The Archers scriptwriters have recently become a tad obsessed with characters’ backstories. I imagine a bright young editorial assistant idly running her hand across those famous filing cabinets, full to bursting with index cards going back sixty-odd years, and saying, ‘You know? We should do something with these?’ her voice going up at the end of the sentence to indicate her youth and irritatingness. Leaping in to agree, because she’s young and quite pretty, the writers have been muttering about narrative depth and story arcs as if they were going out of fashion (they probably are), and throwing Midnight Walkers and John Archer’s unexpected progeny and Hazel Woolley at us, seemingly so we can mug up for Mastermind with History of the Archers as our specialist subject (don’t think this hasn’t occurred to me). Continue reading
Category Archives: The Archers
Obviously there are many long-term and ongoing baffling things about the Archers, not least of which is, what is the point of Christine Barford, and why am I still listening after all these years. But over the last few months there have been so many baffling plot elements – considerably more than usual, I warrant – that most episodes end with me shaking my head in confusion. Which, to be fair, makes a nice change from shaking it in anger/despair, as is usual. So here we go. As at 19th June, 2014, these are the key things I don’t understand.
1. Why have all the younger generation been summarily dispatched?
It’s like Logan’s Run in reverse, down Ambridge way. No-one’s allowed in under the age of forty. First Pip was sent to Yorkshire, and nary a (Pip) squeak out of her thereafter (believe me, I’m not complaining). Next, Amy vanished into the NHS underworld. Then Brenda, after dumping Tom and having crazy Russian adventures that only happened on Ambridge Extra, not in real life, shacked up with some fancy-pants new boyfy down in that London. She reappeared briefly, and pointlessly, to show off her Liz Taylor-style rock and set tongues a-wagging that she caused the collapse of the Tom/Kirsty ménage.
Which brings me to Tom and Kirsty, who looked for some time like the inheritors of the series, and who fell apart so spectacularly that I imagine the Archers writers are gutted that they wasted the ‘shocks Ambridge to the core’ strapline on that posh bloke, can barely remember him now, who slid off the roof a few years back.
Phoebe’s been struck dumb, Will’s largely AWOL apart from the Obligatory Conversation With Charlie (see 4 below), and even Emma, who was previously never more than three whines away from popping up in a storyline, has gone shtum. Whither Alice, Christopher and Jamie, eh?
My bafflement is this: when the old guard dies, who’s going to be left? I’m with the Archers through thick and thin – sick and sin – but even I might struggle to stay with a showcase for Ed, Jazzer and Fallon.
God knows, I love the Archers. I listen to it religiously (in that I pray a lot during it, mainly in the hope that Shula and Helen will be absent and Kate will have contracted a fatal disease). I’ve listened to it for years. Hot damn, I just worked out how many years, then hastily calculated the percentage of my life given over to this dementedly b-movie soap, and had a little cry. Hang on, though, I’ve just remembered that I’m always doing something else while TA is on – loading the dishwasher, for instance, or ironing, eating supper, or having sex – so in fact it’s not been time wasted at all. Phew. I’ll wipe my tears and get on with it.
So yes, I adore TA. But there is one teensy little thing that makes me cross, yes, only one, or at least, only one that I am going to focus on right now. And that is the pitiful attempts of the script-writers to try and force us to have particular opinions about characters, when clearly we are grown-up enough to make up our own minds. The most recent and egregious example of this concerns bloody Jess, Rob’s slightly-estranged wife, who’s finally been cast, I mean, finally turned up in Ambridge.
Sidebar: Blimey, that Rob can’t half pick ‘em! I mean, Helen AND Jess? And yet he apparently has enough physical va-va-voom to be cast as sexy Robin Hood, so could surely bag someone decent.
SPOILER ALERT: If you’re an Omnibus listener and you haven’t yet heard the one on Sunday 2nd December, there is a spoiler in the first paragraph. Though you probably won’t be that surprised by it, tbh.
So after months (or years? It felt like years) of Lilian and Paul meeting clandestinely in little tea-rooms for tete-a-tetes in which NOTHING whatsoever happened, they finally shagged. I’d like to say it was a surprise but the only surprise was that it took so long. Though when it finally happened, it was kind of abrupt.
- Lilian: “Usual dreary chit-chat hinting at unhappiness with Matt.”
- Paul: “ Usual dreary platitudes hinting how much better it would be with him instead of Matt.”
- Listener: “Zzzz”
- Lilian: “Let’s go to your hotel room.”
- Listener, waking up and spilling tea: “Hey what?!”
Anyway, once the relief of a plot having moved forward was over – a relief so rarely experienced by Archers listeners – the panic set in. OH LILIAN! What about Tiger?? Matt and Lilian are by far and away my most favourite couple on the Archers. Whenever they share airtime you know you’re in for a treat. He growls away, tiger-ishly, like a middle-management Reggie Kray, alternately treating Lil like dirt or whisking her off to Lower Loxley when she needs to be distracted from some naughty thing he’s done. She, purring or letting rip her filthy forty-a-day laugh, tells Matt exactly how she feels, all the time. Both actors sound like they’re a gnat’s crotchet away from bursting into giggles. I love them so much. If they split up (NO!) and Lilian gets together with the too-good-to-be-true Paul, one of the great soap partnerships will be crushed, like Nigel after he messed up his Chim-Chim-Cheree roof routine.
More to the point, it will be the demise of the only couple in which I properly like both partners. There aren’t any others. Look!
The Archers is currently running two stressful storylines (s.s.). We all find different things stressful, of course. My high watermark of nerve-wracking entertainment is the movie Top Hat starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, which I can only tolerate if I’m feverishly drunk. It’s all those misunderstandings, the will they won’t they get together, the nearly and almost, that do me in. (Spoiler: they fall in love eventually, though not before your correspondent is a wrung-out wreck. An inebriated wrung-out wreck.)
The first s.s. in the Archers’ current roster is the clunkily-written and embarrassingly-acted David and Ruth being menaced thing, which consists of the following: a baddie (you know he’s a baddie because he’s played by someone who sounds like Clive Horribin, in fact he might well be Clive Horrobin as there isn’t really room for more than one baddie in Borsetshire), phones up and says something mildly threatening. David and Ruth then panic and buy security cameras even though we thought they’d spent all their money on the Olympic-style opening ceremony for their new slurry tank, which featured poetry from Bert Fry and cup-cakes. Sometimes when I write about the Archers I can scarcely believe my own eyes at the words that come out. Did we really listen to a slurry tank party? Anyway, then there’s some stuff about how Josh/Ben (interchangeably annoying boys) want to ride their bikes to Hollerton and Ruth/David (interchangeably annoying parents) are worried in case the phone baddie does something bad off the phone. See? Stressful. Josh’s acting, in particular.
SPOILER ALERT! Contains speculation about future plot twist that actually you have probably also guessed, as I have, because it’s not exactly been foreshadowed in particularly subtle a fashion.
What I love about the Archers is the way they can so easily wrong-foot me. I’d just settled in for the duration, expecting nothing more from the next few weeks than a boring string of episodes about Cloive being dull-ly menacing, the Bridge Farm rebranding, and Linda’s death-where-is-thy-sting Christmas show. Then they sprang a Kylie/Sharon/John reversal on me and it got all interesting again.
For those of you who had better things to do than listen to the Archers when you were young, here’s a quick primer on these unfamiliar characters. Back in the day, a young slapper named Sharon with a cracking West Country burr lived in a caravan in Ambridge. She was the type who called people ‘Moi bird, moi duck, moi lover,’ when she was just buying fags down the shop. Her small daughter was called Kylie (pronounced ‘Koylie’), which dates it. I must have missed the episode in which this child was revealed to have been fathered by Cloive (pronounced ‘Cloive’). Who knows, perhaps I one time went clubbing instead of sitting under a duvet with a transistor radio pressed to my ear.
Anyway, Sharon had long-eschewed Cloive and was having an unpopular affair in her caravan with John Archer, son of Pat and Tony, who some years later had a series of misadventures, nearly married Hayley, then slipped underneath a large Massey Ferguson and thus never had to hear his sister Helen whinge again. Are you still with me? Any road up, long before John got tractored, Sharon had packed up her lovely accent and her daughter and disappeared, much to my chagrin, as she was – remains to this day – the only character I could reliably imitate. When in my cups I can sometimes do Joe Grundy saying ‘afternoon,’ but there’s little call for it, I’ll be honest with you.
So imagine my delight when, after all these years, Susan rang Sharon last week to tell her that Ivy had snuffed it. Ivy being Cloive’s ma, she was thus Koylie’s grannie, not that she’d had much (anything?) to do with her. I had a quiet little wake all by myself when I realised they’d got some Equity Card-punching nonentity to play Sharon, rather than the real Sharon, and her accent WASN’T RIGHT so no-one would be impressed at the accuracy of my take-off this time round. Not that they were last time now I think on. But I soon got over it when Koylie popped up, being all grown-up now, a student, how time flies etc, and having a good old shout at Cloive at the funeral for being the crappest dad this side of Felpersham.
And then, to runneth my cup right over, Pat started asking pointed questions about the age of Koylie’s younger brother and I realised with heart-stopping delight that this must mean JOHN FATHERED A BABY WHICH NO-ONE KNEW ABOUT! Or Pat’s barking up the wrong tree, but either way we’ll still have all the scrummy DNA testing/family arguments/ Pat and Tony having awkward meetings with Sharon! I CAN’T WAIT! BRING! IT! ON! And get the real Sharon back while you’re at it.
Posted by Qwerty
There’s really ever such a lot that is irritating in the Archers at the moment. All right, there’s no need for that. I mean even more than usual. There’s the continuing story of Bridge Farm going down the toilet, in which it’s hard to say who’s more infuriating: Tom for insisting they have to re-brand (how many times can he say ‘re-brand’ before we must spear him with his own pitchfork?), Tony for being so dead set against the idea, or Pat for being sanctimoniously in the middle. Also super-irksome: Tom’s godawful pigs-playing-football youtube monstrosity. Please, pretend virtual people, don’t click on it any more, it only encourages him. The only pleasing aspect of the Bridge Farm yawn-fest is Brenda being pissed off about being left out of the planning meeting.
Then we’ve got the December romance of Jim and Christine, which is teeth-gritting not because I’m troubled by the thought of wrinklies having sex – just ask my 75-year old boyfriend! – but because it means we have Jim being nice instead of his old irascible wind-up-Shula self and, more to the point, we have regular interludes with Christine whose acting is still as mahogany as a sideboard. And not to mention, though I will, because everyone else is, the tedious presence of Cloive ‘Orrobin, a man who is supposed to be menacing but who is merely nauseating, and whose performance makes Christine look like John Gielgud.
Nonetheless, in a wide ocean of irritation, the thing that winds me up the most every time I switch on, is this bloody wedding. WHY? I yell regularly at the radio, there being no one in earshot to yell at, everyone having evacuated the house at the first sniff of a ‘dum di dum.’ WHY ARE THEY SO BLOODY-MINDED ABOUT JANUARY 1ST? While Nic blathers on about invitation cards (how implausible was it to think that she might actually try and buy them in the village shop? Whoever wrote that line deserves a smack), and Will decides to have Roy as his best man again because it all worked out so well last time, I just keep hurling unanswered questions into the Ambridge ether. What’s the big deal about January 1st? Who’s going to cover the huge expense of people having to be paid time-and-a-half? Why’s Caroline being so sodding accommodating when clearly she’s already got a ton of other stuff going on? What about it traditionally being a nice quiet day after the excesses of New Year’s Eve, a buffer with nothing more than telly and left-over Quality Street before everyone has to back to work? What, in short, is going on with Will and Nic’s massive sense of entitlement that they’ve decided the day and that’s that; now everyone else must work their butts off to ensure it happens just as they have randomly decreed? And finally, and most puzzling of all, why is Nic even contemplating wedlock, when Will becomes more serial killer-esque with every episode?
In short, I’m not surprised Ivy chose now to peg it. ‘A wedding?’ she cried. ‘On January 1st? How incredibly narksome. Unplug the life support Susan, there’s a love.’
If only we could all be as blissfully un-sentient.
Posted by Qwerty