Don't look! You might accidentally see what David looks like... too late.
I hadn’t seen this Arena programme when it first aired in 2007, and wondered what the Archers would be like on the telly. Turned out that, for the first half hour anyway, it was exactly the same as on the radio. Fearing the wrath of the famously militant listeners (many of whom are currently demanding the head of Vanessa Whitburn), the programme-makers tiptoed round, unwilling to show us any actors. Snatches of dialogue were in audio only, played over stock shots of the countryside. It was still vaguely interesting, though the programme focused too much on the Ruth-Sam story which feels as though it were a hundred years ago, what with people falling off roofs and cursed brooches. You’d think being the Archers they might have stuck in one of their much-admired and clunky ‘topical inserts’ and mentioned poor old Nigel, but no.
Incidentally, am I the only one bored to the back dentures by Stephen Fry’s ubiquitous narration? He’s so effing cosy and complacent, his mouth full of moist fruit-cake. I wish they’d got someone more edgy for the voice-over. Like Alan Bennett.
There were only a handful of really good bits in the first half of the programme. One was when we got to see the exciting story-board conferences. How I would love to be one of those writers! (Vanessa I’m available, I have some great ideas for how to get rid of Kate). Another was when a scene-stealing perky blonde woman, I’m afraid I missed her name, showed us round the sound-effects (marigold gloves for udders; bicycle pump for champagne corks; a board with all the different houses’ doorbells).
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.
And cut! Grandma, can you tell us how you did that pattern on the top? Wake up, Grandma.
Everyone’s got their favourite. I’ve got loads. My most recent is from just the other day. It’s the one where Josh films Jill making steak and kidney pie. He might just as well have painted a wall and set the camera to record it for fifteen minutes. If I tell you that the only vaguely interesting thing that happened was Kenton referring to the pie as ‘snake and pygmy’, it’ll give you some idea.
Boring episodes of the Archers. Lord knows, there’s an embarrassment of riches to choose from. All which feature the flower and produce show, for instance; and there’s so many of those, is it any wonder that Bert Fry has taken to phoning in his surprise at being awarded a rosette for the biggest marrow? All which centre around harvest festival, Easter or other Anglican red-letter day, and their counterpart, any based round a service in St Stephens, can be added to the teetering mound of mundanity. And naturally, any one in which Tom reveals that his sausages are organic. The presence of Tom alone counteracts any other possible excitement. He neutralises heists, earthquakes and Lilian’s giggle at a stroke.
Fanoflinda recalls fondly a particularly soporific episode in which Phil (god rest his soul) and Jill were showing holiday snaps. ‘Look at Jill in that hat!’ the poor actors were forced to cry. You could hear the sounds of their careers being flushed down the toilet – or you would have, if the flushing loo sound effect hadn’t been deemed too interesting.