Paradise Lost



I have a confession to make – I am a fan of the Archers. Either because I work or because of the time that the show is broadcast I am restricted to listening to it as a repeat in the Sunday morning omnibus format. Perhaps the repeat format is appropriate given the latest moment of controversy to hit the 63-year-old radio soap – Jazzer McCreary letting rip on air with the immortal words, “Better oot than in”.

Naturally, Jazzer is one of the oiks and a relative newcomer to the cast list. The pig-man has already courted controversy in that he is portrayed as a stereotypical Scotsman – he smells, he drinks, he belches and lets down all the women he ever gets near. He eats porridge. So, I suppose, farting on air is a natural extension of his character’s persona. Deep down, though, is to be found a heart of gold.

For many of us, the delight of the Archers is the mundanity of the circadian rhythm of rural life – nothing much ever happened save a bit of tittle-tattle and a bit of petty squabbling amongst the characters. The Archers was the personification of John Major’s idyllic picture of British life – sunny summer evenings, warm beer and the gentle thud of leather on willow. Not very exciting in itself but a welcome oasis of calm from the frenetic pace of modern life.

Since it has become the refuge for erstwhile producers and scriptwriters from telly’s soaplands, the Archers has become increasingly racier in its plot lines. We now are confronted with stories about cancer, infidelity, hit men who may or may not have caused the death of a philandering half-brother and so on. This may be real life in the raw, even in rural Borsetshire, but it is not what we tune the cat’s whiskers in to hear. If this downward spiral is an attempt to improve ratings, the producers do so at the risk of alienating their loyal listeners. We want escapism, a glimpse of Britain as it was or how we fondly imagine it. We don’t want to be confronted with yet more reality.

Jazzer’s fart may become the nadir of the show’s fortunes. It is difficult to imagine how the producers are going to trump it.


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