Theater Five project making major progress

Joe Webb

First question -- is it Theater Five or is it Theatre Five, Theater 5, or Theatre 5!?? The answer is.... YES!

It turns out that all four of those names were correct at one time or another as far as ABC Radio, their publicity gurus, and the newspapers and trade magazines were concerned. (It's seriously poor brand management, but that marketing concept was relatively new back in the early 1960s). If ABC couldn't enforce any brand rules internally, collectors can't really haggle over which is right. We've just been using "T5" this way no one has to get all OCD about it. :)
Whatever name is used, it's an underappreciated radio drama venture that ABC attempted in 1964 and 1965, and it deserves more attention.

The program has not received much affection from fans of classic radio, and for two basic reasons.

First, most recordings of the 256 surviving episodes of the 260 broadcasts have been in poor sound, making them less enjoyable than other recordings. Most of the recordings we have were recorded off the air... and subject to all kinds of issues. Audio quality is very important in appreciating radio programs. The OTRR certified set from 15 years ago has never been updated -- and what will be coming a few months from now is a massive upgrade of the series.

Second, the history behind the development and strategy behind the series has been unknown to most radio fans. The most common dismissal of the series has been "ABC couldn't even get their own New York station to run it." It's not that simple... Theater Five may have had a one-year run that ended in Summer of 1965, but its syndication life ran until early 1969! It's a fascinating story... a story worth telling.

It turns out that many collectors were recording the series when it was broadcast and when it was in syndication. We have found many upgrades in some of the reel collections that OTRR has acquired from some of radio's earliest and most noted collectors of the 1960s and early 1970s. These copies are close to the original source airchecks and do not have the problems of buildup of tape hiss and hum that occurs with making copies of copies of copies, etc. over the years. Many of the Theater Five recordings that were digitized in the late 1990s and early 2000s were from these kinds of sources. These newly acquired reel collections bypass those issues. There are also copies of network feeds to the ABC affiliates that have been found over the years. And for those that are still challenging to upgrade, there are many audio processing products that address these problems and can improve deficient recordings.

There are some episodes that are just plain difficult to find in anything but bad sound. If you have a non-OTRR certified set source, can you help us with these particular episodes?

As far as "bad" sounding or chopped up episodes, there are four missing episodes and even if recordings seem like they've been through a shredder and run over by a runaway forklift, ANY copies are welcome
219    1965-06-03    And Dream No More
223    1965-06-09    The Big Lonely
225    1965-06-11    The Bottom of the Bottle
234    1965-06-24    A Cup of Snow for Lt. Vogel (this script was first used on Suspense as "Lt Langer's Last Collection")

There are 6 episodes that are in very bad sound that need replacement, and even getting them in below average sound might be an improvement
640915 032 My Brother's Keeper
641111 073 The Gift
641112 074 A Brand New Life
641127 085 The Lesson
650115 120 The Trophy
650628 236 Custody of the Mother

These are the 6 episodes with clipped ending credits and we are missing cast and/or director attribution because of it
18    1964-08-26    The Late Matthew Dillard
32    1964-09-15    My Brother's Keeper
56    1964-10-19    An Honorable Way to Die
102    1964-12-22    Finders Keepers
121    1965-01-18    The Wheel
207    1965-05-18    Will Integrity Ruin Clint Marble?

FLACs or WAVs are preferred, but it's at the point we can't be choosy if the recording is in better sound or more complete. If you want to send any of the above files, use a service like or some other cloud service.

At this point of the project, there are at least 75 programs of the 256 surviving that could use a boost, but there are collections we are in process of reviewing for those. So far we're on the road to improving those. But if any of them prove to be stubborn, we'll make a post about it.
To spread the word about the series and its history, here's the first draft entry of a Theater Five blog. This is just an early post or two to get the blog set up and in a couple of months it should be in full swing... I hope you enjoy it!

Attached is a post of the T5 log as it currently stands. Don't spread it around because it's changing most every day, and we still have much work to be done. It will go out of date very quickly. It's just a chance to see the work that's been done so far.




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