Tag Archives: Jenny

The Archers: Things that are currently baffling me

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.

Image1. 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.

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The Archers: Shaken to the core

High Priestess Whitburn says 'Let's shake it up, baby'. Photo from the Guardian.

For an update after the Big Event, click here

Since High Priestess Vanessa Whitburn announced that there would be a special sixtieth anniversary episode on January 2nd, the world has been abuzz with anticipation (it says here in this BBC press release that I’m copying this from). Ambridge will be SHAKEN TO THE CORE apparently. Well shiver me timbers and pour us another sherry Marjorie. I have managed to avoid the message board speculation, which uses the acronym SATTC to refer to this topic, in order to bring you my unadulterated (apart from the sherry) thoughts on what these possible Ambridge Shaking Events might be.  Apologies if they’re all wildly unoriginal and have been bandied about already across the internet, though I don’t know why I’m apologising because I don’t actually care. The only clues I have permitted myself are Herself’s own words that two storylines are involved: ‘one running and one new surprise.’

In Category One, the most obvious Core-Shaking Storyline currently running is Hell-en and her increasingly criminal behaviour. If ever a pregnant woman was asking to be pushed down the stairs it was this one. Possible core-shakers include:

  • Tony finally growing a pair and strangling Hell-en with that godwaful-sounding butterfly mobile. The clue is that it ‘hangs from the ceiling’ – this has been mentioned several times – so he could easily make it look like suicide.
  • Ian finally realising that Hell-en is an evil succubus and poisoning her with the much-referred to white spirit he borrowed from Robert Snell.
  • Hell-en miscarrying, though I really don’t think the writers will go down this route, for reasons too complicated and frankly dull to go into here (if you’re interested I can send you my lengthy ‘Why Hell-en’s baby will survive’ treatise, £2.99 plus p&p).
  • Hell-en going into premature labour. The baby’s health hangs in the balance for a few nail-biting weeks before the little fighter slowly gets stronger and stronger, though sadly not strong enough to cope with the ultimate horror of being parented by Hell-en.

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The Archers: Dodgy sexual politics in Ambridge?

Listening to The Archers omnibus this morning, I found myself getting increasingly incensed by the appalling mothering of Kate and loony behavior of pregnant Helen, having a right old go at a bewildered Tony, as she threw her metaphorical steriliser out of the pram (and since I imagine she plans to breastfeed, I was confused that she even bought one, especially since it sounded, via radio, to be bewilderingly huge). I even tweeted about it.

Then a friend, and fellow omnibus listener called, and said how cross she was that the writers are ‘presenting women facing difficult choices’ as being so crap and so mad. ‘Oh bloody hell yes, it’s not real,’ I reminded myself hastily, and deleted the draft emails to Social Services.

So I contacted the Diva of Archers blogs, Qwerty, (and the reason, after a ten-year absence, that I even listen to the show again) who gave me permission to trespass on her regular Pauseliveaction patch and have a rant. Please bear in mind I’m not as regular or attentive a fan as her.

But this morning, after pausing for thought, I did feel my friend has a point. Helen and Kate are characters created by the writers of the Archers, and hells teeth, if you cease to be annoyed by how whiny, selfish, narcissistic, passive-aggressive and ghastly they both are and remember we are hearing the voices of actors, speaking lines written for them, you do start to wonder if there is some misogyny afoot.

The character of Helen (or ‘Hell-en’, as Qwerty calls her) is pretty unrelentingly unlikable. Could we not have an over-arching storyline about either her, or single parenthood, that does not start from the basis that someone choosing to have a baby on their own is not stark staring bonkers and thoroughly unpleasant to boot?

I know this is supposed to be a traditional, conservative rural community, but I’m still hacked off that, when Brian Aldridge brought home the child of his dead mistress, Jenny not only had to put up with the humiliation, she also seems to do all of Ruairi’s childcare.

Then we’ve got the gruesome Kate, the most careless mother in the world, leaving her offspring willy nilly across the globe, all of whom are distraught at her inability to keep her children on one continent at the same time.

Come on Archers writers, will you stop writing storylines that kick women in the teeth? Can we muster something good, positive, constructive? If you need a really good example of a show where women, and particularly older women (Candice Bergen as Shirley Schmidt), are written fabulously well, with lots of character, lots of power, lots of sex and chutzpah, go and watch Boston Legal. Then do please, buck up.

Posted by Inkface              (more Archers reviews/rants here)

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The Archers: The Odd Couples

I'd rather be at Jax

So Kenton and Kathy have split asunder eh? Well, you might say you were surprised they’d lasted so long, and you might be right. But in the Archers even the most implausible couples plod on and on for all eternity; there’s rarely any call for mediation. So although in the real world Kathy and Kenton wouldn’t have lasted five minutes, there are plenty of other couples whose continuing existence ought to bring a large delegation from Relate to look and marvel and maybe give out certificates.

Alistair & Shula – Frankly they’re an incredible couple, and I use the word in its old sense, meaning it defies credibility. Poor old Alistair has had several chances to make it out of Shula’s gnarled clutches, including before their ill-fated nuptials when she shagged Richard Lock. That was a perfect opportunity for Alistair to pack his possessions in a large spotty hankie and make merrily for the open road but like an oaf, he forgave her. A mere couple of years later she had turned him into a sulking, misanthropic gambler.      Real-world relationship rating (RRR): By now he’d have had an affair with the receptionist at his vets practice, twisted the will in his favour, and buried Shula beneath the stables. And there ain’t a jury in the land that would convict him.

Eddie and Clarrie – Given that Clarrie is resourceful, respectable and earns her own income, her mystifying willingness to stick around can only mean one thing: that this is fiction. Not that I was in any doubt, obviously (ahem). Eddie has settled down a bit lately, but he has always been and always will be a wastrel, a chancer, a ne’er-do-well, whose only contribution to the household is to make Clarrie wail, ‘Ohhh EDDDDDDIE!’ at regular intervals.     RRR: Clarrie would have quickly remarried an estate agent called Roger, and be having a nice middle-class life with a hostess trolley. Occasionally she would think of her brief sojourn in Meadow Rise, and shudder. Eddie would be living in a static caravan with some drunken trollop who’s no better than she oughta.

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The Archers: Don’t kiss me, Kate

‘No! No!’ cries Mr Qwerty, backing out of the kitchen, hands clamped over his ears. Kate, who is back in Ambridge for a relentlessly long visit, was the cause of Mr Q’s permanent exile from The Archers. In the fifteen years since her troubled youth drove him to despair, he’s heard only snippets of the programme, commenting occasionally as he flits past, ‘What’s happened to Richard Lock?’ or ‘That doesn’t sound like the real Hayley’.

No, I said DON'T

Last week, I had to break the terrible news that Kate was back. He went quite pale. Now as soon as there’s so much as a whiff of dum-di-dums, he, like many a spouse, high-tails it out of the house, in terror of hearing Kate’s nasal whine. Fair enough. She is appalling. I’m only able to tolerate her myself if I have a large gin and tonic to hand, and if she’s counter-balanced by Hayley, saying sweetly, ‘Oh look! Phoebe must have liked that Mother’s Day card a lot, to get it for both of us.’

The script-writers must be in a particularly mean mood, for the other day they jammed both Kate and Helen in the same episode. Together. All that was needed for them to move seamlessly into the opening scene from Macbeth was for Pip to stroll in carrying a cauldron. Under the pressure, I finished one vat of Bombay Sapphire and cracked open the next. Helen was a-quiver with un-expressed resentment over Kate’s negligent uber-breeding. Kate meanwhile had come rather late to the notion that leaving her daughter on the other side of the world might have one or two minor repercussions.

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The Archers: A man who knows the price of everything

It’s never a good idea for soaps to stray far from their usual arena. At present we have the continuity announcer saying gamely, ‘and in just a minute, we’ll be heading off, not to bonnie_clyde_465x402Ambridge, but to Costa Rica’, and our hearts sink.

Dodgy Matt’s done a runner, dragging a reluctant Lilian in his wake. For every cockroach the size of a terrier that terrorises Lilian, Matt sees only a nice little pastry shop. He is as determinedly upbeat as she is down. It’s like two sides of a bipolar personality in one fractious relationship.

The long-distance phone calls between Lilian and her anxious sister Jennifer are splendidly done. Jenny’s primary role is to say, ‘Oh, LILIAN!’ and she can imbue this simple phrase with exasperation, sympathy or horror. Some yokel asked Jenny where Lilian and Matt were, and rather than admit to a country in Central America – soap opera code for ‘bail-jump’ – Jenny rather wonderfully found herself murmuring, ‘Oh, they’ve gone to one of the Costas.’

Poor Lilian hates the Costa she’s in. She’d rather be in Costa Coffee, as Matt pointed out, when she said she had nothing to do all day. ‘Do what you do at ‘ome!’ he snapped. ‘Go to lunch! Get your ‘air done!’

‘Twice a day’, retorted Lil, ‘Given this humidity.’ She sounded for a moment as if she would rather like to have her hair done this often.

Lilian’s been so stressed and shrill, she has managed to force Matt into doing something that Archers characters absolutely hate doing: namely, reveal the cost of something. Prices are never specified. It’s too vulgar. Even in the shop, when Susan dourly rings up purchases, we are not privy to exactly what the items were in the wire basket which led to the sum of £5.21. Generally, no sum beyond a tenner is ever mentioned. Which is why it was so shocking when Matt finally admitted to Lilian how much he was paying for their flea-hole in an insalubrious barrio. He hedged and flannelled in usual Archers style for a while. ‘Less than what we’d pay in England’, and ‘He’s charging a fair sum.’

I was barely paying attention at this point, toying with my tea and wondering if it was too early to pour in a slug of gin. Then, with a final push from Lilian, he suddenly said, ‘800 dollars a month.’ You could have knocked me down with a cockroach. I pushed my tea aside and grabbed the gin bottle. I don’t know what this means for the Archers, but I suspect it’s the beginning of the end for Matt and Lilian.

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