Culture

Charlotte Higgins on The Archers: has the radio classic become the new Breaking Bad?

Things have been awfully rum in The Horrobins, I mean in The Archers, this month. Were the long-running radio series not self-evidently documentary one would be tempted, patently absurd though this might seem, to suggest that the scriptwriters had gone a little awry. I mean: the ongoing saga of young Ruairi – now outed as a sex worker by his best friend, Ben – would stretch anyone’s credulity tissue-thin. I suppose one simply has to accept that fact is stranger than fiction: here is a 19-year-old offering sex for money to a highly successful businesswoman named Julianne, at whom absolutely no eyebrows are raised as she drags him round endless corporate cocktail parties and business trips to five-star hotels. I guess the point is that he has mummy issues, what with his actual mother Siobhan having died when he was little, and then having been so grievously pushed away by his half-sister, Alice, when she was in the throes of one of her alcoholic rages.

The Julianne/Ruairi nexus is almost as baffling as the complete failure of any of the villagers – despite having had an entire presentation offered to them by Adil on the future of Grey Gables – to make inquiries as to the identity of the mysterious new owner of the hotel. Longtime listeners, rather more curious than Ambridgeans themselves, suspect the hand of Hazel Woolley. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were right.

I have high hopes of Joy’s new admirer, Mick, whom she picked up when she was helping Pat sell fruit juice at a festival; he is a man whose hearty sense of humour would grate on all but the most determinedly good-natured, or lonely. I reckon he’s going to make her think he’s fallen in love with her then scam her out of her life savings. Which at least would be interesting.

Talking of scams, George Grundy and Brad Horrobin dreamed up a scheme of producing, or should I say “cooking”, their own vape flavours in the cider shed. Brad was definitely going down the Walter White route – heavy chemistry talk, moaning about sterilised surfaces, his hitherto unimpeachable character on the brink of catastrophic collapse etc – until George sampled too much of the product and made himself ill. I would have thought they could have brought in Rex Fairbrother. He’s been ominously quiet recently, ever since he set up home in a boat on the River Am. But if you think about it, “innocent” Rex and his boat could have been key to a distribution network. You could supply all the way to Felpersham along the Am.

The sainted Shula says she’s relocating to Sunderland to help recovering addicts. At this rate, I’m going with.

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