Archers scriptwriter Mary Cutler offers a postscript to her previous blog post.

For many years the Archers Omnibus was only sixty minutes, which mean that every nightly episode had to contain one scene which could be cut for the Omnibus. The challenge for the writer was to write a scene that was good enough to broadcast at night, but wouldn't be missed if it wasn't in the Omnibus.

Basically this meant it couldn't have any plot not repeated elsewhere. We used to go for humour and charm and character in those scenes which made us rather sad when they were cut. There was also the technical problem that cutting one scene meant two scenes were next to each other that hadn't been before, so you had to be careful they didn't have the same people in them, in case they seemed to have got from one end of the village to the other at the speed of light.

You had to be extra careful about this - and this is still true - when thinking about Monday's last scene being next to Tuesdays first scene in the Omnibus (or second scene, if it happened that your first scene was the 'omnicut'). It was a relief when we got both a Sunday episode and an Omnibus long enough to fit them all in.

I needed to do it again when we had the extra quarter of an hour for the Anniversary episode. But, as I have indicated, I think the omnicut scenes contain some good stuff. So if you want to listen to an uncut Omnibus of this week, the full 90 minute version will here on The Archers website.

Mary Cutler is the longest serving Archers scriptwriter. She wrote the 60th anniversary episode, and the subsequent week's episodes.

  • The full 90 minute Omnibus will be available via The Archers homepage from 11.15am on Sunday 9 January

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  • Comment number 11. Posted by Boneman

    on 11 Jan 2011 22:30

    Mary

    Nice post. As I recall I think these vignettes where generally spotable by the listeners. I suppose the fun of them was that they are inconseqential - no follow through or significance. We all enjoy the trivia of TA so these scenes that could easily be lost in some ways represent why many of us enjoy the tale of everyday folk where not every broadcast moment has import.

    You imply that since such "padding" is no longer needed then it allows non-stop connected narrative which is a loss. There's no doubt that getting a longer Omni is better for us as listeners and the production team. We might both have lost an opportunity for some meaningless meanders in Ambridge though.

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by eighty-eight

    on 10 Jan 2011 21:31

    The full 90 minute Omnibus will be available via The Archers homepage from 11.15am on Sunday 9 January

    Can you please tell me where I can get this. All I can find is the 75 minute version.

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  • Comment number 9. Posted by archersfannomore

    on 10 Jan 2011 17:53

    Many years ago someone at the BBC decided to change the time that the Archers was broadcast there was such a fuss created by the listeners that the ill advised executive was forced to back down and return our lives to normal.
    Sadly it is now too late to bring lovely, funny, silly Nigel back to life. How out of touch the writers are! A little bit of escapist joy has disappeared from my life(and I am sure from that of many others).A lovely Sunday morning lie in with the omnibus, preparing the evening meal at 7.00 listening to the comings and goings.There is enough unhappiness in the world. I dont want to share the misery of a young widow with a massive business to run and two young children to console and another funeral! Cant bear them in real life.
    What have you done you arrogant lot!
    I cant believe that you have done this to your loyal fans of which sadly I am one no longer, BIG BIG MISTAKE BBC just for the sake of an anniversary.

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  • Comment number 8. Posted by neuebiene

    on 9 Jan 2011 14:28

    Thanks for another insightful behind-the-scenes blog, Mary. Not being an omnibus listener, I had no idea that this divergence existed.

    I hope you and your colleagues will continue to provide us with such tidbits. Hopefully you will gradually start seeing more on-topic comments!

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by forgetmeknot

    on 9 Jan 2011 10:04


    Distant Traveller (5) I think you make a very good point.

    Vanessa Whitburn's silence over this suggests that the listeners have become something of a nuisance and are interfering with the smooth running of the production. (This is the Basil Fawlty approach - he always said the hotel would run so much better without guests.)

    I wonder if she treats her writers with the same disregard as her listeners? In which case perhaps they are simply ignored as much as we are if they do not like one of her ideas. This kind of autocracy is very unhealthy. We were just recovering from the 2010 killing spree and as we entered the new year we did not want or need any more misery Someone should have driven that point home to her.

    This was indeed a truly awful storyline, and one which has brought into focus so many other weaknesses in the production. I believe it is the arrogance of it all which is driving listeners away because we no longer trust the friends you create for us in your hands when you dispense with them so thoughtlessly and their very fragility and dependence upon one woman's whim turns them into 2 dimensional puppets.

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by johnrh

    on 9 Jan 2011 09:46

    I am one of the ex listeners who after nearly 50 years has now not tuned into TA for a week. Do I miss it? Yes and no. I miss what I hoped the Archers was, I do not miss what the Archers has become. The 60th anniversary episode was full of inconsistencies as regolofic above says and was written, sorry thrown together, purely for effect.
    Then Vanessa Whitburn goes onto the radio 4 Today programme and lets the cat out of the bag.......totally unprofessional. Yet nothing is said, do we hear from her, no we don't. The whole sorry matter is being swept under the carpet in the obvious belief that in the end we'll all drift back to the Archers and the script writers can take a few more East Enders scripts and adapt them for us. Well you can do what you want because until I hear the news that Vanessa Whitburn has gone I shall not even consider tuning in again.
    I have officially complained to the Beeb and I urge others to do this. No doubt I will get some PC reply in due course probably nothing more. And the Archers will continue in its present direction, being steered by script writers who the more we complain the more they believe they know whats right for us. I cannot stand this "we know what you want better than you do" attitude which was demonstrated to us on the 60th anniversary. This is the only way I can make my feelings known.
    Ms Whitburn, please note an EX LISTENER!!!

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by DistantTraveller

    on 9 Jan 2011 02:51

    Mary, I've just watched a documentary "The Archers - behind the scenes" by CountrychannelTV.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbHWq8Jdhr4

    Vanessa Whitburn explains that she runs monthly script meetings with the writers and production team - about 15 or 16 people.

    She says "although we get storylines from everybody and all kinds of influences, in the end I structure the storylines, decide what should happen and what shouldn't".

    This is very telling.

    According to the interview, what appears to happen is a small group of people discuss the issues, but in the end Vanessa Whitburn has the final say. She alone decides. People presumably then go away and start writing but don't actually meet up again as a group for another month.

    But what happens if decision made by Vanessa actually turns out to be not such a good idea after all? Does anyone on the team go and tell her? Do you draw straws as to who should let her know it's not working out? Or is it a case of the Emperor's New Clothes? No one wants to say anything....

    Obviously, we the listeners are not privy to what really happens, but it seems very clear that this latest storyline is awful. It should never have gone ahead. But perhaps in a small group, you end up talking yourselves into an idea, convincing yourselves that it will good to give the listeners a nasty surprise, and then subject them to months (or years) of ensuing misery.

    This isn't want listeners want.

    Rather than simply discussing these things in a small group, perhaps it would be sensible to get some external input - a fresh perspective, representative of the actual audience.

    I'm not suggesting writing a script by committee - but at least the team could try to get some feedback as to the general tone and direction that people want.

    At the moment it all seems to be rather insular - cut off from the listeners. There is much too much misery. It's been done to death and feels very stale.

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by regolofic

    on 8 Jan 2011 23:03

    Could you edit out the whole of the Helen incident - particularly the part where a woman who knows absolutely everything about pregnancy knew nothing about pre-eclampsia (oh come on!) Could you edit out the ridiculous scene in the car with Tony. And could you edit out the bit where David and Nigel talk about bringing in the banner, And could you edit out the part where Helen suddenly turns into a completely different character. Oh and could you edit out the whole of the David and Nigel part on the roof, particularly the fall.

    That might make it quite a good episode.

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by Rebecca_Gibraltar

    on 8 Jan 2011 22:50

    Can we the listeners edit out those 15 minutes please? We can cut out all the bits that say dead, death or funeral and instead have Nigel lying in a hospital intensive care unit; people would still be very upset about that so the anxiety would be relevant.

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  • Comment number 2. Posted by nickwilcock

    on 8 Jan 2011 22:37

    Sorry, Cutler, but all you're doing is simply re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
    In 1994, Whitburn was quoted as having said:
    "The fact that you can disturb people so much raises ethical dilemmas for everyone involved."
    "With strong drama your aim is to encourage empathy and not to blight people's lives."
    So why has this been forgotten? You and your series editor have now destroyed a much-cherished programme for many people and you should both hang your heads in shame. No amount of editorial pruning can recover the programme to its previous status; it should now be suspended and the editorial team moved away to somewhere where they can no longer ruin the listening pleasure of your previously loyal audience whilst someone with more empathy attempts to salvage the wreckage...
    Why the deafening silence from Whitburn? Has she no conscience?
    The disgraceful 60th anniversary programme was truly a Ratner moment for the BBC's drama department.

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