On October 31st 1938, revered actor - Orson Welles, and the cast of his Mercury Theatre On Air Company made history. When they plunged the population of the United States into complete (and in some cases – near suicidal) panic, with their ground breaking radio dramatization of the HG Wells’ Sci-Fi Classic – “The War Of The Worlds”. A radio broadcast so unique and realistic at the time, that almost everyone listening believed it to be describing actual events. That the earth, had in fact, been invaded by giant tripods from outer space.
Now 83 years later, and amidst much positive frothing from critics and viewers alike, Apple TV has launched an apparently revolutionary new series too - described by some, as equally ground-breaking, with their airing of “Calls”.
Channelling the creepy 1960’s drama-horror of “The Twilight Zone” at the core of its mysterious short story format, this U.S./French production is certainly unique. Being as it is – essentially, a TV show - with no pictures.
Instead, the viewer is drawn into a series of audio recordings depicting uniquely compelling random telephone conversations. Each episode describing increasingly baffling and sometimes utterly horrifying events, as they unfold – in real time. Whilst simultaneously being hypnotised by sequences of subtly colourful patterns and text on screen. Displaying complete transcriptions of the conversations, rolling from left to right, and sometimes up and down.
It's seriously intense stuff. Which is probably why the episodes only clock in at an average of 15 minutes or so each. There really is only so much you can take in one sitting. In fact, the whole experience became so overwhelming to my senses at one point during episode 4, that I had to close my eyes to the immersive psychedelic visuals and just concentrate instead – on the sound.
And that’s when something even stranger happened. I came to the instant realisation that this wasn’t ‘ground breaking TV’ at all. It was actually ground breaking RADIO. Albeit radio with what amounts to a funky ‘screen saver’ running in synch with it.
The classic ingredients are all on display in ‘Calls’. Sharp writing. Inspired direction and acting. Superb soundscaping, and a gloriously understated score. With my eyes closed and my headphones on, I can fully appreciate that this is indeed - RADIO/AUDIO drama at its finest and most potent.
Does the unique format of “Calls” make it must-see TV too though?
I’ll leave you to be the judge of that.
But to unleash the true power of radio and audio on your next marketing campaign, do make sure you give the ‘sensory specialists’ here at Get Carter Productions – a ‘call’. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that.