Originally Aired: January 9, 1988
From Album: Volume 0: The Lost Episodes
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We’ve seen the telling a story framing device before. Whit told a story in “Gifts for Madge and Guy,” and Connie read a story in “The Tangled Web.” The way that framing device is used in this episode though is different from those episodes in two ways: (1) The story is about other Odyssey characters (fictional to us but real to the characters), and (2) There is no narration. Narration can add to an episode if used creatively as in “Gifts for Madge and Guy” where the characters interacted with the narrator. Narration can also detract from an episode if overused as in the second part of “The Family Vacation.” My opinion is that narration is usually unnecessary, and if the episode can do without it, it should. Narration almost certainly would have been superfluous in this episode, and the writers made a wise decision omitting it.
This episode isn’t really an Adventure in Odyssey; it is a Family Portrait. It was just repackaged with the Odyssey wrap. Family Portraits is the thirteen-episode test series that preceded Adventures in Odyssey. The producers didn’t decide to narrow their target audience to the 8-12 crowd until Odyssey proper (first, Odyssey USA and soon changed to the title we’re now familiar with, Adventures in Odyssey).
Not being sure who their target audience is (Which is, really, okay at his point. It is a test series, remember?) causes this episode to have split personality disorder. At one point it’s a serious adult drama. At another, a fun children’s sitcom. The first of the episode feels more like a supplement to Dr. Dobson’s talk show than a standalone drama. “Wives, have you ever quibbled with your husband over breakfast over seemingly trivial matters? Here’s an example.” Then the episode morphs into a morality tale about bullying your younger sibling and dental hygiene.
I recently distinguished between family-friendly and all-ages. “Dental Dilemma” tips toward the family-friendly side of the scale. While the marital drama at the beginning of the episode is child-safe, it doesn’t seem like something a child would particularly enjoy listening to. Ironically, when Odyssey narrowed its focus to 8-12 year olds, I think it broadened its appeal to all ages.
Sometimes it feels like they based Odyssey around my life. Not the specific storylines but just the general setting. I’m sure it feels this way for a lot of people who grew up in a small town and were raised in a largely evangelical environment. I grew up in a small Oklahoma town, and my dentist went to the same church I did. I never tried to convince my younger brother that the dentist was going to pull all his teeth though. This is a refreshing change of pace. Most sitcoms are set in LA or New York (for a sitcom that’s actually set in a small, Midwestern town, see The Middle, which is going into its third season).
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