|Country of origin||United States|
|Home station||KIXI (since 2003)|
|Created by||Jim French|
|Original release||March 17, 1996– present|
Imagination Theatre is an American syndicated radio drama program airing on FM and AM radio stations across the United States. It features modern radio dramas. The program first aired in 1996. Originally produced by Jim French Productions, the program is now produced by Aural Vision, LLC.
Multiple radio series have aired as part of Imagination Theatre, the most popular of which are the two long-running mystery series The Adventures of Harry Nile and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
The program was originally produced by Jim French and is based in Seattle. Its first show aired on March 17, 1996. In February 2017, Jim French Productions announced that it would be "retiring from production and closing its doors at the end of March." French died in December 2017 at age 89. In 2019, Lawrence “Larry” Albert and John Patrick Lowrie, both actors/producers on Imagination Theater, launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to produce further episodes under the name "Aural Vision, LLC". An announcement about a new website was released in July 2019, and a longer statement about the return of Imagination Theatre was released in December 2019.
Many voice actors have guest starred on Imagination Theatre, and its regular actors play multiple roles across the program's various series. Several actors on the program have also voiced characters in video games, and some have done work for the same titles. For example, five actors who have performed on Imagination Theatre (John Patrick Lowrie, Rick May, Dennis Bateman, Gary Schwartz, and Ellen McLain) voiced characters in the video game Team Fortress 2.
Most of the episodes are approximately a half-hour long (with commercials), though some episodes are double-length. The program has aired a few special broadcasts including characters from more than one of its series, for example "The Third Gate", a 2005 episode celebrating the 500th week of Imagination Theatre which featured characters from multiple series. Previously broadcast on Seattle-area stations KIRO (1996–1999) and KNWX (1999–2003), the program has aired on the radio station KIXI since 2003. Additionally, the show is broadcast on other radio stations in different regions of the United States. Broadcasts of the show on KIXI are also streamed online. Some episodes of The Adventures of Harry Nile, The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes air on Sirius XM's Radio Classics channel. Imagination Theatre is sometimes recorded live in front of an audience at the Kirkland Performance Center.
The Adventures of Harry Nile
The radio series The Adventures of Harry Nile (1976–present) first aired as part of Imagination Theatre in 1996. It features Harry Nile, a fictional American detective in Los Angeles and later Seattle. The series takes place from the 1940s to the 1960s, and has 310 episodes as of June 2020. The character and series were created by Jim French. Harry Nile is a hard-luck private detective who is not rich or famous, but he has integrity and cares about his clients. He is assisted on his cases by Murphy, an intelligent former librarian. Nile was formerly a cop in Chicago; his real last name was Niletti, but he changed it before he joined the police force to protect his family from potential retaliation from the Mob. Jim French explained the origins of Harry Nile's name: "It's a twisted anagram of 'Harry Lime', a favorite character from the film The Third Man. Originally, I thought I'd make Harry Nile a more mysterious character than he finally came to be."
The first four episodes aired as part of Jim French's anthology radio series Crisis. The first episode of The Adventures of Harry Nile aired in Crisis in 1976 and aired again under the new series title The Adventures of Harry Nile in 1977. The series had a 12-year hiatus from mid-1978 to late 1990. A sub-series titled War Comes to Harry Nile (2007–2016) aired as part of The Adventures of Harry Nile, and follows the title character's adventures during World War II. There are 18 episodes in War Comes to Harry Nile. As of 2019, six episodes of The Adventures of Harry Nile are new productions of previously used scripts. For instance, episode 124, "Little Boy Lost" (2000), is a re-working of episode 34, "The Case of The Midnight Caller" (1992).
Harry Nile was voiced by Phil Harper through episode 156 (which aired in 2004), and has been played by Lawrence Albert since episode 157 (2005). The character Murphy, portrayed by Pat French through episode 230 (2011) and by Mary Anne Dorward from episode 232 (2011), has been played by Mary Kae Irvin since episode 294 (2017). The series has multiple recurring characters, including fictional police officers and detectives in Los Angeles and Seattle, members of Harry Nile's family, and several war-time characters. Pat French played a variety of roles in the early episodes before Murphy became a recurring character.
There are fifteen double-length episodes in the series as of 2019, including two episodes of War Comes To Harry Nile. Though many episodes of Imagination Theatre have been recorded live, a Harry Nile episode, "The Case of the Blue Leather Chair," was one of only two Jim French shows broadcast live. The episode and a stand-alone show, "Moving Day", were broadcast live on New Year's Eve 1995.
The magazine AudioFile published positive reviews of the 2005 collection The History of Harry Nile, Volume 11 and the 2016 five-episode serial You Shouldn't Detour Off Route 66. The latter reviewer wrote: "Reflecting the noir style, pace, and sound effects of old-time radio, Jim French Productions reprises one of their most popular characters, Harry Nile, played by veteran voice talent Larry Albert. Replete with the voices of a Mob boss, a squeaky-clean kid, and a gum-chewing waitress, this five-episode miniseries whips right along, accompanied by some original music on a muted trumpet. This is easygoing family entertainment."
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1998–present) is a radio series featuring the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, created by Arthur Conan Doyle. The series has 142 episodes as of June 2020 (not including The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes). The episodes are pastiches written by Jim French, M. J. Elliott, and other writers. Before the start of the series, the program obtained permission from the Doyle estate to use Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and other characters in radio dramas.
In The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes was portrayed by John Gilbert through episode 18 (which aired in 2000), and has been played by John Patrick Lowrie since episode 21 (2001). Dr. Watson is portrayed by Lawrence Albert. Rick May played Inspector Lestrade from 1998 through 2020; the last two episodes with Rick May were recorded in late 2019 but were first broadcast in May 2020. Leonore "Lee" Paasch played Mrs. Hudson from 1998 through 2013. Ellen McLain has played Mrs. Hudson since episode 137 (2019). Mycroft Holmes has been portrayed by Frank Buxton (in one 1998 episode), Ted D'Arms (2000–2006), and Terry Edward Moore (since 2011). Other characters created by Doyle make multiple appearances in the series, including Inspector Gregson, Inspector Hopkins, Inspector MacDonald, and Mary Morstan Watson. Dr. Watson is married (and widowed) three times in the timeline of the series, Mary Morstan being his second wife.
There are some original antagonists that feature in multiple episodes, such as the pair of thieves Alfred Peabody (who uses the stage name "The Great Ansceni") and Rose Starlett. Two brothers of Professor Moriarty, Colonel Moriarty and Mr. Moriarty (a station master), also appear as villains. All three brothers are named James Moriarty.
The series has thirteen double-length episodes as of 2019, such as "The Adventure of the Borgia Ring" (2012) and "The Adventure of the Irregular Client" (2013). Some episodes are based on miscellaneous stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. "How Watson Learned the Trick" (2008) was based on "How Watson Learned the Trick", "The Lady Sannox Investigation" (2008) was based on "The Case of Lady Sannox", "The Adventure of the Parisian Assassin" (2011) was adapted from "The Lost Special", and "The Addleton Tragedy" (2012) was based on "The Man with the Watches".
Eleven scripts for the series The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes written by M. J. Elliott were published in the book Sherlock Holmes on the Air in 2012. A different book with a similar title, Sherlock Holmes On the Air!, was published in 2016 with scripts for two episodes of the series by Steven Philip Jones and two by M. J. Elliott. A collection of scripts written by multiple writers for the series was published in 2017 in the book Imagination Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes, with all royalties donated for the preservation of Undershaw. All the scripts written by Jim French for the series were published in a three-volume set in 2019, with all royalties again being donated for the preservation of Undershaw.
In their 2012 book Sherlock Holmes Miscellany, Roger Johnson and Jean Upton wrote favorably about the series in the context of Sherlock Holmes adaptations on American radio: "After several seemingly barren years, the Americans came to the fore again when, in 1998, writer and director Jim French added the Great Detective to his syndicated weekly drama series Imagination Theater. The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was, and still is, gloriously reminiscent of the great days of American radio." The Sherlock Holmes Society of London wrote in 2019, in a review written for the publication of the scripts by Jim French, that the series is "gratifyingly reminiscent of the days when listeners tuned in every week to hear Rathbone and Bruce as Holmes and Watson. The main difference is that IT’s Watson, played by Lawrence Albert, is not only brave and loyal, but intelligent." (Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce played Holmes and Watson in the 1940s US radio series The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in addition to a series of films.)
The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
In addition to The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Imagination Theatre also produced a related radio series titled The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (2005–2016), which dramatised all 60 of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. All of the stories were adapted by M. J. Elliott. The dramatizations were recorded and aired in a different order than the original stories were published. For instance, the first episode is based on the short story "The Adventure of the Yellow Face".
The series has 59 episodes, or 64 when counting all the parts of the multi-part adaptations. (The episodes adapted from the novels The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear, and The Sign of Four have two or three parts.) A double-length episode, "The Return of Sherlock Holmes", combines Doyle's short stories "The Final Problem" and "The Adventure of the Empty House". The episodes based on A Study in Scarlet and "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" are also double-length, as are the three parts of The Hound of the Baskervilles and the two parts of The Valley of Fear.
John Patrick Lowrie and Lawrence Albert, who play Holmes and Watson respectively in The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, also portrayed the characters in The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Lee Paasch played Mrs. Hudson and Rick May played Inspector Lestrade. Inspector Tobias Gregson was played by John Murray, and Inspector Stanley Hopkins was played by William Hamer and Jeffrey Hitchin.
AudioFile published a positive review of the series in 2016: "John Patrick Lowrie skillfully portrays a humbler and more humorous Holmes while Lawrence Albert's Dr. Watson is wiser and even occasionally gets Holmes out of a jam. Lee Paasch is fun as the long-suffering Mrs. Hudson, who is more outspoken in these performances--as when she begs Holmes to 'remove his silly disguises because the neighbors are talking.'"
The Hilary Caine Mysteries
The Hilary Caine Mysteries (2005–2017) is a radio series following the investigations of Hilary Caine, an independent young woman who has the ability to investigate cases using a reasoned train of thought. The series has 22 episodes. Imagination Theatre writer M. J. Elliott created the Hilary Caine character. The series takes place in the 1930s. Hilary Caine is employed by the English tabloid Tittle-Tattle Magazine as an investigator. Her cases are published in the magazine under the banner of Hilary Caine, Girl Detective, all rewritten by the magazine staff to remove Hilary's various personality quirks and present her in the most positive light. As a result of living a real and imaginary life, Hilary is apparently confused on occasion about where fact ends and fiction begins. For instance, she sometimes claims to have met famous fictional detectives such as Sherlock Holmes.
The series features Karen Heaven as Hilary Caine, Randy Hoffmeyer as Inspector Julius Finn, and Lawrence Albert as Sgt. Talmadge. The series has four double-length episodes: "The Bitter End" (2007), "Seek and Ye Shall Find" (2011), "A Multitude of Sins" (2014), and "Dead to the World" (2015).
Raffles, the Gentleman Thief
The radio series Raffles, the Gentleman Thief (2004–2016) chronicles the adventures of fictional gentleman thief A. J. Raffles, created by E. W. Hornung in 1898. The series has 19 episodes. It features both dramatisations of some of Hornung's stories, adapted by M. J. Elliott, and new pastiches written by Elliott, Jim French, and John Hall. The first episode, "The Ides of March", was adapted from the first Raffles story, "The Ides of March". Raffles recruits his friend Bunny Manders as his accomplice in the first episode. Their main adversary in the series is police detective Inspector Mackenzie, who is assisted by policeman Sergeant Clyde.
The cast includes John Armstrong as A. J. Raffles, Dennis Bateman as Bunny Manders, Lawrence Albert as Inspector Mackenzie, and Gary Schwartz as Sergeant Clyde. Sergeant Clyde is an original creation of the radio series and is implied by references in the first episode, "The Ides of March", to have been named after Jeremy Clyde, who voiced Raffles in the BBC radio series Raffles. Raffles, the Gentleman Thief does not have any double-length episodes.
Raffles and Bunny appear in an episode of The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, "The Singular Affair of the Persian Diadem" (2005), in which Holmes and Watson guard a valuable tiara from Raffles and Bunny. Mycroft Holmes (voiced by Ted D'Arms) coerces Raffles and Bunny to recover a missing document in an episode of Raffles, the Gentleman Thief, "An Affair of State" (2007), with Sherlock Holmes making a cameo appearance.
Kincaid, the StrangeSeeker
Kincaid, the StrangeSeeker (1996–2014) is a radio series about investigator Michael Kincaid. The series has 47 episodes and was created by Jim French. Originally, Michael Kincaid is employed as a television investigative reporter by a fictional cable news station, The Investigative Channel, and works with Shelly Mars, his videographer. Kincaid's first boss in the series is Fred "Lippy" Lippman, and his second boss is Randall "Biggy" Bigelow. The channel's building is destroyed later in the series in "The Beginning of the Beginning" (2012) and it is revealed by Randolph Carter of Miskatonic University (a fictional institution that first appeared in the stories of H. P. Lovecraft) that the channel was owned by the University. Kincaid, Shelly, and Bigelow are offered jobs with the University, and Kincaid investigates psychic and supernatural phenomena for the institution.
The cast includes Terry Rose as Michael Kincaid, Kathryn Shield as Shelly Mars, John Gilbert as Fred "Lippy" Lippman, Richard Sanders as Randall "Biggy" Bigelow, and Terry Edward Moore as Randolph Carter. The series has four double-length episodes: "The Hollow Men" (2004), "High Stakes" (2008), "Hell On Earth" (2010), and "The Beginning of the Beginning" (2012).
Kerides, The Thinker
The radio series Kerides, The Thinker (2006–2016) is a mystery series set in Alexandria, Egypt in approximately 276 BC. The series has 18 episodes. It was created by writers Iain McLaughlin and Claire Bartlett. The central characters of the series are Kerides, a young Greek scholar who uses observation and logical thinking to solve crimes, and Adrea, an outspoken former slave. Kerides's ability to solve crimes earns him the attention and patronage of Pharaoh's Grand Vizier and the commander of the Palace Guard. Recurring characters include Mentep, the Pharaoh's Grand Vizier, General Karnak, the general in charge of Pharaoh's palace security, and Armarna, Adrea's mother.
The cast features Ulric Dihle as Kerides, Sarah Schenkkan as Adrea, Stephan Weyte as Mentep, David White and Steve Manning as General Karnak, and Mary Anne Dorward as Armarna. Two episodes of the series are double-length: "Return of the Queen" (2012) and "Until Death Do Us Part" (2014). The character of Erimem, who appears in the episode "Return of the Queen", originally appeared in "The Eye of the Scorpion", an audio drama by Big Finish Productions based on the television series Doctor Who.
Murder and the Murdochs
The comedy-mystery radio series Murder and the Murdochs debuted in March 2020. Set in modern New York, the series follows private detectives Maxine Murdoch and her daughter Piper. The series is written by M. J. Elliott. It stars Cynthia Lauren Tewes as Maxine and Andee Albert as Piper.
Several short radio series of six episodes or less have aired on the program, including Call Simon Walker (2002), Mr. Darnbourough Investigates (2005–2015), Phoenix Rising (2005–2019), and The Chronicles of Anthony Rathe (2006–2019). Many stand-alone shows have also aired on Imagination Theatre.
- Wright, Stewart (April 30, 2019). "Imagination Theatre: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- "Jim French Productions - Imagination Theater". Archived from the original on 2019-01-06. Retrieved 2019-10-05.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "Imagination Theater News - Last Call".
- Remembering Jim French, archived from the original on 2017-12-22
- Albert, Larry, You Can Help Keep the Magic of Radio Theatre Alive, KIXI
- Albert, Larry (July 30, 2019). "We're Back!". Imagination Theatre. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
- Lowrie, John (December 17, 2019). "The Rebirth of Imagination Theater". Imagination Theatre. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
- Wright, Stewart (April 30, 2019). "The Adventures of Harry Nile: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- Wright, Stewart (April 30, 2019). "The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- "Video Games and Audio Dramas Meet at Imagination Theater". Imagination Theatre. January 23, 2020. Retrieved 5 February 2020.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
- "Jim French's Imagination Theatre". KIXI. Hubbard Radio Seattle. 2020. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
- "Jim French's Imagination Theater". Kirkland Performance Center. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
- "310. There's Always an Angle". 2020. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
- "Audio Drama Review: The History of Harry Nile, Set 1 (Volumes 1-4)". Great Detectives of Old Time Radio. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
- "The History of Harry Nile, Vol 11". AudioFile. April 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
- "You Shouldn't Detour Off Route 66". AudioFile. November 2016. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
- "142. The Adventure of the Silent Sherlockians". Imagination Theatre. 2020. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
- Dickerson, Ian (2019). Sherlock Holmes and His Adventures on American Radio. BearManor Media. p. 289. ISBN 978-1629335087.
- See "The Adventure of the Blind Man" (1998) and other episodes such as "The Hudson Problem" (2006) and "The Season of Vengence" (2019). John Kirkland played Lestrade in one 1998 episode, "The Adventure of the Silver Siphon" (which aired after "The Adventure of the Blind Man").
- Albert, Larry (April 28, 2020). "Imagination Theatre News". Imagination Theatre. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
- "Jim French's Imagination Theatre". KIXI. Hubbard Radio Seattle. 2020. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
- "A Milestone in American Radio". AM 880 KIXI. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
- Jones, Steven Philip; Elliott, Matthew J. (2016). Sherlock Holmes: On the Air. Caliber Comics. ISBN 1544799179. "Dedication." See also the first episode "The Poet of Death" (1998), and other episodes such as "The Blackmailer of Lancaster Gate" (2004) and "The Adventure of the Irregular Client" (2013).
- "137. The Adventure of the Singular Caravan". Imagination Theatre. Retrieved 12 February 2020. Quote from the beginning of the episode: "Starring John Patrick Lowrie as Sherlock Holmes, Lawrence Albert as Dr. John Watson, with Dennis Bateman as Inspector MacDonald, and introducing Ellen McLain as Mrs. Hudson."
- According to the end credits of The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes episode "The Secret of the Fives" (1998).
- See "The Dark Chamber" (2000) and other episodes such as "The Dreadnaught Papers" (2004) and "The Highlander's Letter" (2006).
- See "The Adventure of the Parisian Assassin" (2011) and other episodes such "The Bitterest Season" (2016) and "The Adventure of the Final Flourish" (2019).
- Wright, Stewart (April 30, 2019). "The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
Mycroft Holmes played by Terry Edward Moore, Frank Buxton, & Ted D'arms.
- "Imagination Theatre Newsletter Edition - The Wives of Dr. Watson". Imagination Theatre. February 24, 2020. Retrieved 2 April 2020.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
- According to "The Moriarty Resurrection" (2006) and "The Moriarty Revelation, Part 4" (2016).
- "Sherlock Holmes On The Air". MX Publishing. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
- "Sherlock Holmes: On the Air". Amazon. 2020. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
- "Imagination Theatre's Sherlock Holmes". Amazon. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
- "The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Part 1: 1881-1891 (Complete Jim French Imagination Theatre Scripts)". Amazon. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
- "Review of The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – The Complete Jim French Imagination Theatre Scripts". MX Publishing. January 6, 2020. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
- Johnson, Roger; Upton, Jean (2012). Sherlock Holmes Miscellany. The History Press. ISBN 9780752483474.
- Wright, Stewart (April 30, 2019). "The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- "The Complete Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes". AudioFile. September 2016. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
- Wright, Stewart (April 30, 2019). "The Hilary Caine Mysteries: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- Wright, Stewart (April 30, 2019). "Raffles, the Gentleman Thief: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- In the same episode, "The Ides of March" (2004), a different character is named Cochrane, apparently after Michael Cochrane, who voiced Bunny Manders in the BBC radio series. Other characters mentioned in the episode also share the names of the leads in the 1977 Raffles television series.
- Wright, Stewart (April 30, 2019). "Kincaid, The Strangeseeker: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
- Wright, Stewart (April 30, 2019). "Kerides, The Thinker: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
- "Murder and the Murdochs". Imagination Theatre. 2020. Retrieved March 30, 2020.