February 20th, 2018

me: ooh!

Day 51/365: Cabin Pressure, or Always Playing “Yellow Car”

It has come to my attention after the most recent Unscientific Poll that two thirds of the respondents did not know what I was on about. I can only assume that this is because some of you are unfamiliar with the BBC radio comedy series “Cabin Pressure”, and I would like to convince you to hunt it up and listen to it.

Cabin Pressure features the following principle characters.

Carolyn Knapp-Shappey - owner and CEO of MJN air, the tiny charter airline whose adventures form the backbone of the series. Carolyn obtained the aeroplane during her divorce, and decided to start the airline, or “air dot”, as she calls it because “you can’t put one aeroplane in a line”, with it. Played by Stephanie Cole.

Martin Crieff - one of MJN’s two pilots, and the captain. It is very important that everyone remembers he is the captain, especially Douglas. Martin is insecure, pernickety, morally upright, very bad with people and played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Douglas Richardson - the other of MJN’s pilots, and the first officer. Douglas is confident, smug, morally flexible, oily and played by Roger Allam.

Arthur Shappey - MJN’s cabin crew, and Carolyn’s son. He is unquenchably enthusiastic about everything and everyone and sincerely believes they are all brilliant. Inventor and perpetual player of the Yellow Car game. Played by John Finnemore, writer of the show.

Gertie (“Golf Tango India”) - the highly unreliable, 16-seater, fictional Lockheed-McDonnell 3-12 aircraft on which the continued operation of MJN depends. Gertie doesn’t say much, but she does threaten to fall apart fairly frequently. Carolyn’s ex-husband is peculiarly obsessed with getting the plane back.

The overall tone of the series is one of gentle humour and absurdity, and generally avoids the kind of cringeworthy humiliation scenes that I don’t enjoy in British comedy. There are several minor and highly memorable characters played by outrageously famous actors, including Prunella Scales and Anthony Head. I own all the episodes on CD and sent them to my parents as well, who loved them.

If you want to sample some Cabin Pressure episodes for free and don’t mind jumping in towards the middle-end-ish, then you can listen to the last four episodes of Series Four - Vaduz (Lichtenstein), Wokingham (UK), Xinzhou (China) and Yverdon-Les-Bains (Switzerland) - on the BBC Radio iPlayer here. I believe you can listen to the radio anywhere in the world. BBC Radio 4 Extra regularly airs Cabin Pressure re-runs, so a periodic check of Radio iPlayer will eventually net you all of the episodes.

All four series, including the Christmas special and the finale (Zurich, a two-parter) can be purchased on Audible, and can probably be procured from less “traditional” sources too.

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