Give me back MY Archers - because this soapy nonsense isn't it

The beloved Radio 4 soap has reached a dangerous level of soapy stories and personality transplants, says Alison Graham

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Give me back MY Archers - because this soapy nonsense isn't it
Written By
Alison Graham

The Archers prissily offers helpline numbers after any episode featuring an ‘issue’ that might potentially distress listeners. But where was that aural comfort after Lizzie and Roy got their rocks off in a tent? Where were the kindly volunteers prepared to listen as a nation of Archers households shrieked ‘for the love of god NO!’

Lizzie and Roy having a tumble. It truly doesn’t bear thinking about. I am thinking about it right now and I can’t bear it. Lizzie, uptight chatelaine of plush Lower Loxley hall, widow of Nigel “I’ll just pop up on to the roof” Pargetter, mother of weird Midwich Cuckoo twins Lily and Freddie.

And Roy. Lumpen Roy, general manager of Lower Loxley, slave to The Rota, a man who we’d never considered had sexy feelings for anyone or anything, apart from maybe an Excel spreadsheet. Roy, husband of Happy Hayley, the human contraceptive (why is she always so remorselessly cheerful?)

In a plot signalled with all of the subtley of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar telling his men ‘England expects’ Lizzie and Roy went to a music festival to prep for their own Glastonbury at Lower Loxley, a faded money-pit that’s in dire need of cash.

But both of them got off their heads on cider and the next thing we knew Lizzie was leading Roy to her tent. Suddenly we pitched headfirst into DH Lawrence territory with Lizzie as sex-starved Lady Connie Chatterley wanting a bit of rumpy-pumpy and Roy as lusty, earthy, dirty Mellors. Well, maybe not quite. And please, no, I can’t and won’t imagine Lizzie threading daisies ANYWHERE on Roy’s person.

What is singularly infuriating about this whole debacle is that not once, EVER, have Lizzie and Roy expressed any kind of intimate feelings for one another. Never EVER has a frisson of erotic attraction zinged between mistress and servant.

But that’s The Archers, everything has gone all weird. Everyone’s personalities have changed, particularly those of the women (Ambridge’s men would need spray-on starch to have any backbone).

Let’s consider Jennifer. Always a snob but a good-hearted one. Now she’s a kitchen-obsessed virago, droning on about granite surfaces and butler’s sinks. Fallon, once a spirited lass, is now a simpering drudge who is doing little to repel the creepy advances of stalkerish new village bobby, PC Burns. Fallon, get a restraining order.

Then there was Kirstie, another girl with gumption who, against all common sense, agreed to marry Tom. She turned into a bridezilla and a mortgage monster, he fled and dumped her at the altar. What of Alice, aeronautical engineer and a woman of independent spirit, who unaccountably volunteered to plan the doomed wedding and talked of little else but balloon arches for weeks?

And then there’s Helen, damaged cheese-maker and emotional mess who is now under the Stepford-like programming of a controlling madman, Rob.

We’ve reached a dangerous level of ‘hey, let’s do soapy things’ stories and personality transplants under new(ish) editor Sean O’Connor, though to be fair he’s given the older Ambridge inhabitants, particularly Peggy, some good, meaty stories. Hearing her crumble into tears of loneliness recently tugged at my heartstrings, even though I don’t actually have any heartstrings.

The Archers isn’t like any old soap, it’s special, with a very special place in the hearts of those who listen to it. We listen because it’s NOT like any other soap. Now it always sounds as if it’s teetering on the edge of hysteria. I want my Archers back, please.

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