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Radio / Think the Unthinkable

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The Unthinkable Solutions team. From left to right: Owen, Daisy, Ryan, Sophie.

Think the Unthinkable was a BBC Radio 4 sitcom written by James Cary which aired for four series from 2001 to 2005 and followed the fortunes of Unthinkable Solutions, a team of inept management consultants whose advice to the companies foolish enough to hire them nearly always left them worse off than they were before.

The personnel of Unthinkable Solutions include the team leader, Wide-Eyed Idealist Ryan Packer (Marcus Brigstocke); his second-in-command Sophie Stott (Emma Kennedy in Series 1-2, Beth Chalmers in Series 3-4), the only sane woman (when she isn't giving in to her violent temper); Granola Girl Daisy De Vere (Catherine Shepherd), who insists on carrying her fondness for New Age trends into the ideas for the corporations that hire them; and IT expert Owen (David Mitchell), Abhorrent Admirer to Sophie and openly critical of almost all forms of technology, even ones he installed himself.

This series contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Owen has a huge crush on Sophie, who is repelled by his lack of personal hygiene and social skills.
  • Brainless Beauty: Daisy is apparently very pretty and has numerous male admirers but she's easily the dimmest character. She wonders why the West didn't get involved in Africa a hundred years ago, and when Sophie drily asks if she's ever heard of "a thing called 'the Empire'", Daisy thinks she's referring to "the nightclub off the King's Road with the animal print sofas".
  • Breakout Character: Owen was originally intended to be a one-off character in Episode 4 of Series 1, but he proved so popular that he became a regular character starting in Series 2.
  • Bulungi: The fictional African state of Nambitrea from Series 2, Episode 5, is a landlocked country somewhere south of the Sahara, rich mostly in sand, extremely venomous snakes, and unexploded landmines, according to Sophie. Since gaining independence from Britain, it has gone through periods of fascism and Communism and is now governed by a president who had the country's only lake drained after a fisherman supposedly looked at him funny.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Owen's favourite greeting of "Alright, losers!", as well as his favourite "swear" word, "pump".
    • Jed had the similar "Alright, tosspots!"
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Ryan and Daisy both have many moments of this, to Sophie's eternal frustration. When Sophie tries to explain the concept of equity to Daisy, she is unable to disabuse her of the idea that "equity" refers to horses rather than a private source of income from stocks or shares.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Unthinkable Solutions team encounter a number of these over the course of the series, though special mention must go to Chip (Greg Proops), the CEO of the Enron-like Genforce from Series 2, Episode 1, who embezzles a fortune from Genforce's clients and, at the end of the episode, retires to a tropical island with no extradition agreement with the UK or the USA.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Sophie, as befits her status as the only sane woman.
      Daisy: Well, I think this room has a lot of traditional Turkish charm!
      Sophie: Yes, if you like crack dens.
      Daisy: Sophie, we're trying to save money so we can help people.
      Sophie: Daisy, there's saving money and there's catching hepatitis B.
    • Owen also has his moments, though he is less deadpan about it.
      Save-a-Jet Rep: Welcome to the Save-a-Jet lost luggage hotline, can you tell me what the problem is?
      Owen: I'm baking bread and I can't get it to rise! What do you think the problem is, I phoned the Save-a-Jet lost luggage hotline!
  • Freudian Excuse: Sophie's overbearing mother (see My Beloved Smother) is likely the ultimate cause of her seemingly permanently high blood pressure (although Ryan and Daisy's cluelessness and Owen's unwelcome advances don't help).
  • Geek Physique: Owen, Unthinkable Solutions' IT expert, is frequently mentioned as being very overweight due to his sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet.
  • Granola Girl: Daisy is obsessed with environmentalism, New Age philosophy, and health food, which fuels some of her more bizarre suggestions for how the more rigid corporations who hire Unthinkable Solutions should re-structure themselves. For example, she insists that the security barriers at Longley's Bank in the first episode inhibit communication and suggests they be removed; this inevitably results in the bank being robbed shortly afterward.
  • How Many Fingers?: After Ryan has received a blow to the head:
    Owen: Ryan, how many fingers am I holding up?
    Ryan: Wha, fingers?
    Sophie: Owen, put some fingers up!
    Owen: OK.
    Sophie: Not that one!
  • Insistent Terminology: Daisy and Sophie disagree over how to refer to Daisy's parents when the subject of her parents' decision to send her to a New Age boarding school comes up:
    Sophie: And why did your parents send you to that school?
    Daisy: Well, they were the kind of people who appreciated its holistic and alternative teaching approach.
    Sophie: Hippies.
    Daisy: Lifestyle-subverting journey-makers.
    Sophie: Hippies.
  • Mail-Order Bride: In Episode 4 of Series 2, Owen leaves for Latvia at the beginning of the episode for his wedding to a mail-order bride. He returns for the final scene, having left her in the lurch when she turned out to be rather less attractive than advertised.
  • Metaphorgotten: Ryan specializes in this. His metaphors usually derail in a way that leaves him unwittingly insulting himself, such as describing a "square peg in a round hole" situation and then telling the audience to think of him as a big round hole.
  • My Beloved Smother: Sophie's mother is an overbearing control freak who has been married multiple times and several of whose husbands (including Sophie's father) have simply run away.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Owen is implied to have no sexual experience despite his obsession with the subject; Sophie hints in one episode that he may have hired a tart from a phone box advertisement, but says that it doesn't count as a sexual experience.
  • Only Sane Man: Between Ryan's naiveté, Daisy's weak grip on reality, and Owen's lack of social skills, it falls to Sophie to be the voice of reason that keeps things on track for at least a few seconds at a time, though even she has her unbalanced side; she has a particularly violent temper and is skilled in numerous lethal martial arts.
  • The Operators Must Be Crazy: In Episode 4 of Series 1, Unthinkable Solutions are hired to help utilities company Utiliton improve the quality of their call centre:
    Operator: Hello, this is Pam in Billing, how may I help you?
    Caller: [almost hysterical] Look, this is the fifth time I've called! I've just had an enormous gas bill for £12,000 and you've already taken the money out of my account! I can't afford to eat! Now, please don't put me on hold again!
    Operator: Unfortunately I'm unable to help you at this time, I'm afraid I'll have to put yourself through to Bill Cancellation.
    Caller: No, no no!
    Operator: They'll be able to deal with your problem. Would you like to hold?
    Caller: NO!
    Operator: I'm putting you on hold.
    Caller: I said "no"! [hold music begins playing, caller begins sobbing and smashing the phone against something until the signal cuts out]
  • Parallel Porn Titles: One episode of Series 3 had Sophie going through Jed's DVD collection, which includes such titles as Good Will Humping; she correctly surmises that his version of Free Willy isn't about a whale.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: In Episode 5 of Series 2, the team are scheduled to meet with the Minister of Finance for the fictional African state of Nambitrea.
    Sophie: Formerly the Democratic Republic of Nambitrea, when it was Communist.
    Ryan: And before that it was the Nambitrean People's Republic, when it was Fascist.
    Sophie: And before that it was called New Devon, when it was completely owned by Lord Brinkworth.
  • Plane Awful Flight: In Episode 5 of Series 2, Owen and Sophie's collective Oh, Crap! at Daisy's announcement that she has booked them four tickets on Save-a-Jet to Copenhagen tells us all we need to know about the "You get what you pay for" nature of the budget airline.
    Ryan: Well, I think we all learned something on that flight!
    Owen: I'm amazed they managed to fit 300 people in such a confined space!
    Ryan: ... No, they didn't - they put two children in the overhead lockers and asked the rest to sit with the pilot.
    Daisy: But we made it!
    Sophie: Pity our luggage didn't - where did they say it was again?
    Ryan: Zurich.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When David Mitchell was unavailable for a few recording dates in Series 3 due to his commitments to Peep Show, the character of Owen went into hiding and was replaced by the nearly identical Jed (voiced by Robin Ince), whose major differences from Owen included a fondness for pornographic films instead of Video Nasties and a catchphrase of "Alright, tosspots!" rather than "Alright, losers!"
  • Unusual Euphemism: Owen's favourite swear word of "pump", which seems to be interchangeable with multiple actual swear words.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Daisy and to a lesser extent Ryan. Despite being a complete space cadet, Daisy clearly comes from a wealthy family who were able to afford the high tuition fees at her New Age independent school.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Ryan. Somehow the many misfortunes that befall him during the series (such as being held in a Bangkok prison when a packet of white powdernote  is found in his luggage) do nothing to break his idealism (or at least never for very long).
    Owen: [on Ryan's arrest for drug smuggling in Bangkok] I think they're more lenient on this sort of thing now.
    Ryan: Really?
    Owen: Well, they won't kill you. They'll just give you something minor.
    Ryan: [hopeful] Ah.
    Owen: Probably just fifty lashes.
    Ryan: I could probably cope with-
    Owen: And thirty years' hard labour.
    Ryan: ... right, the positives aren't immediately obvious...
    Owen: You might lose some weight?
    Ryan: [brightening] Yes - that is some consolation.