The world is enough for Doug

For our first night of ds106radio tweet-alongs, we listened to two episodes of Douglas of the World, “The Terrorist”

and “The Murder Rap.”

I had never heard either, and in fact never heard of the show until this past weekend, so it was a bit of a risk. The sound quality on the first episode was normal for old-time radio – listenable but not good. The second one was poor but mostly understandable.

One value of listening to old shows recorded with primitive technology is that
they present a pretty low bar. Anyone can make something just as good or better without any special equipment beyond a computer and a microphone. Another value is that they show the effectiveness of just a few simple sound effects.

A third value is in the writing and structure. A half hour drama has to be taut and economical, and in an audio setting, has to function purely through sound and dialogue. There’s that storytelling dictum of show, don’t tell. We know Douglas is a newspaper reporter from the office banter and typewriters in the background. We know they’re driving when we hear the car engine. We know they’re trapped when we hear the door close and the lock turn. Those simple sounds create a sense of place, of space, action, … even the transitional music gives us clues to the passage of time and the mood of the situation. All of which are parts of writing for audio. We will be making our own radio shows in a couple weeks, and we can take many lessons from what we hear in these old-time shows.

Some background on Douglas of the World can be found at the Digital Deli Too site. It was produced for Armed Forces Radio and referenced real world issues of the time, as we saw in The Terrorist with Mossadegh. That episode was written up on an Iranian site, which gives some interesting perspective on it.

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