Suspense: Man Who Couldn’t Lose / Dateline Lisbon / The Merry Widow
Suspense is a radio drama series broadcast from 1942 through 1962.
One of the premier drama programs of the Golden Age of Radio, was subtitled “radio’s outstanding theater of thrills” and focused on suspense thriller-type scripts, usually featuring leading Hollywood actors of the era. Approximately 945 episodes were broadcast during its long run, and more than 900 are extant.
Suspense went through several major phases, characterized by different hosts, sponsors, and director/producers. Formula plot devices were followed for all but a handful of episodes: the protagonist was usually a normal person suddenly dropped into a threatening or bizarre situation; solutions were “withheld until the last possible second”; and evildoers were usually punished in the end.
In its early years, the program made only occasional forays into science fiction and fantasy. Notable exceptions include adaptations of Curt Siodmak’s Donovan’s Brain and H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror”, but by the late 1950s, such material was regularly featured.
The familiar opening phrase “tales well-calculated to…” was satirized by Mad as the cover blurb “Tales Calculated to Drive You… Mad” on its first issue (October–November 1952) and continuing until issue #23 (May 1955).
Radio comedians Bob and Ray had a recurring routine lampooning the show, with stories that were presented as dramatic but were intentionally mundane, entitled “Tales calculated to put you in a state of… Apathy!”