Listeners to the Archers have long remarked at the miraculous retention of an Irish accent by the bastard son of Brian Aldridge and Siobhan Hathaway Ruairi Donovan after arriving in England at the age of 5 and living there ever since. He has suddenly re-appeared speaking a form of RP. A very rare example of reality intruding into the modern Archers.
Elsewhere the serial has continued to be the story of ever more politically correct folk. The inhabitants of this village supposedly set in the heart England continue to be treated to more and more of the joy of diversity as the Ambridge demographic increasingly resembles that of England’s inner-cities. The village cricket team is being coached by Iftikar Shah, who is of God-like visage and physique (natch) and immediately captivates all the women and the two gays in the village who spend time swooning at the mere thought of him. In addition the black ex-boyfriend of “dual heritage” Amy, the vicar’s daughter, is due to return at some point with a story which gains him redemption from his stereotype feckless black male situation at present.
The Albanian care worker Elona who is married to the English Darryl Makepeace. Darryl is a chippie who was “led astray” by bad influences who persuaded him to steal from his employer resulting in a jail sentence for receiving. He has been employed by the dodgy Matt Crawford (another disreputable English character with a prison record) who wants to pay him “off the books”. Sidesplittingly, Elona, insists he is placed under PAYE . A storyline using the same basic characters which would have been connected with reality would be Elona having the criminal record and urging Darren to remain “off the books” so no tax was paid and benefits could be safely falsely claimed at the same time.
There are English additions to the cast, but unlike the pc approved characters, they are a white “problem family” of the type beloved of the British political class and the Daily Mail. An extra brood of Horrobins has arrived, living off benefits, coming from broken relationships and, horror of horrors, smoking. One of the Horrobins, Tracy, is relentlessly pursuing Iftikah and another is charged with having set fire to the Brookfield barn in an arson attack to try to frighten David Archer out of giving evidence in a criminal case involving a serious attack on his cousin Adam. The only new white character who is not presented as a blot on the landscape is Rhys the barman who is Welsh .
But the biggest laugh for watchers of political correctness has come from the desire of Jamie Perk’s girlfriend to play cricket more than anything else in the world. This improbable female ambition has resulted in the Ambridge youth team playing a local girl’s school team and losing (natch).
Gay storylines have begun to overwhelm the programme. Ambridge’s civil partnership couple Adam and Ian have reached a crisis in what they unblinkingly refer to as “our marriage” , with the terminally self-regarding Adam threatening to move away from Ambridge after quarrelling with his step-father Brian Aldridge over how the farm is run. After a quarrel Adam leaves the house and has what turns out to be a one-night gay stand with Pawel, one of his Polish seasonal pickers, a one-might stand Adam regrets the next day . As things stand Pawel is hanging around like a bad smell with Adam terrified that he may spill the beans about their one-night stand.
But that is not the end of Ambridge’s politically correct sexual liberation. Harry, a young middleclass Englishman is a graduate who has somehow ended up as a milkman working for Mike Tucker, heads off in a camper van for a few days at the Edinburgh Fringe. With him go Fallon, the daughter of the landlady of the Bull, his Scottish flatmate Jazzer and Kirsty the barmaid from Jaxx’s Bar. Fallon is desperately hoping that she will be able to start a relationship with Harry during the trip.
Going through the Lake District the van breaks down and Harry takes them to the house of an old university friend of his named Karl whom he has not seen for years. During the course of the evening and the following night Harry is outed as having had a homosexual relationship with Karl before they broke because Harry is, guess what, bisexual, while Karl is simply homosexual and resented Harry’s female friends. (I am not making this up, honest!). The four would-be Edinburgh Fringers get into the van and begin driving off before Harry suddenly stops the van and announces that he is staying with Karl. He gives Fallon a note for Mike Tucker saying he will not returning.
The result of all these exciting new storylines is a loss of 400,000 listeners in short order as regular Archers turn off in disgust and dismay. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/9445689/Archers-loses-400000-listeners-amid-controversy-over-sexed-up-storylines.html).
A Machiavellian explanation for this bizarre behaviour would be that the BBC is trying to surreptitiously destroy the programme. In a way I wish I could believe that because it would at least be a rational act. Sadly, I think the producer of the Archers is doping this in the belief that if the Archers becomes a model of the politically correct fantasy world dreamt of by liberals it will become, in the favourite liberal word, relevant and much more successful.
What next? Well, here a few storylines to fit the new Archers’ template which the writers could tuck into:
- Peggy Archer outs herself as a lesbian who is hankering after the Albanian help Elona.
- Jack Woolley is revealed as Nazi war criminal Jakob Wolter, a death camp guard at Belson who escaped to Britain at the end of the war and settled in Birmingham under an alias.
- The wicked agribusiness fiend Brian Aldridge is convicted for the possession of child pornography, loses everything and the Borchester Land mega-dairy plan dissolves into nothing.. Jennifer has to become a charwoman to stave off starvation.
- The beast of Ambridge turns out to be an alien from outer space intent on abducting human specimens for dissection. Caroline and Oliver, the only remaining genuine toffs mysteriously disappear.
- Helen Archer is found to be an android created by the aliens to study the local life. The android was introduced to Ambridge decades ago when it was substituted for the newly born Helen.