The BBC has announced that an unpredictable outbreak of murder, suicide, accidental death, lethal machinery malfunction, alien abduction and Ebola will hit Ambridge, leading to a veritable genocide of characters from The Archers. This, the corporation added, is the result of an initiative to keep listeners tuning in to the familiar speech service, rather than turning to commercially-backed podcasts. At least one Ambridge resident a week will be dying in order to protect listening figures and safeguard jobs at BBC Birmingham.
‘I used exactly the same technique in 1955 when commercial TV was launched,’ recalled Radio 4 controller Geraldine Smythe. ‘Grace Archer was struck by lightning in the Monday episode, then on Tuesday the ambulance that carried her to Felpersham General Hospital was hit by a speeding police car and written off. On the Wednesday the casualty ward was engulfed in flames.’
Grace managed to survive all of this, only to choke to death on a meringue sent in by a grateful listener on the Thursday. The Friday funeral attracted 21 billion listeners and Parliament had to be suspended. As a result the launch of ITV that same week was a damp squib.
It is understood that 60 years later the BBC will use the same technique, but the killing will affect more characters over a greater period of time, with Carrie Grundy actually being killed by a podcast. The plot revolves round the much loved farm labourer’s wife tuning in to a ‘rogue’ podcast herself, only to find her headphones emitting a high frequency death ray that causes an agonisingly slow death over three episodes.
‘We aren’t saying this will happen to anyone who listens to a non-BBC podcast,’ said agricultural story editor Mike Smithers. ‘But we would point out that only BBC podcasts have been thoroughly safety checked. So ask yourself before you log on, do you really need to see highlights of Premiership Rugby from three weeks ago? Oh, and Lady
Edith is getting married. So now you don’t need to bother with Downton any more. Do you?’