Evergreen Radio soap The Drovers - aka the gift that keeps on trying* - has just recorded its 50,000th episode. The landmark taping will be broadcast - just before the Queen [make that King [Ed]] on Christmas Day. [For a full insight into the long-running saga see details HERE].
* mainly the patience of its listeners [Ed]
Amongst the cast assembled for the Christmas Day Special was 124 year old voice actress Deirdre Clappe d’Oute who has voiced the part of Granny Drover since the very first episode originally aired on 16 November 1922 [only two days after the then Dorset Broadcasting Company began transmission]. Supported by a full complement of carers and with a Crash team on standby Ms Clappe d’Oute delivered her lines almost unaided before retiring to a mobile oxygen tent for a well deserved gin and Dubonnet.
Featuring increasingly far-fetched tales of everyday country folk, new writer Chase Wraitings [Blood Bath at the Oakley Corral; Rosemary’s Booby] has, critics say, taken the once dependably boring serial in new and generally unwelcome directions, jettisoning the comfortably familiar for the starkly unsettling and wholly unbelievable. Granny Drover herself - once a guarantee of anodyne homespun wisdom [“always remember dear nothing bad ever happens to nice people, especially from this village” was a recurrent and often ridiculed stock-in-trade] - has been the source of some discomfort under the new regime, and is now likely to be heard uttering unacceptably “old fashioned” views which border on the tendentious [for example “Just because you are an uneducated foreigner doesn’t mean you can go around getting underaged village girls pregnant whenever you feel inclined” and “You young people have no moral fibre - my husband never once saw me naked nor did he ever express the least desire to do so”].
The Controller of Dorset Radio 4 has denied that the programme has been during down over the last few years, citing in his defence an episode in 1958 which tackled the then difficult issue of "women going to work rather than having babies". "We remain fiercely proud of that edition to this day", he said. "It set a benchmark we have never succeeded in equalling - but that is not to say we haven't tried or that we may not pull it off in future". Dorset Soap Magazine's radio critic Ayre Waayz says "Apart from Ruth Drover's bull, far and away the most likely thing to be pulled off is the programme itself".
In the Christmas Day episode, semi-comic [ie not sufficiently amusing [Ed]] characters Dan and Walter Burstock - the lovable village rogues - find themselves pondering an unusual police response to an outbreak of juvenile crime in the village, whilst Bincombe’s once uncompromising vicar Duntish Marshwood delivers a telling sermon on the subject of the 10 Commandments [“Be not righteous over-much for His Commandments are not grievous” Book of Daniel Craig Chapter 5, Verse 007]].
The Christmas Day episode which has frequently featured a festive cliff-hanger is expected to attract The Drovers’ largest audience of the year - with possibly as many as 30 people listening live and up to 8 on catch-up.
A preview of the gripping Christmas Day Episode can be heard by clicking on the image below: