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Sunday, March 09, 2008

In praise of "The Archers"

I hold the view that a balanced life has only got room for one soap opera and that should be something you can attend to while doing something else. Hence, I have followed The Archers for longer than I care to remember. This last week or so it's been attempting to drum up interest in a conventional soap cliffhanger (will local nob Brian Aldridge disinherit his kids in favour of his "love child"?) by running trailers all over the network and generally trying to act like "EastEnders".

So far so predictable. But then, right in the middle of this, they dropped one of those plot twists that The Archers does better than anyone - a genuine everyday tragedy. The baby expected by young couple Roy and Hayley suddenly arrived three months early, was successfully delivered but then whisked into neo-natal care and wired up to monitors. We stood there in the kitchen and listened to the last five minutes, hardly daring to breathe.

They've done this before with established characters when the actors wanted out. John Archer was killed in a tractor accident. Betty Tucker had a heart attack. In both cases it was out of a clear blue sky, which is how these things happen in life, and it happened to somebody that you'd had a long-term relationship with. I know this sounds stupid but Clarrie and Eddie Grundy got married around the time that we did and their kids are around the ages of two of ours.

So for the next few weeks we shall be pressed up against the window of the neo-natal unit with Roy and Hayley. And, this being The Archers, there's no guarantee that it's going to have a happy outcome.