Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Fitton / Federigo's Falcon



The thing about Fitton is that you have to remember that at the time I thought it might well be the last episode ever. I didn't want it to be, of course, but I was writing it before Abu Dhabi had aired, and I had no way of knowing whether the show would go well or not. Plenty of radio shows never get a second series. So I wanted to write something that would feel like a fairly satisfying end if it turned out these were the only six episodes that ever existed… whilst not painting myself into any corners if we got a second series. If I'd known we would get three more series, I would definitely have held back both what the letters MJN stand for, and Douglas' secret sobriety, for much longer. Imagine how much more effective it would have been if at the end of series THREE we'd realised that, for all the talking he does about what a booze-hound he is, we'd never actually seen Douglas take a drink. Ah well.

Fitton is also the first of three episodes (with Limerick and Xinzhou) which largely feature just the central cast, keeping themselves entertained, whilst confined to one location. I often give an episode a working title in my notebooks that's more helpful to me than just a city name - this one was called 'Busy Doing Nothing'. They are murder to write, these ones - it seems like you can just have any old messing around going on, so long as it's entertaining; but actually if you don't have conflict, desires, and forward movement in some form, the audience lose interest. So, you have to not only have a plot… but then also conceal that you have a plot. It's not easy. At least not for me.

This is the episode that marks a turning point for Martin and Douglas. Though there are plenty more episodes to come where they're at loggerheads, they never quite go back to the same level of antagonism as in the first five episodes. (Maybe briefly in Gdansk, but even then they're on the same side again by the end.) That's partly to do with the final scene, where Martin has power over Douglas and chooses not to use it; but I also think a crucial scene in the development of the show is the 'lipstick inscription' one, not because Douglas apologises for pushing a joke against Martin too far, but because Martin eventually laughs at it himself, and even joins in with it. I love how the actors play this scene, and I think that's the moment the characters become- broadly speaking-  friends.


In non CP Advent Calendar news, Radio Three are currently broadcasting ten adaptations of stories from Boccaccio's Decameron, and I am in this one - cast, as I so often am, as an Italian nobleman.



36 comments:

Christen said...

I love Fitton so much! nearly my favourite one!
Are you worrying about getting type case as you where such an amazing Italian nobleman!
Also well done for not having a place holder today :P

Rebecca McMonies said...

I'm loving these Farewell Bear Facts, little tidbits from each episode is great to read. But I don't want it to end, I hope you've got something new up your sleeve Mr. Finnemore, because your fans need more than you randomly turning up in Miranda's Christmas Special and JF Souvenir Programme is over too :(

Smarti said...

This episode is definitely one of my top three favorites. It's great all the way through, but Arthur explaining happiness, and getting everyone to toss the apples from hand to hand, well, it's brilliant.

Dominic C. said...

This might be my favourite episode of the entire series. I often go back and listen to Arthur's bit about happiness (as well as your "Be Kind/Have Fun" sketch from JFSP) when I need a bit of a cheering-up.

Thank you so much for writing these entries for all of us to read! It's fantastic getting to read a bit about your creation process and the references you fit into the show.

Sarah said...

Did you know otters toss little rocks from hand to hand (well, paw to paw) like Arthur does with apples? I thought that was funny since otters play a role later on in the show.

The idea of "concealing the plot" is really interesting to me. I've always thought Douz is the star of series one in terms of plot and comedic timing- it's the one I recommend friends listen to first if they aren't already sold on listening to it all from episode 1. But ultimately Fitton is just so satisfying, so genuine and heart-warming. I think both episodes highlight different strengths in your writing and I'm always impressed with the variety between episodes.

pun said...

This whole episode is fantastic. I love the way that it launches the emotional arc of the series in terms of the relationship between Martin and Douglas. But Arthur's speech about why he doesn't want Carolyn to sell Gertie is my favorite part, and probably in my top 5 favorite moments of the whole series. I go back and listen to just that scene by itself sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Smack in the middle of rewriting two episodes of a radio show I've got going, I sank into "doubt jelly."

This is when I flop around my dining table, occasionally sip at a tepid cup of tea while staring at a screen filled with stilted dialogue, wondering whether any of these characters have any life at all beyond, perhaps, that one good joke from scene two.

I can't get up and walk away because somewhere inside I'm almost sure there's something I"m not seeing, but neither can I sit still because it's all just awful and not funny at all, and the universe doesn't need another writer anyway and oh, god, I think I forgot to pay my credit card bill.

Thank you, JF, for reminding me that writing that seems effortless, is, in fact, the product of a great deal of time and energy and focus. Except when it's not and an idea arrives whole and I dance around the table after a bright day's work so I forget that is the exception, not the rule and no way to measure progress or skill. And, by the way, I did pay the credit card bill; it was the electricity bill I forgot about.

Marie said...

This is one of my favorite episodes, hands down - this is where, for me, Cabin Pressure really started hitting its stride. I do have one question, though - what's with Arthur's fascination with pineapple juice? Or are you saving that for the Uskerty edition of Farewell Bear Facts? ;)

Kathy said...

Thank you for posting these behind-the-scenes facts! You've done an amazing job with the character development throughout the series. That's why these characters feel like family/friends to so many listeners.

Theresa Cadeau said...

Thank you so much for posting these. I always want to know more about how writers write.
I love the book title game. Every once in a while I notice ones that kind of work and make a note of them on my phone. Like "Animal Far" "Fahrenheit 45" "Mansfield Par" (a golf book?) "A Wrinkle in Tim" "The Pear" "White Fan" "The Invisible Ma" "The Sound and Fur" "The Silver Chai." The word games are such fun!

Alex G said...

I think that if you'd left it to series three to reveal that Douglas doesn't drink, it would would have been less effective. It would feel like the writer was cheating us, suddenly throwing in a retcon out of nowhere.

Anonymous said...

I love this episode. I always thought it was riffing off Waiting for Godot (Mr Goddard). Now that's a play that could really use an Arthur.

Philippa Sidle said...

Fitton is a thing of beauty.

It's also, I'm fairly certain, the only fictional titular destination? This is the sort of Cabin Pressure trivia I list in my mind when I can't sleep.

Andy Lee said...

Fitton is maybe my favorite episode ever, it's definitely in my top 25.

Helen said...

When Douglas reveals he's sober in Fitton, he says "eight years for me too", as if he's referring to a previous conversation. Was this a deleted scene? Do you remember what it was about? It's always bothered me listening to this episode.

Anonymous said...

Helen, I've always assumed that Douglas simply meant "...and I've actually been sober for all of eight year at this point" rather than "I, too, have been sober for eight year". Though JF knows best, of course.

Anonymous said...

Fitton was the episode where I officially fell in love with the show. Brilliant!

Alex G said...

@Philippa: Yes, the only completely fictional titular destination. Douz exists, but Douz airfield doesn't, which is just as well.

I'm rather pleased to discover that Kilkenny Airport from "Uskerty" actually exists. I hope they have a plentiful supply of pineapple juice.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of that, there is an airfield in Rautavaara (where they actually land in the Helsinki episode), but no airport. :-) Meaning, it's used only by gliders and such.

Anonymous said...

There's no airport in Vaduz either. Nor a king!

Pauline Roemisch said...

Thank you for sharing all these Farewell Bear Facts. Fitton is my favourite episode of Series 1.

Kathryn said...

I absolutely loved Federigo & His Falcon. No idea what to expect beforehand, but it was a little piece of perfection. Carrie was on especially excellent form (not to disparage your own performance, of course!)

migi said...

Ahh, Fitton, one of my favourite episodes :)

Anonymous said...

I played this game by myself and my favorite one was The Horse and His Bo, which sounds like My Little Pony meets TMNT.

gaelic lupin said...

I think it speaks volumes about your abilities as a writer, dear Mr Finnemore, that especially those three episodes - Fitton, Limerick, and Xinzhou - are my absolute favourites.
Thanks for so much fun and time spent well (over and over and over again!).

Becky said...

I love how you discuss both writing and concealing the plot for these kinds of episodes! They feel almost like bottle episodes, in a way, only they are for a radio show which don't actually need bottle episodes! These facts and stories are so wonderful - I'll miss these entries nearly as much as I will miss Cabin Pressure itself!

Anonymous said...

I love "Fitton", and never tire of hearing it. It's great to hear Douglas trying to sing every tune he thinks Arthur is trying to remember. I especially love Carolyn's comment on Arthur's youthful appearance, "He has a punishing Moisturising routine"!

Marie said...

I love that one of the songs Douglas sings to figure out the "mystery tune" is the same one from "The Marriage of Figaro" Benedict (as Edward Talbot, obviously, not as Martin) sings in "To The Ends of the Earth"! http://youtu.be/phY0WbePZuE

Caught me by surprise. I knew I'd heard it before!

Anonymous said...

It's because Carolyn has been divorced from Gordon and has been trying to run a business on her own for 8 years. Hope that helps!

Layna Sadler said...

Wow, I never noticed that! Thanks for that cute little bit of trivia. I always loved Ben's singing in TtEotE.

Trina Dubya said...

The "Busy Doing Nothing" episodes may be difficult to write, but all three are among my favorites. (Along with Saint Petersburg and Ipswich.) Thanks for sharing these behind the scenes stories with us!

Kelly said...

I was listening to "Fitton" and then "Limerick" and I noticed that in both episodes, Martin and Douglass have the exact same exchange regarding Martin's lack of love life. Douglass says, "Well, there's always cabin crew," and Martin says, "Well, for two very different reasons, neither Caroline nor Arthur float my boat" or something along those lines. Was this on purpose or an accident? The fans (me, myself and I) are holding their breaths with suspense.

Pauline Roemisch said...

@Kelly:

this question has been answered here: http://johnfinnemore.blogspot.nl/2012/07/cabin-pressure-faq.html

Q) There's one line of Martin's that occurs in two different episodes. Was that deliberate?

A) No, it wasn't. For some reason, I thought that line had been cut from the first episode it was in the edit, and reused it; only to eventually realise it hadn't been. So now it's in both, and it really annoys me. Grr.

Moony said...

Invaluable as a writer to be reminded that a genius not-plot-plot like this episode requires sweat, blood and pain to create.

And on another note: It is impossible to be busy doing nothing, because "doing" nothing, implies you are doing something. As many have already said so I'll join the throng, this and the other two Busy Doing Nothing episodes are among my top favourites.

David Lees said...

Well, well.
I can't remember when I started listening to CP, but I only realised a few days ago that Fitton is, indeed, fictional. And to paraphrase Arthur, it sounds like a name that a place might have.
Unlike "Felpersham", for instance. I've never bought that. Who in their right mind would move to a town with a name like that?
Whereas, Fitton not only sounds authentic, it also sounds like a place which probably has an airfield. Most likely, it was used by the RAF during WW2 as a Spitfire base. Not Hurricanes, though...

VB said...

I love that they're "Waiting for Goddard".