Saturday, 20 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Vaduz

Oh, rats. Forgot the place holder. I mean, this is still a place holder, obviously, but it's holding the wrong place. Oh well. There is a Vaduz post here, while you're waiting. And, while we're at it,  a Wokingham post here, because, I'll be honest with you, tomorrow I have two shows to do, and two parties to go to; so chances of a place holder are currently looking verrrry close to 100%...

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Uskerty

…As previously discussed here, complete with entire deleted final scene. Which reminds me, that deleted scene will be one of several, such as  the bit from St. Petersburg in which Martin and Douglas talk about their fathers, included as a bonus track on the complete CDs, which will be released on January 15th, but which is available for pre-order here.

(Sorry, Amazon haters - I do take your point, but they're offering a 35% pre-order discount, and it seems unfair not to point people at the place with the cheapest price.)

- Anyway, back with Uskerty - finally the companion piece to Johannesburg, where the crew are split Martin & Carolyn / Douglas & Arthur for the first time. A split which worked so well, I rather wished I'd done it before -  though arguably the Douglas and Arthur duo, at least, wouldn't have been as effective before Douglas reached his Series Four evolution. 

- I've talked about visual jokes before, and how radio is actually the perfect medium for them, because you have such precise control over what your audience sees when. Generally, I give Douz as an example, because it has both the unfilmable final cricket team / firetruck / desert highway scene, and also the scene where it's revealed at the end of a tense and serious scene that Douglas has - for sound plot reasons - been in his underwear throughout. But there are examples of two more varieties of radio visual jokes in Uskerty. First, teasing the listener with deliberately withheld information. Finn McCool III is discussed, produced, and admired with the listener having no idea what he is, before it's finally revealed he's a sheep… and a stuffed one. This type of joke obviously can, and often is, done on TV; but it generally looks quite forced, as the camera deliberately avoids showing the thing we're interested in. Similarly, I suppose you could shoot the Douz scene with Douglas only visible from the neck up, but it would look odd, and would give away that something was up. 

The other type is my favourite, which is to remind the listener about something visual that they already know, but have forgotten to keep picturing. So, when Martin finally arrives at the airport, we picture him looking bedraggled, and because it's just happened we probably remember he's fallen in goose poo. But hopefully with each of Douglas' questions:

MARTIN  Douglas, quick. I need your help.
DOUGLAS  Martin … Good Lord, you’re soaking wet.
MARTIN  Yes, well, it’s raining outside. Look …
DOUGLAS  What happened to your uniform?
MARTIN  I tore it falling out of a tree …
DOUGLAS  Yes, but what’s that all over it?
MARTIN  Oh, er, goose droppings, but …
DOUGLAS  Is your hand okay?
MARTIN   No, a bee stung me …
DOUGLAS  What are you carrying?
MARTIN   What does it look like?! A stuffed sheep!
DOUGLAS  You see, Arthur? The master.

…we recall something else that we already knew happened to him, and revise our mental image of him accordingly. And that's a joke you can only do in sound only. 

- Ben's performance of the tree-climbing scene is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. That is all. 

- Sometimes people ask why Carolyn's bad mood at the beginning was never explained. Well, for some reason - probably because Roger and I were enjoying taking our… sweet… time… in the film noir scenes so much - this episode ran way, way overlong; and as well as the deleted scene in the other Uskerty post, and another deleted scene about opera which will be on the CD, we also had to lose the following dialogue between Martin and Carolyn as they're waiting for a lift. We were right to cut it, because it sort of over-explains things we already know, but just for your interest: 

5.   CAROLYN:         Good. Put it in your pocket
6.   MARTIN:          Yes, alright!
7.   CAROLYN:         I hate it that I can't pay you, you know
8.   MARTIN:          So do I.
9.   CAROLYN:         You deserve to be paid. And also, it makes me feel ... unprofessional. You know, silly old woman, thinks she can run a business, can't even pay her staff

1.   MARTIN:          Look ... it's alright. I know you would if you could.
2.   CAROLYN:         Yes. I mean ... actually ... I could pay you. If you'd like.
3.   MARTIN:          Er ... yes. I would like. Have I not made that clear?
4.   CAROLYN:         Not a salary. But I could give you a lump sum. Quite a big one, actually. As back-pay.
5.   MARTIN:          Really? But ... how?
6.   FX:              CAR APPROACHES
7.   C AND M:         Hello! Hello! Please! Hello!
8.   FX:              ... AND PASSES
9.   CAROLYN:         Gordon's made his annual offer to buy Gerti back.
10.  MARTIN:          What? After what happened in St Petersburg? He's got a cheek!
1.   CAROLYN:         Yes, that's a version of what I said. But still. He's offering seventy thousand for her. It's way more than I'd get anywhere else.
2.   MARTIN:          I hope you told him no!
3.   CAROLYN:         I told him many things, starting with no, and getting progressively more creative. But I could change my mind.
4.   MARTIN:          No! Of course you can't! He tried to steal Gerti, Carolyn! He doesn't ever get to have her now! (BEAT) When did he call you?
5.   CAROLYN:         In the taxi on the way to the airport
6.   MARTIN:          Ohhh ...
7.   CAROLYN:         What? What 'Ohhh'?
8.   MARTIN:          Nothing.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Timbuktu / I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue

Just a short one this time, because this is the third one of these I've written today. But more, including cut scene and notebook pictures, can as usual be found here. 

- This is the first time Carolyn's had much to do in a Birling Day episode, and it makes me wish I'd used her more in the others - Stephanie and Geoffrey play off each other particularly well. I've always loved the line 'I thought perhaps you'd died' in Paris, but the early discussion between them here about the whereabouts of Timbuktu is another of my favourite Birling scenes.

- I like it that the effect on Martin of bending the rules is more or less the same as the effect on Arthur of trying to lie. Though, dammit, it's just occurred to me for the first time now that when Martin says in Yverdon that he cannot think of any time he's bent the rules, he's forgetting this trip. Although on the other hand, he doesn't bend any aviation rules, so maybe it's ok.


In other news, I'm very proud to say that I've somehow managed to con my way onto I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue for the second time. We recorded two episodes in Canterbury, the first of which went out on Monday, and the other of which will go out next week. So, if you've always wondered what Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing would sound like if sung, by me, to the tune of Morning Has Broken - and who hasn't? - you can satisfy your very natural curiosity here. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - St Petersburg

The original St Petersburg blog, with deleted scene and notebook pictures, is here. 

When I'm asked which episode of Cabin Pressure is my favourite, my stock reply is to say (truthfully) that it changes all the time, but at the moment I'm very fond of… Wokingham, or Ipswich, or Douz, or whichever it happens to be. But it has to be said that the one that comes up most often when I do that is St Petersburg. It's probably not the funniest, and it would be a terrible place for someone to start listening to the show, as it's quite unrepresentative; but it has the highest stakes of any episode, and I do love the plot, and the ending. It's also another episode that marks a change in the dynamics of the show - just as the central relationships are different before and after Fitton, they're altered again by St Petersburg.

- This episode was also the most daunting for me as a actor, because for once I actually had to do some acting. Mostly, Arthur sails along on a cloud of equal parts optimism and clottishness, and as an actor I can sit back and watch Stephanie, Benedict and Roger do all the heavy lifting. I had a little bit of something more complex to do in Fitton, and then again in Helsinki; but now here was an episode in which everything was far from Brilliant for Arthur, and I actually had to carry some of the emotional burden of the show, for once … and do so whilst playing opposite, not just my ridiculously over-talented friends and colleagues in the regular cast, but the great Timothy West, into the bargain. Sheesh.

- The emergency drill when the goose strike happens is a little cut-down, but otherwise (I hope) accurate. In this bit:

DOUGLAS: Engine fire check list number two engine Captain. Number two thrust lever?
DOUGLAS: Closed. Number two fuel control switch?
MARTIN: Yes, yes!
DOUGLAS: Number two fuel control switch to cut off, number two fire handle check?
… the meaning of Douglas' questions is 'Do you agree, Captain, that this thing I've got my hand on is  the number two thrust lever; because if in the heat of the moment it turns out to be the number ONE thrust lever, then when I close it I'll be shutting down our one remaining good engine, and that's a decision we might possibly come to regret.' And Martin's replies mean 'Yes, First Officer, that certainly looks like the number two thrust lever to me, so let me encourage you to pull it with no further ado. Seriously, as quick as you like.' 

Another bit I like is 

DOUGLAS: Fire is out Captain. One two four decimal two is selected. Martin, do you want me to land it?
MARTIN: No, I’ll do it.
DOUGLAS: Okay.  

In switching from 'Captain' to 'Martin' for the last question, Douglas is saying: 'It's obviously your job to land it, but, point-scoring aside, we both know I'm a better pilot, shall I take over?' Martin's reply means: 'We do both know that, and I'm not taking offence; but it is my job, and I'm confident I can do it safely.' And Douglas' 'Okay', means 'Yes, I'm confident you can too.' If this had happened in series one, and possibly two, Douglas would not have been confident of that, and would simply have taken control, by force if necessary. (The hydraulics failure in Douz was nowhere near as serious as this, obviously.)

I'm sorry I haven't in general been able to answer the questions put to me in the comments sections so far - as those of you who've suffered through the placeholders know, I have my hands full just doing these daily posts. However, one Stephen Buxton has been particularly dogged in his posing of a question about this episode:

When you wrote the episode, did you have a moment in mind when Douglas realised that he might be able to scam Gordon Shappey out of an engine, or at the very least, the money for a new engine? If so, at what point was that?

Answer: Douglas is just as baffled as he says he is for most of this episode- it's only in the taxi that he twigs that Gordon's trying to steal Gerti, not buy her. And I think as soon as he realises that, the mighty and well-practised scheming centres of his brain come up with the whole frozen control column / gin / blackmail thing pretty much instantaneously.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Rotterdam

Rotterdam is nice straight-forward, old-fashioned sitcom episode. It even starts with the classic workplace sitcom inciting incident: 'Mr Alyakhin has decreed from his dacha…' Or in other words 'There's a new directive from head office…'  It's also an episode that's very big on set-pieces: everybody's various attempts at welcome and / or safety announcements; the filming scene, and of course Herc and Douglas' syrup-off.

But at heart, it's the story of Martin and his magic mirror, Paramount Martin, in which at first he sees everything that he wishes he was; and then eventually realises is a more exact reflection of him than he thought. One of my favourite lines from this episode (along with 'So you keep saying, but the tape-measure tells a different tale' and 'Not so fast, man cub') is when Douglas enters to see a tall, handsome man in a captain's uniform introduce himself as Martin, and asks 'What happened? Did you find a magic lamp?' That's really what the episode is about.  Gus Brown does a lovely job as Paramount Martin, fielding Little Martin's increasingly weird and frantic questions with a sort of desperate good humour. And I love his 'bad acting' acting. It's very good bad acting acting. If you follow me.

People have been asking why Douglas dislikes Herc so much, when they seem so friendly at the beginning of Newcastle. I think Martin more or less gets it spot on in the first scene of Rotterdam  - Herc is nicking Douglas' act. The last thing Douglas wants around the place is someone who shares many of his qualities… but is also still a captain, at a proper airline. Sometimes I even wonder if Douglas is a little jealous of Herc's relationship with Carolyn. Not that he wants to go out with her himself, exactly, but that doesn't mean anyone ELSE should think they're allowed to… And remember when he meets Herc in Newcastle he a) doesn't expect him to be in his life for more than about an hour, and b) is planning to trade on their friendship to ask him for help getting a job. (Help which Herc, in the end, refuses to give.) All of which is, of course, a large part of why I decided to introduce Herc as a recurring character - a love interest for Carolyn, certainly; but also the most irritating imaginable fly in Douglas' ointment. Sitcom writers are cruel Gods…

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - ᕿᑭᖅᑕᕐᔪᐊᖅ

So… the placeholder for this post has already had more than twice the number of comments than the actual post yesterday. I think I might be doing this blogging thing wrong. Anyway, thank you for your patience... and for the little anthology of Placeholder poetry. Some very moving work there. 

Anyway, Qikiqtarjuaq! Bears. Lemons. Outrageous French accents. This episode has probably done more than any other to shape what people think of as Cabin Pressure. It's a close thing with Ottery, but I think Qik just wins. Once again, for the post I wrote at the time, go here. But here are a couple of extra Farewell Bear Facts, from the episode that invented them. 

- The process of coming up with the central idea for this one is quite interesting as an example of how useful restrictions can be for writing. In the first place, I was now committed to the entirely arbitrary alphabetical destinations thing, which began as a little private joke with myself in series one, and which doesn't even exist in the characters' world (it can't, because we know they fly to other destinations in between episodes.) So, this meant I needed to find a town or airfield beginning with Q, and there aren't many. There are a few regions, like Quebec and Queensland, but not many settlements. There's Quimper in France, and a couple of Queenstowns, but apart from that it's places in the Middle East or Canada that few people have heard of. But, ooh, some of the Canadian ones have really fun names… So, why on earth might MJN go to a remote arctic community? An emergency diversion, of course, but I knew I was having one of those in St Petersburg. Delivering a light aircraft from the US to Europe, with frequent fuel stops? This does happen, and I looked into it, but in the end it was just too implausible they'd get the job. Why would they even be type-rated on that model of aircraft? Taking scientists to a research station? Oh… or wildlife experts! To track polar bears! At this point, in the diagram I'm drawing as I think this out, you can see me react more or less the same way as Arthur does at the start of an episode, as I realise the possibilities of inviting some polar bears into my sitcom. 

But this is when another set of restrictions kick in. Consulting with my principal aviation advisor (a certain Capt. D. G. Finnemore, Rtd) I discover that Gerti is far from the aircraft of choice if you're tracking wildlife. Jet aircraft (even Gerti) are too fast, fly too high, make too much noise… Now, back in series one, when Gerti was a fairly undefined and elastic sort of machine, I would have just shrugged and said, ok, well, this week she's got propellors. But ever since series two, I have kept to a consistent design for her, with sixteen seats, and two underwing jet engines, and I'm reluctant to break that now, even for the sake of polar bears. Could it even be done at all? I ask my aviation consultant desperately. 'Well… I suppose you could go pretty slow, so long as you watch the angle of bank… and of course, you could get a bit lower than normal in a treeless landscape… it would need some pretty skilful flying, but...' Well, hang on, that sounds exactly like Douglas talking! And Martin would have a fit. But Arthur would be desperate to see the bears. And ok, maybe it wouldn't work for scientists, but if the passengers were just tourists whose own aircraft had gone tech, then Carolyn would be be keen to get their business, and they'd all have to persuade Martin it wasn't unprofessional… And so on, and so on, and before long I had the central concept, the central conflict, and the value at stake; and a story that would never have happened had I not made the arbitrary decisions, a couple of years earlier, that this week they had to fly somewhere beginning with Q, and that Gerti has jet engines. 

- Nancy Dean Liebhart's name is, for once, not a reference to anything at all. But I've always been rather pleased with it. For some reason, I find there's something oddly plausible about it. It is, as Arthur once said, the sort of name a person would have. The passengers, on the other hand, are all named after polar explorers. 

- When Martin says to Nancy at the end that he's paid to fly aeroplanes, that's because of a deleted scene with Carolyn in which they came to a certain arrangement, which I won't go into now, because as it didn't go out, the rule is it didn't happen; and Martin remains unpaid (as we hear in Uskerty). So what he says here must be a forgivable white lie. 

- I totally defend Douglas' behaviour to Martin in this episode. In the scene just after Nancy leaves the flightdeck the first time, Martin, high on compliments, is outrageously patronising to Douglas (especially as he was totally fine with the Hitchcock address when it happened); and Douglas gives him not one but two opportunities to back off, which he ignores. Never poke a dragon, even if you've been getting on well with him lately...

- The last line might be my favourite punchline of any episode. There are episodes with endings I like more, but not which are revealed in a single sentence like this. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Paris

Again, not much in the way of Bear Facts about Paris that I didn't already say in this post when it was broadcast, so for much more, do go and have a look at that if you haven't seen it.

I'd thought about a Whodunnit episode of Cabin Pressure for each of the previous series, but I always got stuck on what the crime could be - if it was serious then it wouldn't sit well with the tone of the show, but if it wasn't… then why should I expect anyone care to about it for half an hour. And then I remembered Birling Day. But that brought with it its own problems - firstly, that everyone, both characters and audience, would naturally assume Douglas was the culprit… and second, that I was immediately certain that indeed, Douglas MUST be the culprit. There are many times, over the series, where we see that Douglas' life is not all he takes care to portray it as… but this, at least, I couldn't take away from him. If there are any immutable laws of Cabin Pressure, the first, as Martin has learnt by Timbuctu, is that Douglas ALWAYS steals the whisky on Birling Day.

Anyway, I found a way to do it that pleased me in the end, and it was fun writing an episode in such a different way from normal; and pleasing how naturally my main cast fitted into familiar roles from the detective fiction genre - the meticulous detective, his devoted assistant, his no nonsense boss… and his nemesis, the Napoleon of crime.

I also like that by the end of the episode, every single speaking character in the episode (except Mrs Birling, who was deliberately left out so as to attract listeners' suspicion) has been accused at least once, and mostly with at least a semi-plausible theory: Douglas, by Martin; Martin, by Douglas; Mr Birling, by Martin and Douglas; Arthur, by Martin; Arthur, by Douglas; Douglas again, by Martin; Phillip, by Douglas; and Carolyn, by Douglas. Not to mention, of course, that extremely suspicious hypothetical circus full of mischievous clowns and their drunken monkey; by Inspector Marple's faithful assistant, Shappey of the Yard.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Ottery St Mary

Ah, good old Ottery. One of the two episodes, along with Qikiqtarjuaq, people most often tell me are their favourite - depending, I suppose, on whether your tastes run to otters and yellow cars, or polar bears and travelling lemons.

I've already put up most of the things I find interesting about this episode, plus a deleted scene,  in the post I wrote when it came out, here. All I can think to add is:

- The person Martin was demonstrating how not to lift a box to when he twisted his ankle was one of the agriculture students he lives with, and occasionally pays to assist him when an Icarus Removals job needs more than one person.

-  I am not a vegetarian, but Herc's argument sounds horribly convincing to me, and makes me think I really probably ought to be.

- The 'How many otters can you imagine' conversation originally happened in Limerick, following on from when Martin tells Douglas he can imagine a thousand stewardesses. But Limerick ended up (as virtually all my scripts do) far too long, and the otter conversation was the easiest to cut. And thank heavens we did, because it fits far better here, and we'd never otherwise have got to hear about St Mary, and her ottery martydom...

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Newcastle

Well, that's a nice surprise - I haven't listened to this episode for a while, and it works much better than I thought it did. It's a good introduction for Herc - the first time in the show I was deliberately introducing a new recurring character - and Martin's embarrassments with both Eddie and Linda are justified (and therefore funny), I think, because in both cases it's entirely his own fault - Linda is extremely patient with him, really; and Eddie only torments him when challenged. I've said before, though, that one episode per series is always more of a headache than all the others to write, and for some reason this was series three's. What I've always thought about it is that I'd like to go back, take it apart, and expand it into two episodes - that Herc and Linda deserve an episode to themselves, and so does Mark Williams' wonderful Eddie. But listening back now, I'm not so sure - I don't think anyone's under-served in this episode. True, Douglas reaches new heights of helpful mellowness... but they're in character, and he still has that rather nice scene where it turns out he's printed out a CV as well.

- Sometimes people ask me if the cold open was written specially when we knew Tom Goodman-Hill would be stepping in as Martin. To which I always think… what sort of sense do you think it would have made otherwise?

-I've already posted a deleted scene for Newcastle, here.

- This midway point seems a good time to mention a couple of people who have been pointed out to me  as doing unexpected and delightful things with this Cabin Pressure advent calendar thing (Which is, of course, these guys' idea in the first place.) The first is All Things Linguistic, a blog which is improbably managing to find a linguistically interesting detail about each episode, and thereby making my jokes sound far, far cleverer than they actually are, for which I can only thank them. The second is Tealin, a professional animator who is somehow finding time to do a daily, full-colour picture which basically look like stills from an imaginary Golden Era Disney movie of Cabin Pressure (I hope she'll take that as a compliment, I certainly mean it as one). They're extraordinary - do have a look. Here's my favourite so far (reproduced without permission, do tell me if you'd like me to take it down, Tealin.)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Molokai

Get dressed ye merry gentlemen! For it is both Christmas, and the half-way point of the whole show. I like this one. I like Christmas specials to be Christmassy, which this one is (but Zurich alas will not be, because I had no idea it was a Christmas special when I was writing it). I like how the various plots (Arthur's Christmas / secret santa; getting Alyhakin's business and the Petrus '05) affect each other, and merge together into a three part ending. And I like how everyone, with the possible exception of Martin, is back to doing their core thing - Arthur's enthusing and being unhelpfully helpful; Carolyn's doing battle with a passenger with one hand and trying to keep a lid on the mayhem in the flightdeck with the other; and Douglas is scheming up a scheme.

- If you try to keep track of who has whose name in the Secret Santa over the course of the episode, you will fail. That's because a long scene in which Douglas orchestrates a baroque sequence of swaps in order to get the one he wants got cut even before the recording on the grounds that it was a lot of hard-to-follow plot, for not many jokes. (Some tough love there, quite correctly, from Producer David.) But let's say that scene still took place, it just happened while we weren't listening…

- Mr Alyhakin's Massive Yachts are a reference to this sketch  and indeed this sketch, which I wrote for That Mitchell and Webb Look.

- The reason that Nigel is the first name that comes into Carolyn's head when she's making up pilots is that the captain at MJN before Martin arrived was called Nigel. (Also, 'Nigels' is an industry nickname for British Airways pilots. Presumably because a lot of them were either called Nigel, or looked like they ought to be. )

- I love Roger's delivery of '…and you mulled it?' Though it was scary to be on the receiving end of it. Is this the only time we see Douglas lose his cool, if only for a moment?

- Deleted scene:

1.   ARTHUR: Yes. Because I couldn't help thinking, it was a bit unfair on you with the Secret Santas, because everyone else got such great presents, but you ended up with wine you can't drink.

2.   DOUGLAS: Oh, don't worry, I-

3.   ARTHUR: So instead, I made you... this!

4.   DOUGLAS: ... Oh.

5.   MARTIN: Oh, that's nice, Douglas. We've got matching hats.

6.   ARTHUR: Yep! You didn't think I'd make Martin one and leave you out did you? Look, I've done you some gold braid on it, because I know how much you like Martin's.

7.   DOUGLAS: So you have. Using?

8.   ARTHUR: Mostly scrambled egg.

9.   DOUGLAS: But also?

10.  ARTHUR: Superglue.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Limerick

I think this one is my favourite of the three bottle episodes, partly because it's the purest of them. We only hear the four main characters's voices - there's not even an ATC line;  it all takes place not just on the plane, but in the flightdeck; and it's also, though people don't seem to notice this, all one long scene, taking place in real time. The idea was that this episode would be exactly what you would hear if you listened to twenty eight minutes of the flight deck voice recorder. It's also a rare episode where everybody's Want is the same - to stave off boredom - and so there's little or no conflict, bar some very mild teasing about Martin's watch. Normally, I'd say an episode can't work without conflict- both the other bottle episodes have plenty -  but I think here, partly because of the secret-telling and partly because there are so many games and other threads going on simultaneously, it somehow works. The effect of which is that this episode seems to me to be the heart of the show - they're not battling a crazy passenger or other antagonist, or even each other; they're just getting on with their job, somewhere over Russia, passing the time, teasing each other, playing games, telling secrets, and very very slowly heating up a pie.

Speaking of which, here's a deleted scene:

CAROLYN:     Admiral's Pie.

ARTHUR:     Ok. Is that the same as the Fisherman's Pie?

CAROLYN:     No, it's not. The Admiral and the Fisherman favour entirely different pies.

ARTHUR:   Right. They've both got fish in though, right?


ARTHUR:   Thought so. Because I was thinking, it's funny, when you think about it, that the Admiral's pie has got fish in it. I can see why the Fisherman's pie has. But you'd think the Admiral would be sick of fish. I mean, he must have had to eat loads of fish when he was just a sailor. And now he's an Admiral he can have whatever he likes. I'd have thought he'd want something he couldn't have at sea. Like lamb pie. With turnip.

CAROLYN:   Arthur. Dear heart. Could we have a little less philosophising about the pie, and a little more cooking of the pie?

Also, of course, this episode has Arthur learning the phonetic alphabet, which might have been the single most fun thing for me as an actor in the whole show. Especially Boo! / Bye-bye! / Boncore!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Kuala Lumpur

Ah, poor old KL - the episode nobody loves, not even me. There are two or three episodes I would like to have the chance to replot and rewrite, generally because they're over complicated- Cremona and Newcastle spring to mind. But Kuala is the only one where, if I had a magic wand, I'd probably just replace it with a whole new episode.

On the plus side, the Carolyn and Arthur mystery passenger subplot is absolutely fine, I think. And there's some good stuff in the Arthur-learning-to-lie bits, too. But the whole 'secret pubs' main plot... hrrrr. Like the other problem episodes, it's over-complicated- I don't suppose many casual listeners followed exactly what was going on by the final scene. But it also manages to feel slow and repetitive. The real problem, though, is that neither Martin nor Douglas' Wants are clear, or, when they are clear, entirely believable. Martin's journey from wanting to shut the club down to wanting to be in it, to wanting to be out of it because it's not his style... It works in broad sitcom-logic terms, but it doesn't feel real. So even though Douglas' plan at the end is to help Martin rather than hurt him, we never really buy that, because we haven't bought Martin's journey in the first place. And whatever I decided was Martin's  real, underlying Want for the episode - presumably community, or possibly respect- is left unresolved by the ending. Not that he has to get what he wants, of course, but he has to either get it or not get it. Or realise that he doesn't want it after all; or that he had it all along; or... something. Not just have a Douglas-ex-machina resolve it for him while he's off-stage.

Nor, for that matter,  do I quite believe Douglas is always in the Flap and Throttle, and very much wants it to continue. I'm sure he could have a good night there, because he prides himself on fitting in anywhere, but I can't quite see him beetling off there after every flight to see George's latest fruit impression. That's more Arthur's style, if anything. So we end up with that sitcom cliche of something that everyone suddenly cares a lot about and says they always have done... but which is never mentioned before or since.

Lastly, though I am not as tender-hearted towards poor little Captain Crieff and his 'feels' as some listeners I could mention, and stoutly defend my right to have unpleasant things happen to him in the service of making an audience laugh...  I have to admit in this episode, his various awkardnesses in the bar go on for too long, and are too uncomfortable to listen to. 'Yeah, ok, Finnemore, we get it- he doesn't know about football. Move on' is what I say to myself when listening, so God knows how you feel.

Ah well. You can't win them all.  Arth-nold Man-a-cats-a-man was funny. And it'll be Limerick soon...

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Johannesburg

This episode is very much about me, a series and a half in, experimenting with splitting the foursome up in a different way from the usual flighdeck / cabin crew division. Interestingly (to me, anyway) the effect of that is that it becomes an episode all about Douglas. The Martin / Arthur story is all about the absence of Douglasn- what happens to Martin  when, on the one hand, he doesn't have to worry about being constantly put down; but on the other hand, he can't rely on Douglas to find the clever solution and sort out any problem. And the answer the episode seems to provide is that he grows in confidence, and finds those solutions for himself - and after all, as early as Boston we saw him 'pull a Douglas' in the authoritative and creative way he persuades the paramedics to take Leeman away. 

Meanwhile, back at the airfield Carolyn and Douglas are experiencing a more straight-forward 'Freaky Friday' style role reversal, with Douglas discovering what it's like to really care about the success or failure of the company, and Carolyn enjoying getting to play the Douglas role, and 'chip in from the sidelines'. Overall, looking back at it now, it's a surprisingly anti-Douglas episode, certainly more than I realised at the time. Even Arthur, who famously thinks everyone is brilliant, guiltily confesses he's enjoying the 'holiday' from sarcasm. And then look at the final scene, and how Douglas is torn (and Roger, of course, plays this perfectly): he clearly really wants to take off on time, and thus beat Carolyn; but he also really wants Martin to fail, so as not to disturb the flight deck hierarchy. I would say that over the twenty-six episodes, Martin is the character who changes most obviously; but there's also no way Douglas would have behaved the same way had the events of Jo'burg taken place in series four.

All of which is not to say I don't like Johannesburg- I actually like it very much. I think it's got one of the most cunningly laid endings to any episode except maybe St Petersburg - I'm sure many first time listeners wondered why I kept stressing that the newly washed BMW was parked behind the plane, but I like to think most of them will have forgotten the wine bottle on the engine exhaust, even when they hear the smash.

I also like it that both the Spanish airport characters are, I think, funny- but neither is in any way obstructive or unhelpful, a la Douz or Newcastle. They both just do their job.

(If you think this has all got a bit back-slappy and self congratulatory, by the way, do not fear - the antidote is on its way. My least favourite episode is just around the corner...)

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Ipswich

Ipswich is one of my favourite episodes - so much so that it was the one I chose when I adapted a script for a possible pilot TV version (don't get excited, it's not happening). So today, by way of a change, here are a few of the stage directions from that script, never before seen by anyone who doesn't work for either Pozzitive Productions or the BBC…














Yes! Skip! Come on!

Three… Two…


I see. Well then, we’ll just have to see what the CAA adjudicates when I take it up with-



Carolyn, what are…