BBC Radio 4

Listener responses to The Archers' 60th anniversary episode

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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 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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