|You’re In The Country Now…|
My blogs on the state of BBC Radio 4’s long-running serial, The Archers, have excited a lot of interest. The programme used to be a few minutes of easy listening for me each weekday evening and for a longer stretch each Sunday, but not any more. That’s why I came up with a few suggestions for what may–or may not be– improvement, depending on your point of view.
You can see what some other readers had to say about my previous blogs here. No less a person than Alison Graham, columnist for The Radio Times, also weighed in with this comment on Twitter which I’m reproducing here in full:
I didn’t have time to craft a reply succinct enough for Twitter. However, if Ms Graham reads this post, my original aim in blogging about The Archers was to stave off any possible plans to scrap it–however unlikely–by acting in advance. I mean, look how popular and useful the BBC Gardening Message Boards were, and they were closed down!
Rather than simply moan about why I don’t listen to the programme any more, I wanted to suggest ways to turn it back into the rural–based drama and entertainment I used to enjoy. Part of this enjoyment stemmed from the unique feel of The Archers. It was different from all the urban-based soaps, on TV. To my mind it’s become a clone of those other programmes and has suffered as a result. Other opinions are available, by the way. This blog is a purely personal rant.
For example, take Jill Archer. A brilliant cook, homemaker, mother and beekeeper, she was always one of my favourite characters. I’m younger than Jill’s daughter Shula, yet while I need the help of a big, strong, ruggedly-handsome chap to help me with the honey harvest each year, 80-something Jill is suddenly throwing herself into a difficult calving. I may be wrong, but I don’t remember her having either the time, strength or inclination to offer much more than tea and sympathy to her farmer husband Phil when she was of an age to give hands-on help
Here’s my idea for a storyline for Jill. It’s relevant to contemporary country living, without alienating urban listeners.
Jill is being helped with the honey harvest by another cast member and one or other of them gets stung. The victim goes into anaphylactic shock. The notorious lack of a good mobile signal in the countryside (rarely if ever mentioned on The Archers) could make this serious situation fatal. If that storyline’s too scary, how about Jill reluctantly deciding the active side of beekeeping is too much for her? She starts working on the theory side instead. Google the dread word “modules” and you’ll find they take a lot of study. That will bring in the lack of further education provision in many rural areas, reduced library services and the truly cr*ppy Broadband speeds most of us out in the sticks have to endure. In the meantime, she can act as a mentor to the next generation of beekeepers, while they do the heavy/awkward work for her. All that would be completely in character for Jill, IMHO. These ideas are too late for this year, but they’d be something to consider for the future.
A word of warning though, Scriptwriters. Whatever storyline you’re working on at the moment, please, please, please don’t ram it down our throats every day for a month then drop it without another mention. The huge snowball of costs incurred by the-wedding-that-never-was is a famous example of this, but there are plenty of others. I’d cite that Mr Tod and Jemima Puddleduck of Ambridge, Rob and Helen, but you’ve come back to that storyline recently. Great–I can’t wait to see how that turns out!
I think weaving any story-strand in and out for weeks and months is better than dropping in huge lumps at one time, like clay onto a wheel.
What’s your opinion?
4 thoughts on “The Archers: This Time It’s Personal…”
I agree TA should reflect rural life more. I've just returned to town for work and the concerns of my colleagues are a million miles away from my country neighbours. Phone signal problems, farm thefts, weather uncertainty, agribusiness – they are all foreign to townies. TA could be a better blend of informing townies. Look at the success of A Yorkshire Shepherdess! There is a market for it.
Thanks for commenting, Connie. You're right–they could make much more use of the contrasts between rural and urban life than they do at the minute. That's why I think picking up some of the themes from Farming Today (like dog theft, commuter villages, Broadband speeds) and exploring them would be a good idea. It would be something totally different from the subjects covered by urban TV soaps, but could be made interesting for everyone, wherever they live.
Country people have sexual intrigues, family problems, personal conflicts just like everyone else I don't object to these storylines so much as the fact that many of characters some of us have been following for years have suddenly had a personality change to suit the current editors ideas of what we want to hear.
My thoughts exactly-I'd say “many have become annoying ciphers of the zeitgeist” if I had any idea what it meant ;). Thanks for commenting, Eric.