'Archers' fans may feel deflated, but they should have faith

Not shaken and only slightly stirred was the verdict of Archers fans last night as the much-hyped 60th anniversary programme culminated in a grisly accident involving Nigel Pargetter.

In perhaps the most eagerly awaited radio moment for years, an episode which the programme's editor had promised would "shake Ambridge to the core", Nigel fell from the roof of his ancestral home Lower Loxley while trying to remove a banner. David Archer, who had suggested the venture, apparently remained on the roof. It was a distinct echo of the day in 1955 when the BBC had Grace Archer killed in a barn fire to coincide with the launch of ITV.

At the same time, anorexic single mother Helen was rushed to hospital with pre-eclampsia and gave birth to a son, thus healing a rift between her father, Tony, who was emotionally opposed to the baby's conception by anonymous sperm donation.

But for fans of the world's longest-running soap opera, there was a guilty sense of anticlimax. Was that all? Listeners who had joined in a day-long tweet-along responded with a mix of sarcasm and savagery. "Like England playing in the World Cup, promising a lot, delivering nothing," said one. Many had wanted unpopular figures like Ruth – reviled for her Geordie accent – or Helen to be sacrificed. Nigel, the amiable husband of Elizabeth and father of Freddy and Lily, was much-loved. "Nigel Pargiter [sic]! No!! No no no! Anyone but Nigel. *Palms to cheeks in Munch-like scream*," tweeted Stephen Fry.

Anniversaries in soap-land are traditionally celebrated with death or disaster – Coronation Street recently marked its half-century with a tram crash which wiped out some well-loved faces, EastEnders marked Christmas with a cot death, and a 747 landed on Emmerdale.

But generally The Archers prefers to get its kicks (and its audience spikes) from adultery, such as Ruth's near affair with cowman Sam, or Brian Aldridge and Siobhan Hathaway's steamy love triangle. A guest appearance by the Grim Reaper is not uncommon: Phil Archer died last year, as did Sid Perks, and Betty Tucker, Greg Turner and John Archer have all met their end in recent years, but death has rarely been used as a way to lift ratings.

Yet ever since Vanessa Whitburn, the editor for 20 years, let slip the idea of a storyline that would "shake Ambridge to the core", everywhere from Mumsnet and Twitter to Facebook and even the odd newspaper was rife with speculation. Suggestions included the siting of a new airport on Ambridge, necessitating the razing of the entire village, a gun massacre by rival brothers Ed and Will Grundy, or a suicide bombing.

The absence of an Ambridge Al-Qa'ida cell will please those fans who argue that The Archers should have nothing more earthshaking than a bust-up at The Bull to celebrate its anniversary, in keeping with its highly valued authenticity. For many of the five million who listen each week, The Archers has attained the status of a parallel universe, free from the rules that govern others soaps. "The great thing about The Archers is its ordinariness," said one contributor to the message board last night. "We don't need sensationalism. Leave that to EastEnders and Coronation Street."

Even if Nigel does die, it may not be the end of the affair. David could be charged with manslaughter, or his plummeting body might have landed on another character. Ms Whitburn said she wanted last night's events to shake Ambridge "profoundly and deeply" with repercussions that will "burn slowly". Given her track record, listeners should have faith. "It will still be affecting Ambridge in 10 years' time," she promised.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing