MIKE BOCKOVEN

Recommendations – Cabin Pressure

Feb
23

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Let’s get this out of the way upfront – yes, that’s Benedict Cumberbatch on the right. And yes, he comes with some baggage these days what with the Tumblrs and the glut of erotic fan art and the super hero he’s about to play. But before all the Sherlock playing and oscar nominating and all, he was in a fantastic little radio series called “Cabin Pressure” and he’s exactly 1/4 of the reason I’m in love with it.

If you need a quick summary of “Cabin Pressure,” think “Frasier” on a low-rent airline. MJN air (the acronym is absolutely great and must be preserved) is run by Carolyn (Stephanie Cole) who employs her lovable idiot son Arthur (John Finnemore) as the steward and the sophisticated “sky god” Douglas (Roger Allem) and new, hungry pilot Martin (Cumberbatch) to fly the plane. There is only one plane, called Gertie, in the airline and while the plot comes from the struggle of trying to turn a profit on their various runs, the comedy comes largely from the characters who start off well drawn and end as fully formed, struggling and lovely human beings.

Finnemore, who wrote the series as well as stars, is equally adepts at the sort of complex farces where there are several moving parts that all collide in a punchline at the end, and coming up with characters we actually like hanging around with. I’ve gone back and forth for a while now on who to single out for particular praise, but the ensemble works so damn well together finding the break out is a difficult task. Each character gets their own moments, their own showy parts and their own absolutely delicious punch lines that the actors dive into and make a meal out of.

Over the course of the episodes, each of which is named for a city and running through the alphabet (A for Amsterdam, etc), one of the big reasons to listen to “Cabin Pressure” is the evolution of the characters. The defined roles break down pretty quick, you can sense friendships build and by the end they are a family. The show understands and respects that goofy real life thing where boredom and hanging out are the things that can endear and bring people closer together. Plus it’s funny as hell.

Endlessly quotable (one episode positively ruined the carol “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” for the rest of my life) and appropraite for family listening, find “Cabin Pressure” if you can and give it a listen. It’s available on iTunes and less reputable platforms.

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