Week three of the new style Archers. I feel this was a pivotal make or break on whether they would keep my listenership. Although who am I really kidding? I’m an unemployed mother of three unable to leave the house due to a pandemic, of course I’ll keep listening. Don’t tell the BBC though. I want them to work for my patronage. Before we delve into the content for Monday I’m excited to say that having listened today I actually really enjoyed it. It’s not the Archers of old, this isn’t Brian’s affair quality stuff, but it was palatable, and no David Archer boring on about a lasagna.
Our character choice for Monday was Helen and Tom Archer. I actually really loved this sibling set as a choice together. Even though they’re brother and sister, they couldn’t be more different, and the episode exposed how they have been dealing with the pandemic, with further highlighted their polar opposite personalities.
We start with Helen who is in her dairy. She’s really very stressed. Unlike Ben from last week the voice actor playing Helen knows what she’s doing. She really does sound truthfully distressed. I’m instantly way more interested than I’ve been over the past couple of weeks. She’s concerned that because she can’t have Susan and Clarrie at work she can’t turn all the milk into cheese. It’s just sitting there. Helen mentions the “current…. crisis” It was an interesting pause between words there. Why oh why won’t they just say Corona?! I know this is recorded in advance but there is more than one crisis happening now, with the civil rights movement, so we need y’all to get a little more specific over there please. She’s writing an email to an unknown recipient basically begging for bottles. Even if she can’t get the milk made, she’s hopeful she can pasteurize and bottle the milk for the local community. This content feels really authentic. These are the issues people are actually having during Covid, and I’m here for it. She’s worried about the maul going off, she’s feeling really guilty about laying off Susan and Clarrie, she mentions how Lee is working in the hospital. She sounds tired, it sounds realistic. More Helen please. I honestly never thought I’d say that.
We jump across to Tom. He isn’t tired, but he does have his own problems. Him and Natasha run a food delivery box service called Bridgewater Boxes and he’s in need of another delivery driver. We hear that he’s contacted 20 people and they’ve all turned him down. This isn’t hugely surprising. You’d need more than a worldwide pandemic to get me to agree to work for Mr Tom “for profit” Archer. Whilst I can’t ever get behind Tom’s business methods (I’m still reeling from his sausages going non organic to make a dollar in 2006) I am actually pretty into his box idea. Now’s really the time that services like this shine, when people can’t get down to Tesco easy, and supporting local produce this way seems to be a fantastic idea. I even like his tag line “farmers market on you phone” sign me up for a weekly delivery, do they ship to Oklahoma? Sadly Tom ruins my delivery day dreams by saying how his Mum and Dad are upset he’s making profit off the farmers who provide the produce. Thanks for nothing Tom, can’t even be generous in an emergency. You greedy gumdrops. He rings Eddie Grundy in the hopes he’ll work as a delivery driver. This is week 3, so I had a glimmer of hope someone over at the Beeb had shown the Archers where the editing button was to splice two people’s dialogue together. No such luck. I’ll give them another week before I send them an email saying I’ll do it for them using iMovie. This has to stop. Anyhoo. Eddie say’s he.ll do it. On the condition Bridgewater Boxes starts carrying his cider. This is good news all round, I’m sure Susan is out of duty free by now, and she’ll need a tipple delivered for her sexcapades show on the radio.
Back to Helen who has ramped up her anxiety and stress even more. Susan wants her on her radio show. Helen feels like she can’t do it, then introspectively muses that she’s doing what she always does, beating herself up. This really is the tale of two Archers today. Helen is at breaking point. She’s surviving, Tom on the other hand is thriving. Helen doesn’t want people to feel like she’s using the radio show as a chance to market and exploit people. Another fab juxtaposition with her brother, who isn’t even willing to give his cousin Josh a profit margin on the eggs. Helen says her anxiety stems from the trial. It’s been four years, but Covid has evidently brought back a ton of anxiety for her and she is struggling. I hope we keep up with this storyline. It just feels authentic. Helen would be struggling. She had a major trauma back then, and it’s natural this isolation and worry about work would bring feelings back up.
Tuesday – We start with Tony and his unkempt look during the lockdown. Apparently he resembles a yeti and his grandchildren are calling him Hagrid. Awkward moment for the Archers to start referencing Harry Potter now JK Rowling is on the front of everyones newspapers for being highly controversial…He muses that he’s left Helen to figure it out, and that she’ll ask if she wants his opinion. I don’t know about this to be honest. I feel realistically if you’ve lost a child, and one of your remaining children has been to jail, and is struggling, you’d be all up in their grill, not leaving them alone. But perhaps I’m parenting wrong. If my kids end up in therapy I’ll come back here and update you that I should have been more like Tony. He has got some good Covid news though, his sifters can’t just stop in and see him. I’m super glad the social distancing is working out for you Tony. When that scientist left the laboratory in Wuhan his major goal was to save you from Sunday lunch with Lillian.
We then skip across to Natasha. She can’t get it together. She misses her family, she’s cooped up inside, in her pajamas. Tom isn’t being supportive. He’s busy running around town for his job, and she’s inside behind a computer screen. It really should have taken the pandemic for Natasha to realize that the first priority in Tom Archer’s life is Tom Archer, but here we are. Why didn’t Tom just let Natasha do some of the deliveries? She wants out if the house, he needs a driver. Tom, call me, I’ve got business advice. Tony texts to say he may cut his hair down to a shaved head. Natasha says he looks like Voldemort now, we’re back on Harry Potter. I’m guessing the writers are typing whilst having a Half Blood Prince marathon. Speaking of hair, we briefly hear from Johny. He’s considering shaving his too. At least then he won’t have to get back market hair pills off Freddie.
Back to Tony but we’re still on the hair topic. He sent Pat picture of his attempt to tidy it up. She’s still not happy. Fucking hell Pat. It’s a pandemic. No one’s going to see him. He’s not modeling, leave him alone. She texts Tony back “I mean it Samson, get ready for a trim.” Lordy lord Pat. You sound pretty threatening. Samson kept his strength in his hair. You’ll be regretting this if Tony’s too weak to milk a cow.
Wednesday starts with Helen and Lee seeing each other. They take it one step further than Hancocks 2 meter rule, and stand on opposite sides of a river. Helen waxes lyrical about how marvelous Lee is. I’m sure he’s just super, but frankly anyone would be a step up from Rob. Maybe not Philip Moss actually (where is the Philip storyline?! I’m dying here. I need a Blake update)
Natasha is still struggling. But my dog chose this moment to knock the toddler flat on his face, so I had to abandon Natasha to deal with that. Hopefully she didn’t say anything important. It seems unlikely. She calls Helen, they bond. They’re both struggling, and Nat says Helen is the strongest person she knows. Helen is flattered but feels that her family are the ones who really saved her, and her friends, like Kirsty. Well Helen, looks like you’re going to get the chance to repay that favor soon.
Tom is busy pootling around town, blissfully ignorant to the fact that his sister, and his wife, are in the middle of personal crises. He has bigger things to think about apparently. Namely that Natasha thinks, like his parents, that he shouldn’t be playing the good people of Ambridge wholesale to make a dime off them. He suddenly had a come to Jesus moment and decides he needs to do something nice for Natasha. He tells her he’ll be home by six. Oh the romance. Going home at a normal clocking off time. What. a. gesture.
We’re back to Tony’s haircut. This may be Thursday now, I’ve lost track. Anyhoo. He’s done it, and it is the talking point of the family. Not the pandemic, not the current civil right movement, not JK Rowling being a knob, Tony did the mundane event of shaving his head and they cannot stop going on about it. He says he’s a trend setter at 69, and has inspired Johny to do the same. I guess Johny hasn’t shared his balding fears with his Grandpa… The whole family Skype in to see the hair cut. I think I’ve suddenly realized why the Archer’s can’t edit to have more than one character in a conversation. SKYPE?! Is Ambridge in 2009? Who on earth is on skype these days? Google Zoom, writers. Look up the concept of FaceTime. Maybe use it to get a visual walk through from someone at the BBC on how to splice a convo? Please and thanks. The show further confirms it’s stuck in the dark ages when we hear about how Lee went to all the effort to get the boys presents? EFFORT?! Add Amazon to the list of 21st Century inventions we need Ambridge to discover.
Helen has finally got up the courage to go on Susan’s show. She apologizes to the listeners about how many cheese puns she makes. I am thrilled. Maybe we’ll get 5 minutes of cheese jokes. Sadly no, one weak mention of “going crackers”. I guess the writers were too busy watching Harry Potter to come up with any. Helen shouts out her kids on the radio. Then Susan and Clarrie, then she thanks her family. I may have missed it, someone tell me please, but did she leave Johnie off the family shout out list?! We don’t get iPlayer here in America, so I can’t listen again to confirm. Helen is proud of how she did on the radio, we’re proud of you too Helen! Lee came in on the webcam, but weird to do a radio show about your job, and get your boyfriend to join in, but ok. The best news is that we are expected to believe that Helen, a major dairy farmer, in a very well established farming family, couldn’t get hold of milk bottles. However thanks to going on Radio Borchester, some listener has the bottles she needs…. “Just popping on the radio for Susans show, then after that I’ll give those 30,000 milk bottles in the garage a polish, what’s that?! Someone needs bottles. What a coincidence.”
We end with the new Tony also appeared on Helen’s segment and some how the village sink she shaved his head for charity. He was too embarrassed to say it was just a haircut (like millions of people get daily) so he says he’s raising money for Borchester Genral’s Burns Unit. I presume this means we’re starting next week with the Snells. GIVE ME PHILIP MOSS. They’d better be holding him back because they’ve got something huge and exciting written for him. They promised us an in depth look at characters, all we’re got so far is cake preferences, and too much talk about Ruth’s cooking. Give us the scandal. Give us the intrigue. Give Philip 15-20 years for shady business practices and nearly killing Lynda. Give us the Roy/Kirsty love story we all need.
And so we come to a close. Another Thatcherite 4 day week done a dusted. I’d say on measure this week was considerably better than the last 2. I felt Helen was fab, the voice actor did a sterling job of actually sounding extraordinarily anxious and stressed.
I hope you all have super socially distanced weekends, if you tear down a statue don’t forget to wear a ski mask. See you next week!