Magazine article The Spectator

Radio Exit Paul: Phew

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio Exit Paul: Phew

Article excerpt

He's gone. Not that anyone apart from Lilian will miss him. But Paul's been despatched (at long last) to the Land of Discarded Soap Actors, despised, rejected and scorned by most of those who knew him in Borsetshire - and also, I hope, by any selfrespecting Archers Addict.

I felt nothing, absolutely nothing, at the news of his heart attack in a hotel room in Cardiff, except perhaps relief that we will never again have to listen to his wheedling, self-satisfied tones. How could smart, zappy Lilian ever have fallen for his oleaginous charms? It was clear from his very first words that he was as badly behaved as his half-brother Matt Crawford, but without Matt's speck of decency that keeps him true to Lilian. Matt's a baddie, but at least he has heart enough to love Lilian (although we still don't know quite what role he had to play in Paul's death; perhaps we'll have to revise our opinion of him as well in the nottoo-distant).

Paul has (or rather had) no redeeming features. He was just rotten all the way through, and we knew it. But, mysteriously, Lilian never saw through him, allowing the ghastly Paul to turn her into a weak and winsome female (no longer a woman), ever willing to drop everything to rush over to their squalid flat in Felpersham and fall into his arms for another bout of squishy sex.

No longer Tiger; not even Pussy-cat. A pale shadow of her former self. And for what?

Champagne and kisses?

But of course we're in Soapland here, where characters switch character at the whim of a desperate scriptwriting committee. They needed an affair to spice up Ambridge life. The actress who plays Lilian (Sunny Ormonde) was available for extra duties. Why not give her a lover? And better still. Why not add a fratricidal element?

Hey presto. Matt's half-brother, Paul (or rather Michael Fenton Stevens), whom we first met years ago when Matt was in prison, wakes up to find that his contract has been renewed, indefinitely.

Of course, it is all just make-believe. Why be bothered that the characters are like a series of cardboard cut-outs, dressed up in new emotional outfits from week to week?

What does it matter if there's too much roadkill per episode to bear any relation to real life? But Lilian's affair (how can we ever trust her again? ) was plotted during the reign over The Archers of the EastEnders producer, John Yorke, when the everyday story of country folk was turned into 'something much darker' (Yorke's own words). …

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