03 January 2011

The Archers: Nigel Pargetter - Graham Seed - A Fond Farewell...

Nigel Pargetter, played by Graham Seed, arrived in Ambridge in late 1983. The character hailed from a little way off, Lower Loxley House at Loxley Barrett, and was a completely unknown quantity in Ambridge.

But he wasted no time in making his presence felt, becoming romantically linked to Shula Archer ("Shulie") in 1983, bouncing around in a gorilla costume at the Hunt Ball, and driving Mrs Antrobus's Afghans wild with his Teddy Bears Picnic jingle as ice cream vendor Mr Snowy midway through the decade.

It came as a great surprise to this blogger to discover that the character has been killed off as part of The Archers 60th anniversary "celebrations". I find this trend in soaps - to feature a tragic story-line on such occasions - rather odd, and it's by no means as long-established a custom as some soap historians would have us believe.

A shame this trend has now reached The Archers.

Graham Seed was spotted by then Archers editor William Smethurst in a Birmingham rep production of Major Barbara in 1980. This led to Mr Seed getting his start in radio drama at Pebble Mill in several plays.

When the role of Nigel Pargetter was created in 1983, Mr Seed was asked to audition and won the part, which was originally intended to run for only a few weeks.

When the character was written out after two years (!), Nigel being sent abroad in 1985, a listeners' campaign was launched to bring him back. It was successful - Nigel returned after only a few weeks away. As William Smethurst wrote in 1987:

The Archers listener has always been a force to reckon with!

Actor Nigel Caliburn - now Carrington - briefly took over the role when Graham Seed took a break in the late 1980s.

Mr Seed was informed of Nigel's impending doom by Archers editor Vanessa Whitburn on 5 November 2010. Today, he issued an official statement:

It is with huge sadness that I leave The Archers after 27 years. Nigel Pargetter was a joy and a privilege to play, from 'Mr Snowy' to proud father. His enthusiasm, charm and love of life helped make Ambridge a happier place.

'On a personal note, I will sorely miss working with so many old friends and colleagues, especially Alison Dowling who plays Nigel's Lizzie.

'May I take this opportunity to thank all those listeners who endlessly communicated their loyalty, appreciation and affection towards Nigel and me. I'll miss him!'

Mr Seed further commented on the BBC's Archers blog:

It would be wrong of me to pretend that I was other than shocked when Vanessa [Whitburn, Archers editor] phoned with the news on a damp November 5th. Fireworks night - rather apt I thought! The hardest thing has been to keep it under wraps, not just from friends and family, but colleagues too. Now at least all is out in the open...

It's too soon to highlight memories. They go back to heady days in the '80s. William Smethurst created a wonderfully affectionate, vulnerable over-privileged young man causing havoc to the Archer household in scenes that were such fun to play.

Scenes of course with Jack May (Nelson) and Mary Wimbush (Julia), latterly with Richard Atlee (Kenton). But always Ali...

There was something of the Peter Pan in Nigel. He never really grew up.

Nigel was a charming character, of aristocratic background, naive, not terribly bright, but capable of great kindness and sensitivity.

Here's how the character was described in William Smethurst's 1987 book The Archers - The New Official Companion:

NIGEL PARGETTER is the only son of Gerald and Julia Pargetter of Lower Loxley House, Loxley Barrett, and in his day was a leading light of the Borchester Young Conservatives. In 1983 he fell in love with Shula but in the following year he was banned from Brookfield when, on the night of the Hunt Ball, he crept into Phil and Jill's bedroom having supposedly mistaken it for the bathroom. Later that year he was convicted of taking and driving away a sports car which he thought belonged to Tim Beecham (it didn't). Shula gave him the push and he started going out with Elizabeth. He got sacked from selling swimming pools and Elizabeth chucked him. His family sent him to an uncle in Zimbabwe and he returned after a few weeks.

In the summer of 1985 he was "Mr Snowy" and drove an ice-cream van, and in the autumn he sold toffee apples at Borchester Fair. In 1986 he went off to London to work for a City stockbroking firm.

Miss Elizabeth Archer and Mr Nigel Pargetter stroll the streets of Borchester in 1986.

In later years, Nigel married his dear "Lizzie" and they lived (mostly) happily at Lower Loxley Hall, with their two children, Lily and Freddie.

Nigel died in the episode transmitted on 2 January 2011. He fell from the roof of Lower Loxley House whilst trying to take down a New Year party banner. The last thing we heard from gentle, kind and whimsical Nigel was a terrible scream as he tumbled from the roof.

What has happened to our soaps?

Good luck to Mr Seed, and many thanks to him for years of happy listening. Nigel was usually very cheering to listen to.

I'll be tuning out of The Archers for the foreseeable future.

Modern day life is difficult enough.

Arriving in 1983, Nigel Pargetter was one of a number of new Archers characters introduced during the 1980s - others included Mrs Antrobus (Margot Boyd), Lynda Snell (Carole Boyd) and Ruth Archer (Felicity Finch).


Anonymous said...

I've been following Nigel's bungles and kindnesses since 1983. A great loss. Vanessa Whitburn is just trying to recreate the 1955 furore over Grace Archer, forgetting that modern audiences are rather more cynical and less likely to forgive highhanded removals of favourite characters.

Anonymous said...

It's not just Nigel's death, of course; it's the way it's been done to allow for the maximum conflict between to members of an often-divided family.

I question the assumption that you have to have a major 'event' (a euphemism for 'death') to celebrate the 60th anniversary. Have any new listeners tuned in to radio programme that they didn't follow before because 'something major is going to happen'?

In the past there have been attempts to drag real life into the Archers (or perhaps vice-versa) - particular cases have been the death of Polly Perks, Jennifer Archer's illegitimate baby and a mail-van robbery in which Nelson Gabriel may have been involved; these attempts to sex-up the programme have all alienated loyal listeners but we have never
been told that this was 'justified' by an overall increase in audience figures.

The point, I think, is that we KNOW that the Archers aren't real life and don't really want it any other way. Real Life is not excluded totally - Jack Wooley's dementia has been extremely well-handled - but basically we don't ant any more of it; we like the cosy, insular world of Borsetshire.

Besides, a local farmer/parish councillor and a landowner/businessman/toff go up on a high roof on a windy night after a traumatic episode at a party, and don't use any safety equipment. Happens twice a week round our way!

Like Andy, I shan't be listening for some time. I reckon six months is a reasonable estimate but even then I shall be cautious about getting back into it.

Christine H said...

Nigel was so unique, such fun, and he made Lizzie bearable. If the show wants to court disaster-loving vampires as fans, fine, but count me out.

Walter's Ghost said...

An upper crust character, introduced in the reviled 1980s? Of course Vanessa Whitburn and her PC colleagues wanted him out - never mind that he was the kindest, gentlest character in the Archers!

Claire said...

Having seen half Coronation Street wiped out by a tram for its 50th anniversary - with a hammer murder as a side order - I'm sickened by TV soaps and I never thought that The Archers would "do disaster" for their 60th. I thought the scriptwriters were being very clever when Nigel fell. What a cliffhanger! What overnight suspense! But I thought that Nigel would be found in the following episode, dangling from one of Kenton's banner ropes, all set to be brought down by the fire brigade, and Vanessa Whitburn would be winking at the audience and saying: "You didn't really think we'd be so gross as to kill him, did you?" Great fun. But the grim reality is that Nigel is dead. Goodbye to The Archers for me. The character was far too unique and uplifting to forgive and forget.

Anonymous said...

Intelligent comments all here illustrating why Vannesa Whitburn's Brookside 'body the patio' schlock is completely out of touch with the listeners. In
actual fact she probably relishes the notion of controversy. Sadly the end result was poorly written, totally unbelieveable and patronising to the intelect of the Radio Four audience. So controversy based on disappointment and bewilderment with the cack handed approach rather than clever, twisting plot development that kept us guessing to the end. The build up to the accident in the script telegraphed the end with ham fisted amateurism and
left me confused rather than shocked. The set up was so obvious there was no shock at all.
Vanessa - you got it wrong. Badly wrong. You have alienated your audience. Please don't kid yourself and don't listen to the corporate suits at the BBC who might say otherwise. Rubbish rubbish rubbish. Time to get your coat Vanessa. There are always lots of vacancies for naff soap supremos in Russia or Brazil.

impressed said...

Last winter Phil died, so we had a widow weeping, the sons and daughters grieving. Then in the late summer for a change we had Sid dying so we could the radical new plot of a widow weeping (actually two widows weeping) and a son grieving. And now as a truly original and innovative idea we have Nigel dying and a widow weeping and a son and daughter grieving. How do they keep coming up with these new ideas?

Drew said...

Mind blowing, isn't it? Killing Nigel is so stupid. There's not another character in the saga that's even remotely like him. Another little ray of sunshine stamped out.

Anonymous said...

Heartily agree with all these sentiments. If Vanessa Whitburn intends to follow depressing, sensationalist storylines as per East Enders (increasingly ridiculous) then perhaps she might also consider Nigel`s return in a Dallas style "it was all a dream" episode. We can then all put this truly awful storyline behind us and get back to the escapist haven that is (or was) Ambridge. Until then, you`ve lost one more loyal listener of 20 years. Shame on you Radio 4. Pauline

Anonymous said...

Of course a cynic could suggest that Graham Seed had upset Vanessa Whitburn and her BBC cronies. As Nigel,he could have been severely disabled from the accident or left temporarily in a coma, yet still remaining in the programme; but no, he had to be completely removed. Tamsin Grieg and Brian Collingwood are allowed to pursue other projects outside of the Archers, as do several others, it was ever thus, if your face fits...etc. I wonder what Graham Seed did to offend them?

Anonymous said...

I was hoping the execrable Edward, William and EMMMMURRRR were going to fall down a mineshaft, but seemingly you kill off the rather pleasanter characters and leave the wastes of DNA to continue their pointless and irritating existences. Well, I've had enough, so I won't be bothering to listen to any more. I hope the moronic Vanessa gets her own comeuppance sometime soon!

Anonymous said...

I agree heartily with all the comments made so far. Just pack your bags and go, Vanessa - you are a waste of space. I have been an Archer's fan for the past 60 years, but I will never listen to the programme again after this.

Anonymous said...

I had saved up all the episodes and been abroad so missed all the build up and was innocently listening to a bumper crop - I thought...without knowing anything the death was telegraphed with jungle drums. I had prayed that the wretched Helen would get her come uppance for being so unbearable for so long. But no, she gets doting parents and a perfect - if rather smal -l baby, whilst poor Nigel, whacky, fun, light hearted and interesting, gets dumped. From a great height. After 30 years I deserve better. Go make soap bubbles elsewhere Ms Whitburn.

william in bristol said...

I'm sad to quit Ambridge after years of fun. The EVENT to mark 60 years - killing-off Nigel -spoilt the suspension of disbelief we all share when we live in Ambridge for a few minutes. And to choose to sack such a popular actor/character is perverse. Surely there are enough characters to wipe out among the cast who retire/emigrate/die? Goodbye Ambridge, it's been fun these past 35 years!

Anonymous said...

It all smacks of political correctness and celebrity mania. I fear they gave it away on the Politics of Ambridge where they suggested Ambridge needed a 'Madonna' figure living in a former stately home - so kill Nigel and let Lizzie get ill or die of pre-existing heart problems. Let the business collapse and hey presto Lower Loxley Hall for sale to some has been celeb who fancies a role in a soap for their retirement ... Not my cup of tea!