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Saturday, 17 January 2015

Suspense: A radio drama series from Blue Hours Productions


This Interwebby world wide online malarkey is pretty fabulous isn't it? Now I know that it has its share of detractors, and some of the criticisms made of this new digital existence may certainly have more than a grain of truth behind them. I for instance love with a passion many aspects of Social networking, I twit and facebuckle on a daily basis to my cold heart's content. However, even a rampant narcissist such as myself finds certain aspects of people's online behaviour a trifle strange at times. For example, I went out for a rather nice dinner last week with my family to a splendid restaurant in Aberdeen where the service was fine and the drinks were flowing. However at no point when the quite delicious meal was put in front of me did I think to stop everyone from starting their meal and say out loud.........

"Hang on, hang on everybody. I really need to get my phone and take a picture to show the rest of the online world what I am about to eat!!!"

I just don't get it. If someone could explain to me why people do this (when often the food looks like utter crap), then that would be rather fab.

Nor do I get some of the 'keyboard warriors that feel the need to attack and belittle  another person online with no cause for the consequences, but that's a story for another time.

The past few years have seen entertainment industries begin to change and adapt to the new cyber environment, with perhaps the movie and music industries acting as prime examples of the metamorphosis that is still taking shape. Indeed, the music industry has changed immeasurably since the pre-download and streaming days, and with it the money that artists and record companies once made by the millions certainly being affected by the opportunities that the Interwebby world wide online thingy offers we mere mortals in terms of access to music. It's difficult to say just what the future holds for music in terms of production and whether certain forms will endure, the current Rock scene for example is in a pretty dire state and shows little sign of seeing the influence it once had in contemporary music. Though on a selfish note, being able to download every single available recording from Tom Waits (legally of course) has made me very very happy and a unapologetic lover of downloading .

It's been noticeable too since I began this blog a couple of years ago to see how the sci-fi & horror genres particularly have benefited (in output, not necessarily in overall quality) from the new and ever increasingly exciting and cheap opportunities that the cyber world provides. The current indie horror scene is awash with new productions together with an ever thriving indie sci-fi community. Though it's not just new and wonderful methods and formats of entertainment that have profited from technological advances, because other more 'traditional' mediums have not only survived the cyber revolution, but have in fact seen something of a resurgence. This week's article is a prime example.....

This week I was contacted by John C. Alsedek who enquired as to whether my couple of readers would be interested in finding out about his company's production of the radio anthology series Suspense, which is a revival of the classic CBS Radio series which ran from 1942-1962. 'Who cares about the readers???!!!' I thought to myself......I'm certainly interested!

'Hmmmm" I then said out old to myself, 'Maybe I should continue with this new fangled method of actually doing a little research before I go all effusive and glowing about a venture'......So before I put finger to keyboard I asked John to send me a couple of episodes to listen to first. This would achieve two things; firstly I would be able to be make an informed decision about something (some would say, for a change) and secondly; I get some stuff for absolutely free......

John very kindly gave me access to three episodes from their first full season, one of which immediately caught my eye. It was only an adaptation of perhaps one of my very favourite stories from one of my very favourite authors; 'Cool Air', by H.P. Lovecraft. The story was originally written in 1926 and was an immediate hit with Lovecraft's fans when it first appeared in the classic publication Tales of Magic and Mystery in 1928. 

I was naturally more than a little reticent before hearing this particular broadcast, after all, we Lovecraft aficionado's can be a rather 'keen' bunch when it comes to people messing around with his work. However, I had no cause for concern, for the Blue Hours Productions adaptation of Cool Air is rather wonderful. For a start it remains true to the original narrative with the narrator (though here it is a woman rather than a man in the original story) starting proceedings by informing us as to why a simple "draught of cool air" is the most detestable thing to her. We learn that after a long search for accommodation the character has had to settle for a less than desirable room in converted housing in a less affluent part of town. The habitation she decides upon itself is less than remarkable, save for the strange chemical smell that pervades from the floor above where the narrator learns that a reclusive old man who was once a doctor resides. In due course the woman and the doctor become unlikely friends - that is, until a shocking discovery is made........

The changes to Lovecraft's story in this adaptation by John C. Alsedek and Dana Perry-Hayes are skilfully and faithfully written and clearly show a genuine appreciation and sympathetic appreciation of the source material. The episode itself is wonderfully acted slice of SUSPENSEful drama (see what I did there?....I'm here all week btw) with a nicely authentic melodramatic introduction and narration by the wonderful voice of Daamen Krall.

The character parts are also nicely acted, particularly in the case of Adrienne Wilkinson who carries the main role with style and confidence. The fact that this feels such an accomplished and successful episode is made all the more remarkable considering that it was the team's first recording back in 2012!

I am genuinely delighted to see that classic radio drama is not only surviving in this modern hi-tech age, but indeed seems to be thriving if the number of affiliates broadcasting the Suspense series is anything to go by (more of which later). I, like countless others both here in the UK and in the States, will have found memories and experiences of great radio drama. I'm sure that we're all far too young to have experienced the heydey of great radio back in the 1930's & 40's, but I have no doubt that classics like the truly stunning Orson Welles production of The War of The Worlds are known to many. There have been countless other series that have enthralled generation after generation, including offerings such as Alfred Hircock presents and also the eponymous original Suspense series which produced over 900 episodes of quality suspenseful drama.

Here in the UK we've had a fine tradition too of classic radio drama with standout examples such as Dick Barton, numerous sic-fi & horror adaptations and perhaps my favourite of them all, the daddy that is The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy......Holy Moly, how I loved that show.

So allow me to let you in on some details of how radio suspense drama is not only alive and well, but in the hands of Blue Hours Productions, is bloody well thriving.

In their own words, Blue Hours Productions are

" Purveyors of Retro-themed programming for radio, television and the Interweb since 2010". 

Formed by John C. Alsedek and Dana Perry-Hayes it all started off seemingly with just a few ideas between them that they thought were a little cool and interesting. Now, just over four years later, Blue Hours Productions include a diverse & talented group of actors & Musicians, with whose help they produce one of the worlds most popular radio drama's Suspense. They also have a number of other exciting projects in the pipeline.

As of this moment in time the team have completed their first full season of 24 episodes, and have actually recorded 10 episodes of Season Two (2015) already.

It's all extremely exciting for Blue Hours Productions for two reasons. First, they feel that they are well and truly hitting their stride in terms of scripts. As in all ventures of a creative nature (particularly ones that may not be as common as they were in their heyday) Season One was a continuous process figuring out what worked and what didn't, whilst at the same time producing drama of the highest quality. Believe me, from listening to three of the 24 episodes so far, they have well and truly achieved this aim.

It doesn't seem though that John and the team are resting on their laurels, they have a continuous desire to further and further perfect their scripts, both in terms of the originals and the adaptations (the latter because they're finding a lot of great old pulp-era stories that they will be giving giving a significant tweaking).

Secondly, it seems that they also have a great and ever-growing pool of acting talent. When Suspense first began first started, there was a great deal of emphasis of the talents of the aforementioned Daamen Krall (their narrator) and Adrienne Wilkinson- who were each in at least 18 of the first 24 episodes.  Whilst both will still feature greatly in season two, the show's rising popularity now means that this is a much wanted place for the Californian acting community (and maybe beyond) to ply their talents. For example, season two will feature two fabulous friends of The Fifth Dimension, the legend himself that is Bill Oberst Jr. and the talented and ridiculously gorgeous Ellen Dubin. 

If that wasn't enough, names such as Camden Singer ('Annabelle'), Charles Rahi Chun ('The Interview'), David Blue ('Stargate Universe'),  Kin Shriner ('General Hospital'), Michael Teh ('Sleepy Hollow'), Mike Powers ('The Transporter 3'), and Vic Mignogna ('Fullmetal Alchemist') will also feature in the upcoming series.

If you don't believe me just how good the Suspense series is (and I wouldn't believe you if you treated all I say with barely concealed disdain), well as a matter of fact not only do the audiences love the show the critics do too. The fact is that Suspense is up for a Peabody Award, which is simply put the radio equivalent of the Oscars or Emmys. 

The selection process of the Peabody awards are famously rigorous in nature and just to be considered as being in the running is rather splendidly excellent!

To find out more about Blue Hours Productions and the fabulously atmospheric radio drama Suspense, then all the following splendid outlets are available:




The Blue Hours Productions website can be found RIGHT HERE

The Facebook page for Blue Hours Productions is at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blue-Hours-Productions/230197658751?fref=ts

You can also find them on twitter via @BlueHours

4 comments:

  1. It is like an addiction. I have listened to almost all of the first season/series and I am hooked.

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    1. You're dead right - It is certainly like an addiction. I keep saying to myself...."just one episode more after this one......just one episode more"

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  2. I drive a lot, and the original 1940s-50s Suspense is among my favorite "radio stories" to make the trips interesting and fun. A recently stumbled across your version of Cool Air and enjoyed it, and am looking forward to road trips with BHP.

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  3. Many thanks for the kind comments, Gregor. Safe driving mate!

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