I am a faithful admirer of the Welsh language soap, Pobol y Cwm, shown daily on S4C, but this week’s episodes are reaching a level of bloody melodrama which is trying even my forgiving eye – and stomach. It is hard not to snigger as the wonderfully saturnine Richard Lynch (who plays reforming bad boy, Garry Monk) starts dragging the corpse of his rival, Kevin (Iwan Roberts) into hiding as the police buzz at the door and partner, Sheryl (Lisa Victoria), who has clocked Kev with an iron (because he raped her the day before) has hysterics. The actors must be having a hard time taking all this seriously. And this strand is being woven in with another about Macs (Rhys Bidder), raped by a nasty psycho, and now revealed to have Hepatitis B, possibly infecting half the cwm, with whom he has, for one weird reason or another, had sex.
It has made me think about why all soaps seem to go down this particular drain eventually. East Enders is unwatchable now because of it. It is a degeneration of the storytelling which can make soaps so entertaining into something daft and even a bit pornographic. I don’t mind the dark themes – after all human life is full of suffering and we all lose what we love, often as a result of our own bad behaviour – and in some ways soaps are more truthful about our lives than romantic comedies or thrillers. But there are limits! Or rather, there are ways of developing stories without resorting always to the same old melodramatic tropes. I just dread watching tonight’s episode: supposing Kev starts banging in the boot of the car he’s been dumped in, and comes back to life to wreak terrible revenge? I don’t think I can face it.
I have a suggestion for the PyC production team: bring in a new character, a mysterious Tibetan Buddhist (plenty of them in Wales) who wants to set up a Buddhist centre in the village, and transform all their rage into equanimity by teaching them to meditate. The village divides into those who like the idea and those who are against the thought of non-Welsh-speaking immigrants arrogantly displacing the power of the chapel. One of the local girls falls for the lama and he resists the temptation for only so long, and then….oh hang on I am going down the same old road myself! Conflict, battles, hatred, murder, remorse, misery, loss and suffering. It’s true: equanimity just doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to gripping drama. And of course I will watch, just to see how bad it can get.