It is with deep regret that I note the passing of a great British institution - the world record enduring radio series "The Archers". Although it could be creaky and melodramatic at times it had the unique quality of continuity of character and event. One could get to know characters to such an extent that if one was forced to take a break from listening one could easily reacquaint oneself with the characters as if with old friends. The events in the series just about reflected the rate of change and drama in any rural setting and because of one's long term investment in the programme one could understand how the consequences of such events played out over months or even years.
The series has been replaced with an absurdist comedy parody of the previous programme which, oddly, retains the same title. The comedy comes from the way in which characters are wildly transformed episode by episode. The comic effect is heightened by continually changing the actors playing these characters such that it is impossible to work out who is saying what to whom at any point. Hilarious enough and worthy of early Stoppard but it is the risible piling of event upon event in every episode that makes listening an experience akin to a laudenum induced nightmare that even De Quincy would have shuddered at and Coleridge would have felt too nonsensical to record in a ballad. In the early days of American soap opera writers were instructed that there should be at least one act of violence in every episode. If we change "violence" to "madness" The New Archers easily outdoes this.
It has been clear for some time that the BBC wished to rid its schedules of this particular drama in its desire to transform Radio 4 into a rolling "News" channel. The popularity of The Original Archers meant that it was difficult to shift and so they sent in the hit squad to finish it off by transforming it into a nonsensical laughing stock. I cannot see the New Archers lasting 64 weeks let alone the 64 years of the original however, I believe we can assist the BBC in marketing this novel confection by suggesting a new name for it. Any Ideas?