Tuesday, January 04, 2011

End of the Archers

At least for me.  For those who don't listen to the everyday story of farming folk, it ws the 60th anniversary of the Archers on Sunday, and the producers decided to celebrate Eastenders-style, with the death of one of the best-loved characters.

Had the actor, Graham Seed, been keen to pursue pastures new, I'd still have been annoyed by the clumsy and unbelievable way that they did it.  In the episode the staid and sensible farmer David Archer, persuaded his brother-in-law to go up on the roof in the dark and a high wind to get the New Year banner down.  I this had been Kenton, fabled Peter Pan of the series, it might have been just about believable, but nooo, David was the chosen foil.  Actually, though, the news that Nigel was to die came as a shock to Graham Seed too.  He played him beautifully, and it was mainly due to his continued involvement that I came back to the Archers after becoming irritated by previous shock-horror storylines.

The producers have spent the past few months turning one of the female characters into a whingeing and unlikeable harridan over the past few weeks.  Now if someone had thrown HER off the roof, I'd have applauded wildly.  But Nigel was the light relief in the programme... a hooray henry made good, who was kind and gentle, despite a recent storyline in which he has been forcing his small son to work ever harder in order to pass an entrance exam.

The choice of a shocking death, clumsily queued up a few episodes before, to mark the 60th anniversary of the show indicates to me that the producers are going for the depression and "excitement" of the TV soap, instead of the quality that kept Archers fans coming back for more.  It was the affection they felt for characters like Nigel, and the lack of shocking happenings... the small scale triumphs and disasters of real life, instead of the artificial drama. 

It amazes me that BBC radio knows its listeners so little... they are continually trying to interest Radio 4 listeners in Radio 1 and vice versa... when the type of person who likes Radio 4 is very very unlikely to want to listen to Rado 1 and vice versa.

Similarly, the person who loves the Archers, is not likely to enjoy the sorts of dramatic disasters which litter the TV soaps.  The petty squabbles which mark real life are far more interesting than the sudden loss of main characters which happens all too frequently in Eastenders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street. 

There should be room for both, and it should not be necessary for The Archers to pander to the tastes of people who are perfectly well served by the TV soaps.  We deserve our own fare, and once we had it.  Now it seems to me that the Archers has descended to the point where I don't want to listen any more.  The end of Nigel is the end of the Archers, for me.