If you notice a few bleary eyes this morning, don’t be surprised. A large part of the nation has been celebrating victory – Helen Titchener has been found not guilty in The Archers. Woohoo!
Of course, most of the jubilation happened at 8pm last night. Unfortunately, I decided to become addicted to The Archers a couple of years ago in a bid to beat insomnia. So I listen to it in bed to try and send myself off to sleep.
Bad idea. Having (in my imagination at least) featured only stories about combine harvesters for years (all right, I know Nigel Pargeter fell off the roof, but you take my point) suddenly The Archers got sexed up with a highly controversial, and utterly gripping, coercive control theme. I dutifully plugged myself into the iPlayer every night, planning to count David Archer’s sheep, or go into a snoozy coma when farming folk were discussing milk yields and occasionally disappearing mysteriously to New Zealand, only to find I was riveted by the slow unfurling of Rob’s evil plan to drive Helen, and us, completely mad. Of course I couldn’t stop listening, because the story was too compelling. But it definitely wasn’t an effective aid to a restful night’s sleep.
So last night, finally, we got to peek our noses into the jury room itself. We’d listened to the evidence all week, with the slightly doubtful help of Helen’s barrister, Anna, plugging away at various bits of the case but ignoring quite obvious issues – for example, how could Rob be coaching the cricket team every weekend in the nets (whatever they are) yet also be limping and using a stick (as he was when he appeared in the witness box) and why didn’t Anna take him up on this?
The jury room was a Pandora’s box of horrible characters – including Catherine Tate’s masterly portrayal of a bad mother nursing a secret – but none was more horrible than Nigel Havers. Usually cast as the floppy-haired, entitled rich type, this time he was a not-so-secret misogynist and it was his cack-handed attempts at manipulation (Rob could have taught him so much about subtlety) that finally got Helen off.
I have been called to do jury service twice but not been able to do it – I’m now rather wishing that I’ll be asked again as the argy-bargy over apparently deeply held beliefs was so intriguing. Six thought Helen was guilty at the start, but their certainty melted away and it was ten to one in favour of acquittal by the end.
The final twist was the chilling encounter between Rob and Helen just after the verdict. This made me jump out of my skin (great for my insomnia as you can imagine) and made me wish Helen had a knife on her and could stab him all over again. Brilliant stuff, reminding us that these two are tied together until baby Jack is 18 at least – and probably long after.
There’s pretty much no doubt that I need to find something else to listen to every night. But I’m hopelessly hooked now. My only hope is that Joe’s ferrets get a major storyline soon.
Well done Nigel Havers, well done The Archers, and welcome back home, Helen.