The Archers 60th anniversary storyline falls flat

Promised shocks, fans of the Radio 4 soap ended up with a slip, a stumble … and a bit of a damp squib

It was dubbed SATTC – the 60th anniversary Archers storyline that would "shock Ambridge to the core". But instead the landmark episode of the BBC Radio 4 soap turned out to be a BOADS – bit of a damp squib.

Possibly the BBC was guilty of over-hyping the plot, which culminated with a chap falling off a roof. Not exactly a tram crash in Weatherfield is it?

And the programme's editor, Vanessa Whitburn, hardly did it any favours when she gave away the cliffhanger – Nigel Pargetter may have hit the ground in Sunday night's episode but his fate was still up in the air – when she told yesterday's Today programme that there was a "birth and a death" in yesterday's big reveal. Whoops.

"BBC may have broken Trade Descriptions Act over Archers. Safe baby delivery & minor character falling off roof is not cataclysmic!" said one listener, PeterHellyer, on Twitter.

It was for actor Graham Seed, however, who played Nigel for nearly 30 years. "Of course I'm grieving," he told Today. "Half of me for 30 years was Nigel. I've said goodbye and everyone has said goodbye. It's very sad but I've got such memories."

Seed remembered the fateful phonecall in which Whitburn had told him of his character's grisly end. "'Why me?' I said. She said, 'Nigel's so popular, I've got to make an impact.'"

He certainly did.

Nigel will live on a for a few days yet – on Twitter, at least – while his final blood-curdling scream has become something of a download sensation. It may also make a novelty ringtone, particularly if you've got a friend called Nigel.

The 60th anniversary shock – or lack of it – will at least be some consolation for listeners who feared their ears were about to be offended with some sensationalised claptrap.

But how was it for you? Were you relieved at the absence of a large-scale natural disaster and Skins-style clearout of the cast? Or a little bit miffed that the Ambridge apocalypse turned out to be a woman having a baby and a man sliding off a roof?

Perhaps it would have been better for all concerned if the plot twist – like Nigel – had come out of the blue.


John Plunkett

The GuardianTramp

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