The Best Show Benedict Cumberbatch Was Ever In, Is Also Britain's Greatest Secret

Everyone knows Benedict Cumberbatch by now, right? Sherlock, Khan (spoilers), Alan Turing and Dr Strange. All good? Good.

So if I was to talk about a sitcom in which he starred that ran for six years with a truly great cast and written by probably Britain's finest comedy writer of the spoken word, you'd have thought more people might have heard of it.

Cabin Pressure was a sitcom about the smallest airline in the country (one plane) run out of an even smaller airport, that employed two pilots. One, Martin, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, as a overstudied but average-performing pilot, working with his first officer Douglas played by Roger Allam (V For Vendetta, Tamara Drewe, Game Of Thrones), who oozes with what a captain should be – and what Martin clearly is lacking. Then throw in the clever but bitter owner of the plane, who got it in a divorce, played by Stephanie Cole and her rather backward but big hearted son Arthur, played by the writer of the show, John Finnemore.  He employs perfect characterisation and rationale as to why such disparate individuals are trapped together, beautifully balanced against each other, a structure built around a snake eating its own tail, and diversions from the narrative that nevertheless find a way to feed back into the main thrust by the final seconds and you have, quite simply, one of the best sitcoms of the 21st century. It ran from 2008 to 2014.

Only thing is, it was on the radio.

It didn't stop it from being just the very best thing. The Amazon reviews should speak for themselves. 89 reviews, all 5 stars. You don't get that from asking your mum to review it.

The final episodes, when recorded – and after Sherlock become big news – were the most oversubscribed radio tickets in BBC history.

But that's BBC radio history. So even so, hardly anyone has heard of it, even in Britain, let alone the rest of the world.

So, it can be your little secret. Get the box set, listen to them on while jogging or something and fall in love. Then tell people at dinner parties of your discovery and be the wise Anglophile, and the gatekeeper to hidden pearls of comedy joy.

And then you can find Finnemore's other work…

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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