Even if you aren’t a fan of The Archers, you surely can’t have escaped the hype surrounding the 60th anniversary of the show. It was a delicate soufflé, whipped up over weeks, promising a storyline that would ‘change Ambridge FOREVER’. Unfortunately, said soufflé emerged from the oven as flat as a pancake.
It came down to a fairly predictable two candidates for death featuring two characters who have presumably irritated listeners the most over the years. The supercilious Helen, in a cruel red herring, survived pre-eclampsia, leaving Nigel Pargetter to plummet from the roof of a barn to his death. It was all a bit lame, to be honest.
The producers were on the horns of a dilemma, of course – make it too tame and you’re accused of excessive hype but make it too extreme and you’ll irritate the loyal and extremely vocal fan-base, if not the majority of listeners. The Archers is, after all, more about comfort than public information these days.
But here’s the thing – they could have used this opportunity to create a public information coup and made Nigel a paraplegic. This could have been a fantastic PR opportunity and a way of raising public awareness. Spinal injuries are all too common and all too often overlooked.
A complex storyline surrounding the trauma would also have been far more involving, given that it could have taken in the Archer family in-fighting between David (who encouraged Nigel up onto the roof) and Elizabeth, his widow, as well as focused on Nigel’s attempts to come to terms with his disability in the countryside – a much less forgiving place to be disabled than the urban landscape. And it’s surely time to alert middle England to the great difficulties of living with a disability and to encourage them to part with some charitable donations.
A quick death is just not as creative as alerting the public to the issues of disability. The Archers could have done so much better by its original remit than killing off Nigel. One can only hope Graham Seed, who played the bumbling toff for 30 years, has plenty of other work lined up.
That said, at least a plane didn’t fall on the village and kill half the cast…