You may have read the comment shown below, posted by Sharon Clayton:
Love the Archers. But Rob and Helen story line is putting me off listening anymore. I just dip in and out. When will the writers realise! I’ve listened for 20 years. Can’t bear it anymore.
When long-standing Archers fans are driven to these desperate lengths, surely something needs to be done? From a self-interest perspective, if people stop listening to the Archers, then they won’t want to read this blog and we cannot have that. From the BBC’s point of view, they must want to retain as many listeners as possible.
Perhaps one solution is to have some sort of alert, or code, played at the beginning of each episode, or rather, those episodes where Rob is being his usual, nasty, manipulative self. That way, listeners like Sharon, who have reached the end of their tethers, can switch off before any significant harm is done and their blood will remain unboiled and their blood pressure will not go through the roof.
But what form should this warning take? One suggestion is to adopt the theme music of ‘Mastermind’ for Rob-contaminated episodes. Even the title (‘Approaching Menace’) seems appropriate. But if we adopt this, we may confuse those listeners not in on the secret, so perhaps we should retain the much-loved Barwick Green and slip the alert in between the end of the music and the beginning of the dialogue.
So what should the alert be? Obviously it needs to be instantly recognisable so that vulnerable listeners can dive for the off switch. One candidate is the Star Trek Red Alert Klaxon - this was successfully used by Neil several years ago as the ring tone when his mother-in-law phoned, and put the household on instant alert. For those of you interested, Neil’s tone for me was Bugs Bunny, saying “Ah, what a maroon!”
This idea could be expanded - Rob is not the only character to annoy and exasperate Archers listeners - and we could have separate alerts for different characters. Rooooth would obviously be a mega sigh, possibly followed by “Oh Daaaavid”. For Lynda, I would advocate the sound of someone’s face being slapped; it’s got nothing to do with her character, it’s just something I’d like to do. Helen could be the recording made after Nick Clegg’s “I’m sorry” speech, in which he constantly apologises.
For Brian, I’d pick Leslie Phillips saying “Well hello” or “Ding Dong!” and Eddie could use his own phone ringtone of the Wurzels’s “I am a cider drinker”. Carly Simon’s “You’re so vain” would be perfect for Toby Fairbrother and no doubt you can think of many other examples for your own, unfavourite, annoying character. By adopting this policy, the BBC would reduce the number of listeners like Sharon who are giving up in despair and fewer people would throw their radios across the room in rage and frustration, so how about it?
The following has nothing to do with this article’s subject, but, while typing it, I was struck by the thought that we never hear a reference to a postman in Ambridge; we never hear letters dropping on to a door mat, not even when it’s somebody’s birthday. Even more strange, there never seems to be a postman visiting the post office in the village shop - surely somebody must collect the post sometime? If Ambridge wanted to reflect real life more accurately, every now and then we should hear the sound of a letterbox being opened, envelopes hitting the mat and a frustrated cry of “Not more bloody junk mail!”