Yorke is currently acting editor of The Archers while regular editor Vanessa Whitburn is on long-service leave. Over the weekend reports claimed that Yorke was planning to turn the soap “darker and bigger” with many publications making comparisons with BBC One soap EastEnders which Yorke was executive producer of between 2000 and 2002. However, Yorke has now stated there are now plans to turn The Archers into a radio version of EastEnders and the “bigger and darker” comments were reference to one storyline only.
“It’s a great story – but it isn’t true. The source was a fairly innocuous interview with Radio Times about what’s coming up on the show. A few months ago, Radio 4 had very kindly asked me if I’d consider looking after the programme for four months while its long standing editor Vanessa Whitburn was away. I agreed straight away – on one condition – that it stayed exactly as it was and that I didn’t have to change anything.” – John Yorke in a BBC blog post.
The BBC drama boss, who also oversee’s Casualty, Holby City, Doctors and EastEnders, went on in the blog to explain where the comments about darker storylines originated from. “The comment that was picked up was very clearly a specific reference to one storyline – the intimidation of Ruth and David. Ironically, this story was planned long before I joined the show. It is dark but in the very best traditions of a programme not scared to kill its leading lady in a barn fire, and it fits snugly I hope alongside everything Ambridge does best.
Yorke concluded by reassuring listeners of The Archers that the soap wasn’t about to radically alter. “Joe’s ferrets, Lynda’s hay-fever and cliffhangers built on whether Clarrie will finish her jubilee cake in time; all will remain and I hope live for as long as The Archers draws breath.”
The original reports of a revamp of The Archers prompted a bit of a backlash from some quarters with some commentators leaping to defend the “cosy” nature of the soap. The Archers is the longest-running soap still on-air in the world having originally launched in 1950 – a full ten years before ITV‘s Coronation Street.
However, it is by no means the longest soap ever as American daytime soap Guiding Light clocked up an incredible 72 years before ending in 2009. The Guiding Light, as it was originally known, started life on NBC Radio in 1937 before moving to CBS Radio in 1947 and then transferring to television in 1952 but remained on radio as well until 1956.