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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Patience Management

This was a really great episode. It truly felt slice-of-life, even though it had the slightly extreme situation with the salon in the family room. Probably the main reason it felt that way was because it had a strong moral, and a very applicable moral at that. I don't think I know anyone who doesn't struggle with anger mismanagement. And I feel like I'm the "chief of sinners" in that regard. I feel like I'm always working on it, but always falling back into temptation and sinning. Thankfully, I think this episode had a permeable enough message that it will stick in my head and maybe help me in some situations.

I think the reason many of the episodes in this season so far have such great morals and takeaway values is that, because the writers decided to base the album on 1 Corinthians 13, they had to start with the moral and then work out the episode--rather than working the other way around, starting with an entertaining episode idea and then fitting the moral into it. I believe that's also the reason that I didn't like A Penny Saved as much. If I remember correctly, it, along with A Penny Earned, was added into the album at a later date than the rest of the episodes. So I assume the writers had already come up with the storyline and had to fit it into one of the "love is" or "love is/does not" morals. That's probably why the aspect of love was harder to catch in A Penny Saved. It was very obvious in Wooton Knows Best, The Amazing Loser, and this episode, Anger Mismanagement. With the way this season is going, I'm starting to really look forward to the rest of this album (except A Penny Earned, but maybe Mr. McCusker will surprise me).

The first specific thing I wanted to mention about the episode is that I actually really liked Wooton this time! All of his humor felt like old times, and it was all laugh-out-loud funny. Plus, I noticed that none of it disrupted any serious moments. Sometimes, it even added to the seriousness of the point he was trying to bring across to Mrs. Kramer or Olivia. A couple of times during the episode, I was reminded of Grady, because of the teaching mode that Wooton was in with Olivia.

All three of the situations where the characters' patience were tried were very true-to-life circumstances. With Mrs. Kramer, it was an example of when someone gets angry at you for something you didn't have anything to do with. With Mr. Parker, he got angry because others kept him from doing what he wanted to do. And with Olivia, she got angry because someone else had stolen the spotlight for something they didn't do. Each one of those is something that most people have to deal with on a regular basis, so I thought it was great that the writers made the episode so applicable to everyday life.

Olivia's voice continues to really please me. Kelly Stables gives her a voice that expresses her tendency to change emotions and over-express herself. Although it does get annoying and uncomfortable sometimes when she expresses herself a bit too much, it still fits her character really well. And this episode was the perfect way for her to show those qualities, since she shifted up and down from angry to happy to annoyed to patient.

I noticed that Valerie's voice was changed, and I'm glad. Whenever I listened to the Kidsboro episodes I always got her and Jill mixed up. There were literally times where my whole understanding of the episode was messed up because I thought Jill was Valerie. And since Olivia and Valerie had a couple exchanges, it was good that the actress was switched to avoid more confusion. In addition, I think the voice change was good for Valerie; she now sounds more like the popular "chick" girl that she is described as being. In my opinion, she sounds more obnoxious and full of herself than she did before. ;)

I loved Mr. Parker's character in this episode. As usual, the actor pulled off the perfect husband and father voice, and as a result, I really felt for him the entire episode. His reactions and emotions were so genuine, and I was annoyed together with him when he missed "one of the best games in professional football history." I thought he handled his anger quite well, though--better than I would have in his situation. And I liked how he still maintained his role of leadership in the home by making all the decisions.

I didn't know that running a salon would be particularly of interest to a European grandmother, but go figure. It certainly made for an entertaining side of the show. I thought Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Ortega were really in character throughout the whole thing. All of the actors and actresses did amazing jobs.

So I really, really liked this episode, as you can see. Unlike Wooton Knows Best, I didn't even have a single complaint (unless you count Olivia's over-expressiveness). I don't think this one had as strong of a moral as Wooton Knows Best did, but it definitely surpassed it in entertainment and cleverness value. I learned from the episode, which is not a very common occurrence in Odyssey episodes, so I don't think I can give the episode any lower of a rating than I gave Wooton Knows Best. I really feel like this episode deserves a 9.5/10 just like its predecessor.

Thank you for reading! I really love reading your comments, so if you have something to say, please say it! And be sure to come back next week when I review Forgiving More...Or Less.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Unexciting Winner

I woke up late this morning, because our electricity temporarily was out, and thus I did not hear my alarm. But thankfully, this episode was relatively simplistic, and I don't have all that much to say about it, so I should be able to review it this morning before I head to soccer.

I liked this show quite a bit. I've always been a fan of scavenger hunts--on the radio or in real life--so I enjoyed all of the clues and riddles. Of course, when you don't know the town of Odyssey like these kids do, it's near impossible to figure out the clues before they do, but it's still fun. The only other two Odyssey episodes that I can remember that are centered around a scavenger hunt are Have You No Selpurcs? and Treasure Hunt, both of which I always enjoy listening to--especially the former, because it has a very good moral.

I thought the moral in this episode was pretty good. It definitely fit "Love is not self seeking." I do wish it had been a little more apparent, like in Have You No Selpurcs? where Kurt and Lucy are supposed to show kindness all the way through the episode. So maybe Barrett could have had several opportunities throughout the hunt to show compassion, rather than just the little girl. But that part of the story was pretty powerful, so I think it did okay standing alone.

I noticed we got to hear Hal from Hal's Diner for the very first time! Is it just me, or does he sound very similar to Mr. Jenkins? Maybe he's Hal Jenkins, and he runs both Hal's Diner and Jenkins' Supermarket (or whatever it's called).

I'm glad they didn't overdo it on the lovey-dovey stuff between Barrett and Priscilla. What they did have wasn't really all that bad. One thing that's good about the couple is that they show commitment. They've been together for 4 albums now. ;D They made a good team, I thought. I'm warming up to Priscilla a little more.

Jay and Matthew were an unlikely team, but they seemed to do well together. Jay was aggressive and competitive, and Matthew was the brains. Jay's humor was great, as usual, and he kept the episode interesting.

I totally fell for the thing with the little girl and her shoes. I was sure that it was like in Have You No Selpurcs where the trick was to spend the money for the right things. And since Barrett was the only one to have compassion on the girl, he and Priscilla were going to win the game. I thought it was all set up by Mr. Whittaker, because he knew Jay wouldn't give the girl the time of day. But it did turn out well in the end.

The twist that "Hail to the Chief" not being the right song was a real surprise to me. I don't know anything about the presidents' musical habits and abilities (other than that Bill Clinton played the saxophone), so I had no idea who made that comment about "Dixie." But I predicted the outcome, without having to know anything about what Abraham Lincoln said, because I knew that Jay had spent his penny, but that Barrett had kept his, so I figured the penny was the missing object, since it featured a picture of President Lincoln.

So there isn't much to address in this episode. It was an entertaining listen, but it wasn't anything all that special. There wasn't anything not to like about it though, so I'll give it an 8/10. Thanks for reading the review! Be sure to tell me your thoughts, and read my belated review of A Penny Saved, if you haven't seen it yet.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Nickel Rescued

Please forgive me for not getting a review out sooner. I have to juggle school, preparing for the National Bible Bee, this blog, and a job, and daily responsibilities all at once right now, and sometimes this blog becomes the lowest on that list of priorities. Thanks for your patience.

I'll say right now that most of this review will be either restatements of, or counteractions to the paragraphs of the review that Marvin at The AIO Fan's Life wrote. I won't follow his order exactly, but most of my points will come from points that he makes. I don't have time to re-listen to the episode, but I've heard the majority of it twice, and Marvin pretty much covered it all, so I'll assume that he's fine with my doing this, and proceed this way. (Hopefully this will be the only times this season that I have to do this.) I'm really tired though, so if the review is a bit disorganized, and I ramble more than usual, I apologize.

My initial perception of the episode when I finished listening the first time, like Marvin's, was that it was very simple. I agree with Ben Warren (the Odyssey Scoop's reviewer) that this felt much like episodes after Darkness Before Dawn and The Novacom Saga that were merely transition episodes. Rather than having an original premise, it merely ties up loose ends that were left at the end of The Green Ring Conspiracy. The only problem with that is that not really any of the issues addressed in the episode were problems at the end of the GRC. Sure it was nice to know that Dr. Trask got what was coming to him, but we could have deduced that outcome for ourselves. He was captured and taken into custody, and there was loads of evidence stacked up against him, so who wouldn't have thought that he'd be found guilty on all charges? But I never would have guessed that Penny would be so depressed about it.

Honestly, I was not looking forward to another episode with Penny in it. In my opinion, apart from the part that she played in helping the folks from Whit's End get more information about Dr. Trask, she could have been taken out of the album, and I wouldn't have missed anything. I really disliked her character and the influence she had on Wooton, and she was just a flat character that didn't intrigue me in the least. Now in this episode, she became more round, because the episode revolved around her, but that didn't make me like her much more. I understand how she would have been really bummed to have to testify against a man who was a friend and a father to her, but I thought the extent of it was slightly unrealistic, and then her quick turnaround at the jail was even more so. I don't think this single episode gave the writers enough time to flesh out Penny's problem and then fully resolve it. Yes, there was a semi-satisfying explanation during the picnic scene, but even that was not much. I probably would have liked the episode more if it was maybe a two-parter that gave me more chance to be emotionally connected to what Penny was really feeling.

I was glad to hear from Detective Polehaus again. It seems like he might become the new Officer Burke or O'Ryan who shows up for any Odyssian crime. I liked that he seemed to be one of Whit's End's regular customers. I look forward to hearing more from him. His humor was pretty good, as usual, and his chemistry with the other characters remained great.

Wooton.... I had mixed feelings about him in this episode. On the downside of things, there were, as has been the writers' ongoing habit, many times where a serious subject was being addressed, and he threw in a punchline that was supposed to get me to laugh, but really just made me groan on the inside. I actually did think he and Connie made a good team though. It seems right for him to be sharing his feelings with her, rather than Penny, or even Whit. I dunno, but they just seem to go well together. I liked the little exchange about how he uses humor to cover up true feelings. Maybe that was Mr. McCusker's way of apologizing for all of the times in the GRC that Wooton killed the sobriety of the moment with a joke. If so, then it was an acceptable apology that made me think for a while. But I still wish he and other writers would hold back on the jokes just a bit. Wooton isn't merely loved for his jokes. In fact, I think since Jay has really taken up that position now, Wooton should primarily be loved for his openness and honesty, which we got to see in this episode. He was always great with kids and a good spiritual example to follow, but recently all he's been is the court jester who comes around to lighten the mood, but who ends up being a nuisance most of the time.

I liked how Connie was wanting to be a faithful friend to Penny throughout the episode. As others have mentioned, I think it's great that Connie finally has someone her age with whom she can socialize and connect emotionally. (I personally just wish that someone wasn't Penny.)

I thought the scene with Professor Bruce was a little weird. Why would he be so annoyed at people who put a counterfeiter behind bars? Sure he was a respected professor at the college, but all that time, he was ringleading a nationwide counterfeiting operation aimed at financially tearing down America from the inside! That's about as bad of a non-violent criminal you can get. But the scene with the college student was pretty funny, freeing my mind back up with some great humor. Some have asked why he was so quick to ask Connie out, and I wonder if those people have ever been around secular college kids. It was very realistic. I listen to a radio show where a guy goes and witnesses to kids on a college campus. And most of them are just like this guy was: morally ambiguous and postmodern--no respect for right and wrong, only caring about their personal views and opinions. (Note: I know that I have many readers who attend college so know that I'm not meaning this to be a generalization of all college kids, just the majority of America's young people.

The thing that I liked least about the episode was that it really didn't feel like it belonged in a collection about 1 Corinthians 13. I have to admit that I totally forgot that the episode was supposed to be describing an aspect of love, and I didn't realize that that was supposed to be the moral of the story until I read somebody else's review on the Town of Odyssey. To me, the episode felt like it was just a story meant for entertainment (though it did a poor job had that been the only purpose), like the rest of the GRC. I didn't notice that an aspect of love was being demonstrated at all. Now, of course, I see how that would have worked, with Connie and Wooton, relentlessly pursuing Penny to help her and understand her feelings, but I really didn't get it while I was listening. Maybe I was the only one who felt that way.

So I wasn't especially interested by this episode. It met my expectations as well as a Penny and Wooton episode could, so it wasn't all that great. Maybe my thoughts are just clouded because I'm tired, and I'm being overly negative, but I don't think this would be an episode I'd want to listen to over and over again. Unfortunately if and when I get the album, this show will most likely be on the same CD as Wooton Knows Best, so I'll sorta be forced to hear it multiple times. Oh well. Please let me know what you thought of the episode, and express any of your differing views about the points I made about various characters. I always love to read what you have to say. Hopefully I can get a review of The Amazing Loser out tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bassett Thinks Worst

Yes, the title is a little cheesy, but now that we're back to regular episodes, I have to go back to opposites. See if you can guess what the title for next week's episode review will be before I post it. :D

Well, I don't have much time to write this morning. In fact, I'm surprised that I am able to do it now. I had to get up really early and hope that had posted the episode link already. Thankfully they had, and I'm listening to it right now. My review might not be as good as usual, because 1. It's early and I'm tired, 2. I have a time deadline rapidly approaching, and 3. I'm just getting back into the reviewing frame of mind after having been off for several months. Plus it's going to be hard doing a different style of review than I did throughout the GRC. So bear with me.

Wow. I actually loved this episode--really loved it. I hope I can go into more episodes this season with low expectations, because this one blew me away. I can honestly say that I liked it more than any other episode that has come out since The Jubilee Singers. It was fully entertaining, and yet it had a very powerful moral that was powerfully driven home without merely being suggested or implied. You could tell that the writers truly wrote this episode to bring across a point, rather than just to entertain. This is the first episode since The Inspiration Station that I actually felt really applied to my life. I was greatly moved by the message, and it's the first time in a very long while that an Odyssey episode really convicted me and made me want to change.

Well now that I've got that off my chest, I'll go review the episode the way I did back in Albums 51 and 52. There isn't really any order to it, but I'll do my best to make it interesting.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear Olivia's new voice in this episode, since I had totally forgotten that that was coming. She sounds like a mix between Charlotte (after she's revealed to be Charlotte) in An Agreeable Nanny and Jill from the Kidsboro episodes. However, I actually think I could like this voice more than I like Hope Levy's voice. As far as I know, she's still played by an adult actress, and there's still a hint of that in there. Oh, I just looked over at AIO Wiki, and not only is she played by an adult, but that adult is Kelly Stables, the same woman who voiced Jill in Kidsboro! I think this new voice is a bit of an improvement, even though she does sound a lot like Jill. Whereas when Hope Levy was Olivia's actress, I complained about how old she made the character sound, I actually like the older, slightly more mature, feeling that Kelly Stables brings to the character. She really brings out the dramatic side of Olivia, which I think is what the writers originally expected Olivia's emphasis to be when they created her. For once, I actually look forward to hearing more of Olivia throughout the rest of the season.

I really enjoyed the sibling rivalry in the episode. The new voice for Olivia fits perfectly to be an arguing opponent against Matthew. Hope Levy's Olivia always left me annoyed after she'd had a fight with Matthew, but Kelly Stables' Olivia really fit well for the role. Her fights with Matthew actually, for the first time, really reminded me of how Jimmy and Donna Barclay were. Could the Parker children finally be giving themselves a good name in Odyssey history as a fictional family that we non-fictional families can fully relate to? Anyway, I was reminded of myself and my arguments with siblings a lot throughout this episode. I once heard Sarah from the Unofficial AIO Podcast say that whenever she encounters families with siblings that almost never fight, she wonders what's wrong with them. :D I agree with her. I think bickering and fighting among siblings, though it is sinful 99% of the time, can bring us closer together and help us to understand each other more. That's exactly what it seemed to do in this episode for Matthew and Olivia. And I loved the resolution scene; for the first time, I think, it really sounded like the Parker siblings really loved each other. :)

Is it just me, or has Wooton's voice changed a bit? He seems to have a more raspy, less silly, edge to his voice these days. But he is still silly. A little too silly. I know he's supposed to be the stereotypical fun-loving, somewhat absentminded, joke-telling, but good role-model character, but I'd like to see the serious side of him once in a while. We did see a little glimpse back into that old, somber side of him when he was faced with a hard decision in the episode, but then he was quickly back to silliness. There was a perfect balance when we had Grady. But now Wooton doesn't really have anybody that he's talking and relating with on a regular basis (unless you want to count Penny, but what kind of an influence on his character has she been?), so we only see him as a flat, one-sided, silly, barely-adult character who is merely there for laughs. Yes, he had a fairly major part in this episode, and we did see a side of him we haven't really seen before (Sunday School teacher), but I was more than a little dissatisfied with him.

The scene with Olivia and her dad was really powerful. I think that's the first time since Always with Ben Shepherd and Aubrey that there's been a real, heart-to-heart, father-daughter talk, let alone one that I felt emotionally connected with. And the music in that scene was amazing; it really added to the poignant atmosphere of the situation. I loved how Scripture was the teaching factor, and not merely words of wisdom from Whit, or worse, a brief lecture from Chris at the end of the show. I honestly think this show had the best moral and the best teaching moments of any show since the relaunch. I very much hope that there will be many more episodes like this to come.

So, that's my review. It was certainly shorter than my GRC reviews, but it was one of my longer ones. I enjoyed writing it, so I hope you enjoyed reading it. Please tell me what you thought about the review, and especially what your reaction to the episode was. Did you like it as much as I did or not? What'd you think about Olivia's new voice? Was Wooton a nice or annoying addition to the heart of the episode?

Rating: 9.5/10 stars.

Be sure to be back next week when I, Lord-willing, review A Penny Saved, which, because it features Penny, I already have low expectations for. Maybe Paul McCusker will surprise me. :D