Video killed the... yeah.
June 21, 2012 9:30 PM   Subscribe

I've just discovered the BBC 4 radio series Cabin Pressure, which I'm enjoying a lot, and now I'm looking for some other good, contemporary, fictional radio shows. Do those exist nowadays? How do I find the good ones?

I've been spending the past few weeks listening to the excellent radio sitcom Cabin Pressure, and I'm finding that I really enjoy not just the show itself, but the experience of listening, as opposed to watching a TV show. I'd like more of that.

Unfortunately, I don't really know how to find it. My Internet searches haven't been particularly successful, and though I have turned up a few potential shows, I feel like I'm not really looking in the right places.

So, does anyone have any recommendations for good, modern serial radio programs? (To be clear, I'm looking for fictional programs with a plot, not news/commentary or standup, but I'm open to any genre.) Where would I go to find programs like this?
posted by mekily to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
The BBC also did a fabulous adaption of Le Carre's Smiley novels.
posted by smoke at 9:47 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

I love Cabin Pressure and the writer, John Finnemore, who also plays Arthur, has a sketch radio series called John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme. There are longer three-act pieces woven in with shorter sketches. If you don't mind listening on the computer, I think you can find most of them on Youtube.
posted by book 'em dano at 10:35 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Personal recommendations:
Tom Goodman-Hill, who guest-starred on an episode of Cabin Pressure also stars in Hut 33, a comedy about Bletchley Park, which is pretty fun. I think it's mostly up on Youtube.
Also, if you can find it, John Finnemore also did some writing for Safety Catch, which is a comedy about an arms dealer.

You might also have some luck poking around the Radio 4 website-- they have a list of current programs here, so you can see if any of the descriptions pop out at you.
posted by chairmanroflmao at 10:57 PM on June 21, 2012

The Truth is a series of radio dramas, rather than a serial radio drama, but the one I heard was inventive and really used the medium well.

The producer, Jonathan Mitchell, is not me, sadly.

posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:35 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might like High Table, Lower Orders which is kind of a comedy murder mystery over several episodes. Not sure if its online at the BBC or if you'll have to google for it.
posted by crocomancer at 12:59 AM on June 22, 2012

The best place to start would be the Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra websites (the latter station being mostly devoted to airing repeats of Radio 4 drama and comedy). Both websites are fairly easy to browse by genre.

There is also the Drama of the Week podcast, which makes one of the week's dramas available as an MP3, which is nice. Radio 3 also broadcasts some good plays (usually on Sunday evenings).

Two comedies I've enjoyed recently are Ed Reardon's Week and the Diary of Samuel Pepys. Sadly these aren't on iPlayer at the moment, but will almost certainly be repeated on Radio 4 Extra at some point.

The 15 Minute drama is often very good (broadcast Mon-Fri at 10.45am and 7.45pm), as are the Afternoon Play and Classic Serial on Radio 4.
posted by mattn at 1:33 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another personal recommendation: 'Fags, Mags and Bags'.
posted by davemack at 3:22 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, recommend Radio 4 Extra and I LOVE Ed Reardon's Week, it's a character comedy that should be up there with Alan Partridge and Adrian Mole. There's also Hut33, and occasionally they play the very strange At Home With The Snails which stars Miranda Hart.

Also, a lot of BBC sitcoms started out as radio shows - The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Little Britain, and On The Hour became The Day Today, and the Radio 4 series Knowing Me Knowing You became the series of the same name.

Recently I also heard an excellent drama, People Snogging In Public Places, about a boy with Aspergers dealing with his disabled uncle. I'd highly recommend tracking that down if you can.
posted by mippy at 4:24 AM on June 22, 2012

Oh yes - I also like Bleak Expectations, a Dickensian spoof. That too was adapted for TV, but I haven't seen the TV version to compare.

If you like non-comedy radio, I got really into Baldi a few years ago. It's about a priest who gets involved in solving crimes, which makes it sound like a daytime soap, but it's really well done and David Threlfall's voice is very pleasant to listen to.
posted by mippy at 4:27 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

YES to Fags, Mags and Bags and Bleak Expectations. Both are available as audiobooks/audible downloads and are some of the best comedy I have ever listened to.

You might also like We Are Klang Presents (Amazing Lives) which is also on CD/audiobook but was originally on Radio 7.
posted by citands at 5:21 AM on June 22, 2012

Radio Four's In and Out of the Kitchen, and Mr Blue Sky were really funny. I think Mr Blue Sky is available as a podcast, and In and Out of the Kitchen has been repeated once or twice, so they may put it out again at some point.
posted by lizabeth at 6:03 AM on June 22, 2012

Keep an eye on Radio4Extra, formerly BBC7, the web/iPlayer-only experience that basically reruns Radio4 content from various eras, including the current one, at all times.

Also, you may check out, a torrents site for spoken-word radio shows.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:33 AM on June 22, 2012

CBC Radio (in Canada) has produced a number of serialized radio dramas (of varying quality) over the years. Their recently concluded and strangely popular (for a Canadian radio drama) show is "Afghanada", billed as a "grunt's-eye view of the conflict in Afghanistan". I listened to a number of episodes during earlier seasons (there are 6 seasons in total), and was impressed with the show's attempts to offer fairly balanced and multiple perspectives on an issue that is obviously contentious, while presenting believable, well-developed, and (mostly) well-written characters and storylines. The show gets bonus points from me for having a strong female among it's ensemble cast who manages to exist and interact within a male-dominated world without the writers succumbing to the need to make her a Superwoman or make her female-ness a major plot point. Occasionally, as is probably inevitable in a military drama produced by a National Public Broadcaster, the show does veer into the territory of glossing over messy/unpleasant issues, or resolving conflict by blanketing everything in a big Canadian flag and cup of Tim's, but these instances are rare from what I remember. Definitely worth a listen. All the seasons are available for purchase on iTunes.....and probably elsewhere, if you want to go unofficial.

CBC also recently produced "Trust, INC", a comedy/drama about a PR firm in Toronto. I didn't catch any of those episodes, so no idea about the quality....but the fact that they've chosen to re-air Season 6 of "Afghanada" in its timeslot rather than produce more episodes suggests that it wasn't super successful.
posted by Dorinda at 8:11 AM on June 22, 2012

Lynne Truss (of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves fame) wrote a hilarious series called "Inspector Steine", which is a parody of 1950s/1960s mysteries (including Graham Greene's Brighton Rock).
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:30 AM on June 22, 2012

Mark Taverner wrote High Table, Lower Orders and several other brilliantly funny radio comedies, starring the likes of Stephen Fry, Geoffrey Palmer, and others. (Sadly, he died--too young!--in 2007. But his shows live on at, which is the motherlode of BBC radio.
posted by tully_monster at 4:43 PM on June 22, 2012

The Thrilling Adventure Hour radio programs are available as free downloads on iTunes. Styled after old time radio, they can get a little campy, but I find them entertaining.
posted by Greenbacksgal at 3:55 AM on July 18, 2012

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