Revealed: BBC is koshering The Archers

The Beeb has a new Jewish chair. Change is afoot

January 15, 2021 13:09

It’s hard to know these days when I get a leaked memo from the BBC whether it’s from the new D-G or just another discard from from the auto-satire series W1A. Since this particular email chain is headed “private and confidential” and continues “Hello everyone, Tim here,” I’m inclined to think it’s genuine. Anyway, it’s too good not to share.

“Hello everyone, Tim here. You may have seen on social media that we have a new chairman and that’s a good thing because he used to be Rishi’s boss and can help us with the licence fee. He is also a member of a religious minority, one that is hideously under-represented on some of our longest-running radio series such as Gardener’s Question Time, The Archers and the Shipping Forecast.
“The last one is a joke, in case you didn’t twig, but I’d like to hear from the other two how we might welcome in the new chair with a character from his own tribe. Get back to me soonest. Tim.”

The next message reads: Ambridge to D-G: We’ve got Eleanor Bron, playing Carol Tregorran.

D-G to Ambridge: Think bigger. What about Baron-Cohen?
Ambridge to D-G: He can’t do regional accents. We’ll write a new plotline. Here’s a draft:
[Monday morning, winter. Doorbell tinkles, trudge of boots.]

Helen: How can I help you, gentlemen?
Felperstein: We are looking for some cheese.
Helen: Then you’ve come to the right place. What kind of cheese?
Felperstein: Kosher cheese.
Helen: I don’t think we have any of that. Can I interest you in Borsetshire Blue?
Felperstein: What we’re looking for is Kosher Camembert.

Helen (in phone call): You’d never believe it, Mum. Two chaps in black hats and curly bits, asking if we did kosher. I didn’t even know what kosher is. Had to look it up on Wikipedia and it just scrolled on for pages and pages without mentioning cheese. Ever so complicated.
Pat (on phone): So what did you say to them?

Helen (to customers): We don’t have any kosher cheese in stock but I’m always interested in developing new lines. What would it entail?
Fleperstein: We’d have to send a supervisor down to watch the cows being milked, maybe once a month.
Helen: Be my guest. It’s all done by machines, anyway.
Felperstein: We’d want to inspect the fermenting process.
Helen: Not a problem. You can come in with the regular Health and Safety bloke.
Felperstein: We have a dietary issue with rennet.
Helen: I can use a vegetarian substitute.
Felperstein: And we’d want to be present when the cheese is being packed to ensure it’s not, please forgive the suggestion, being adulterated in any way.
Helen: Sorry, chaps, that I can’t do. We operate under strict hygiene laws and allow no outsiders into the packaging shed under any circumstances.

[Whispers. The two men mumble between themselves. The doorbell dings as another man enters.]

Helen: Sorry, gentlemen, it’s my busy morning. Was there anything else?
Felperstein: Would it be all right, Mrs Archer, if we have the religious supervisor sitting outside the shed?
Helen: I can’t see why not. But what’s the plus side for me?
Felperstein: We will place an order for 3,000 Camemberts before Passover and we’ll put it on the market, God willing, at twice the price of any other cheese. With our rabbinic seal on it, Kosher Camembert will sell to a captive market in the US, Israel and in this country, all the way up to cheeseboards at Buckingham Palace and the chairman of the BBC.

Pat (later on the phone): Are we allowed to say that on air?
Helen (on phone, ignores her): …. But here’s the thing. They offered to put down a deposit, right there and then, which is unheard of in my trade. So I stuck out my hand to seal the deal, and, what do you know, they took a step back as if I was he serpent in the Garden of Eden.

Felperstein: I am so sorry, Mrs Archer.
Helen: Have I done something wrong?
Felperstein: I can’t shake your hand. It’s against our religion.

Helen (to Pat): I’d read about that on Wikipedia. So, quick as a ferret, I said: then let’s seal it with a drink at The Bull. You’ll never guess what he said…
Felperstein: In the Bull….. do they serve vodka?

 [Closing music: Barwick Green]

D-G to Ambridge: Who wrote this? Passover’s in the last week of March. Sign that scriptwriter.
Well, dear readers, invitations like this don’t come around every week and I’ll be up to my knees in cheeses between now and Seder night, so this is my last column. It has been a joy to share your Friday nights through the first year of Covid. Stay home, save lives and protect the SOH.

January 15, 2021 13:09

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