Malcolm Gladwell described a ‘tipping point’ as a moment of critical mass. He used it to explain how crime dropped dramatically in New York in the 1990s, but here I will apply it to something far more important: The Archers. I fear my favourite programme is on the verge of a tipping point, from which there is no return.
It’s been flirting with danger for some time, but The Archers has now almost reached the point at which the number of staggeringly irritating plots outweigh the enjoyable story-lines. Soon the whole edifice will come crashing down. It’s not just me who feels this way. Only the other night this comment appeared on The Archers message board: ‘Could someone get my radio back please? It’s in the garden and I’d get it myself but I’m just phoning the glazier.’ This cri de coeur was triggered by the episode in which Helen discovers she is pregnant. Right there with you, glazier-pal. Hell-en is unbearable whether she’s happy or sad, but happy is definitely worse.
Here are eleven pieces of evidence to support my thesis that The Archers is becoming so utterly annoying, it’s only a matter of days before every listener turns off their radio simultaneously at 7.05 pm, producing a surge of power to the National Grid large enough to cause a tsunami or earthquake (or something – haven’t quite sketched this part out properly yet).
1. Helen – the astonishingly quick impregnation. Where even to start with this smorgasbord of irritation? Helen, always the wrong side of exasperating, suddenly decided she’d always wanted a child (‘it’s what I was born to do!’), despite never having mentioned it before to any of us. Indeed, despite having loudly opined that children were beasts. Then she announced she wouldn’t bother with any of that messy old meet a man fall in love have sex nonsense. Though she is only in her early thirties, her skew-whiff biological clock convinced her that only a turkey baster would be quick enough.
Then the clinic accepted her, despite her glaringly obvious mental instability. We were just grinding our teeth and – for the first time ever, sympathising with poor Tony – when she got up the duff on her very first go! Apart from being a kick in the teeth to everyone who’s taken slightly longer than two seconds to get preggers, it’s a bitterly cruel blow to those of us who know just how teeth-rottingly appalling Helen will be if she has a baby. (I have just noticed that there are a large number of references to teeth in this section. I can’t begin to imagine the psychological significance.) I can only pray Hell-en has mis-read the test/ it’s a false positive/ the embryo realises who’s going to spawn it and falls on its sword for the sake of us all.
1a. Pat, your sympathy with Helen is co-dependence, pure and simple. Get thee to a family therapist pronto. By the way, I’ve never liked you.
1b. Ian, you too. You shouldn’t collude so pathetically with someone who is clearly loop-de-loop. Stop knitting booties and start doing some of that straight-talking. You know the sort? Where you’re always right? And your voice lilts so Oirishly?
2. Pip and Jude – a cornucopia of evil. While Jude’s just been put on this planet to wind everyone up (that reedy voice; that faux-cool surfer vibe he has completely not nailed; calling Pip ‘Fizz’ as if ‘Pip’ wasn’t already off the scale for nickname annoyingness), Pip is the devil incarnate. When she’s being rude to David and Ruth, I’m torn, because much as I despise her, I hate them too, so it’s swings and roundabouts. But when she’s being nice to Jude, her wheedling voice and general door-mattiness are excruciating. And when she’s being anxious – whether about sodding up the time of her exam, or wondering why that asshole hasn’t called her in three days – I am literally having to gnaw my own leg off.
2b. Elizabeth. How right David was, when he spat ‘you think you’re so down with the kids’. I’ve always liked you because you’re a bee-aaatch. So stop being so damn understanding and caring to Pip. Not only does she completely not deserve it, it doesn’t suit you.
3. Kate – the absurdly located diploma. So the only college in the entire world that offers a suitable course in international development is in – no, not South Africa, not London or Manchester, but… Felpersham. Dear god, Kate was only just far enough away in Jo’berg. A year of her back in Ambridge, abandoning yet more children and moaning about it, is almost a whole tipping point all by itself.
4. Harry – the implausibly good man. I’m with Jazzer on this. I detest everything about Harry and his horribly hammy acting. Every time he starts flirting in a clean-cut manner with Fallon, or banging on about how marvellously sporty/friendly/enthusiastic he is, I just want to tie him to the back of the milk-float by his doubtless large testicles and have Jazzer drive it very fast across unploughed terrain.
4b. Fallon. You are way too keen on Harry for your character. It’s not your fault, it’s what happens when a soap starts motoring up a plot-driven cul-de-sac. But I’m watching you, okay?
5. Susan – the community shop nightmare. As with Helen, it’s hard to know whether Susan is worse when she’s whingeing or when she’s happy. Usually we don’t have any way of making this comparison, as she’s always moaning, but lately she’s been slightly upbeat about the community shop and it’s SENDING ME INSANE. She keeps reporting some exciting new com-shop innovation, accompanied by a stiff and unfamiliar smile. Yes, I can hear her smiling; the muscles are so rarely used, the splintering is audible. It makes me want to swing into the shop on a wrecking ball and build yuppie flats on top of the smoking rubble.
6. Matt-Lilian-Paul – the damp squib love triangle. I like all these characters. But please, script-writers, make it go somewhere. Don’t make Paul so noble and Matt so threatening. Don’t make Lilian so stupid that she doesn’t at least have a crack at the lovely Paul. Don’t let it be another Ruth-Sam-David thing where we think finally something exciting is going to happen, only to fall at the final hurdle. C’mon, Lil! Don’t be a bore!
7. Tom and Brenda – the very faraway job. So Brenda’s got a big commute. Big whoop. So Tom is too busy to shop. Well, la-di-la. Buy a ton of frozen meals, get a regular Ocado booked in, oh, and what about a milk delivery from your very own father? Then Brenda can stay over two nights (or maybe every night) in Leicester or whatever poor place has been landed with her, and Tom can snog his pigs in peace. Just STOP BLOODY MOANING ABOUT IT, BOTH OF YOU.
Right. Feel better now. Just off for a pre-emptive read of last night’s synopsis, to see if there are likely to be two minutes in which I will not be royally aggrieved. I doubt it.
Posted by Qwerty (See all Archers posts here)