Can you recommend awesome radio plays? e.g. BBC Radio's 'Cabin Pressure'
November 20, 2019 12:24 PM   Subscribe

Because podcasts are not my cuppa.

The Podcast revolution passes me by because I only like tightly scripted and well-produced aural entertainment. Audiobooks are great! But I recently stumbled upon radio plays, or rather, one specific radio 'sitcom' called Cabin Pressure by BBC Radio, and joy! Oh, joy! This is what I have always been looking for on my long drives, without ever realizing it!

Please tell me where I can find more of that!
  • I would strongly prefer modern to vintage - though if you want to recommend the Casablanca of radio dramas, I won't say no.
  • Medium preference for 'clean' PG-13 shows, since one of the great joys of Cabin Pressure was listening together with my tween-and-younger kids.
  • However, I'm STRONGLY AVERSE to made-for-kids radio content, even middle-grade or young-adult level stuff. Sorry, it's bad enough I have to watch Frozen 2 etc., the car sound system is vehemently mine.
    Thank you!!
    posted by MiraK to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
    World War Z is an audiobook that is read by a different narrator per chapter of the book (which matches the book format for each chapter being by a different person being interviewed by the 'writer' of the book) and is up there with the best, if not the best audiobook, I've ever enjoyed.

    So, it's not an audiobook in the normal sense nor is it a play in the BBC sense of things perhaps. I'd still recommend it. Ignore the movie, it's not much like the [excellent] book. Bonus point is that Alan Alda reads one chapter, but all the narrators are great.

    EDIT: I'd call it PG-13 though it does get a bit descriptive in some places it's by no means all about the gore. Language varies but, again, nothing I'd keep a mature teen from I think.
    posted by RolandOfEld at 12:32 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

    Narrative podcasts may be a good search term for modern radio plays done outside the radio circuit. Welcome to Night Vale is the classic (horror/bizarre humour in an American small city, ongoing bimonthly series for years now), and my absolute favourite is Wolf 359 (science fiction / corporate thriller, complete at 60 episodes + specials), which starts off funny and ends up absolutely gripping. I'm also enjoying Alba Salix, though I haven't finished that one. I'd class all of them as PG-13. The Magnus Archives skews R rated for horror, but is also very good.

    The BBC also does a lot of generally good audio plays. I liked their Good Omens adaptation, for example. They are periodically rebroadcast and available on iPlayer for a few weeks after the broadcast.

    And do check out Big Finish. Most of their work is based on British TV properties, chiefly Doctor Who, but if you're familiar with the properties, the writing and production is top notch, and the actors are often the TV originals. I love their Eighth Doctor audios in particular.
    posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:45 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

    posted by something something at 12:49 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

    Best answer: If you loved Cabin Pressure (yessss) I encourage you to try John Finnemore's other radio productions, especially Double Acts.
    posted by asperity at 12:49 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

    Best answer: Fourble collects a few hundred radio sitcoms and serials and repackages them as podcastable feeds.
    posted by Iridic at 12:57 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

    If these subjects interest you:
    • If you like Neil Gaiman, Good Omens and Neverwhere have both been BBC audio plays.
    • All three of the original Star Wars movies also were done as radio dramas.
    • Many of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett were, I understand, also done as radio dramas.

    posted by WCityMike at 1:09 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

    You can join Audible and search for BBC, or join Libby/Overdrive through your local library and search for BBC, and you will get literally hundreds of full-cast BBC dramatizations. They are rich with comedies and other sub-genres.
    posted by DarlingBri at 1:12 PM on November 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

    There are Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels read as audiobooks - BUT! - there are also abridged radio plays with a whole cast of voice actors.
    posted by porpoise at 1:46 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

    Alice Isn't Dead is a nice one, it's about a trucker searching for her wife who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. It's written by one of the creators of Night Vale, and it's especially fun to listen to on road trips because the narrator spends a long time describing the desolate scenery and weird rest stops she passes through.

    (Like you, I love Cabin Pressure!)
    posted by mekily at 1:53 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

    BBC sounds site>comedy>sitcoms

    BBCsound site>drama

    You may have to search around the site, but oh you will find so Wonderfull things
    posted by thegirlwiththehat at 1:58 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

    Okay, these are from the 80's-90's, which may be vintage for you, I don't know, but they're great:

    The BBC did a wonderful audiodrama adaptation of every single Sherlock Holmes story starring Clive Merrison and Michael Williams. Everyone in the cast is a delight and the writing is amazing - even the worst Holmes stories somehow turn out to be a fun time in this series. (Seriously, "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane" is magically one of the most fun episodes. "The Lion's Mane". Someone sold their soul to Satan for that.)

    I also highly recommend the 1981 BBC radio Lord of the Rings starring Ian Holm. It is magical.
    posted by darchildre at 2:23 PM on November 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

    Wooden Overcoats is a light sitcom that just keeps getting better.
    posted by Garm at 2:38 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

    Victoriosity is weird and British and wonderful. I love love love Cabin Pressure, but don’t have much patience/interest in other radio plays except for this one.
    posted by avidreader at 2:48 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

    John Wrigglesworth's Hang Ups is a charming radio sitcom - like Cabin Pressure, the humour is gentle and there's a real warmth to it.

    Series five has just started - the first two episodes are here.

    Memail me if you want older episodes.
    posted by HoraceH at 5:07 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

    Seconding Wooden Overcoats and anything else by John Finnemore
    posted by book 'em dano at 5:32 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

    I hope this opens up a nice rabbit hole for you. Check out Dreams of Rio at the ZBS Foundation. You want radio drama and comedy, whoo boy do you have some listnin' to do.
    posted by sydnius at 3:31 AM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

    Sorry, more vintage than modern, but the BBC Radio Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is my gold standard for this sort of thing, particularly seasons one and two. It was a radio series before it was a book and the whole thing is a joy (even these days when I can recite it all verbatim). Seasons 3, 4 and 5 are later adaptations with most of the same cast and the same style. Looks like it's now on iTunes. Should be pretty safe family listening, and positively enthralling for a certain sort of older kid, aside from a few drinking jokes and a stray mention of the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon 6.
    posted by FavourableChicken at 5:54 AM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

    I love Definitely Human’s Marscorp for this (scripted comedy- their roleplaying podcasts Pax Fortuna and The Infinite Bad are not quite right but also recommend them) and while it’s improv and a bit more episodic, Mission to Zyxx’s comic timing is great. Nthing Wooden Overcoats and Victoriosity too.

    Also, Thrilling Adventure Hour is perfect for this- it’s mostly behind a Patreon paywall now, but I particularly adored the Beyond Belief segments (episodic) and Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars (more of a story arc). Definitely worth a listen- taped live with a ton of talented actors and comedians.
    posted by actionpact at 8:44 AM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

    Re: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and "Should be pretty safe family listening, and positively enthralling for a certain sort of older kid, aside from a few drinking jokes and a stray mention of the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon 6."
    I was exposed to the radio plays from before I could walk (my dad taped them off the radio), and because it's in the context of things like the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, I just mentally filed 'whore' in the same category as 'bugblatter' and happily moved on. Aside from owning more towels than the average person and the occasional urge to use 'Belgium' as a curse I don't think it has done me lasting harm. I reccomend it strongly.

    If you are a Dr Who family and have Spotify, some of the earlier Big Finish Dr Who dramas are on Spotify.

    One that I have to reccomend is Bleak Expectations - Dickensian spoof, with the main antagonist played most wonderfully by Anthony Stewart Head. Definitely family-friendly, but aimed at adults. I am now having to restrain myself from buying the complete series.

    I also love The Scarifiers, 1930s supernatural investigators. Funny, great mental images, one includes Brian Blessed.

    Audio dramas have been a love of mine my whole life, and putting the search 'BBC' into audible has me scrolling through pages and pages going "yeah, that's a good one, I liked that, oooh, that was good" (they're not all dramatisations but it's easy to see from the description which are).
    posted by Vortisaur at 11:50 AM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

    Response by poster: This is amazing, an embarrassment of treats! Thank you, everyone. I've put the links to all the online podcasts into a google keep list and will be working my way through it all for YEARS. :) Just started listening to John Finnemore's Double Acts, love it already, and next I'll be trying Victoriosity, and then on to Fourble, and on and on.

    So much talent out there, and so many wonderful works of art. Ahhhh.
    posted by MiraK at 8:05 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

    I subscribe to the BBC Radio Drama of the Week on iTunes.

    Plus there's a ton of stuff at BBC - Drama, although I don't see an easy way to filter for just radio. But if you search for "radio" just using Control-F, you'll find a bunch of specific items. Hm, looks like they're doing a dramatized version of Middlemarch.

    You might also check your library for CDs, if you have a CD player, or streaming audio otherwise. For example, you might find something like Art, by Yasmina Reza, The House of Blue Leaves, by John Guare, or the Tom Stoppard Radio Plays, which are fantastic.
    posted by kristi at 7:25 PM on November 24, 2019

    This one may not be appropriate (or even interesting) for your kids—there’s explicit language and tense situations—but you might like it if you like mystery/suspense: Motherhacker. It’s about a Seattle mom whose bank account is emptied by phone scammers, and what she has to do to get her money back. I’ve listened to the first three episodes and it is engrossing and very well produced. It has Carrie Coon, Alan Cummings, Rupert Friend and Tavi Gevinson as some of the voice actors. I’m really enjoying it.
    posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:16 PM on December 1, 2019

    A month later: cf. this recent Metafilter post.
    posted by WCityMike at 11:41 AM on December 29, 2019

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