Review of Kaboom, Season 1 from BYU Radio

Kaboom! That's not the sound of thunder. That's not the sound of a cannon firing. That's the sound of a brand-new audio drama se...

Kaboom! That's not the sound of thunder. That's not the sound of a cannon firing. That's the sound of a brand-new audio drama series exploding onto the scene.

BYU Radio (in partnership with Gen-Z Media) released an audio drama as a podcast back in 2019 called Treasure Island 2020. It really impressed me with how good the quality of the production was, not to mention the story, too. I was hoping that BYU would make some more audio dramas so I was very excited to hear that they launched Kaboom: An Audio Drama Podcast.

You can hear JD Sutter's initial reaction to the first episode of the show on ATC Backstage. If you want to know my thoughts on that episode, as well as the rest of Season 1 of Kaboom, keep reading!

Each episode begins with a teaser of the story followed by an introduction to hosts Sam Payne and Brian Tanner. Sam and Brian have great chemistry together and it’s always fun to hear them. Once the audio drama finishes, the hosts come back on and discuss some of the themes of the story and what they got out of the story personally. Sometimes, they also share some behind-the-scenes info on the making of the audio drama. It ends with a teaser for the next episode and credits. As an audio drama nerd, I’m glad credits were included and I listened to all of them. The only name I recognized was Sam Payne, but my goodness! The team that has put these audio dramas together is amazing! So many great actors, sound designers, and music composers!

I’ll talk about some standout moments later but I just want to say, overall, the sound design was stellar. It’s some of the best I’ve heard in any audio drama. Some of these stories have really epic settings and events. I don’t think there was ever a moment where I was confused about what action was taking place or felt that the volume levels were off. 

Music? Oh, yeah. The music was awesome, too. Each episode has great scores and the show’s theme song is fun, too. No lack of quality there either.

Another thing to talk about is the themes in the stories. Now, this show is not marketed as a faith-based show even though it's made by BYU Radio, part of the LDS church’s university. That said, part of the show’s wraparounds with the hosts have them discuss questions the story brought up or a message that came across in it. These themes are ones that religious and most secular people would have in common. Things like forgiveness, not being afraid of asking for help, and trust are some of the topics of discussion. The great thing about the stories is that they’re not heavy-handed in the messaging. It’s mainly when the hosts discuss the story that those themes are brought more to light.

Although I would say overall this series is family-friendly, there are some instances in almost every episode where characters or the show hosts use some words that might make some parents uncomfortable with their kids hearing (and repeating). Words like gosh, crap, and jeez do pop up here and there. 

Okay, let's do a brief rundown of the 10 episodes from this season.

Episode 1: Out There

Two estranged brothers unexpectedly find themselves working together to search for a UFO in the middle of the ocean.

This was the first Kaboom! episode I ever heard. It was a fun ride. I think Mia was a little disrespectful to her dad in some places though. Also, the couple instances of Mia mentioning God and forgiveness were a bit out of place in this story. It just felt shoehorned in there. 

However, I love how this story is less about the possibility of seeing a real UFO and more about the interpersonal conflict and relationships. There were some excellent writing and acting moments with that.

NOTE: There is a special "3D Audio" mix of this episode only available on their website. Listen to it here.

Episode 2: The Viking Mascot

A normally shy boy gains swagger when he puts on his high school's mascot costume, but his confidence is tested when a mythological threat arises on the football field.

This is the only sports story in this season but it’s unlike any other audio drama about football that you’ve heard before. With me not being a sports fan, it was still easy to keep track of what was happening with the use of sportscasters (played by real sportscasters Jarom Jordan and Spencer Linton from BYU Sports Nation). Having real sportscasters instead of actors was a nice touch and added some realism. Some of the lines in the color commentary were quite funny and helped the audience see what was happening, especially in the chaos that ensues with the Viking zombies. Yes, you read that right.

This story takes inspiration from an archaeological discovery (or hoax) in Minnesota called the Kensington Runestone. That artifact is a part of the plot in this story along with some Norse mythology. Just be aware: there is some talk and accidental use of some magic in this, including a chant used by the Kensington Vikings (a football team) as a rallying cry for team spirit. Undead Viking warriors appear and the football team and some students go to battle. It’s nothing too gross but there is quite a bit of peril. There is a nice message in the story about dealing with impostor syndrome and insecurity.

Episode 3: The Shiny

A flying squirrel must put aside her fears as she journeys through a zoo on a perilous treasure hunt.

This turned out to be my second favorite episode of this season. It’s a fun story about some zoo animals, particularly flying squirrels, and their quest to find The Shiny. I won’t spoil what The Shiny is. You’ll have to listen to find out.

I think this story, as visual as it is, could have been done without Autumn the Orangutan as the narrator. That said, the narration was minimal and didn’t detract much from the story. The sound effects for the jumping and flying of the squirrels were great! They were realistic sounding without sounding too cartoony.

There are some funny moments throughout along with some lines that stood out to me. One was from Sam (“If I die, I’m going to be so mad.”) and one was from Jack (“My whole life flashed before my eyes, I was so funny, and smart and handsome and I DON’T WANT TO DIE!”) There were also some great lessons on facing fear and not letting other people’s harmful or demeaning words determine your actions. “We’re all scaredy squirrels sometimes” is a simple, funny, but truthful line that reminds us that everyone is scared sometimes, it’s what we do despite that fear that matters.

Episode 4: The Glass Cutter

Helen's family is an elite team that pulls high-tech heists to rescue stolen works of art, but she has a secret dream that could unravel the team—and possibly her family.

This story had a really cool concept: a heist adventure with art thieves-turned-good guys and a family, too! The use of narration was used sparingly and was well utilized. It was also cool hearing one of the show hosts, Sam Payne, play the dad in the story.

Episode 5: The Crystal Whale

The crew of an experimental submarine grounded at the bottom of the ocean fights for their survival when a giant and mysterious creature appears.

I think this one may be the shortest story in Season 1. It’s amazing how much this story packs in, never slows down, and never loses your attention. It has all the markings of a good short story; dropping the reader, or in this case the listener, right in the middle of the action.

There are some amazing sound effects in this one! With the submarine, the sea creature, and water movement all over the place, this had to have been a difficult production to make but the hard work pays off in a wonderful sonic spectacle. Kudos to Andrew Brewer, Daniel Davis, and Carly Wilson for doing a superb job with the sound design. The clincher line of the story was meant to be funny but was a bit weak. However, everything before that is great.

Episode 6: The Comics Trip

When Nat opens his Dad's treasured old comic book he is suddenly sent hurtling back in time.

This is a really sweet and fun story that involves time travel. The way it happens is pretty unique, too. I love the pun in the episode title, too.

There was a bit of clunky dialog with some characters saying what they’re seeing around them in a not-very-subtle way. However, I did like hearing the contrast of the 2020s to the 1980s. I believe the story showed how parents often had similar interests or struggles as their children when they themselves were kids. Nat gets to see that in a good way.

Episode 7: Extracurricular Activities

A pair of friends who discover that a shy kid from their school is hiding a giant (and dangerous) secret in his attic.

This fantasy-in-the-real-world story is probably the weakest of the stories this season. For some reason, the premise was a bit far-fetched (even for a fantastical show like this) and one of the character’s motivations didn’t really make sense. I think that with a longer runtime, some of the latter might have been able to be fixed. I did, however, like the message of knowing your limit of what you can take on and take on alone.

Episode 8: The Cavern of Bethesda

After a tragic accident, a pair of cousins search for a legendary cave rumored to have miraculous healing powers.

Of all of the stories in this season, this one seems to be the one that is the most grounded and serious. The parental warning at the beginning of the story is a signal of that. It’s also the least humorous of all the other episodes. All of the other stories have quite a few laugh lines or funny quips, but this one has very little of that. I believe it’s warranted with the subject matter. 

I won’t spoil the story but the changes that happen to a kid are not easy to hear. Writer Trent Horton does a great job of handling the tough material tastefully and respectfully. And if the title of this episode sounds similar to a story in the Bible, you might get a little idea of why this mythical cave is so prominent. Without a doubt, I believe this is the best episode of Kaboom from this season. It’s not my favorite and not one I’d revisit very often but I can’t help but respect this story and the messages in it.

NOTE: There is a special "3D Audio" mix of this episode only available on their website. Listen to it here.

Episode 9: Sus

The passengers aboard a spaceship headed back to earth suspect that one of their fellow passengers is not who they say they are.

I have to admit, I had a hard time keeping track of all the names of the suspects and who was who on the first listen. When it came to finding out who the imposter was, I had difficulty remembering who it was. On a second listen, it was easier, especially after knowing the culprit, to follow everything. However, it is a great plot with two plot twists that I didn't see coming. There were some really fun sound design moments as well.

One cool behind-the-scenes trivia is that this episode was written, produced, and acted by the audio production team for Kaboom. All of them are very talented individuals!

Episode 10: Silk & Swenson

Our first season ends with an original musical about a con man in the old west who runs afoul of a famous gunslinger.

Those who know me know I love musicals. I was so excited to hear in the preview of Episode 9 that the next episode would be in that genre. And hearing that it was going to be a Western too? I had high expectations going into this story. It did not disappoint. It turned out to be my absolute favorite episode of Kaboom.

The story is similar to Meredith Willson’s The Music Man in that a con man goes up against a non-nonsense woman and tries to prove what he’s selling is the real deal. That’s pretty much where the similarities end. This story is possibly the funniest and most upbeat of any of the previous Kaboom episodes. I found myself laughing and grinning many times listening to this. There are 3 original songs, including "It Cures What Ails Ya", "Genuine Feeling", and "Settle Up". All of them do what good songs should do in a musical: explore characters’ feelings and further the plot. Parts of "It Cures What Ails Ya" get stuck in my mind often. I would love it if the songs were released separately from the story as a soundtrack. 

After hearing all 10 episodes from Season 1, I’m ready to hear more. This show is truly something special. They’re all innovative and engaging stories. I was never bored listening to any of them. I found no fault in the production quality. The acting from a few people wasn’t the best but did not detract enough to make me stop listening. 

My only issue was some of the slang words and bywords that were used on occasion. I know some parents may not want their kids repeating them. As with everything we review, we encourage parents to preview the audio dramas we talk about to see if it fits their standards. Also, like I said, some stories could be frightening for young children. There’s plenty of good to be found in Kaboom. However, just like how explosions (like fireworks) can be amazing and beautiful, sometimes they can be messy and scary, too.

Overall, this is a show that I believe more people should hear. This is one of the most high-quality and unique audio drama shows that I've heard in a long time, released as a podcast or not. I’m expecting many more great stories from Kaboom in the future!

If this show sounds interesting to you, make sure you give it a listen. You can hear Season 1 on BYURadio and on your favorite podcast platform.

Austin Peachey is a die-hard reader and audio drama fan. He's run the Adventures in Odyssey Blog for over 12 years and has produced a few audio dramas of his own, including FaithFilled Stories. He's also helped work on the 2nd edition of The Official Guide to Odyssey and is a member of the Audio Drama Alliance.


Reviews 7063951635918442078

Check out our radio station!

Sentry Password Protection Member Login
Member Login
Forgot? Show
Stay Logged In
My Profile
Javascript Required

Subscribe To The Show

Apple Podcasts



Subscribe via Email

RSS Feed

Top Posts

Recent Comments

Shop Our Affiliates