Long runners: No 21: The Archers

Age: 43. After a trial week in the Midlands, it was first broadcast to the nation on 1 January 1951.

Frequency: Every weekday evening, with a repeat the following afternoon and an hour-long omnibus edition on Sunday mornings.

Audience: 3.75 million a week.

Formula: Started as an agricultural version of the popular detective serial Dick Barton. The subtitle, 'An everyday story of country folk', has been quietly dropped, as has the heavy top- dressing of farming propaganda. These days, it's 15 minutes of domestic drama.

Rivals: Few. Mrs Dale's Diary once posed some threat, but since then The Archers has seen off both Waggoners' Walk and Citizens to become the world's longest-running drama series.

Creator: Godfrey Baseley, still a regular listener. He will be 90 in October.

Where is Ambridge, then? Baseley imagined it to be the Warwickshire town of Alcester, where he grew up. The Eddie Grundy Fan Club meets in The Bull at Inkberrow, which is often used for photographs, but real addicts pinpoint it more accurately: just off the B3980, six miles south of Borchester, 17 miles west of Felpersham, in the county of Borsetshire.

Theme tune: Baseley took several bits of music home and played them all weekend. By Sunday night, the only one he could still bear was 'Barwick Green' by Arthur Wood. The jaunty tune signifies supper-time, children's bathtime, sherry-time all over the land. After particularly grave episodes, the stronger middle section is played. When things are really dire, shows have been known to end in silence.

What dire things? The most recent was the death in a car accident of the solicitor Mark Hebden.

Any other sudden deaths? Yes, Polly Perks also died in a car crash. Most famously, Grace, Phil Archer's first wife, died in a fire at the stables. This occurred in 1955, on the first night commercial television was broadcast. Twenty million listened. The timing was no accident.

Who listens to it? Among others, Cliff Richard, Barry Norman, Phil Cool and the wives currently residing at Nos 10 and 11 Downing St. It is said that the Queen once confessed to being hooked. As is her mother.

Any other royal connections? For the 10,000th edition, Princess Margaret and the Duke of Westminster performed on the show, on behalf of the NSPCC.

Have other 'real' people appeared? Terry Wogan featured briefly, as did John Peel and Anneka Rice. Britt Ekland made Eddie Grundy's day when he visited her panto dressing- room, and the otherwise mute Prue Forrest was given a celebrity voice, just once, by an ultra-rural Judi Dench.

Offspring: Former Archers editor Liz Rigby set up a Russian 15-minute daily soap called House 7, Entrance 4 for the World Service: it is already attracting even larger audiences than its parent.

Does pre-recording mean it's hopelessly out of synch with real life? Not always, though there's a tendency to get the weather wrong and complain about too much rain when a national drought has been declared. A special episode was hastily added when troops were mobilised in the Gulf War.

Anything that makes you want to kick the set in? Episodes devoted to the tiresome, imprisoned Ambridge One, Susan Carter; alarming hints that the glorious lush Julia Pargetter might be drying out.

The bottom line: is it any good? Yes, it's wonderful. A particularly good writing team is currently coinciding with some splendid actors. To discuss an episode with fellow addicts is to enjoy the satisfaction of a good gossip, without the misgivings attendant on real calumny or detraction.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before