Half-way through listening to the new Ambridge Extra thingy, I realised my teeth were all tense. Odd, I thought. My teeth are normally quite relaxed when I listen to the Archers. Then it hit me like the Rophynol someone had clearly slipped into Alice’s lager: I can’t stand the young people of Ambridge. I can tolerate them only if they are leavened by the over 25s. They’re all unlikeable and operate on one note: stroppy (Jamie, Josh), whiny (Alice), or boring (Pip, Daniel, Chris, Ben). The only properly rounded character is Phoebe, who has just buggered off to South Africa specifically to avoid being in Ambridge Extra.
All together now: 'Dum di dum di dum di dum...'
Other than her, they all make my teeth tense. And this extra thing was all. About. The. Young. People. I don’t want to speculate knee-jerkingly about why the P That B thought this was a good idea. Yes I do. Obviously they think there is a breathlessly waiting market out there of 15-23 year olds desperate for a Skins-style Archers spin-off. So in the first episode we have (checklist at the ready please, Mr Stereotyped Brainstorming Man in Whacky Braces and Big Blue Glasses):
Assuming the Archers keeps going for the next sixty years – and short of international apocalypse, it will – I thought it timely to produce a brief guide to the Ambridge teenagers. They’re the next generation after all, and one day they will carry the major storylines, god help us. So if you don’t know your Daniel from your Jamie, your Pip from your Squeak, here’s my handy who’s who, to help ensure the longevity of your listening pleasure.
LEAVE ME ALONE ALL RIGHT
Jamie Perks. Age 15. A Troubled Young Man with an authentic grunt, Jamie’s been through the wringer. First his dad died. Then he realised with a start that his mother was the moaniest woman in Borsetshire. Finally, and worst of all, he inadvertently walked in on Kenton snogging Jolene. Jolene is Jamie’s alt-mum, being fun and attractive and basically everything Kathy isn’t. Thus Jamie inadvertently witnessed a true, if complex, primal scene: the father figure who’d abandoned him, in amorous congress with the mother he wished he’d had. It’s no wonder he occasionally bunks off school and trashes bird hides (Ambridge bus shelter equivalent).
- Most likely to: Play loud music to drown out Kathy’s nagging, and tell Kenton what a LOSER he is.
- Least likely to: Say, ‘would you like a hand with the dishes mummy darling?’
- Most important contribution: Telling Kathy to leave him alone. He speaks for us all.
- Where will he be in ten years time? Either working for a computer games company or in prison.
Daniel Hebden. Age 16. Unpopular, as befits a child of Shula’s. Used to be bezzie mates with Jamie, till Jamie dumped him for being boring. What took you so long, Jamie? Unlike his ex-friend, Daniel’s lucked out with the step-fathers: Alistair, despite being a dark brooding gambler, is a jolly good dad. Shula fussed infuriatingly over Daniel when he was a toddler, leaving him with a legacy of arthritis and congenital annoyingness. Being a teenager hasn’t helped him become any more likeable, but he has one saving grace: his grandfather Jim, who is gradually de-Shula-ing him.
- Most likely to: Bang on about wildlife.
- Least likely to: Become popular.
- Most important contribution: Jim’s influence on him means Shula is in a permanent state of outrage. Thank you, Jim.
- Where will he be in ten years time? Could take over his Dad’s veterinary business. Will always have a tough time in relationships till Shula dies, then will suddenly be released and marry a porn star.
I’m not a fan of Lord Sugar, but to his credit, he has working for him a pack of professionals so formidable, if there were an Olympic gladiatorial sport of savaging fools, I’d back this lot. And last night was the moment we’d all been waiting for this whole, rather marvellous series. This is the one episode of The Apprentice that makes the agony of watching earlier ones bearable. CV day is always going to be fun, because of the magnificent line-up of killer Claud, the ice-blue eyed Viglen boss, Bordan, litigator Alan Watts, regular sidekicks Karren and Nick, and our knowledge that every speck of self-deluded blagging previously uttered by the candidates will be used to wipe the floor with them. But my joy was unconfined in anticipation of the return of the metaphorically leather clad and whip wielding Margaret Mountford, a woman who it is not hard to imagine wears steel underwear. And she did not let her fans down. On his way to The Apprentice Careers Fair from Hell day, Stuart Baggs talked of needing ‘balls and minerals’. We knew what was coming. I could taste it before she opened her mouth. “Margaret!” Stuart gushed. “Do I know you?” she slashed back, like Zorro. “Ms Mountford?” he countered, tentative for perhaps the first time in his life.
Now I cannot help, with the rest of the country, being reasonably amused by the chutzpah (for which read also, ‘unadulterated drivelling bollocks’) that has emerged from Stuart Baggs. But after Lord Sugar’s lack of judgement last week keeping him in over Liz, and after seeing his utter lack of scruples in action time after time, more than anything else, I needed to see his comeuppance. And boy did we get that last night.
Highlights for me:
- Claude to Stuart “You’re not Stuart Baggs ‘the Brand’, you’re a 21 year old boy”
- Margaret, with that look where she’s shrivelling the extreme masculinity of any man, to posh boy Chris on his claim (on the basis of an RE A’ level) to be a ‘revered theology scholar’: “Do you know what ‘revered’ means? It’s when people hold you in awed respect”
- Margaret to Jamie, on his claim on his CV to have a third nipple, “Is that supposed to be funny?” (pause as even the very thick skin on his scrotal sac withers a little, until she slamdunks him) “It’s puerile.”
- Alan Watts to Stuart “You’re not very nice are you? You’ve got no ethics.”
- Stuart, in putting forward his business proposal to a dubious Margaret about inventing tracking microchips for pets: “No-one is like me. I’m the only candidate who can take Lord Sugar out of recession.”
- And this is my favourite. Claude to Stuart: “You’re not a big fish. You’re not even a fish.”
Clearly the script-writers, like the rest of us, could take no more of Jude. With brutal speed they dispatched him to roam America, sans Pip. Go West, young man. No, a bit further than Penny Hassett. If only he could have taken Brenda and Helen with him, my cup would have runneth over. Just imagine the three of them in a Thunderbird convertible, barrelling along the Big Sur Highway. They could fuel the car on whinge-gas alone.
Hey Jude, you let me down...
The departure of Jude and his irritating text-speak was an occasion of great delight for everyone, particularly me, David and Ruth. Everyone, in fact, except poor old Pip, who has lost her Fizz. Her wailing reminded me very strongly of being dumped myself, at seventeen – even though surely I must have been quite pulchritudinous and fascinating – by an older man. Well, he was eighteen but he’d been to Belgium, so he seemed very worldly. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? No, I don’t mean to Belgium.
I thought Ruth did a fair job of comforting Pip, at least until she started banging on about college again. I’m learning a lot of parenting techniques from Ruth, though I’m mainly filing them in the ‘how not to do it’ section. I also learned a lot from David, who, when confronted with his post-Jude daughter, decided to focus entirely on a cow he was grooming. Grooming as in brushing it and tying ribbons on its tail, rather than preparing it for an illegal relationship. At least, I think so. Their skirting-around conversation about forelocks and rosettes was meant to be a metaphor for everything being okay between the two of them, but it just made them seem completely suppressed and weird. Which is accurate enough, on reflection.