Bleak Expectations. Image shows from L to R: Young Pip (Tom Allen), Mr Gently Benevolent (Anthony Head). Image credit: British Broadcasting Corporation.

Bleak Expectations

Radio comedy following the adventures of Pip Bin as he struggles against the cruel plotting of his evil guardian Mr Gently Benevolent

Genre:
Sitcom
Broadcast:
2007 - 2012  (BBC Radio 4)
Episodes:
30 (5 series)
Starring:
Tom Allen, Anthony Head, Richard Johnson, James Bachman, Susy Kane, Sarah Hadland, Mark Evans, Geoffrey Whitehead, Laurence Howarth, Perdita Weeks, Mark Perry
Writers:
Mark Evans
Production:
British Broadcasting Corporation

A radio comedy aptly described as "a gloriously daft Victorian romp in the style of Charles Dickens after too much gin."

Volume 1: The sitcom follows the remarkable adventures of young Sir Philip 'Pip' Bin as he struggles to rescue himself and his sisters from the schemes of his evil and ironically-named guardian Mr Gently Benevolent.

Volume 2: The comic Victorian epic tells the further extraordinary adventures of Pip Bin and his trusty friend Harry Biscuit as they battle against the evil Mr Gently Benevolent, returned from the dead specifically to destroy all that is good and pure and true. Wince at the cruel vengeance of the Sternbeater cousins! Weep at the squalor of the opium den! Wonder at the engineering of the world's first beef and pastry railway!

Volume 3: All seems well in the life of Pip Bin. His evil guardian Mr Gently Benevolent has been killed (again) and he has found true love with his wife Ripely and true happiness with his beloved family and friends. Everything is properly splendid, and surely for the duration of the series it will continue that way, won't it? No! Because in a ghastly incident at a seance the spirit of the evil Mr Benevolent reappears to wreak more havoc on everything that is noble, Victorian and English!

Volume 4: Shipwrecks, time-machines, the Wild West, volcanoes, the underworld and a sinister new kind of cake abound appear in Series 4.

Hero Pip sees his former nemesis - the badly named Gently Benevolent - thwarted and locked up in a prison within a jail (within a gaol spelled the other way), and apparently repentant of his crimes. But late one foggy night when Pip is attacked with a bowl of sinister custard he realises a new form of evil is stalking the streets of London, and he is obliged to ask for help from his erstwhile foe.

Meanwhile, Pip's wife Ripely has become obsessed with cutlery, and the purchase of some diamond-handled dodo knives looks likely to force Pip into bankruptcy. His best friend, Harry Biscuit, claims to be having terrible problems with an angry badger, but is all as it seems?

Volume 5: Pip Bin is beginning to miss the conflict with his absent evil nemesis Mr Gently Benevolent, when he receives an intriguing invitation to a house party with Britain's poshest man. The series sees Pip, Gently and Co visit India, Antarctica and other interesting locations.

Our Review: This is a highly entertaining sitcom - in fact, Bleak Expectations has quickly become one of our all-time favourite radio comedies. It's a modern classic.

The comedy is exquisitely performed by all involved: Tom Allen as carefully enunciated Young Pip, James Bachman as the over-enthusiastic and 'over-stupid' Harry, and Anthony Head as evil Mr Gently Benevolent are our personal favourites.

However, it is Mark Evans' writing that is the reason this sitcom stands-out as something rather special. It's very hard to describe style of the comedy, in fact you'd be best to listen to an episode to understand what the word play is like, because we're never going to be able to do it justice in this review.

Suffice to say the bizarre and surreal Victorian world that Evans' vividly paints through his scripts makes for a magical and highly entertaining sitcom that you just must not miss.