Tag Archives: benedict cumberbatch

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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Lustbox: Sherlock (and John)

Oh dear me, Irene Adler couldn’t have been more right when she said “Brainy’s the new sexy.” Though let’s be honest Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have not exactly been beaten with the ugly stick, have they?

Actually, I think what really earned Sherlock and John their place in the PLA Lustbox is their devotion to snark. Done properly, it will make me go weak at the knees and these boys go by the Official Big Book of Snark – leaving me struggling to stay upright.

Bonus points are earned for:

  • their devotion to each other – Martin Freeman broke my heart in the closing scenes of The Reichenbach Fall (reviewed for you here by Inkface), though it hadn’t been left in a very serviceable state by Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance a few moments before.
  • just enough residual militaryness (here and there in posture or phrase, not to mention his decisive action near the end of A Study in Pink) to remind us that John Watson was a soldier as well as a doctor (move over Irish Dr Greg)
  • that coat! That hair! Those cheekbones…
  • running. Lots of running (enhanced by The Coat)* *note this may just be conditioning from five years of watching Captain Jack and the Tenth Doctor running around in long coats…
  • the odd bit of homoeroticism…

And yes, Sherlock gets the coats, the big brain and the cheekbones, but John is played by a man made of kittens (thank you TV Tropes) who is loyal, brave and a deadpan snarker. Separately they’re interesting, but together they are great.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to lie down on the sofa and have a little swoon while I wait for the postman to bring me the first series boxed set of Sherlock…

Posted by Jo the Hat

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Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall

Oh good grief this was a brilliant finale. Twisty as a twisty turny thing, full of shock and awe, it’s also the one in which my enjoyment of Andrew Scott’s ‘Jim’ Moriarty reached fever pitch.

One of many things that gave me great pleasure about this is how the writers (Steve Thompson for this one) are playing with the powerful celebrity persona that developed around Sherlock Holmes. It tormented Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. With the massive popular success of his character, he found he’d created a fictional monster. The public were addicted to Holmes, and to this day, people still believe Sherlock Holmes really existed. No-one was ever really interested in any of Doyle’s ‘serious’ writing, and at the time, he wrote to his mother in frustration,”I must save my mind for better things, even if it means I must bury my pocketbook with him.”

And so, sick to the back teeth of Holmes, Doyle wrote The Final Problem, in which he believed that he had finally got rid of the character that tormented him so, by killing Holmes off in a dramatic scene where he and Professor Moriarty fight to the death over the Reichenbach Falls. But as Victoria Principle found when Bobby came out of that the epically long Dallas shower, things are not always that simple. The public found Doyle’s belief in fairies less than convincing and screamed for the return of their beloved Sherlock Holmes. Doyle eventually had to bring him back to life in The Adventure of the Empty House.

Now, so much is known by the public about Doyle’s stories, the trap that scriptwriters of Sherlock can fall into is to be too clever for their own good, which I felt happened with Baskerville episode (not everyone agrees I know). But I didn’t feel that in The Reichenbach Fall. And there was so much that was scream-makingly excellent:

  • The touching, bookending scenes of Watson seeing his therapist to try to deal with the death of his friend Holmes, and visiting his grave.
  • The court scene with Holmes unable to stop himself being a smart arse.
  • The cameo of IT Crowd’s Katharine Parkinson as plaited haired Rita Skeeter-esque investigative journalist, Kitty Riley. I particularly enjoyed her encounter with Holmes in the Gents’.
  • The beautifully done interplay between Holmes and Molly Hooper in the morgue scenes.
  • Moriarty. So very fine an opponent for Holmes. I loved The Thomas Crown Affair meets The Wrong Trousers fun stealing-of-the-Crown-Jewels scene, particularly Moriarty being found by the police sitting on the throne in the jewel cabinet, wearing them. I think Andrew Scott has played him beautifully, exuding evil power with frightening, manic intensity without ever appearing totally psycho. Best bits for me: the chaos causing apps on the mobile phone, the carving of IOU into the apple and the delicate sipping of tea with Holmes. So many superb performances in this series, Cumberbatch and Freeman, Gatiss as Mycroft, Rupert Graves as Lestrade. But his is up there too.
  • The rooftop scene on St Barts and Holmes’ fall to his apparent death to save the lives of people he cares about. The eruption of excitement on my Twitter feed afterwards when we then see him alive lurking behind a tree in the graveyard. What happened? How did he do it? Was Molly involved, was a ‘spare’ morgue corpse switched at the last? Utterly gripping.

MORE BBC more. Bring it back and bring it soon. Best telly ever.

Posted by Inkface

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Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville

I'm up here, you idiot.

Sherlock invariably ends with me turning to Mr Qwerty and saying, ‘ But what about the bit where…’ in the hope that he will shine a searchlight into what looks like a large plot-hole and tarmac it over for me. In the case of The Hounds of Baskerville, in which Hound turned out to be a not very plausible acronym (after all, why would a group of dodgy scientists feel the need to give themselves an acronym, and what’s more get I’m-with-the-band t-shirts made noch?), I turned to Mr Q and said, ‘So why did the kindly bloke who was the baddie kill the posh bloke’s dad?’ And the best Mr Q could come up with was, ‘I guess he knew something bad they were doing.’ Well, yes. But what? It troubles me a bit that I don’t know for sure. Was it the paranoid gas thing (or lighter fluid as we called it when I was young)? Big slathering dogs? Fluorescent rabbits? (Actually a luminous bunny would be handy; you could nip out to its hutch at night and feed it without having to find a torch.)

Anyway despite not knowing exactly what the important-enough-to-kill-a-man thing was, I enjoyed this heavy-handed Freudian interpretation of the H of the B’s.  Or as I now think of it, ‘The Little Hans of the Baskervilles’, a not very amusing psychologist’s joke referring to Freud’s classic case in which Little Hans was scared of horses because they reminded him of his father’s penis. Or something. I graduated a while ago and the details are hazy. As indeed were Henry Knight’s of the night his father was killed – seemingly mauled by a huge slathering black beast with red eyes. Arrrrr-oooooooooh!

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Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia

The return of the telly (as opposed to the Robert Downey Jnr film) version of Sherlock had been hugely anticipated after the triumphantly brilliant trio of episodes a year ago. And A Scandal in Belgravia did not disappoint. Forgive me, I have to say it, it was a spanking good episode. Whipsmart in fact. Slightly more by way of raunchy undergarments and methods of restraint than I’d bargained for at 8.10pm on a Sunday evening, watching, as I was, with a nine year old, but it sparkled with fun and mischief from start to finish. Some possibly dodgy sexual politics too, more of which later, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it.

It began where the last episode left off, at the beautifully lit swimming baths with a standoff between Moriarty and Holmes. Moriarty’s ‘bomb’ jacket is on the ground and red dot scopes from anonymous rifles are trained on the foreheads of Holmes and Watson. But the crisis gets literally called off when Irene Adler, whom Moffat has made into a dominatrix, phones Moriarty on his mobile, and he leaves.

And then we’re off, with so much to enjoy. Much playing with modern culture in a droll, witty way. Best use of a text alert ever. And Watson is writing a blog about cases, including a man dying mysteriously by a loch (the blog ‘exists’, you can see it here). The rapidly increasing number of blog fans leads to Holmes trying to hide his face from fans trying to take his picture as he leaves a theatre – grabbing a random hat from the props box. A Deerstalker, of course. And there’s a ‘real’ Twitter account for Irene’s dominatrix business (@TheWhipHand).

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The Grandma’s House Game

Simon Amstell’s new comedy Grandma’s House is marmite TV and I’m on the dark side.

But one aspect which even the most ardent yeast addict admits is that Simon Amstell himself is a truly rubbish actor, which is quite a flaw in a programme centred on him.

So I’ve invented a new game which makes watching Grandma’s House even more fun:  who should actually be playingthe part of  ‘Simon Amstell’?

Here’s my top-of-the-head five:

  • Stephen Mangan: he would bring the right degree of hang-dog put-upon angst to the role.  Plus he’s got the necessary shaggy-haired lost look.  Is he too old for the role?
  • Chris Addison:  brought to mind since two of the gems in this programme are co-stars from The Thick of It – Rebecca Front playing his mother, Tanya, and James Smith her new boyfriend, Clive.  Maybe too clean cut.  But he could also tweet while he’s doing it which would bring a whole new social media dimension to TV comedy.
  • Chris O’Dowd from the IT Crowd:  plausibly lost and distrait.  Plus you can easily see him being put down by his family.  But can he ditch the Irish accent?
  • Benedict Cumberbatch?  Very now.  But no.
  • David Mitchell:  young enough.  Weedy enough.  But not sure he’s actually any better at acting than Amstell.

Alternatively, they could go postmodern and have Simon Amstell played by a different comic actor each week, culminating in a tour de force from Bruce Forsyth – with Lisa Tarbuck being surprisingly good and everyone agreeing that Alexander Armstrong should probably get the  job full-time.

There you go.  Suggestions for the part of Amstell welcome.

Posted by arialbold

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Sherlock: Holmes Sweet Holmes

I enjoyed this modern update on the character that proved as resistant to being killed off as Rasputin, dogging creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to the point of believing in *fairies just to get away from him. I’m not familiar with the actor playing Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, (not Holmes, please note) in this new Steven Moffat series. But, by George, he’s rather splendid in it, as well as sporting a fine moniker.

Martin Freeman does an excellent job in the sidekick role of Dr Watson, AKA John, here an Afghan army war vet (with a stick, a la Hugh Laurie in House). Despite the modernisation of the story, there are nonetheless quite a few insider gags for Doyle fans to enjoy, including:

  • Holmes’ use of multiple nicotine patches instead of pipes during tricky cases
  • Rupert Graves as Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade making reference to Holmes’ cocaine habit
  • a running gag about whether or not ‘Sherlock’ and ‘John’ are actually a couple

Rather surreally, we have Una Stubbs playing housekeeper, Mrs Hudson. Also, one of my all time favourite actors, Phil Davis, makes a welcome appearance as a bitter cabbie offering a ‘Russian roulette’ choice of bitter pills to people at gunpoint, resulting in the serial ‘suicides’ which make up the case.

Is it all a bit too knowing and clever-clever for its own good? I don’t think so. I liked the way London was used as a location, in a slightly Monopoly-esque way. I thought it was well acted and wittily scripted. I think this may be a winner, and I’ll be tuning in again.

* I confess I may be taking biographical liberties here

Posted by Inkface

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