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Cabin Pressure: The Collected Series - John Finnemore

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Author: John Finnemore / Audio CD / Book is published 2012-11-01 by BBC Audiobooks Ltd

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      01.10.2013 23:34
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      Cabin pressure is a radio comedy/drama which has been on radio 4 for a few years and I first heard it when I was staying at my parents for a couple of weeks and I became hooked on it. This collection is the first 3 series and the 2010 Christmas special spread over 10 cds and each episode is around 28 minutes with two episodes on each disk. The Christmas special is also around the 28 minute mark.
      This cost me £16.58 from a well known online shop.

      Basic plot/storyline:

      Please board the plane...

      Welcome aboard MJN air, a one plane outfit which makes Ryanair look like air force one and the lap of luxury, along with its hapless crew that no airline in its right mind would even consider letting on their planes never mind allowing them to fly them...

      Please take your seat...

      Remember you exits are here, here and here. In the very likely event of an accident put your head between your legs and kiss your bum good bye...

      Ok the REAL plot/storyline

      The premise of each episode has the same general format with Carolyn trying to run the, as she describes it, 'airdot' at a profit and taking on all manner of difficult jobs for her crew, whom she tolerates as no one else would work for her, to carry out - naturally they are disaster ridden from beginning to end. From passengers having heart attacks mid-flight to coming up against over zealous airport managers who make ludicrous demands on their bills this airline would certainly come top of Anne Robinson's hit list for 'worst customer service'.

      Main Cast:

      Carolyn Knapp-Shappey (Stephanie Cole) is the owner of the company and managed to get this single jet in her divorce settlement and set up MJN (My Jet Now) air simply to spite her ex-husband. As well as being the owner she occasionally acts as head flight attendant which is a bit like asking Dracula to be in charge of a blood bank - it won't end well, at least not for the passengers.

      She is aided (or rather hindered) by her well meaning but 'thick as two short planks stuck together with stupid glue' son Arthur (John Finnemore) who acts as the other, and sometimes only, flight attendant. He is unbelievably cheerful and refuses to believe that we know why planes fly as they don't flap their wings like birds do.

      The flight deck is manned by flight captain Martin (Benedict Cumberbatch) , who took 7 times to pass his pilot's licence and insists on being called 'sir' whilst flying, not that Carolyn or the rest of the crew for that matter pays any attention to this. He took the job at MJN for no pay, much to Carolyn's delight, on the condition he was the captain. Whilst he wants to do things by the book he hasn't got the guts to stand up to Carolyn and gives into her demands - even when she is 'technically' wrong.

      First officer Douglas (Roger Allam) who was a flight captain and a far more competent pilot than Martin at a rather prestigious airline but got the sack for smuggling. MJN is the only 'airline' who would hire him as long as he took a demotion. He despises his job and sees MJN as beneath him as well as all the others who work there. Douglas and Carolyn appear to barely tolerate each other but you do get the impression that she knows the place would fall apart without him.

      What I think of it.

      The writing is of a high standard for most of the episodes (there is the odd weaker one but there always is with every series) and with it being on radio there is nothing to hide behind in these terms so it has to be good to survive. Also the cast fit very well to their parts and none sound as if the cast are thinking 'I must sack that agent'. I think that there is something of Diana Trent in the part of Carolyn and Stephanie Cole is in her element playing another battle axe who has a passion for revenge - especially against passengers who dare call her 'dear'.

      For me this is just my type of humour as it is based more on wit rather than the foul language that passes for so-called comedy today. Although some may describe it as daft and rather silly most people do crack a smile when listening to it. Also it is suitable for the whole family to listen to so it's not all bad. Although I doubt many children would listen to the radio today.

      Carolyn's rather acidic one liners and Douglas' cynicism and sarcastic nature work well together. Martin's pomposity and insistence to stick to the rules is rather like Rimmer in Red Dwarf but not without a sense of humour. Arthur's stupidity is rather childlike and he fails to realise that he is often the butt of the jokes but sometimes he comes up with a suggestion that gets the rest of the crew out of a sticky situation. Although I'm sure that genuine airlines have had some of the problems used in the series I doubt many would still be going if they had this many or such inept staff.

      The 28 minute format works well and they all work as a standalone story so you don't have to listen to them in any particular order - as long as you know the basic back story of each character. For me the only thing missing in this set is a possible 'out takes' section but this probably wouldn't work on a radio series as well as it does on a TV.

      Summary:

      A good, well written and genuinely funny series which is made for radio just as hitchhikers guide to the galaxy was. All I can hope is that they don't try to move it to TV as it just wouldn't work as well.

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