course, there are certainly things I disliked about this episode. As much as I've always mildly enjoyed Wooton Bassett, I'm finding him to be somewhat egotistical and overbearing these days. He likes to have long, drawn out moments of dialogue. He hogs scenes like no other. Furthermore, in the entire history of Odyssey, nobody, aside for Whit, has had so many episodes named after themselves. Whit has had his name on episodes 6 times which includes a three-parter. Wooton, during his short existence on Odyssey, has now tied that record with "Wooton Knows Best". What is it about his character that has propelled him to such stardom?
And there are other mysteries, too. Why did Marshall include that final scene where Olivia encounters the pop star? Did the audience really need to feel like Olivia got her happy ending? Isn't forgiveness its own reward? Also, why did Matthew Parker feel so apologetic at the end? And, why has Camp What a Nut made such a hasty return to the show? Is "The Timothy Center" no longer the show's trendy camp? Man, I sure miss that place. And, boy, Walker Edmiston...he was great wasn't he? But, again, I digress...