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.
The other s.s. concerns that utter oaf Amy. The key stressor in this is not so much that she’s behaving like the most annoying brat in Ambridge since Kate went back to South Africa, but more that this behaviour represents a Sudden Personality Shift. We don’t like personality shifts on t.a., because t.a. lives and dies by being character driven. That means that characters behave consistently; the drama arises from how they respond to situations. Once characters start buggering about with what they’re normally like, you’re swinging dangerously into plot-driven drama and you might as well watch Eastenders if it’s absurd confrontations you’re after. Without consistency t.a. is nothing, and its intrinsic stupidity becomes so apparent it’s nigh on impossible to self-delude any longer, and so Amy’s overnight transformation from sane and loving midwife into deluded teenage dirtbag is giving me MAJOR STRESS. For my colleague Inkface, who wants to know what’s been going on without the trauma of listening, and who can blame her: Amy had a suave boyfriend who turned out to be married, and Usha knew this and tried to tell Amy but kept getting thwarted as always happens in soaps and never in real life, it’s always possible to tell someone something in real life but then we usually have more than fifteen minutes an evening to fit our telling people things into when you think about it. Anyway when Amy finally found out she blamed Usha which is puzzling every-fucking-body as Usha hadn’t DONE ANYTHING WRONG. [Note to Archers script-writers, not that they are reading this, obvs: it would actually have been much more interesting and character-consistent if Amy HAD known Carl was married and was nonetheless wanting to believe in him. You’re welcome.]
So, my question to you is: what do these two stressful storylines have in common? Yes, you’re quite right: it’s the over-use of the Archers Pause. The Archers doesn’t segue seamlessly from one scene to the next. It likes to have a brief pause between scenes. That’s fine when we go from, say, Clarrie and Nic in the living room discussing exactly why they have to make sixty fucking Victoria sponges to, say, Linda informing Jim in the shop that she needs to add an item to the council meeting’s agenda. There’s no extra stress, you see. But when you’re in a scene where Amy yells at Usha, “And what’s more you’re so selfish it’s no wonder you never had kids” and there’s a ruddy great pause, we have no idea if it’s a dramatic silence and Usha is so shocked she’s fainted clean away, and Amy’s about to yell, “Oh god what have I done?”; or if it’s a scene-end and we are abruptly going to arrive in the middle of a conversation between Mike and Harry about the milk round rota. The technicians clearly like to mess with our heads, because there are often really long, lingering pauses at highly crucial moments. For instance (this is going back a bit), when Eddie blurted out to Kathy that Sid had been nobbing Jolene. I can still hear the subsequent pause, which went on and on and on. In the hush I imagined Kathy was about to scream, “NOOOO!”, punch Eddie on the kisser, grab a steak knife and go storming off into the night in search of revenge. But instead, after the longest five seconds in history, we arrived in Peggy’s kitchen and had to listen to her jabbering on to Jack about something, I don’t know what, the sodding WI meeting probably, and my heart didn’t stop thudding until we were half-way through Front Row.
More recent uses of the excessive Archers pause –there’s at least one a week – include the memorable scene in which Pat and Tony told their assembled relatives that they’d discovered John (may he rest in pieces) had a child, the too-good-to-be-true Rich. I nearly wrote the too-rich-to-be-true Good, which shows how addled these s.s. are making me. “John had a son!” cried Pat, and the stunned silence went on for all eternity. The ice caps melted as we waited for Lillian and Jennifer to reply. Then it transpired that we hadn’t been listening to a stunned silence at all, just a mischievously long Archers Pause to take us into the next scene (some shite with Vicky if memory serves). Thanks to @archelina for this example.
My fervent hope for the two current s.s. is that the editor will get so carried away with the Archers Pause that s/he will hiatus an entire episode, and we can use our imaginations for the action that occurs during the black-out. My hope is that simultaneously, Usha finally snaps and shoots Amy with a gun she has confiscated from Clive Horrobin, and the phone baddie turns up at Brookfield and lays waste to Ruth, Josh, Pip and Ben (I like David, he can be out hay-baling at the time) by tipping them into the slurry tank weighed down by security cameras. Then we reconvene the following evening –dum di dum di dum di dum – to find Alan has forgiven Usha and David has signed up to Young Farmers Online Singles and Fred has married Ginger and the rest is silence.
Posted by Qwerty