This week I’ve listened once again to all the episodes of Cabin Pressure, a BBC Radio situation comedy that ran over 27 episodes and four series from 2008 to 2014. I think it’s the best radio sitcom ever made.
It’s set at a tiny air charter company that owns one plane. There’s the pilot (an anxious perfectionist who’s not a very good pilot; played by Benedict Cumberbatch), the first officer (a far better pilot, and always ready with a languid put-down; played by Roger Allam), the owner (an acerbic woman, whose company is always on the verge of bankruptcy; played by Stephanie Cole) and her son (a wonderfully good-natured fool; played by the writer, John Finnemore).
There are twenty-seven half-hour episodes: twenty-five going from A (“Abu Dhabi”) to Y (“Yverdon-les-Bains”), and a two-part finale for Z (“Zurich”). The four characters are fully formed from the first episode, and we get to know them better and better as the show goes on and their lives develop. By the end we know them all like old friends.
It’s a very funny show, and there are many lines and games (“yellow car”) and situations one will never forget. But the genius of it comes in the final episodes, where everything wraps up absolutely beautifully, and we’re left with an ending that’s funny, touching and sad all at once. It’s a perfect finish, and of all the fine work Finnemore has written, I think it’s still his best.
If you ever have the chance to listen to the show, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is an utter delight.