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Listener responses to The Archers' 60th anniversary episode

Saturday 8 January 2011, 10:00

Tayler Cresswell Tayler Cresswell

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There have been thousands of posts on The Archers message board, on this blog, Twitter and Facebook following last Sunday's anniversary episode. This post is my attempt to sum up the range of posts, views and opinions about it.

So did the episode shake Ambridge to the core? The majority of posts thought not and opinions ranged from "damp squib" and "OK", to "brilliant". Some think that 60 years of The Archers should have been celebrated with a happier storyline than the death of a much-loved character.

There have been questions over whether "sensible" David Archer would have goaded Nigel out on to the roof; why Helen didn't recognise her pre-eclampsia and why no-one asked what the baby's weight was; why there was so much "hype" around the episode; and dismay at the loss of Nigel Pargetter.

Many worry that the storyline brings us another grieving widow so soon after Sid Perks' and Phil Archer's deaths last year and argue that it's becoming too depressing to listen to. This coupled with the fact that Nigel was one of the more light-hearted, happy characters is making for a sombre outlook for The Archers. Here's a taste of some of the reaction on the message board:

Nigel was a genuinely sweet character, if not perhaps the sharpest knife in the drawer, and getting rid of him just seems wilful. I know it's ridiculous to feel sad about a fictional character dying, and I've never felt that way before when a TA character has popped their clogs, but in this case I do feel regretful because it seemed so unnecessary. (Soozi_quattro)

To lose a happy, positive and amusing character at Christmas is deliberately disturbing.
And the storylines to follow? A 3rd grieving widow in the last year? What misery do we have to look forward to. I'm afraid that after 20years I do not enjoy your programme anymore. The characters like Nigel and Linda were the ones that made me smile.

I would like to add my voice to those who can't bear the thought of listening to all that sorrow, but the thing is I will. I assume I'm in the majority. There are 6 million of us after all. I'm really not looking forward to my glass of wine tonight, which is what TA is to me 6 days a week. (Basia)

Like many others here, TA has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was listening before I could talk. I grew up partly in Yorkshire and partly in Ambridge, knowing the characters as well as I knew my family, neither Mum nor I ever missed and episode if we could possibly avoid it... My daily quiet 15 minutes alone with TA has been an important part of my life - my escape, my me-time, my relaxation. And yes, I'm not ashamed to say my obsession. Mum just phoned and asked if I'd be listening tonight. I told her the truth, that I probably will but that I don't know why. That I have a sick feeling in my stomach instead of my usual quiet anticipation. (Shy)

The only brightish spot was the return of Shula and quality of the acting in yesterday's eppie, which did bring a big lump to my throat. I have enough real grief and aggro in my life not to need or want more angst when it is time to wind down after a day at the salt mines... I shall be listening until the funeral but after that - really not sure. (E Yore)

I've been a listener to TA from way back and, yes, there have been tragedies before but I hated the way Nigel's death was just something to push up the viewing figures, unlike the 'death' of Betty Tucker, which was due to the actress wanting to leave the series. (Imnoangel)

On the run-up to the anniversary episode you invited various celebrities to pour out their love of The Archers for its organic storytelling and character development, as well as its avoidance of cynical sensationalism. I wonder how many of those famous fans feel the same way now? Why on earth did you think that the best way to 'celebrate' this sixty-year legacy was to defile it? To give two months' notice to an actor who has delighted us for thirty years, and to cast away a beloved character in this pointless way, all for the sake of a publicity stunt? What an act of mindless vandalism... You wanted to put cosy Lower Loxley in turmoil? Fine. You could have left Nigel terribly injured. You could have allowed the show to explore the long-term implications of disability. You could have really put Nigel's character to the test, as well as his marriage and the compassion of the community at large. But instead of letting the show expand and explore new ground, you chose to leave it diminished, and demeaned your listeners in the process. (M J Thomas)

I don't think this sensational way is really appropriate to The Archers. I also think that after the very moving events surrounding the death of Phil Archer, the listeners are longing for at least some positive stories to uplift them, especially at a time of hardship for so many people. I do not look forward to the days and weeks to come, with characters feeling guilt and grief. What a start to 2011. (LilianFred)

TA has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I realise I am in the minority but I thought tonight's episode was brilliant. Tony was magnificent and so believable. Even Nigel's demise was good...what a twit! I would like to congratulate everyone involved in tonight's episode. Can't wait for the next 60 years. (orlapends)

They could have killed Nigel by having him trip down the stairs or have a sudden stroke. But no, they set up an utterly ridiculous but typically Nigel way to go and they kept us on the edge of our seats till the final 'Aaaagh'. No one will ever forget the night Nigel fell off the roof. It's as iconic as Grace in the fire. It's a bit camp, it's a bit silly, but it's unforgettable. That's the important bit. The 60th episode will go down in history as Nigel's plunge. Job done, now let ordinary service recommence. (Morganish)

There was a call for a rewrite of Sunday's episode in a thread started by fanofthearchers with ideas ranging from Nigel's ghostly form haunting the halls of Lower Loxley or perhaps reappearing after David Archer awoke from a bad dream about being out on the roof in the dark...

Read more on the Rewrite Sunday's epiode thread

Looking at Twitter, comments tagged with #thearchers hashtag revealed a fairly muted reaction to the anniversary episode "is that it?" but plenty admitting to shedding tears in the subsequent episodes.

#thearchers episode was really clunky, undramatic, unthrilling and overhyped - tho' scream was spinechilling (@PippaSandford)

#thearchers #sattc oh my, eyes welling up listening to the archers - can see how this may reverberate for 10 years (@Fearlessguider)

There have been plenty of messages of thanks to Graham Seed, which he has been reading and has thanked his fans on the message board. And as is tradition in "Mustardland" (the name given to the message board by posters), some have lent a helping hand with preparations for Nigel's funeral in order to give him a fitting send off. In a thread started by Country Squire, there are plans for Pip to play a recital and an invite for Nigel's old friend Tim Beecham...

Cranford Crystal will draw the bier to St Stephens and then on to the place of burial....next to Uncle Rupert's gazebo would be good. (Polly Tunnel)

The Paper Plate People would like to tender for the disposables. (villageschoolmaam)

Where are the radio Borsetshire outside broadcast trucks going? Assume Wayne Foley is going to do a solemn live broadcast on the funeral cortege plus a travel update. (Feral_Ralph)

Read more on the Now is the hour... thread

Tayler Cresswell is the host of The Archers message board.

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    Comment number 1.

    A fair summary, though I'm not sure you fully capture the key quality of the posts I've read: anger at the treatment of the audience & the actor because the plot development wasn't properly thought through.

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    Comment number 2.

    The summary is ok but the strength of feeling over Nigels death hasn't been taken into account. It was a poorly written because the characters would not have done what they did. It was purely for sensationalism and not true to The Archers.

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    Comment number 3.

    TC's summary does not reflect the overall disgust, firstly at the mindless destruction of a well-loved character, and secondly at the sacking of a loyal, brilliant actor who is now at an age when he will probably never find employment again.

    If the purpose of the anniversary episode was to lose audience, then it must be considered successful. If the purpose was to entertain. increase audience or to stimulate Archers' fans, then it failed miserably. It's about time the BBC acknowledged that they got it wrong (yes, Auntie, you're not omnipotent) and rewrite the episode to include the 'death' as a dream and bring back Nigel.

    But we all know that Auntie is too self-important to admit mistakes, don't we?

    I have stopped listening to the Archers now as have many other long-term fans.

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    Comment number 4.

    If the BBC were to swallow it's pride and admit they made a serious mistake and bring Nigel back, it would show the loyal Archers fans that their feelings do matter. As it is, it seems as though the BBC do not care about the listeners.

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    Comment number 5.

    Every time a member of 'The Management' posts a new blog entry (Mary yesterday and now you). You irritate me all over again.

    Even now - a week on - you seem oblivious to the fact that you've broken the contract of trust that exists between you and your listeners.

    There are many accusations that you've lost touch with your audience - confirmed, I think, that even after a week and hundreds of us taking the trouble to 'spell it out for you' you still don't seem to understand what you've done. Had you, and you'd have apologised put it right by now.

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    Comment number 6.

    Buzzbuzzybuzz, to be fair Tayler works on the Archers site and hosts the messageboard, she isn't part of the management process that determines plot lines or writes scripts. Consequently she has no need to apologise to you or to anyone for the content of the broadcasts.

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    Comment number 7.

    Point taken Vicky, but Tayler's piece hasn't really acknowledged the strength of feeling out here.

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    Comment number 8.

    Actually, I think Tayler's done a good job here at summarising and selecting comments which do reflect the dismay that many of us felt about this story line. I was fearing a 'cover-up' and I don't think that's happened here on the whole.

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    Comment number 9.

    In defence of Tayler she is not one of the production team she is a host. Thanks for fulfilling your brief well, Tayler but are we going to get our questions addressed? A lot of us have made an official complaint but it would be good PR for the team not to infuriate their audience by silence.

    It is interesting to note the silence from Vanessa Whitburn now that there are brickbats after all she is very quick to collect the bouquets. Has she left the country?

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    Comment number 10.

    Yes, a blog on here written by Vanessa Whitburn would be interesting. Perhaps we could learn something about the script conference, when she first announced her plans to hurl Nigel to his death in order to 'celebrate' 60 years of the programme. Did everyone applaud? Were there any dissenting voices? I'd love to have been a fly on the wall....

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    Comment number 11.

    I think this is a good summary. It's fair to say opinions aren't unanimous here but the majority feel the loss of jolly Nigel in this way on this day was a mistake and are saddened by the sacking of Graham Seed in the name of an anniversary. I applaud Tayler choosing part of M J Thomas's contribution. It was brave to do so.

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    Comment number 12.

    TC's post starts out being more realistic than anything else from Them up to now, but I'm afraid I think it still doesn't reflect previous comment. I did a rough count a couple of days ago and about 25% on this blog had either stopped listening (5 days + now and surviving), or were thinking about it, for all the reasons we know about. ...So at least two of TC's quoted posts should have been from those people.

    To be picky, I also think some of the demands for re-writes and resignations should have been included, not to mention the anger caused by lack of response to complaints either here or directly. There were plenty to choose from.....

    I also reckoned that more than 7000 years of listening had been chucked in the bin. In itself quite memorable for the 60th anniversary, but even that would be outdone by a re-write....

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    Comment number 13.

    Thank you for your summary, Tayler. It must have been quite an ordeal trawling through all the posts.

    I have to say, though, that I don't feel that you have done justice to the sheer quantity and quality of the anger and disappointment out there.

    Some think that 60 years of The Archers should have been celebrated with a happier storyline than the death of a much-loved character "Some"? I think it is in the hundreds!

    There have been questions over whether "sensible" David Archer would have goaded Nigel out on to the roof There has been a massive number of posts about this.

    The threads and blogs about Nigel/Graham Seed's untimely removal from the scene speak for themselves of course.

    You mention "questions" about the unlikelihood of Helen not recognising her pre-eclampsia but not about the ludicrous outcome - the unnecessary mad dash to hospital, her miraculous recovery from the surgery, the early but "perfect baby" being passed around outside visitors before his return to the incubator and Helen's instant character transplant. I could go on - but so many posters have already.

    I believe that many long-time devoted listeners (and I am one of them) cannot face the wretched aftermath of these two poorly-researched and over-hyped SLs. Many of us will not tune in for a while. Who knows, once we have kicked the habit of a lifetime we may find that life goes on without a daily visit to Ambridge.

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    Comment number 14.

    Thanks Tayler for this summary.
    I would like to add a link to a post made yesterday evening on the thread re the response by Mary Cutler. For me, it sums it all perfectly and, if no other post critical of the current ethos in TA is taken note of by the production team except this one, then that would be fine by me.
    Post no 54

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    Comment number 15.

    It seems that The Archers addiction was far milder than I suspected. It is now almost a week since I listened after decades of barely missing an episode, and already the habit is broken.

    Actually I feel rather free! I have always boasted about never watching soaps on the TV and I justified listening to The Archers by thinking it was a cut above the usual sensation seeking dramas. But that is no longer true and I realise I was only holding on out of a sentiment for what it once was.

    As with many habits, once broken one looks back and wonders why one indulged at all. Last week's fiasco made me realise that I had not really enjoyed it for quite some time. I am now a permanent ex-listener and to my surprise I don't mind that at all.

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    Comment number 16.

    Thanks Tayler, good job.

    Any word of a response from Vanessa Whitburn to the list of issues you burned the midnight oil compiling?

    Or are you, Keri and Mary Cutler going to have to carry the can?

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    Comment number 17.

    Taylor is just reporting the response. A skim through but just representation nonetheless.

    Why are the editorial team not addressing these points directly?? Why are they not posting anything other than the couple of self-glorifying "wasn't that exciting" blog entries? Why are they ignoring the content, strength and depth of the feedback given? That is really infuriating the audience. And myself.

    Is it perhaps because they'd have to accept an error of judgement was made and that simply can't be done in management circles these days? (I type that as a member of a massive multinational corp where every screw up actually happens to be a roaring success don't-you-know). Is it perhaps because they simply don't care about the audience? Are they simply zoomed into their "response" graphics and too excited at them being off the scale, even if for all the wrong reason??

    Thanks Taylor for your time above. I don't think you should be the whipping girl for the chicken, evasive and self-absorbed editorial team though.

    Vanessa...if it's not beneath you to read these pages.....why don't you post a blog? I think it might be a "popular" read.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Comment 3:
    TC's summary does not reflect the overall disgust, firstly at the mindless destruction of a well-loved character, and secondly at the sacking of a loyal, brilliant actor who is now at an age when he will probably never find employment again.

    My complaint about all this is neither the loss of this particular character nor the treatment of the actor: it is utter disappointment that a programme which, for all its faults, stayed on the whole clear of sensationalist shocks to the purpose of publicity and ratings, chose to go fully down the traditional soap route by killing off a character on the big date, hyping it in advance to get as many column inches as possible.

    This is the complaint I have seen most on the board over the past few days: not about the drama itself, although that was poor enough on the night, but at the choices made by the editorial team and the reasons given for them.

    When drama is written for the sake of press coverage rather than because it is good drama which emanated from the characters in that drama, it's clear the existing listeners are less important than the amount of blah in the media. (Viz how pleased they are about the amount of Twitter traffic, rather than what listeners actually feel about what they have done.)

    I will not mourn Nigel as a character, but I think it was an extremely poor choice to kill him (or anyone) off as a noise-generator to 'celebrate' (shurely shome mishtake) an anniversary. I think we listeners have been sold a pup, and that's what I'm most disappointed about.

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    Comment number 19.

    I think we listeners have been sold a pup, and that's what I'm most disappointed about.

    agreed Badgey - but I won't hold my breath that we shall get a response.

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    Comment number 20.

    'If the BBC were to swallow it's pride and admit they made a serious mistake and bring Nigel back'

    Blimey! I hope they'll never do such an ill-advised thing as give themselves our very own "Bobby steps out of the shower" moment from Dallas! What a terrible mistake THAT would be!


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