What would a radio review blog be without a look at The Archers? Well, still a radio review blog- there’s lots of other good audio drama out there, damnit! Nevertheless, it’s impossible to ignore the audio juggernaut that is the UK’s longest running soap, which is why I have resolved to listen to The Archers Omnibus, broadcast 10am Sunday, as many weeks as I can, or until I get bored.
See, I’ve dipped into the odd daily episode once or twice before now, but I’ve never really listened to the show, which is why I was quite concerned about having to write this. Would I be able to keep track of who everyone was? Could I stay awake? Or would the experience leave me broken, defeated, and with a terrible fear of tractor oil?
To my great surprise, none of the above happened. True, I had to pause it several times, and yes, I got Peggy and Jill mixed up (now, which of the frail yet sharp-minded women who dispenses wise advice to her grandchildren while reflecting on those she’s lost over the years is this?), but I’m proud to report that not only did I keep track of the plot, I really rather enjoyed it.
A lot of this was due to the fact that this was a big week for the denizens of Ambridge and their fans. The week began with a certain amount of Easter chaos: “Jolene’s been pulled into the big mint sauce crisis,” declared pub landlord Kenton, bringing up mind-boggling images of some condiment-based local war that pits village against village and brother against brother, just over the hills of Borsetshire. However, this was all a minor distraction before the week’s main event: Tom Archer and Kirsty Miller were getting married! But even The Archers is not immune to the traditional pitfalls of a Soapland wedding, and all was not well within the marital home.
Tom’s heart wasn’t in it, you see, a development foreshadowed with what I assume is the programme’s usual subtlety: when trying their rings on, Kirsty’s felt “just right,” whereas Tom’s was “a little too tight,” while during the wedding rehearsal, Tom kept looking at the vicar instead of his bride-to-be. If this was EastEnders, this would probably mean that Tom fancied the vicar, but this being a reflection of simplistic rural life, it actually meant that Tom felt he was being forced into the life his parents had wanted for his deceased older brother John. His best man Roy didn’t help matters, spouting such encouraging platitudes as “Forget freedom, mate! You’re getting married!” and inadvertently arranging for Tom to travel to the church on the same model of tractor John was using when he snuffed it.
Fiasco of dredging up painful memories for Tom’s parents aside, Roy still won the ‘inappropriately slow methods of travelling to the church’ stakes, edging Kirsty and her horse-drawn carriage into second place. Kirsty was accompanied by bezzie mate Helen Archer (Tom’s sister) and Helen’s son Henry, played by a child actor who sounded as if he had never spoken English before in his life. I guess the many fantastic performers who populate CBBC and CBeebies’ dramas were all busy when the casting call went round. It was poor mumbling Henry who accidentally spilled juice on Kirsty’s wedding dress, necessitating a last minute change into a backup dress she had liked the look of. Helen was very supportive of the new gown: “It’s so you, Kirsty… simple.” This didn’t seem the most positively worded of compliments, but there were greater trials to come for the blushing bride.
See, despite, advice from his Grandma Peggy (or maybe it was Jill? No, Peggy), Tom hadn’t had the guts to tell Kirsty about his doubts. Thus, it wasn’t until everyone got to the church that the truth came out, and Tom told Kirsty he was leaving her in the vestry.
As in, they were both in the vestry when he told her he was leaving her.
I don’t mean he locked her in the vestry, threw away the key, and left her to cry into the cassocks.
Although cry she did, echoing all around the church, disturbing the congregation and almost making the Grundys forget how long it had been since breakfast. I think the Grundys are supposed to be the comic relief, but it’s difficult to tell through their impenetrable yokel accents.
Things only got worse when Kirsty found out that Helen knew about Tom’s doubts, and threw her out of her house, declaring she wanted nothing more to do with the Archers ever again. One can only hope she means the family, and not the show, because I’m really rather enjoying this. I’ll be coming back next week, and I hope you join me.