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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

If they must have teenagers in Ambridge...

First it's the policemen who get younger, then it's the casts of soap operas. On the occasions I accidentally watch Coronation Street these days it looks like an episode of "Footballers' Wives" set in a terraced house, so short are the skirts and sticky is the gel. Meanwhile, over on the radio, The Archers has gone youth-crazy and Ambridge is now the only rural community in Britain's pastoral wasteland where there seems to be a net inflow of young people, all busily occupied making their own cheese, launching marketing campaigns for the local milkman and looking for jobs. I keep waiting for one of them to say 'sod this, I'm going to the big city to get a telesales job and blag my way into a reality series'.

The most problematical of this gaggle of texters and bottled beer drinkers is Pip Archer, the teenage daughter of David and Ruth, the current occupants of the series's central farm. Because Archers writers are stranded between their desire to equip her with the plausible characteristics of an adolescent and their equal need to say the right things about wimmin and youngpeopletoday, they have made her bright enough to go to Oxford but timid enough to want to stay at home and run the family farm into the ground by pursuing the sort of loony tree-hugging policies that would make even Al Gore take her for a walk and give her a stern talking-to. They have given her a boyfriend but made him the sort of unbearable prude who elbowed her because she shows too much leg. I'm sure we've all met loads of 17-year-old boys like that.

If the Archers really want to depict a plausible teenager they should add her to the category some cartoonist used to call "Unseen Of Ambridge". She should be, like Pru Forest and Mr Pullen, a character who is referred to but rarely seen. That, in my experience, is the true defining characteristic of a teenager.