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Feedback: The Archers

Friday 6 July 2012, 18:00

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Roger Bolton

"Women wept in the streets, house blinds were drawn as a mark of respect, and families picked wild flowers, or sent money to the BBC for wreaths, when Grace Archer died".

That was the late Norman Painting, aka Phil Archer, describing the extraordinary hold which the Ambridge soap had already established on its listeners a mere 5 years after it began in 1950, as a midlands regional programme.

Grace had been married to Phil for only 5 months when she was burned to death trying to rescue a horse from a barn.

It was, of course, pure coincidence that ITV came on the air for the first time the same evening.

Since then, children have been born illegitimate, been kidnapped, and come out as gay. There have been car and plane crashes, and Nigel Pargetter has fallen to his death from the roof of Lower Loxley, with one of the longest blood curdling cries ever heard on radio.

Credibility has been a little strained, but not damagingly so. Until now?

There are some Feedback listeners who think the Archers is in danger of becoming a dark and dangerous place threatened by sensational story lines.

They look back to what they believe were gentler times.

In the beginning, Norman Painting wrote, Ambridge was a place where "the sun shone brighter", and "the grass was greener".

Sixty years later is that what we want? Or has our world become darker?

Judged by our considerable mailbag on the subject, what Archers listeners most want is for the stories to be credible and for the inhabitants of Ambridge to act in character.

They query two of the main contemporary storylines.

Would sensible Amy really have fallen for such an obvious rotter and gone to pieces?

And would David Archer, threatened by thugs who want to stop him testifying in court, deserted by his wife in his hour of need, really be so alone?

Would Borsetshire"s finest not be able to offer some help?

Would Jill, that highly moral and principled wife of a former JP, really advise David not to testify?

In the last Feedback of the present series we put listeners" concerns to the acting Editor of the Archers, John Yorke, and to long time Archers producer and scriptwriter Keri Davies.

Here is an edited version of our conversation

By the way Archers editor Vanessa Whitburn is now back in harness. I wonder what she has been dreaming up in her absence?

We will be absent until the last week of August. I do hope absence makes your heart grow fonder.

Roger Bolton

Roger Bolton presents Feedback

  • Listen again to this week's Feedback, get in touch with the programme, find out how to join the listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
  • Read all of Roger's Feedback blog posts.

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    Comment number 1.

    Our police service may no longer be the envy of the world, but even in rural Ambridge I can't believe that they would apparently take no action when children's lives have been threatened. David seems to call them a lot, but with little or no result. And what sort of criminals are these who are threatening to kill to stop David testifying - what sort of prison sentence are they expecting for stealing - life? None of it is credible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I have found the intimidation storyline has completely unbalanced the programme and as a result i have just stopped listening. You just can't get involved in the trivial story lines and everyday stuff (which make the Archers what it is) when something so unrealistic, evil and dark is going on. What was my favourite Radio 4 programme has now been switched off. Whats next children being murdered???

    I felt the same way about the swapped baby storyline on East Enders which was a step too far and I have simply never returned to this.

    You have in my view, lost the plot on the Archers and at least one fan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I have been unable in the last few weeks to read the archers story on the evening after its been played (friday the 13th) for instances is just the cast credits tonight is just the plot line (15th). This is not the first time either and Im not looking till after 8 pm so plenty of time to get it on line.
    I don't always have time to catch up with it on the email services and as this is not the first time im getting a little annoyed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Is there a Mafia presence in Borchester? Yes, it's a too ludicrous storyline. One similar involving Travellers would have some credibility .... but that's not going to happen.

    As for darkness - yes, there probably would have been a murder or two, rape too, in the course of the years of The Archers - some real dramas ..... they do happen ..... but not in Ambridge. Nobody even swears there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    What ever happened to everyday life of country folk? From being an Archers addict for c40yrs I no longer bother to listen. (except by accident) It's just too daft for words. Who is your target audience these days? Bring back Nigel(it was just a nightmare) and lets have something amusing instead

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I stopped listening for a couple of months after nigel was killed off, I have been listening to the archers for over 40 years .. And I havent listened since the persicution of David and his family started ... I can only speak for myself but it seems that a lot of listeners share my views... that these story lines are not pleasant , the reason I kept listening to the archers for all these years is because of the generaly relaxed and easy going story lines ...I do not watch any of the TV soaps ... and now it seems nor do I listen to the Archers anymore ! The BBC needs sorting out ..LEAVE THE ARCHERS ALONE !


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Find out about this year's panel and theme