Tag Archives: BBC Radio 4

The Archers: Why are we meant to care where Pip lives?

BoxesGah, script-writers! What is going on?? I know it’s not the first time I’ve said that to you, and doubtless won’t be the last. But look here, Pip has had three addresses in as many weeks, and I just know that there won’t be a decent pay-off. If the only reason you’ve dragged us through her boring house moves is so that the following scene will play out in an episode several years in the future, I will be quite aggrieved.

Pip: Oh no, this official form will to take ages to fill in [sound-effect of pen being hurled onto the desk].
Toby/Rex/Tom [it’ll be one of these three who wins the dubious Pip prize in the end, mark my words]: Why’s that, Pip?
Pip: It asks for all my addresses in the last five years! Do you remember that time after we/me and Toby split [delete as applicable] and I left Rickyard and went back home, then ended up slumming it at Lower Loxley?
T/R/T: Oh yes, that’s right. Fancy a coffee?
Pip: Go on then. [Sighs, sound-effect of pen being picked up.] I’d better get on with this.
Brian [entering randomly]: I say Pip, you look awfully glamorous considering you’re just filling in a form.*

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Cabin Pressure. Simply brilliant!

Cabin PressureYou know how some people get when they have a fabulous new boy/girlfriend? They can’t stop telling you how brilliant said person is. They tell you the funny things they say All The Time. If they could clone them so everybody could have a boy/girlfriend as great as theirs they would. Well, I am currently that person – except I don’t have a boy/girlfriend. I am a late but enthusiastic arrival to the Cabin Pressure party.

Just when I had begun to fear my sense of humour was fading, I have found something that has literally made me spit out my grapefruit juice (luckily I was next to the sink) with laughter. I am to be found, earphones in and MP3 player on, giggling in the aisles of Sainsbury’s. I am utterly enthralled and addicted. I even traded in existing Audible books in order to gorge on all four series (plus a Christmas special) in less than a fortnight when I ran out of credits. If I had a pencil case and/or rough book, it would have Cabin Pressure quotes (Brilliant! The lemon is in play. Yellow car. etc) encased in hearts scribbled all over it.

CarolynWhy have I fallen so spectacularly for this Radio 4 sitcom about MJN, a teeny charter airline (or airdot – you can’t put one aeroplane in a line as MJN CEO Carolyn Knapp-Shappey once remarked)? Firstly, because it is really, really funny. (See previous paragraph.) I honestly think the last sitcom to make me laugh this much was Blackadder (on its first airing).

It’s also extraordinarily well-written by John Finnemore. He has a way with callbacks that is astonishing. You think a line is perfect and funny and 25 minutes later he turns it upside-down, gives it a polish,  and makes it even funnier. But it’s not his fabulous plotting or genius comedy that makes me love his writing so utterly – it’s the heart that it has. For all the turmoil he puts Carolyn and her crew through at 35,000 feet, the deep affection he has for them, and writes into every line, is what makes Cabin Pressure special.

That and having an astonishingly talented cast, of course. Stephanie Cole, Roger Allam, Benedict Cumberbatch and Finnemore himself are the core as Carolyn, First Officer Douglas Richardson, Captain Martin Crieff and steward Arthur Shappey.

Carolyn is the alpha dog trying to keep her business afloat and her crew in order. She could be an awful harridan, but Cole never lets that happen.

benedict mjnMartin is the hapless Captain, desperate to be taken seriously and generally suffering at the hands of Douglas and/or his own ineptitude. Again, there is a real danger that he could turn into a whiner – but that’s never going to happen while the fantastically talented Benedict Cumberbatch is wearing Martin’s heavily braided Captain’s hat. Also he convincingly conveys the impression that Martin is both a good deal shorter than his own six-footedness and deserving of our sympathy. Then there’s Paris (series 3, episode 2) in which his own success in Sherlock is beautifully subverted. (Martin: But the thing is, we’ve taken away all the things that can possibly have happened, so I suppose the only thing that’s left, even though it seems really weird, must be the thing that did happen, in fact. Douglas: Snappily put.)

douglasThen there is Douglas. He might only be the first officer but he oozes the confidence and authority that Martin would give a year of his life to have. Once described by Carolyn as being like Stephen Fry’s favourite uncle. Always has at least see seven ulterior motives for doing anything. King of the laconic putdown. Roger Allam is simply superb. Douglas may be a sky god, but Roger is a radio god. I’d join his marathon-running team in a heartbeat (once you have listened to Vaduz – series 4, episode 3, you will know what I’m talking about).

arthur_shappeyLast, but in no way least, is Arthur the eternally optimistic but dimwitted steward (and Carolyn’s son). Arthur thinks pretty much everything is brilliant and even I might enjoy flying in his company.

Now, here is a link to Cabin Pressure on Audible, who will even refund you if you don’t like one of their books. You have nothing to lose (except your drink over the nearest surface, the ability to ignore yellow cars and the inability to say “Brilliant!” without sounding like Arthur).

Existing Cabin Pressure fans may also love this lovely video done in the style of the Nikon ads.

I could rave for hours, but the jokes are really best experienced firsthand from the professionals, so I’m off to listen to Ottery St Mary for the fourth time (Yellow car).

Posted by Jo the Hat

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The Archers: Why Pusscat and Tiger mustn’t split

Image SPOILER ALERT: If you’re an Omnibus listener and you haven’t yet heard the one on Sunday 2nd December, there is a spoiler in the first paragraph. Though you probably won’t be that surprised by it, tbh.

So after months (or years? It felt like years) of Lilian and Paul meeting clandestinely in little tea-rooms for tete-a-tetes in which NOTHING whatsoever happened, they finally shagged. I’d like to say it was a surprise but the only surprise was that it took so long. Though when it finally happened, it was kind of abrupt.

  • Lilian: “Usual dreary chit-chat hinting at unhappiness with Matt.”
  • Paul: “ Usual dreary platitudes hinting how much better it would be with him instead of Matt.”
  • Listener: “Zzzz”
  • Lilian: “Let’s go to your hotel room.”
  • Listener, waking up and spilling tea: “Hey what?!”

Anyway, once the relief of a plot having moved forward was over – a relief so rarely experienced by Archers listeners – the panic set in. OH LILIAN! What about Tiger?? Matt and Lilian are by far and away my most favourite couple on the Archers. Whenever they share airtime you know you’re in for a treat. He growls away, tiger-ishly, like a middle-management Reggie Kray, alternately treating Lil like dirt or whisking her off to Lower Loxley when she needs to be distracted from some naughty thing he’s done. She, purring or letting rip her filthy forty-a-day laugh, tells Matt exactly how she feels, all the time. Both actors sound like they’re a gnat’s crotchet away from bursting into giggles. I love them so much. If they split up (NO!) and Lilian gets together with the too-good-to-be-true Paul, one of the great soap partnerships will be crushed, like Nigel after he messed up his Chim-Chim-Cheree roof routine.

More to the point, it will be the demise of the only couple in which I properly like both partners. There aren’t any others. Look!

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The Archers: Why Matt’s plan for the Bull is bull

Ooh that sneaky Matt. Ignoring Lillian’s explicit instructions, he’s been leaning on the bar of the Bull pouring honeyed words (‘Poison!’ screeched Lillian) into Jolene’s unhappy ear. ‘Money,’ whispers Matt, who is wearing horns and a red cape. ‘No more responsibility.’ ‘Doing everyone a favour – housing stocks are low.’ And Jolene, who’s a right old misery-guts, yes I know she’s in mourning and has just had a bewildering kick-back from Kenton but honestly! She needs to get her mojo back sharpish or she is going to join my list of Archers Characters Who Will Be First Against The Wall When I’m In Charge. (Helen, Kate, Kathy, Christine, Daniel, Shula and Ruairi, thanks for asking.)

Where was I? Yes, Jolene, instead of telling him to sling his hook, which is a phrase much-used in Ambridge if nowhere else in the English-speaking world, says, ‘You might ‘ave a point there Matt,’ in her strange Memphis drawl and buggers off to see her financial adviser. As an aside, am I right in thinking that the same man plays all the incidental professionals in the Archers? He’s got a cushy thing going there: financial advisers, bankers, lawyers, BL Board members: I reckon he plays them all. I bet you ten pence he pops up as the coroner in the forthcoming inquest which Susan and Emma so clunkily explained to us the other day, Emma having found out about it via the traditional means of reading someone else’s important letter which just happened to be lying around.

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The Archers: Goodbye, Mr Perks

Blimey, I certainly didn’t see that coming. Peeling the potatoes, I was, and idly listening to Fallon flirting with Harry (pack it in, Fallon, none of us think you’re going to end up with Harry rather than Jazzer), when Jolene rang and dropped the bombshell. Two bombshells actually, the first being that she gets a better signal on her mobile when calling from New Zealand than I do when trying to speak to a chum up the road. Must find out what network she’s with.

And secondly, that Sid – Landlord of the Bull, erstwhile manager of the cricket team, and King of Homophobes – was dead. You could have knocked me over with a potato peel. I reeled from the sink and turned up the radio (laptop, actually – it was on Listen Again but ‘turn up the computer’ is a phrase that has yet to slip comfortably into the language). I felt sure if I listened hard enough, it would turn out to be a mistake. Lucy had smothered Sid with a pillow but he had been resuscitated; a rampaging herd of lambs had trampled him underfoot while out jogging (him, not the lambs), but he was now right as rain and suffering no more than hurt pride and hoof imprints on his stomach. But no. Heart attack and bam. Gone.

On reflection, some clues were there, if only I had been concentrating. Sid hasn’t been heard from for a while (apparently the actor who plays him is ill). And Fallon, a few days ago, expressed regret she hadn’t said goodbye to Sid before he went to NZ, then said, ‘Well, it’s not as if it’s the last time I’ll see him.’ Big chunky clue – no-one ever says that in soaps unless it is in fact the last time they’ll ever see them.

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The Archers: Stray pusscats strut

Get real, Lilian. No-one believes in this ‘platonic’ interest in Paul nonsense.  Even Jennifer, never the sharpest nail in the manicure, has seen through your flannel. As will Paul at this rate.

Rather than be judgemental, however, I would like to offer Lilian a handy guide as to how the half-brothers compare.

Matt, I can't believe you've got to wear... trainers

Availability: Matt being banged up, Paul wins hands down. While Paul can happily contrive implausible-sounding work opportunities which bring him within a gnat’s crotchet of Felpersham, Matt’s obviously not at liberty to wine and dine Lilian. Even when Matt comes out, he’ll be on a curfew. Which is kind of mystifying, isn’t it? As Paul himself has pointed out, fraud’s not really the sort of crime that’s only committed outside the home during the hours of darkness. Anyway, the only thing tying Paul down right now is a couple of kids, but they don’t seem too irksome. Less irksome than an electronic tag, in fact. Score: Matt 0, Paul 9 (includes extra point for smart observation regarding ridiculous curfew storyline). Verdict: No contest. Sorry Matt.

Sexiness: There’s obviously a familial resemblance, but I guess Paul is younger. Not that that necessarily has anything to do with sexiness. He doesn’t yet have a bedroom nickname for Lilian in the ‘Pusscat’ mould, but he does have the immense advantage of the thrill of the unknown. And the way he says ‘Lilian’ is rather phwoar-some. Score: Matt 5, Paul 8. Verdict: The younger brother strikes back. It’s the oldest rivalry in history. It’s Cain and Abel, it’s Christopher and Peter Hitchins, it’s Will and Ed Grundy.

Family involvement: Matt famously can’t stand family life. Even when he grudgingly agreed to meet his birth mother, it was only at Lilian’s shrill insistence. Later, on hearing his mother was dead, he said, ‘Oh.’ He’s not much better with Lilian’s family, regarding Jennifer, Brian, Peggy et al as necessary irritants. Hmm. Good point. Paul, meanwhile, has clearly been the good son, doting on his cold-hearted mother and spawning some sprogs of his own. He even asks after the appalling James, which Matt has definitely never done. However, I haven’t forgotten how good Matt was when Jack was at his pre-Laurel’s worst. So it’s not a complete whitewash. Score: Matt 4, Paul 9. Verdict: Gotta say, my sympathies lie with Matt here.

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