It's important to start thinking about the ramifications of an Adventures in Odyssey spin-off because I think many of us have a faulty view of how this new show might look. Many fans have not realized that, should a spin-off got off the ground, it would not just look like a version Adventures in Odyssey with older voices, more action, and more serious topics. The reality is that it probably wouldn't even be called Adventures in Odyssey or even resemble the original show in style or substance.
The first and obvious thing that would happen with an Adventures in Odyssey spin-off would involve a change in title. This is inevitable. It cannot simply be called "Odyssey", "Odyssey 2.0", "Adventures in Odyssey: The Teenage Years", or "Dude, where's my Odyssey?". With its series of books, films, and games, Adventures in Odyssey has become a pretty daunting brand for any new listener to invest himself in...especially if that new listener is a teenager. They'll ask themselves: Why invest myself in something that's a spin-off of a kid's show? On the other hand, new teenage fans unacquainted with the world of Odyssey would be more likely to invest in a spin-off targeted to them if it seemed separate enough from the long, daunting Adventures in Odyssey history.
Since the current rumour suggests that a spin-off may centre around Connie and Eugene at Campbell County Community College, a name like "Campbell County" (though not necessarily that) might work as a title. Ultimately, the names must be different enough so that each series, old and new, can stand on its own.
|Imagine Jack and Oscar grown up and attending Campbell|
College together. Yes, it would be awesome.
The answer may depend on whether the show wants to focus on attracting fans of the original show or tries to capture a whole new audience altogether. I assume it would try to do both. Ultimately, it will be "Campbell County"'s choice of title and artwork that will tell us.
Regardless of what direction the Adventures in Odyssey team takes, here are a few suggestions I have for how an Adventures in Odyssey spin-off might work. Essentially, these are unofficial rules that may be crucial to the success of both this new program, "Campbell County", and Adventures in Odyssey.
1) Don't Change Adventures in Odyssey:
Initially, the thinking might be "well, since we've got Jason escaping the bad-guys in our new show 'Campbell County', we don't need him to show up on Adventures in Odyssey anymore". Wrong. Although many older listeners might steadily graduate to "Campbell County" because it provides them more with what they're looking for, the Adventures in Odyssey team shouldn't let that happen. "Campbell County" should not be an excuse for Adventures in Odyssey to do fewer unexpected, mature things. Rather, the introduction of "Campbell County" should be an excuse to make Adventures in Odyssey as strong as ever.
In addition, I fear "Campbell County" may either eventually take characters from Odyssey or prevent the ability for some characters to be developed properly and grow on Adventures in Odyssey. If you think about it, if Eugene, Connie, Whit and Jason are the four main characters of "Campbell County", nothing too drastic can happen to them, right? If they learn an important lesson, or make an huge life decision, how would those changes be reflected on Adventures in Odyssey? In other words, how will they keep the characters of one show consistent with their lives in the other? Will each series simply be an alternate universe where they pretend the events occurring in the other series aren't happening? It seems like it'd be too tricky. What then, is the solution? I'm not sure.2) Wooton stays behind.
Unless "Campbell County" will addressing his addiction to junk food and follows Wooton's adventures in rehab, he sticks with Adventures in Odyssey. 'Nuff Said.3) Hire New Writers:
This is somewhat inevitable isn't it? Of course Paul McCusker, Nathan Hoobler, Bob Hoose, Kathy Buchanan and Dave Arnold all do an excellent job on Adventures in Odyssey as it is. However, if "Campbell County" becomes a reality, our favourite writers probably won't be able to work on both shows. They already work very hard to provide us with 24 shows a year. Surely they won't be able to run two shows at once without at least one of them suffering artistically. The Adventures in Odyssey team might have to split, some moving to "Campbell County" while others staying with Adventures in Odyssey, and several new writers will have to hop on board. And new writers could have a big-- negative or positive--on a show.4) Bring back old characters (but not too many):
The greatest allure of "Campbell County" is the opportunity to bring back characters that weren't able to grow up within the never-ageing Adventures in Odyssey universe. However, to avoid confusion or too much annoying overlap between both shows, "Campbell County" should be considered separate from events that have taken place in Adventures in Odyssey. If old characters (Jack Davis, Jimmy Barclay, Curt) come back, we want their stories to be restricted to the world they're in, and not constantly be playing off of or referencing episodes that occurred when the were on Adventures in Odyssey. In other words, while "Campbell College" should be consistent with the personalities and histories of our favourite characters, it should also re-introduce them with new story-lines and fresh problems.5) Use characters that can get messy:
An interesting thing I've noticed with several Christian shows that have dealt with teenage issues is how the episodes themselves often focus on the protagonist's "friend" who enters a sinful lifestyle leaving the protagonist wondering how to help and pray for them. "Down Gilead Lane" often did this. It kept its main characters away from dealing with stickier situations. Why? The writers were probably afraid of ruining the character.
However, personally, I always thought it was more effective to have the main character deal with some of these stickier situations. After all, main characters in the Bible--King David, King Saul, Adam and Eve, Noah--eventually mess-up. Though it's disappointing, no one ever says that those big mistakes ruined their character. What's my point? While I would rather not see some of my favourite characters (Whit, Jason, Connie..etc) deal with some stickier issues as much as I would like to follow and relate to a new, but very prominent, character dealing tougher issues (preferably a protagonist who is his/her own antagonist like Connie used to be).6) Bring back Nick and Mike Mulligan:
Why wouldn't you? A spin-off would be a perfect opportunity to bring back one of the funniest characters on the show (Nick Mulligan), as well as one of the best dads on the show (Mike Mulligan. I certainly identified with Nick as a teenager, and would definitely like to hear more from him. But you can read all about that here.7) Don't Try to Be Cool:
One of the ways that "Campbell County" might fail is if they try simply to make a cooler and hipper version of Adventures in Odyssey. Part of what makes Adventures in Odyssey special is that it is timeless. Although many teenagers today love hip-hop, loud and fast-paced scenes, cool catchphrases, and pop-culture references, Campbell County should not dilute or cheapen what it means to be a teenager. It also mustn't, like Down Gilead Lane, have its teenage characters say stuff like "God loves you, bro" instead of "God loves you". It isn't making God's powerful message any more relatable by adding a "bro" at the end of a sentence. Oh yea, and don't give us a remixed version of the Odyssey theme to try and be cool. Ultimately, I'd much rather hear a show that spoke to teenagers through its content rather than its style.Way back before Adventures in Odyssey aired, Dr. Dobson, President of Focus on the Family, was vocal about the importance of counteracting negative programming by providing alternate, biblically-based entertainment. Sadly, 25 years after Adventures in Odyssey began, Focus on the Family still hasn't provided a that successful alternative for teenagers. I'm not sure why they haven't. Teenagers are members of a family too--and the most difficult, dumbest ones. I know I was. The reality is teenagers are dealing with choices we are allowing "Glee", "Degrassi", "90210", and "Gossip Girl" have the first and last say. Providing entertainment with good morals is not only a great idea, but one long overdue.
And from a financial perspective, Focus on the Family has very little to worry about. First they already have a strong for Adventures in Odyssey fan-base. Secondly, they have loads and loads of characters we'd want to hear from again. How many new shows can say they've got characters its audience have fallen in love with even before the show has aired? Yes, I believe "the time has come" for a spin-off, but it must be done carefully. Very carefully.
So tell me readers, would you want to see a spin-off of Adventures in Odyssey. Why or why not? If so, how would you want the series to look? Which old characters would you want to hear from? How separate would it have to be from the original series? Voice your opinion in the comments section below.