Friday, December 9, 2011

Podcast Recommendation: Decoder Ring Theater

I like podcasts. They break up the "monotony" of listening to the same 1500+ songs in my iTunes library over and over again. I want to talk about (and recommend) some of the podcasts that get me through my commutes.

First up: Decoder Ring Theater (

Decoder Ring Theater is an old-fashioned, full-cast radio show, mostly featuring adventures of the super-heroic Red Panda or the hard-boiled detective tales of Black Jack Justice. With these characters as the anchors, DCR also occasionally do special done-in-one (or done-in-two) stories set in other genres - sci-fi, horror, etc. - as part of their Summer Showcase series.

The bombastic style of some of the voice work, especially in some of the earlier episodes, may be a little off-putting to those who've never listened to Depression-era radio drama before (such as the Green Hornet or the Shadow or any of the thousands of others); and some of the storytelling in those same early episodes is a little rough as Red Panda creator Gregg Taylor works out how to tell an action story with dialog and sound effects and nothing else. (You can tell he hit a rough patch when he resorts to third-person narration, which, to his credit, is only once or twice in those first 12 episodes.) If you can get past that, though, DCR has a lot of fun to offer. It's not all superhero-y Red Panda stuff, but it's all rooted in pulp-style genre material.

Surprisingly (because I would have sworn I'd take the superhero over the PI), I slightly prefer the Black Jack Justice stuff to the Red Panda, probably because Black Jack uses a first-person narrator, making it a little easier to follow. I haven't cared as much for the anthology-style Summer Showcase episodes, but that might just be me wanting to get back to the Panda and Jack. (Summer Showcase did feature what's probably my favorite of what D.C.R. output I've listened to so far, though - a one-shot sci-fi noir called I.D.0 that has more than a little Blade Runner in its DNA.)

Episodes are generally between 20 and 30 minutes, and there are A LOT out there. I've listened to dozens of these things, and I'm still back in 2007 in the archives. The Decoder Ring Theater podcast is available for download from their site and all the major podcast sites. Or you can just subscribe through iTunes, like I do.

Decoder Ring Theater isn't going to be for everybody, but those of you who dig old-time radio shows are in for a treat.

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