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Think The Unthinkable. Image shows from L to R: Owen (David Mitchell), Daisy de Vere (Catherine Shepherd), Ryan Packer (Marcus Brigstocke), Sophie Stott (Emma Kennedy). Copyright: BBC
Think The Unthinkable

Think The Unthinkable

  • Radio sitcom
  • BBC Radio 4
  • 2001 - 2005
  • 21 episodes (4 series)

Sitcom about a firm of incompetent management consultants who cause havoc every time they are hired. Stars Marcus Brigstocke, Emma Kennedy, Beth Chalmers, Catherine Shepherd, David Mitchell and Robin Ince

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About Think The Unthinkable

Think The Unthinkable was first broadcast on Radio 4 on 16th October 2001, and saw its way through four series, the final episode being on 19th October 2005. In its four years it became one of the best received Radio Sitcoms of recent times, gaining a Sony Silver Award and an enthusiastic audience. It kick-started the career of writer James Cary, helped make a star of Marcus Brigstocke, nurtured the career of David Mitchell (who started Peep Show while Think... was running), gave actress Catherine Shepherd a deserved boost, and featured a high percentage of both up and coming and established stars of the standup comedy circuit.

It follows the misadventures of Unthinkable Solutions, a management consultancy set up, in a fit of misplaced confidence, by Ryan Packer (Marcus Brigstocke), a naive, rather pompous graduate. Setting out to troubleshoot the problems of British Corporate life. Ryan, needless to say, has no experience of either management or consulting, but seems to think he can get the job done by mouthing a few vague metaphors and thinking out of the box. He is one of life's optimists, striving to see the upside of everything, and incapable of seeing when he is irritating other people.

Ryan is aided, if that's the word, by Sophie Stott (Emma Kennedy Series 1-2, Beth Chalmers Series 3-4) who, a few years older, has more common sense but is also a control freak and near-sociopath. Sophie's solutions are chillingly direct, possibly involving sacking the entire workforce. Sophie is sexually highly charged, all the more so because she is aware of her ticking clock, and, in one episode, stalked a hapless client.

Trapped between these two is Daisy De Vere (Catherine Shepperd), who is the nicest person in the group, but also the least listened to and is marginally even less effective than Ryan. Daisy is on the touchy-feely wing of consultancy, and loves nothing better than a good workshop where everyone can really express their feelings. She gives out hypno-tapes and comes out with advice on the lines of "Don't allow your inner meadow to be ploughed up"... which is less than useful to the exploited, stressed and redundancy-facing workforces Unthinkable Solutions often has to deal with. Catherine Shepherd made a delightful impression in the part, playing it with just the right combination of charm and infuriating naivety, enabling James Cary to make the character progressively dumber as the sitcom progressed with no danger of the part descending into caricature.

Towards the end of series 1 Owen (David Mitchell), the slobbish, repulsive and geekish IT consultant, comes on the scene. Owen's main interests are pornography, video nasties, slagging off all known IT systems ("pump!") and slobbering over Sophie, who naturally wants nothing to do with him. Just as a consultancy job seems to be going well, Owen will put the spanner in the works with his misanthropy, or with his downloaded porn. He joins the firm as a permanent member at the beginning of series 2, but has to go into hiding in series 3 (in reality because David Mitchell was increasingly committed to Peep Show). Owen was a part Mitchell made his own, and in some ways was an earlier, creepier and more cartoony version of Mark.

The show was pitched at television twice. In 2003, although the readthroughs went swimmingly, it was decided that it fell too much between the BBC1 and BBC2 stools. Two years later, after another pitch, BBC2 decided not to air another show about consultants so soon after Absolute Power (another Radio 4 spinoff). So, sadly, there it rested.

Writer James Cary has subsequently been busy, writing for Milton Jones and the new Radio 4 sitcom Hut 33. Marcus Brigstocke and David Mitchell are now part of the comedy pantheon, and Catherine Shepherd is busy with The Peter Seranovicz Show. Other notables who had appearances - Robin Ince, Mark Heap, Simon Godley, Simon Greenall, continue to make waves on the comedy circuit. So Think The Unthinkable is yet another Radio Comedy whose ripples have spread wide. All those who heard the show treasure it, and anyone who hasn't can get the BBC CD of the first series and find out why it was so loved.

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