bbc extras

Cabin Pressure

If you were left scratching your head last December over what all those drawings of pilots were about, or are curious to try this Cabin Pressure show but don’t want to put money down on an unknown quantity, it is your lucky day!  Radio 4 Extra is rerunning Series 3, so you can hear the story behind these images for free:

Qikiqtarjuaq: Polar bears, professionalism, the Travelling Lemon, and a zany British sense of humour

Paris: The Yogi Bear of the Drinks Cupboard vs Just Like Miss Marple

Newcastle: How long will it take for one jet carrying six people to travel from Fitton to Newcastle?

Cabin Pressure

Every time I have to take a plane I bring with me a few Cabin Pressure episodes for the ride. It’s become a tradition. And as I’ll be catching a flight in a few hours, let’s talk about this wonderful radio series!

So, Cabin Pressure is one of the most celebrated radio sitcoms ever. Written and created by John Finnemore, directed and produced by David Tyler. It was first broadcasted on BBC Radio 4 and every now and then you can catch some episodes on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Also, you can download episodes through iTunes and a few other podcast apps.  A couple years ago I got the Complete CD Collection as a Christmas present and, if you still use CDs, it’s totally worth it.

Here are the reasons:

  • Humor – To be honest I’m not a huge fan of sitcoms. I get bored easily and I cringe at too much silliness and absurdity. In Cabin Pressure there’s a lot of both, but somehow it doesn’t feel forced. Is like… when you have never seen anything from Monthy Python and you start watching the Holy Grail. An important part in the “fresh humor” feeling is that the four main characters evolve through the series (some more than others). And as they change and their interactions change, jokes adapt. The conflicts addressed and its resolution feel natural. Also, the cabin calls and all of the word games. ALL OF THEM. And the iconic travelling lemon.
  • The dynamics between the characters – The four main characters are the two pilots, the owner and the son (and flight attendant) of a very small charter airline based at Fitton. Namely, a naïve perfectionist Captain Martin Criff, a seasoned and smooth First Officer Douglas Richardson, a very bossy Carolyn Knapp-Shappey and a very… brilliant Arthur Shappey.
  • The acting – The main characters are voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin, Roger Allam as Douglas, Stephanie Cole as Carolyn and John Finnemore as Arthur. Other characters voiced by Timothy West, Matilda Ziegler, Geoffrey Whitehead or Anthony Head. I fell completely in love with Roger Allam here.

There are 26 half an hour episodes (the last one a two-parter) spanning all the letters from A (Abu Dhabi) to Z (Zurich), in a way, reflecting Martin’s journey. The original broadcast wasn’t exactly in alphabetical order but that was the intended order, so I’d recommend you to keep it (It’s not very important to stick to the order in the first season, but the later episodes will make more sense if you do so).

Where to start then? Well, Abu Dhabi is the intended start but if you find it too silly, I’d recommend you to give a second try to Douz or Gdansk.

And finally, my favorite episodes that will keep me company on the plane behind the cut (spoilery!)

Keep reading