This Week in The Archers – w/e 6 December 2013

The Grundys are news at the moment. At least George subtly pointed the finger at Will with his comment about Baz not being on his lead. Yes indeed Will, maybe Ed was reckless beyond belief, but you didn’t think on keeping the dog on the lead. Is Will going to acknowledge it? Ha ha, I doubt it. Why let the truth get in the way of his hate for Ed? Clarrie (new/old) is full of eternal optimism on the relationship between the Grundy boys. Come on Clarrie, let’s be realistic. That relationship is hardly going to thaw now, is it? Clarrie also subtly reminding us that Saint Nic and Poppy are absolutely number one. You’re not helping Clarrie. Maybe if you treated Ed and Will equally, things might be better. Talking about treating people equally, she was fairly frosty to Jess! What was that all about? Maybe she could have hung around to work her Social Work skills on Will. Maybe Will you should tell George that you screwed up by not keeping Baz on the lead. I’m amazed that Clarrie did berate Will though. She seems content to let Will off the hook a bit even though he was ignored her pleas for some unity at Christmas. Nic has always been willing to side with Clarrie on this – but will she be able to restrain Will this time?

Saint Nic doesn’t have keep onside with Clarrie though, does she? I was amazed to actually hear Nic let rip at Clarrie over it. Fair enough that Nic backs her husband of course, but is she being blinded by Will? George was clear enough of mind to point out that Baz was off the lead, and I assume George might have mentioned it to Nic.

Tom & Kirsty’s prefect on again relationship is a bit sickly though for me. I can’t help feeling that it will end in tears, but maybe they’ll get it right this time round. But good old Jess for taking Rob over to have a chat with them, then being talked into buying mistletoe for him & Jess. Right in front of Kirsty. That was hardly going to end well, now was it? But for a trained observer of the human condition, Jess is missing all the signs from Rob. Kirsty needn’t worry about Jess noticing. She seems blind to it. Still bored with Kirsty’s reaction to Rob after she has moaned at Helen after she ploughed on irrespective of all the warnings she was given. Naturally though, Jess walks into Ambridge Organics. Helen hiding out back was so childish. Just face the woman! I did think though that Kirsty was a bit cold with Jess. Its not her fault that her husband played away from home, is it. Speaking of home, Rob laid the groundwork for getting away from Helen by trying to convince Jess that a move from Ambridge should be looked at. Jess agrees a fresh start. But from what? The death of her dad, or something a bit more sinister? Has Rob done it before? I suspect so. Its wearing a bit thin though. I’m baffled at Kirsty’s unreasonable animosity towards Rob. I thought her rant at him during rehearsals for Lynda’s panto was ridiculous. One minute she’s telling Helen Rob is married, she’ll only get hurt etc, the next she is giving Rob both barrels as its ALL his fault. No question Rob’s affair will come to light, but who will Jess think he’s been having an affair with? Any time Helen is around Rob & Jess, she actually plays it cool, whereas Kirsty’s animosity isn’t even thinly veiled. Could it be that Jess will think its Kirsty – a reasonable, if erroneous conclusion – that slept with her husband, letting Kirsty feel her wrath (such that it would be from a seemingly meek woman)?? It would drag it out a bit longer until Jess finds out the truth when Helen tells her she’s pregnant with Rob’s baby! Kirsty might deserve it for her part in fanning the flames. Forcing Rob out of the panto was a shame for Lynda, but it seems a neurotic Helen must come before the village! Mind you, Rob’s “break a leg Kirsty” did have sinister undertones!

But poor Clarrie. She has her hands full with all the Grundy boys. If she tipped over the edge into depression, will Shula rush round to help her? Losing Nic’s support has really hurt her though. But Saint Nic covers her bases by doing her bit with Joe. Still, its good to see Joe recovering. At least Joe can see it was an accident, like everyone else. No doubt Ed would love to get at Will, but I can’t believe he’d deliberately shoot his dog to do it. Caroline does her bit to try and help Clarrie – right after completing the reconciliation with Joe. Caroline and Oliver are decent people, and I’m happy they’ve helped to bring Joe back to the lovely man we’re used to. Joe himself was full of good advice for Ed – Ed would be a fool not to listen to the wisdom Joe’s years have brought him. That’ll mean he’ll ignore it! But good on Caroline for laying it on Will. He knows I think that Ed didn’t shoot Baz on purpose, and Caroline let him know how selfish he – and Ed – are being. Its not half put Joe in a spot after he’d convinced Ed to help with the turkeys by telling him Will wouldn’t be there. Let’s get the Grundy boys together with knives in their hands. That should end well! Maybe Caroline was overstepping the mark, but someone had to lay it all out for Will. It seems he’s the only one that doesn’t believe the accidental shooting theory. One thing for sure, after paying out three grand to Joe, helping Eddie & Joe with their holly and trying to help out Clarrie with her boys, it would seem the Sterlings were carrying an excessive amount of guilt over Joe’s accident!

But guess where that leads us to though? Dan is making his feelings reasonably clear. But Darrell’s drinking is glossed over by Shula, but then she takes aim at Dan for going to see a friend! Shula would prefer to take it out on Dan to spare her more time for running after Darrell. Alistair sees it more clearly, but Shula will argue black is white over Darrell still. I’m convinced that Darrell didn’t even bother to turn up to the job Eddie sorted out for him. Will Shula forgive him again, or will Alistair convince her that Darrell is completely incapable of doing anything to help himself? Even when she tries to apologise to Dan, she ends up backing Darrell! “We’re not idiots” she says! You’ve been taken for a mug though! You’re obsessed Shula, now you’re driving Dan away. Good job. Shula’s obsession with Darrell still isn’t sitting well with Jill who, shock horror, has to miss out on “bring your own cheese” lunch as Shula is stuck with Darrell who it seems can’t be bothered to sign on again. But Jim steps into the breach there, and goes on a hot date with Jill. I’m still hoping there will be a romance between two older characters, and Jim and Jill would be a good match. Poor Christine missed the boat there!

At least the Darrell storyline is spiralling towards its conclusion. Shula finally snapped after more of Darrell’s uselessness – this is how the script writers have made it sound – and all but kicked him out at last. Where does he go for help? The pub of course. Curiously just when Rosa heads there for a impromptu date with Jamie, who was celebrating with Kathy after she predictably landed the Grey Gables job. Darrell decides to alienate another one of his support network with a drunken ramble at Rosa. Jamie was right on it, to protect a clearly upset young woman. But that’s not the signal for Darrell to walk out the door. Oh no. He has to have another drunken go at Rosa, leaving her in tears. But just as Jamie rightly defended Rosa, Neil has a pop at him for not showing sympathy? Neil, a young woman has been on the end of a verbal tirade from a drunk. Who’s the priority? Would you really put a drunk ahead of an upset Rosa? You’ve been around the Horrobins too long!

But it appeared to be the final straw for “poor” Darrell. I wonder just how many paracetemols Shula had in the house? Maybe she takes a lot of headaches, eh Alistair? But if she felt that Darrell was indeed depressed, would she risk leaving drugs around the Stables? And wouldn’t she have forced him back to the GPs? Of course, this set Shula off on a massive guilt trip. Why though? What more could she have done? Maybe she could have taken less nonsense from Darrell to begin with, forced him to a GP to make sure he got the help he needed? But, the week in the Archers had dark and uncomfortable tones for me. Darrell hits rock bottom and apparently attempts suicide. Whether it was a serious attempt, or just a call for help remains to be seen, but hospitalisation can only be the best thing for Darrell, should he survive the suicide attempt. Being sectioned must be likely but will the storyline be completed with Darrell’s recovery, or will he head off into the sunset? One way or the other, this storyline end can’t come soon enough.

Week Ending 29 November
Week Ending 22 November
Week Ending 15 November

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If I wrote The Archers

Those of us who listen to the Archers will want the characters to develop in a certain way, for storylines to go this way or that and so on. The script writers will continually delight and infuriate us in equal measure on a regular basis. To the point we ask, “why have they done that?” or “why couldn’t this happen?” Well, I’ve got my own ideas! Agree with them or not!

Characters No More

Its maybe the most asked question – who would you  kill off? The danger of course with killing off too many characters we don’t like is that The Archers would become just too dull. Sometimes its fun to rant at the radio at the ridiculous antics of Helen. It would be tempting to kill her off, but she is there to remind us that no matter how ridiculous our lives might be, it could be worse! Like many however,  I would be delighted if Darrell got  on the bus to Felpersham for good. I’ve written before about his behaviour, and its getting worse. I know he’s struggling, but somehow its impossible to feel any sympathy for him. I might also be tempted to have Pip stay in Yorkshire permanently. He flip-flopping between a pleasant and vile young woman  makes  me  wish she weren’t there at all. Kathy is another one I could live without. What purpose does she serve in Ambridge? Maybe she should take the Felpersham job, and just move there. For good. Other  than that, I’d keep the rest, but would spice things up with two or three new characters.

What Would I l Like to Happen?

Some of it  (probably all of it) is unlikely to ever come to pass but that never stops us for coming up with our own plot developments. Listening to Will Grundy’s irritating voice tonight reminds me of one development I’d love to see – he loses his job. He loves lording it over Ed with all his troubles. Will thinks he has the perfect family, but it would be brilliant to  see the stress that being out of  work and being semi-reliant on others would do to him.

Matt has seen more than his fair share of tough times. His time inside for fraud, teething troubles with Amside, Lillian’s affair with Paul then finally his run-in with Russian gangsters have all put him right on the back foot. I’d like Matt to make a big time comeback. I hope Amside really takes off – if Anthea remains part of the team, they’ve got a chance – and that Matt gets in a position to put one over on Brian.

I’d like to see a romance between two of the older characters for a change. It seemed that Jim and Christine might make a go if it, but that all went so quiet. I hope Jim and Christine rekindle it  and they make it all the way to the alter. Could Christine even persuade Jim inside the doors of St Stephens for the tying of the knot? Let’s hope so!

Maybe life could get a bit easier for  Ed and Emma. Ed constantly seems on the end of bad luck and life never seems easy for him and Emma. All the while they look at Will and the perfect Nic and see how easy they have it.

Vicky looks like she might fall on tough times with Bethany. She’s realising how difficult it can be with a special needs child. She’s getting precious little support from Mike who remains wrapped up in his own world. I’d give Vicky the support she needs from Mike. I think I’d also make Bethany a little more accepted in Ambridge, like perfect little Poppy.

A real long shot is one concerning Fallon and Jazzer. Her relationship with Reece just doesn’t seem right, and Jazzer continues to love her from afar. I suspect Jazzer would instantly end his womanising if he landed Fallon. He’d worship her, and no mistake. It might sound odd to say it, but they’d be great together, and Fallon would be the making of Jazzer.

It would also be nice for Joe to  have a last hurrah. His declining years hasn’t been easy for Ambridge’s most senior resident. Maybe his little windfall from he dice with death at Grey Gables will be the start of something better for Joe. He doesn’t ask for much, but it would be good for him to have at least one big adventure. His time with Ambridge’s american visitor was lovely. Too much to ask for Joe to have a little bit of companionship?

Most of that all seems like too many good news storylines, so I doubt we’ll seen any of them come to fruition, but there’s nothing wrong with hoping!

This Week in The Archers…(w/e 15 Nov)

Darrell continues to dominate Ambridge, and it seems that he’s sucked in Ambridge’s newest resident. It didn’t take long for Jess Titchner to be completely hoodwinked, instantly feeling sympathy for Darrel & offering her services to Saint Shula. In typical Darrell fashion, he’s not mentioned how unreliable he was for Elona, how he was sucked into every scheme going, how he betrayed an employer by organising a building for a dog-fighting ring, how he let her down at every opportunity. But surely Shula knew that Elona didn’t kick Darrell out at all. She was the one who left – to get work, although she’d have been justified to do so. Still, she got her visa, so job done! But Darrel can’t even be bothered to attend his JC interviews or help himself in any way. Even when Shula offers to help do his Jobseekers claim with him, he tries to wriggle out of that. Its really time for Alistair to put his foot down and get Shula to stop being a doormat. “Its one crisis after another” says Shula. Its all well and good for her to take responsibility, but what about your family Shula? Darrell really is taking the mickey, but how does anyone damage video by just spilling drink on them? Still, we’ve had enough of Darrell’s self-pity – and now so has Alistair – do what must be done Shula!

Talking about Jess, we finally had the moment when Helen came face-to-face with the “other woman.” Cue an excruciating lunch at the Bull, where Helen could hardly be more obvious. Surely Jess could see that it was Rob causing the tension? His feeble reason for Kirsty’s hostility to Rob playing Robin Hood opposite her Maid Marion was so see through. How can this storyline be dragged out any further? Kirsty, Tom, now Adam in the loop, so surely one of them will let it slip. Speaking of Adam, he’s another of my favourite characters. He comes across as a reasonable guy, and did admit he was in no position to lecture Helen on adultery (I did think that Pawel did give up a bit too easily, leaving Adam to enjoy domestic bliss with Ian.) But to have Helen raging at Henry for being unreasonable was ridiculous. The poor lad is only there because Helen has this self centred desperate need to be loved to complete her life. I’m sure she does love Henry in her own way, but Henry wasn’t about bringing a new life into the world, it was all about Helen as usual. Sadly, Adam suggested all parents blow up at times, which is true. But Henry being unreasonable?! I did laugh when she admitted she went into her affair with Rob with eyes wide open. Really Helen? You knew that Rob was married, and that he could really spin a line with a wife who was out of sight, out of mind. Again, she went into it blind. Kirsty backing Helen up when H suggested it was her fault etc wasn’t too helpful. It will only reinforce Helen’s mistaken belief that she’s right to put herself before anyone – very strange after Kirsty telling Helen she was making a huge mistake, and that it would all end in tears. Well, if you’re now supporting Helen over the affair, you need to let Rob off the hook too.. It’ll have some time to run, but thankfully it looks like its all starting to come to a head.

Kathy is still in the news in Ambridge. After skulking out the door at the golf club, she’s in full mope mode. Despite Caroline doing her a huge favour by giving her a job, she moans that its not enough, and the pay wasn’t what she needed. So, she looks elsewhere, but when she gets a job at the pay scale closer to what she wants, she moans! “Its only maternity cover.” Well, yes Kathy, but are you seriously saying that no job is better than a short term contract. Doing bugger all doesn’t have quite the impact a job does on your CV. Its seems Jamie is trying to convince her to take it (he seems to be the reasonable adult in that household) but she digs her heels in. But after finally accepting it, Caroline gives her the heads up that she’s looking for a deputy manager. It looks odds-on given (incredibly) Kathy came up with some ideas to boost health club income. But after moaning to Pat that she doesn’t want a job further away from Felpersham, she baulks at the thought of a job on her doorstep. You don’t owe an employer who isn’t actually your employer any loyalty at all. Its interesting how the roles have reversed in the Perks household. Jamie takes action to kick-start his career while Kathy looks for excuses not to do anything at all. She did have a bit of a nerve going round to Lynda’s to sound her out. Robert did his bit for his Lindy and made sure she realised what she had. She and Robert are a great team, and her magnanimous gesture opened the door for Kathy to go for Caroline’s sidekick. But to flat-out lie to Robert and say she didn’t know if Caroline would be interested. Maybe the phone call you got from her the day before might have been a giveaway? Oh well, we’d better prepare for Kathy teaming up with Caroline.

Kathy though, despite being offered one job, and being in the running for another, still finds the negative in it all. When she speak to Caroline about the job, she manages to talk herself down! Well, if I were assessing candidates for a job, I’d make sure I binned the ones that couldn’t sell themselves or show ANY enthusiasm for the job. Surely Caroline is astute enough a businesswoman not to show such poor judgement.

Talking of Caroline, the carpetgate saga rumbles on. I’m surprised that Clarrie is letting Eddie away with his greed. Poor Joe has suffered from his near-death experience with Caroline’s carpet. But Eddie has just seen pound signs in front of his eyes, and he’s used Joe’s accident to feather the Grundy nest. You can understand it to a degree. Eddie works his arse off to keep their heads above water, and the opportunity to cash in off the toffs is hard to resist. His playing hardball worked and doubled Joe’s payout, but Ed goes and puts his foot in it, and suggests to Eddie they could make more. It would be nice if they remembered its Joe’s money and that it would be good if he got if before he dies. But what’s surprising is that the Grundy men are hatching this plot, and Clarrie – uncharacteristically – hasn’t put her foot down to stop it. She’s shown willing to stop Eddie’s scheme’s before, but hasn’t seen fit to stop the money grabbing. Maybe she too sees it as a chance to see them through for a while.

And poor old Jill. When is she going to crash her car, and who will she take out in the process? Will she plough into Helen, Darrell, Emma & Ed? We can only hope her eyesight is up to the task, and she doesn’t miss.

Back to Work Eased by AFRTS

The worst evening of the week for many is upon me. Sunday evening is bad enough knowing that the next day its back to work again. This time its worse as I’ve been off for over a week. Not only that, but we’ve been away for the week at Haven Haggerston Castle. What a thought!

The end of the weekend coincides with one of our TV high points though, Hawaii Five-O. Its a good way to end the weekend and for an hour banishes thoughts of Monday morning! In years gone by, Sunday evenings were spent listening to the NFL on American Armed Forces Radio. Whether it was school, university or work the next morning, that didn’t matter as I battled with the radio to try and improve the crackly reception. Fortunately by the time the west coast games came on (I’m a Seattle Seahawks fan you see) reception was pretty good, so by 9pm, it was in bed, lights out and listen to the NFL. With Satellite TV now beaming 4 NFL games into my living room every weekend, there’s no need for AFRTS, but it was an integral part of my Sunday routine, and I look back on it fondly. Even when the Seahawks weren’t on, I’d listen, waiting for the gamebreaks when the link man (usually the superb Marty Bonderoff) would give scoring updates on the other games going on. At least when the Seahawks played on Monday night (Tuesday morning for us!) it meant a very late night but guaranteed Seahawks! Monday night games in particular were a wonderful listening experience thanks to the commentary team of Jack Buck & Hank Stram (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/0907/nfl.remember.when/content.12.html) . Both had a fantastic turn of phrase and were welcome companions in the middle of the night even though I knew I’d be tired on Tuesday morning.

Still, my experiences of AFRTS are fond memories. It didn’t take long to realise that they did more than the NFL on a Sunday evening and Monday night. I soon discovered college football on Saturday evenings. Here’s how exciting my younger days were on a Saturday when college football would be broadcast from 530pm to 4am Sunday morning. The late game (1am start) would often involve South Eastern Conference games with LSU, Georgia, Alabama, Clemson and Auburn featuring. If I got lucky, Washington would be involved in the mid-evening game, but the college games on the Saturday were great entertainment. But when summer came along, I encountered baseball on radio for the first time. I’ve got family in Toronto, so naturally became a Blue Jays fan although any game on radio was welcome. I think that part of the enjoyment of the NFL and baseball on radio was the image it painted of what it was like in the days before wall-to-wall TV coverage for millions of Americans.

Those days may have passed now, but I still get my fix of sport on the radio broadcast from North America. Many years ago my Toronto links led me to become a fan of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. Before the advent of ESPN America on our screens broadcasting live NHL (which took the feed from CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada on a Saturday night, which always involved the Leafs) I listened to Leaf games on radio via the internet through the NHL’s website. ESPN changed that of course, but now they lost UK broadcasting rights, its back to listening to the Leafs on TSN1050 featuring the fantastic commentary of “Voice of the Leafs” Joe Bowen. They really bring the game alive, and again created the image of Canadians gathered around the radio on a Saturday evening to listen to the hockey. There’s something special about listening to these games on the radio. I still get the impression that its just me and no one else listening to the games. Thoughts of a bygone age maybe.

Generally I think that the Sunday night routines are centred around extending the weekend as long as is humanly possible. That has to involve something we enjoy, and I’ve had plenty of things to occupy my Sunday evenings. So, its back to work tomorrow, but until then, let the weekend continue as long as possible.

Dum-di-dum-di-dum-di-dum

I love radio dramas. They let you lie back, and let your imagination go free. When its well written, there can be few media experiences that can beat it for pure relaxation. About 20 years ago, I thought I’d give the Archers a go. I listened to a couple of episodes, but the timing of it meant I couldn’t listen regularly, I gave up. But in October 2007, while looking for the podcast of a Radio Four programme I’d wanted to listen to, but missed, I spotted the podcast for the Archers – thanks to the BBC for http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/archers! Even better, I could subscribe to it through iTunes. One click later, and I would have radio heaven sent (almost) directly to my iPod.

With any new radio, or TV drama, it can take a while to get to know the characters – their names, who they relate to, what they get up to. With each episode of the Archers only being 12 minutes long, characters can be out of it for weeks while others are part of ongoing storylines. But after a while, I became familiar with the characters. The Archers is part of British popular culture, despite it being ridiculed by some. In excess of 5m people listen to it daily, which is a number a lot of TV producers would love to see for their shows. Although its origin was to educate the public in the ways of farming following the War, it has blossomed into a compulsive daily listen for millions.

The Archers is a showcase for rural Britain. It still provides listeners will a view of what daily life is like for farmers. It also can give the listener an idyllic image of rural England, and can be a lovely daily escape from the ongoing grind of our lives. I wonder how many listeners would love to go for a Sunday pint in he Bull? Although times have changed in Ambridge – they too are in the 21st century – a lot of things stay the same. Controversy is kept to a minimum even though there are occasionally some tough story lines. Weddings, deaths, births, affairs – the staple of most soaps – are all present in the Archers, but they’re handled fairly gently.

The Archers hit 60 last year, with an extended episode to kick off the new year. Anticipation was raised to fever pitch amongst regular listeners, with writers promising events that would “shake Ambridge to the core” – we were put out of our misery when local toff, and long term character, Nigel Pargetter fell from the roof of his stately home to a grisly death! But such typical soap land sensationalism isn’t really part of the Archers core. Listeners love the gentle calmness of the show. A change of producer in 2012 caused some concern, with an ex-Eastenders producer taking the reins. There were fears that the Archers would become just another typical soap, with lurid story lines becoming the norm. Fears that have proved to be overstated. We’re getting the human interest story lines – Lillian’s affair with her partner’s half brother being Eastender-esque – but tales of badgers, Llamas with TB, and Tom Archer’s sausages have reassured us that life goes on as normal!

Its now over 5 years since I started listenijng to the Archers, and its become a real guilty pleasure on the bus to work in the morning. Its gone and given rise to twice-weekly spin off series, Ambridge Extra, which gives some deeper insight to some of the Archers’ story lines, although the two programmes are generally independent of each other. The 6 episodes of 12 minutes each every week are a real gem of British broadcasting, a real part of our culture. To the uninitiated, look past the traditional staid image of Radio 4 and join the 5 million of us who love the dum-di-dum-di-dum theme tune that heralds our latest trip to Ambridge.