The Archers: A riot of ennui

And cut! Grandma, can you tell us how you did that pattern on the top? Wake up, Grandma.

Everyone’s got their favourite. I’ve got loads. My most recent is from just the other day. It’s the one where Josh films Jill making steak and kidney pie. He might just as well have painted a wall and set the camera to record it for fifteen minutes. If I tell you that the only vaguely interesting thing that happened was Kenton referring to the pie as ‘snake and pygmy’, it’ll give you some idea.

Boring episodes of the Archers. Lord knows, there’s an embarrassment of riches to choose from. All which feature the flower and produce show, for instance; and there’s so many of those, is it any wonder that Bert Fry has taken to phoning in his surprise at being awarded a rosette for the biggest marrow? All which centre around harvest festival, Easter or other Anglican red-letter day, and their counterpart, any based round a service in St Stephens, can be added to the teetering mound of mundanity. And naturally, any one in which Tom reveals that his sausages are organic. The presence of Tom alone counteracts any other possible excitement. He neutralises heists, earthquakes and Lilian’s giggle at a stroke.

Fanoflinda recalls fondly a particularly soporific episode in which Phil (god rest his soul) and Jill were showing holiday snaps. ‘Look at Jill in that hat!’ the poor actors were forced to cry. You could hear the sounds of their careers being flushed down the toilet – or you would have, if the flushing loo sound effect hadn’t been deemed too interesting.

Listeners, stay with me while I complete Form B320-6A.

One theory is that you must listen on Sundays for vintage dullness. It’s certainly usually Sundays when David moans about farming bureaucracy (such a drag, applying for all those subsidies, eh, Dave?), or when Mike gives a fascinating run-down of exactly how a milk-round works, or when Neil and Susan discuss events of great import such as whether she’ll work till 3 instead of 3.15.

I was astonished to hear a gaggle of humourless smallholders on Feedback the other day, begging Vanessa Whitburn for more episodes about paperwork, and new storylines about grinding poverty! Dear god, people, are you trying to kill me? Is there not enough dryasdust stodge in it for you already? Must we bring in yet more?

I can’t remember if my favourite ever drear-fest was on a Sunday, but it was a cracker. Don’t ask me to remember what happened in it – it was several years ago, and anyway, I can barely even remember exciting episodes. But I do recall that it was a perfect storm of aridity, featuring as it did many of the most yawn-inducing characters: Tom, Brenda, Shula, Ruth and Pat. I’m amazed I stayed awake, frankly. If Emma, Heather (Ruth’s mum), Christine Barford, Josh and Roy had been in it too, the whole thing would have fallen into a vortex of tedium in which the Archers might have been forced to remain. Who said that at the back?

I’d love to hear about your favourite boring episodes. Those in which even less than usual happens, and none of the compelling characters are allowed any air-time, and the poor continuity announcer is forced to open proceedings with a bright: ‘And at Bridge Farm, Pat is counting tubs of yoghurt’, or ‘It’s Sunday, and Ruth has asked Christine for help with her paperwork’.

Posted by Qwerty                             (See all Archers posts here)

15 Comments

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15 responses to “The Archers: A riot of ennui

  1. inkface

    Well dull it may be (and often is), but during times of political turmoil, when EastEnders gets tossed off the schedules just because David bloody Cameron has found his way into No 10, the Archers remains on at the usual time, thank you very much. Steady and regular. The All-Bran of the airwaves.

  2. Fanoflinda

    How true inkface and how bang up to date you are. In fact have to admit that I only knew there was an election because Joe Grundy mentioned it last week.

  3. Fanoflinda

    Meant to say that Sunday night episodes are so boring that I can actually remember the last exciting one – it was when the Am flooded about 5 years ago.

  4. Qwerty

    ‘The All-Bran of the Airwaves’. Inky, you would be marvellous at inventing sound-bites for our new government.

    Fanoflinda, there must surely have been an interesting Sunday show between the Am flooding and the present day? No?

  5. MrB

    I’ve come to regard listening to The Archers as equivalent to a radio lottery, with the boring episodes being the equivalent of a £1 wasted (but met with resigned acceptance), and the interesting episodes – sexual shenanigans, criminal activity, violent deaths – akin to getting three numbers and a £10 prize. The former vastly outweigh the latter, but you kind of put up with it. Having said that, I listened to last nights offering today in the car. It was the one where the ghastly Jude was attempting to bully ‘Fizz’ into abandoning her revision to go to a party (on a Tuedsay, I ask you!). It fell under another category entirely, ie, one where the characters are so annoying, and the dialogue so badly acted (Yes Pip, I’m talking about you) that I shout at the radio in frustration as if I was taking directly at the characters. Usually my language is somewhat more colourful than is allowed at 7pm on Radio 4. Perhaps it’s just me? I think Bert Fry has received the most obscenities from me over the years, but he’s not alone, and Jude is fast catching him up. Does anyone else think Pip’s acting is a little – ahem – stilted?

    • I was a bit disappointed that the quad-bike accident didn’t leave Pip comatose for a few weeks. Nothing permanently harmful or too painful, just something to shut her up for a bit!

  6. Fanoflinda

    Querty – I realised as I clickedvthe send button that the Am flooded at about the same time as the Ouse so make that 10 years. Name me one exciting sunday episode since. I reckon that the writers still think of it as a five episode programme and have to hastily cobble something together at the last moment when they realise they moved to 6 episodes about15
    years ago.
    Mr B – I would be no more moved to swear at Pippa archer than my own daughter (if I had one that is – obviously I’m too busy living my life vicariously through the archers to get around to having children).

  7. inkface

    She would only need to damage her voice box…

    • Anything to stop her banging on about Jude, her biodiversity project and how her parents are ruining her life. Did the writers name him Jude because they knew how annoying it would get? Or is it just me, still suffering from Jude the bloody Obscure as a set-text for A-level?

  8. Qwerty

    Mr B, isn’t asking if Pip’s acting’s a bit stilted rather like asking if Sid’s a bit homphobic, or if Jenny’s a little bit of a snob? The answer is, hell yeah. But I like your lottery analogy, and the fact that you didn’t even pretend that there were any big prizes to be dished out. It’s more like a lottery at a school fair, isn’t it, with a tenner being far and away the best one can hope for.

    Good point Jo-Hat. They really missed a trick with the quad-bike accident. Pip could have been out of action for months, or even, like not-missed John Archer under the Massey Ferguson, Gone Forever. Listening to the scene Mr B mentioned, with Jude trying to persuade ‘Fizz’ (aaargh!) to go to the party, I decided the only way out was to put myself on the wrong side of a quad bike.

    And yes, they did name him Jude just to annoy us. I was spared the novels of Tom ‘Hell on wheels’ Hardy but was forced to study his poetry for ‘A’ Level. He moaned so much, he made Susan look chirpy.

  9. Lucie

    I’m a bit of a rarity, I’m sure – I’ve listened to the Archers since I ever, and now at the grand old age of 20 I still try to keep up with it. I used to tell people I liked it only because we didn’t have a telly when I was growing up, so there were no ‘real’ soaps to get stuck into, but that argument hardly holds water in the days of freedom and iPlayer. I guess I just like the lovely security of knowing that even if everything else is going to pot, I can turn on the radio at 7pm and they’ll be fretting merrily about suet puddings and the like. Recently though I had an alarming, worrying discovery. Having missed it for about 100 weeks, I was shocked to find that nothing had actually changed, and I could still understand all of the storylines. Is this how my years of dedication have paid off?
    Pah.

  10. Qwerty

    Well Lucie, I was right there with you on the old suet pudding and whatnot. But you lost me at the end. The whole point of TA is to be able to miss it for the length of, say, a jail-term for fraud, and then be able to catch up immediately. It moves slower than real time, which is almost the best thing about it.

    ‘Oh, I haven’t listened for a year and I see that David’s just got round to fixing that fence that was mentioned in 1989.’ Genius, it is.

  11. Kim James

    I have listened to the Archers (may his name be blessed)since the very first episode in 50whatever. Now I am a listener in the hope that something will actually occur not to find out if anything can happen subsequent to a previous episode. Whatever happened to the man who threatened Brenda for example? Oh G.

  12. Robin

    I love and hate The Archers in not-quite equal measures – for as long as I continue to listen every evening, clearly love is outweighing my contempt for the awful, leaden dialogue and tired stereotypes.

    My contender for dullest episode is any where cricket is played. Cricket doesn’t thrill me at the best of times, but fictional cricket, on the radio is awful.

  13. Qwerty

    Oh yes, Robin, how very true. The cricket episodes are staggeringly dull. The single wicket drama the other day, by golly, was so tedious I fell asleep listening and banged my head on the table.

    Good point Kim, and what happened to the man who threatened Usha whilst out running, eh? Was it one and the same creepy man, or does Ambridge have a higher proportion of creepy men than chance alone would decree? Or was it, in fact, a continuity error the writers are hoping we will quietly forget about?