The Archers: Tipping Point

So glad someone's finally applied my theory to something meaningful

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.

I'm ten minutes pregnant! Does it show yet?

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.

University of London: Not good enough for Kate

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)

12 Comments

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12 responses to “The Archers: Tipping Point

  1. inkface

    Oh qwerty. This is all so true and extremely amusing, yet I can’t help but give a wry smile at the ironic fact that your witty blogs have drawn me back into listening to the Archers after a ten year gap at the very point that you are getting (organically) pig sick of it

  2. Fanoflinda

    Querty, you have surpassed yourself. I read this aloud to assembled friends and we were all in fits. Also helpful as I haven’t listened for a few days so now am up to date with all possible plots.

  3. Qwerty

    Ooh, it did me the power of good to get that off my chest.

    • I’m hoping Harry will turn out to be a serial killer. If he can take Jude, Pip, Kate, Will, Ed, Helen and Vicky out, my kitchen (if not Ambridge) will be a happier place.

  4. Anne of Green Gables

    I saw you Qwerty! Yes! Admit it now…you’ve been criticising my friend Helen again, haven’t you? You should congratulate her for doing so well – first time! – with the turkey baster. Clever girl!

    For some time, I’ve had a theory about that particular story-line and where it is leading. I adhere to my theory, now slightly adapted because dear Helen is (for the moment) ‘preggers’ as you put it. Something is going to go wrong with this pregnancy (cue drama!)… and finally – for reasons I have not yet worked out – Ian is going to donate to the turkey baster, resulting in Helen and Ian having a child (sort-of) together. How will Adam react? (cue drama?)

    On reading your unkind overview of The Archers, I could have thrown my laptop through the window, like the radio listener you mentioned threw his radio. I didn’t do that…I was too busy falling off the sofa because I was laughing so much!

  5. Anne of Green Gables

    Of course I remember that Ian nearly fathered a child via turkey-baster – or something like that – once before. On that occasion the would-be mother (I don’t think you know her) changed her mind. Remember how upset and disappointed Ian was? And now he has suddenly, and suspiciously, got very close to Helen. Mark my words, it’s all going to end in dirty nappies!

  6. MrB

    I heartily agree. Pip and Jude: hugely annoying. Tom: A whining sap. Lilian: Sort yourself out girl. Helen: It’ll end in tears. Harry: Get some acting lessons.

    Still, I keep listening though…….

  7. Yes, love it! I’ve been away for a month and wondered how to catch up without having to do a lot of reading and listening, now I know… but what about Sid?

    • inkface

      You’re not THE Helen are you???? Oh no. Can’t be. It’s a fictional show isn’t it? Getting confused now…

  8. Qwerty

    Helen (above) is clearly not the REAL Helen, Inkface, you sausage, as she is too busy whining and having six-week – SIX WEEK! scans to post here. Anyway, Nice Helen, you can read all about Sid in my recent post, ‘Goodbye Mr Perks’.

  9. Anne of Green Gables

    Oh really Qwerty! For a clever blogger you are quite dense sometimes. Of course she’s the real Helen. Can’t you tell from her calm, measured choice of words, and her compassionate concern for poor Sid (unfortunately I think my copy of ‘Goodbye Mr Perks’ has got lost somewhere in my vastly over-full inbox!)

    Helen, my dear how *are* you? Still eating for two, I hope (I wish I could stop eating for two as I’m not preggers – sorry, pregnant; expecting an exciting event!). I remember when eating a whole banana in a day was an achievement for you. How things change!

    They say labour is not *too* painful (I was asleep when mine was born). I am *so* looking forward to helping you when the baby arrives – and it’s wonderful to have you join us on this blog.

    Not the real Helen Archer, she says! How ridiculous! You are the real one, aren’t you?

  10. Sally

    I keep hearing the archers on the radio but haven’t got a clue what they are talking about.