Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Couch Pretzels: Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

We all come across shows by accident. Sometimes, you develop an odd fascination with them, often because they are a train wreck, other times because they are just entertaining in a way you can’t explain. You probably shouldn’t waste time with them, but you do anyway. Soon you realized you’ve watched or heard enough to be considered a fan. You know the feeling of finding an old pretzel amongst the cushions, don’t you? Sure, it might be from the 1PM football games, and it’s most definitely not a smart idea to eat it, but you do anyway. And more times than not, it’s satisfying in an empty caloric way. Well, these shows are kind of like that. Today's Couch Pretzel comes from Peter:

Every Sunday evening around 7PM, I come to the realization that I have put off my weekly trip to Trader Joe’s. On my way to the store, with my radio dial fixed on WAMU, the Washington, DC NPR affiliate, I regularly come across the “Big Broadcast with Ed Walker.” To be honest, it first caught my ear because the show begins with the un-ironic playing of the cheesy love music from Airplane.

Basically, Ed Walker plays four hours -- yes, four hours -- of “classic old time radio programs.” The lead off show is always Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, which bills itself as the story of “the man with the action packed expense account.”

Today our heroes are usually superhuman, have access to incredible technology and/or have an inspiring origin story. In the 1950s, they were white middle-aged insurance investigators from Hartford, CT. On a side note, I'm sure there’s a cultural studies thesis in here somewhere.

Each week, Johnny Dollar tackles another case of insurance fraud which he dutifully chronicles through the narration of his expenses account. If a case takes him to Palm Springs, AZ, Johnny will be sure to tell the listener how much the flight and the hotel were: “I booked a flight to Palm Springs Western Air, Item 1, $89.33, and checked into the Tip-Top Lodge, item 2, $33.50.

While Johnny’s contemporaries at Sterling Cooper might have been using their expense accounts on expensive dinners and prostitutes for their clients, Johnny is as honest and meticulous as they come: "Item 9, ten cents. Aspirin. I needed them.

I'm not sure why this show grew on me. Maybe it was the predictable plot lines. Maybe it was the campy, old-timey radio voice of Johnny Dollar. Maybe it was the fact that Ed Walker, who hosts this four hour block of grandpa radio, looks exactly like you would imagine him to. But part of the Couch Pretzel aura is that sometimes you can’t quite figure out why you like it. You just do.

No comments:

Post a Comment