Observations: Send Archers tome out to grass

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The Independent Culture

If you know anyone who is an Archers fan, and you walk into a bookshop and see The Archers Miscellany, you may very well be tempted to buy it for them as a Christmas present.

Don't. I can only assume that this volume is modelled on the very popular Schott's miscellanies, but that someone at the BBC misheard the "Schott" bit. It's billed as "The first official trivia collection from Britain's best-loved radio drama", but it is the biggest pile of cow poo I have read since I attempted to get the end of chapter one of The Da Vinci Code.

It's not even entirely accurate: Lilian Bellamy is described as having no interest in sport. Yet Lilian is an expert horsewoman and used to compete.

It seems to me there's a kind of insulting assumption by the BBC that if you are a fan of something, you must by definition be an uncritical idiot. This is never more obvious than in the case of The Archers. As far as I can tell, the Beeb thinks its intelligent Radio 4 audience takes leave of its collective brain cells every time they listen to an episode and have to be jollied along through the moments of high drama and emotional trauma with the occasional lame joke or pantomime plot.

In the case of most Archers fans I know, the opposite is true. We put up with the cringe-making "comedy" moments in order to enjoy the more dramatic ones.

The kind of Archers miscellany I would like to read would contain the sort of trivia you'd want to discuss in the pub. I would love to know how many people have called narrow-minded Susan Carter a racist snob to her face. I would love to know if anyone ever proposed that Shula and Usha (former love rivals and now bitter enemies) take part in a mud- wrestling match at the village fête, or if Brenda Tucker has thought of firing shotgun pellets at her hated stepmother Vicky's mailbox.

I couldn't care less about who played who in last year's production of Jack and the Beanstalk. Or that Bert and Freda used to enjoy a pennyworth of chips in their courting days. Or the names of "some" cricket teams in the South Borsetshire League. Bloody hell, after 59 years on air, don't they even know them ALL?

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