Well as most of you will recall I stopped listening to The Archers some time ago.
But recently I’ve been sucked back in by the sad saga of Helen and Rob. From what I’ve heard of this it’s been quite well-done: that is, if you want a drama based on issues rather than one based on characters. Still I was intrigued to see how it would pan out – but last night’s denouement was so ridiculously overdramatic that I’ve gone right off it again.
Warning spoiler alert
The Archers I remember – and I’m not going back that far, only a couple of years – was generally based on its characters. Sure, those characters could do unexpected things – act out of character – but that was part of what kept it interesting. Still there was an underlying coherence to the whole: nobody was wholly good or wholly bad. And whilst the Helen and Rob story drew you in, so that you desperately wanted her to leave, having Helen murder him is just too much.
It’s not even that you shouldn’t have murder in Ambridge: it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last – it’s just that it was, I don’t know, somehow wrong. It felt as if the story was driven by the need for a sensational plot rather than arising out of the characters. I understand why they did it; women often do murder partners after a period of abuse often lasting years – but that only goes to make the programme feel issuey, as if the producers have sat down and identified a number of social problems that they wish to air. It’s not organic – and it’s not the Archers I know and love.
Of course, the producers might argue that those who, like me, emailed Woman’s Hour last week:
to say that the show was becoming much too like EastEnders, just want a cosy world where nothing changes. Not true. The Archers never have been cosy – they’ve had illegitimate children, rapes, murders, theft and criminals on the run. And that’s just off the top of my head. But somehow it never felt like the disaster area it resembles today.
I can only hope they somehow pull it back to a more rational place. Otherwise my radio will stay firmly off at two minutes past seven.
Although I may just tune in to see what happens to Helen…
PS Not as much reaction as I’d imagined to Friday’s post. Perhaps the only trans I am is trans-parent…