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.
2. Why is everyone cool about the fact that Rob sent Tom packing?
“Oh by the way,” smarmed Greasy Rob to his fiancé and her parents, “it’s thanks to me your beloved son’s in Canada.” For a few seconds, the responses were as I expected. “It was down to YOU?” gasped Hell-en, and Tony and Pat said, “YOU WOT?” But then things went baffling. “Thank you darling,” said Hell-en, and Pat was like, oh well, whatevs. Even Tony, who in his new-Tony voice runs the gamut from pissed off to very pissed off, was all, “maybe it’s for the best.” Eh? EH? Wouldn’t they all want to run Rob out of town with a pitchfork, and it’s not like they can’t easily find a pitchfork? Or at the very least interrogate him under a hot lamp as to whether he couldn’t have found an option for Tom in, say, Norfolk. But no. They’ve all accepted it instantly as being The Right Thing. Clearly Rob has mega-watt brainwashing powers. Not that he needs that many of them in Hell-en’s case.
3. Did Bill and Ben get cast purely to give Peggy a final straw?
Like the Queen in The Queen, Peggy/Helen Mirren keeps a stiff upper lip about her fellow humans. Oh dear, my husband’s died, and my favourite nephew’s jilted his bride at the altar and slunk off to the colonies (this is Peggy talking, not the Queen. I think). However, when the Queen’s horse died, she was finally able to break down and cry for all her losses. Likewise, Her Royal Highness Woolley let out a surprisingly hammy wail when confessing to Jill her loneliness now Bill (or Ben) had gone to the great cat’s home in the sky. Bill and Ben, who I do vaguely remember being mentioned in the past, have not, I think, ever uttered so much as a mewl till Monday. The moment they did, I knew one or both of them were doomed. Sure enough, on Wednesday Ben (or Bill?) suffered a brain tumour and had to be put down by Alistair. God, he’s got a lovely bedside manner hasn’t he? Alistair, not Ben. If I was a pet-owner, and if it was all real, I would love Alistair to be my vet.
4. Why is Charlie in every frigging scene?
This really is super-baffling. The actor’s flat delivery makes Christine Barford sound like Larry Olivier, and his role – the new estate manager or something – doesn’t seem to require such massive over-exposure. Not only is he omnipresent in his legitimate farming storylines (and by the way, IS he in love with Adam or is this going to turn out to be another of the clunky Emmerdale-style red herrings around sexuality that the Archers seems annoyingly fond of lately? Viz. Daniel not being gay after all, and whatever’s going on with Roy and Lizzie). But Charlie is also in scenes with completely implausible people – a face-off with Jill (she totally won that one), and Jolene, and just about everyone else, to be honest. We just need a scene between Charlie and Cloive Horrobin and that’s a full house. Not one episode is complete in the script-writers’ minds, without Charlie popping up to tell us just how cleverly he’s thinking outside the box. He’s a lone wolf, that guy, tells it how it is, a straight-shooter, the monotone Clint Eastwood of Borsetshire. Here’s what I think. I think the actor has something on the Archers editor. Something bad. That’s the only feasible explanation.
5. Why is Fallon so rude and rejecting to PC Copper?
I keep forgetting the handsome policeman’s name, it’s something like Harrison Birtwhistle but that doesn’t seem right. Anyway, what’s not to like about him? He’s kind to old ladies, he gives talks to the WI, he buys vintage, he’s rescued Fallon from contrived situations on numerous occasions. On top of which he’s gorgeous, in steady work, and wears a uniform. Fallon. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? If you really don’t want him, give him back.
Addendum: I wrote this in the afternoon. By this evening’s episode it was clear that Fallon was at last warming to Harrison Ford. Well, blimey, about time. And also, blimey, she’s easily bought off with some crappy bangle, isn’t she? Bet Jazzer wishes he’d thought of popping down to Claire’s Accessories himself.
6. Why dangle Wayne Tucson in front of us if he’s not coming back?
Soon as the boring storyline about the reformation of the Midnight Walkers arose, there were surely many of us who yelled, “Bring back Wayne!” at the radio. Fallon’s dad, Jolene’s ex, he left an indelible impression with his slow-talking, hip-jivin’ King of the Road routine. My friend Chris does a cracking impersonation of Wayne and we were hoping for some new material. Then, yes! Fallon, hearing our pleas, suggested Wayne join the band. We have been happily waiting to hear those deep-south-by-way-of-the-M6 tones for several weeks. Then tonight they blow the whole thing off with Fallon telling Rex Harrison that Wayne’s wife won’t let him strut his stuff no more. What? Why get our hopes up only to dash them so cruelly? Here’s what I think. I think Fallon suggested Wayne before the casting agent had asked if he was free. I reckon he’s busy with cruise-liner work right now.
7. Why did anyone think Jennifer’s new kitchen would be compelling radio?
Comedy builders, with mockney accents and actual legs coming through ceilings; endless boring delays; paint-drying conversations about paint drying; snobbish conversations about the difference between Butler sinks and some other crappy sinks. I mean. We had our kitchen replaced last year and I couldn’t give a stuff about Jenny’s Venetian tiles, so presumably people who haven’t recently been through renovations could give even less of one. (By the way we could cook full proper dinners in our temporary kitchen and we have a millionth of the space and time that Jenny has, so why poor Brian has to keep scavenging for his lunch is a mystery. Is it just an excuse for Jenny to down tools and finally pay her husband back for his many iniquities?)
8. Why would anyone under the age of 490 knit a matinee jacket?
Blanket, yes, ok. I can understand a blanket. Or a proper cute little jumper. But has any baby (other than a royal one, and the one taken by a dingo) ever worn a matinee jacket? This is not so much baffling as lazy writing.
Scriptwriter 1: Let’s get Lilian to try and knit something, with hilariously bad results.
Scriptwriter 2: Oh ya, it’ll be totes hilair.
Scriptwriter 1: But what could she knit?
Scriptwriter 2: Dunno, what do people knit for babies? [Googles ‘what do people knit for babies?’ First result is from ‘Ancient Things People used to Knit For Babies.’] It says matinee jacket here.
Scriptwriter 1: Coolio. [Writes it down.] Wonder what a matinee jacket is?
Scriptwriter 2: Dude, who cares? At least it’ll be a couple of scenes without that chump Charlie.
N.B. I fully expect there to be a scene in which it is Charlie who discovers that Lilian has not knitted the jacket herself.
9. Why does no-one seem to remember the last new road story?
What a horrible sense of deja-vu I have about this Road B business. Haven’t we been here before, and not that long ago? (A quick google of Ancient Archers Plots reveals little so I have had to fall back on the Ancient Memory of Man of the House, who recalls Linda Snell and Kate Aldridge in an unholy alliance of nimbyism and hippyness, protesting with placards.) We already know that this story will go all the way, with tears and demos and appeals and more kick-ass scenes with Jill (I like those, mind you), and Ruth’s sighing, “Ooooh Deeeevid, things will nevah be the sem agairn”. Then at the very last minute there will be a reprieve and the Penny Hasset route will be chosen and no-one will care about them because they’re even more fictional, and everyone will go up to Lakey Hill and get tearful about the view and quietly, off mic, drink lots of champagne.
That’s just off the top of my head. What’s baffling you?
Posted by Qwerty