It's not just Wisden and Rupert that have changed in recent years, the Archers has been the subject of tinkering and tampering as long as I can remember. Well, nearly as long as I can remember, I can certainly remember where I was the night Grace Archer burnt to death, and that was tampering on a grand scale.
To me the Archers is still meant to be on at a quarter-to-seven, have a contrived cliffhanger ending each night, and the Sunday omnibus edition should be introduced by Tom Forrest. John Tregorran and Carol Grey should still be teasing us with their romance, Lilian should be a horse-mad teenage tomboy, and farming advice should be heavy-handedly scripted in at every opportunity. But that's just nostalgia.
Nevertheless, the Archers does go through good and bad periods, and I find that I have to take a break from time to time. The great Ambridge mail van robbery was a classic example where the scriptwriters were low on ideas and the editor was in hot pursuit of ratings, and I just get weary for a while and find something else to fill those fifteen minutes. The last golden age for the Archers was when Liz Rigbey was the editor, for she knew how to balance the elements that make up the programme and most of all how to allow a story to run, such as Brian's affair with Caroline.
It was a tough time not that long ago; the Emma-Eddie-Will triangle did nothing for me at all. Victoria Wood did a very affectionate parody that ran for a week with the original cast and that was so much better I wished it could have continued. Now of course the Archers has moved firmly into the 21st Century with a daily podcast. I'm surprised but pleased to say I actually enjoy this. The most useful thing is the one line summary it shows each day, it tells you just enough to keep in touch without actually listening, and demands just enough imagination and plot cliché familiarity to fill in the gaps. Great fun, but sooner or later I'll be back at the wireless, I'm sure.
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