Tag Archives: childhood

Is The Hunger Games a shot-for-shot remake of a 1979 episode of Grange Hill?

A lot of people are quick to claim that The Hunger Games is some sort of rip-off of Battle Royale. But Suzanne Collins claims she’d never heard of the Japanese book and film before her own became a success, and who are we to argue? Especially when, somewhere between Connecticut and Shikoku – here in South East England in fact – there’s another source so close as to be uncanny. Could a Grange Hill school trip to Beaconsfield really have inspired the adventures of the Panem tributes? Let’s take a look…

Once a year, selected children are taken out of their ordinary lives by a woman in a remarkable hat and suit

Once a year, selected children are taken out of their ordinary lives by a woman in a remarkable hat and suit

On the way there they must learn to respect their mentor

On the way there they must learn to respect their mentor

alliances

Alliances are soon formed in the wilderness

But the gang are in pursuit, and our heroines must flee!

But the gang are in hot pursuit!

Lost in the woods, will the odds be in the girls' favour?

Lost in the woods, will the girls find the odds are in their favour?

The man who could save them waits in a rose garden, but how will the story end?

In a rose garden waits a man who could save them, but will he?

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What happened with the bigger boys

(By Bert, aged 4.0)

My mum was going out on speed dating because it was Valentine’s Day and she left me on my own and I said I would be bored and she said shut up and why didn’t I read my chicken book. I like my chicken book but I have read it a lot and I know how it ends – on the front it is very colourful and the chickens look nice and on the back there are smaller pictures of the chickens and it tells you about the meal deals and it has the phone number.

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Out the window I could see that the bigger boys from down the road were getting dressed up for skiing but it is weeks since there was any snow so I ran outside to warn them.

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The bigger boys laughed at me and they said they just like dressing up in lots of different outfits because then they get lots of girlfriends and they put on their sailor clothes and they looked stupid and I wanted to laugh at them back but I did not because I am scared of Louis.

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Louis made me sit on the front of a car while they drove it around the block and I pretended I was in a film because then it was less scary and I thought Niall would help me because he is the gentlest one from the bigger boys but he was showing off because he just wants Louis to like him and I do not like Louis.

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Some of the other bigger boys were riding a motorbike and they were all very grown up and they were talking about all the tattoos they had got and about all the girls they would like to kiss and about how they did not mind if she was fat or ugly and I wondered if my mum was doing well at the speed dating.

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But it turned out the bigger boys were not driving properly and the police made them go to prison and I had to go too but only to tell them which were the boys that had been bad to me and I thought about all the girls who would be sad if the bigger boys had to stay in prison and I did not tell the police anything and I got to go home and my mum was still not back but I looked at the pictures of the chickens and I went to sleep.

What happened with the alarm at the Carnival

By Bert, aged 4.0

It was the Carnival at the weekend and I was allowed to go with my Auntie Nicki because my mum was organising one of the floats and we were helping. Mum sent us to get all of the fireworks out of the allotment shed and Auntie Nicki said she wasn’t going down in all that mud on foot and she wanted the Keys To The Benz and my mum said in the real world that translated as Change For The Bus and she sent us on our way.

Auntie Nicki was very dressed up but you could still see her big knickers so I think she must have been cold. She kept offering me drinks from her bottle and I had a sniff and it smelled a bit like cough medicine and I did not like it. She was getting quite excited and shouting ‘Bottle, Sip, Bottle, Guzzle!’ and then a bad word and then she said she had no muzzle and I remembered what happened to our old dog and I felt sad.

Then Auntie Nicki said ‘Please-ah! I’m in Ibiza!’ and I said the scenery looked more like Trinidad and she said wasn’t it supposed to be Notting Hill anyway and I said it was probably like before and we were in a made-up place where my imaginary childhood got mixed up with her recent pop videos and so it didn’t really matter and she looked at me and then she did a belch.

I told Auntie Nicki that I could hear the smoke alarm in the allotment shed and she said no it was the music and I should relax and do a dance. I tried but then all the fireworks went off at once and Auntie Nicki was too drunk to stop it. We walked over to the allotment and everything smelled smoky and I do not think there were any fireworks left for the parade. But I could still hear that alarm going off. It was a right old racket but I liked it.

What happened on the way to the football

By Bert, aged 4.0

I did not want to go to the football but my mum’s cousin Cheryl was babysitting me and she enjoys the football because sometimes her ex-husband plays and she likes it if he does badly. Cheryl took me on the Tube to get there but the Tube broke down and we had to walk through the tunnel. Cheryl said she did not mind as the tunnel represented her difficult journey from the darkness into the light. I said what did she mean and she said she could exclusively reveal she was bitten by a mosquito and she had lost her job but it was all amazing because everyone still likes her anyway, and she looked pleased.

It was quite dark in the tunnel and I could not see where she was and I called her name and she said how did I think she felt when I did that and I said it probably felt strange because she did not have a last name any more and she said there would always be haters and I noticed she had a bit of poo on her leg.

There were lots of bigger boys waiting outside the tunnel by some cars and I was a bit scared but Cheryl said it was OK they were her friends and I said they looked quite rough but she exclusively revealed that despite her expensive make-up she was still very much from the street and I said yes we all remembered when she beat up my Aunt Sophie and she gave me a look.

Cheryl quickly took her jacket off and threw it away to show that she didn’t have to worry about money any more and she had a nice dance with the bigger boys in her yellow bra. We did not make it to the football in time but when we got home we heard that her ex-husband had missed his penalty and I asked Cheryl if that made her happy and she said her feelings were very complicated and I was interested to hear more but she had found a mirror and she did not end up saying anything else.

Chicken & Lantern: Series 4

Over the last year I’ve been bringing the forgotten animated 80s series Chicken & Lantern to a wider audience with these episode guides (Series 1, 2 and 3). And now, as they say, the dramatic conclusion.

It was a year of endings. The fall of communism, the final episode of Doctor Who, and the last time that Sonia would ever straddle the top of the UK charts. But for a few, 1989’s most significant loss was the sad demise of Chicken & Lantern. Their antics had been deemed quaint and irrelevant and their fourth season of adventures was to be their last. The production team tried various controversial creative approaches in the final run of episodes, some wilder than others and not all of them successful, but then they had nothing to lose.

Prunella Scales returned as the voice of Chicken, and the role of Lantern was taken up by Geoffrey Palmer, who brought a certain gruff world-weariness to the time-travelling festival decoration.

SERIES 4 EPISODE GUIDE

6 x 10 minute episodes

Transmitted on BBC1, Wednesdays at 4.45pm, 22nd November – 27th December 1989

Episode 1: Bird Down

In a bravura opening sequence worthy of a James Bond film, Chicken and Lantern make their escape from a Nazi-infested zeppelin high above 1930s New York, plunging through the sky onto the Empire State Building where they battle their way down through Cthulhoid monsters oozing from the walls of the carpeted hallways, finally reaching street level only to get caught up in a dramatic shoot-out between rival organised crime gangs. They race into the sewers, where they outsmart a ravenous alligator, and finally slide down a giant shaft to reach the centre of the earth where we see that our heroes have established a safe HQ that they can safely visit in any time zone. There’s not a word of dialogue up until this point, which greatly alarmed Geoffrey Palmer on his first day of recording. Especially when all that he or Prunella Scales were required to do in the final seconds of the episode was to grunt or scream respectively as the large time scanner screen in their HQ fills with the terrifying face of an enormous fox.

Episode 2: Cooped Up

The bizarre and infamous ‘live action’ episode. Having established a base of operations for the intrepid duo, no time was wasted in setting an entire episode there, and during a power cut at that. Still a great deal of money was clearly saved on animation by having Prunella Scales sat in a chicken suit in a semi-darkened room (lit only by the dim red light of the molten core of the earth,  diffusing through the skylight), whispering to Geoffrey Palmer who’s gamely done up in a whalebone corset, red tissue paper and golden tassles as Lantern. Chicken believes that the fox they saw on the screen will be their undoing and their end, and confides in Lantern of the nameless creeping dread that’s haunted her days and her dreams. She fears and welcomes her oncoming death in equal measure, she confesses, finally breaking down into sobs. As a means of introducing existential anxiety to a young audience, it couldn’t be deemed a failure. But then that wasn’t exactly the show’s remit.

Episode 3: Pecking Order

A time travel romp allowing C&L to pay homage to the programme that inspired it, this episode saw Chicken (now back to her flat cartoon self) spliced into chicken-related footage from 70s Doctor Who episodes, as she becomes separated from Lantern, unstuck in time alone, and tries to track down a fellow time traveller to get her home. At first appearing aboard the SS Bernice where she fails to attract Jon Pertwee’s attention from within a crate, she’s then whooshed to Paris in 1979 where she’s hurtled along her own timeline to the point of old age and death, before Tom Baker reverses the polarity to save her. Finally she pops up in a village church where, just as the Master is about to sacrifice her to a Daemon, Lantern (accompanied for no easily justifiable reason by Crow from Saturday Superstore) swoops in over Jo Grant’s shoulder and they all escape to safety.

Episode 4: Home To Roost

In an ill-remembered episode guest-directed by Peter Greenaway, Chicken and Lantern learn a complicated formal dance in an unnamed baroque citadel. These scenes are intercut with abstract, stylised scenes of a future metropolis filled with rotting foxes. The music was alright.

Episode 5: The Four Lanterns

A celebratory episode designed to clear up the confusion around Lantern’s backstory, which saw a return to the Shanghai setting of Season 1’s finale (where all of Lantern’s past and future incarnations live together as a family) and an ambitious attempt to bring all the actors who’d voiced him together. David Yip refused to participate and had to be represented by recycled sound clips from his earlier episodes. Bruce Willis had loved his time on the show so much that he gave his time for free, although as he was now a major star, and busy filming Die Hard 2, this amounted to a quick phone call with no script, during which he said a few phrases he thought his incarnation of Lantern might be likely to utter. So with two of the Lanterns speaking only in non-sequiturs – “No, dear Chicken! You’re doing it all wrong!”; “Suck my fiery wick, mothers!” – and so on, it was left to Burt Kwouk and Geoffrey Palmer to try to carry the complicated plot, which was some sort of absurdly hopeful epiphany in which Lantern reconciled all the contradictory aspects of his psyche.

Episode 6: Outfoxed

The ending was all that mattered. The story that led to it was almost incidental, save that in a metafictional twist that would only become apparent more than twenty years later when I was writing this today, the fox so intent on senselessly killing off our heroes turned out to be called Bertie.

But what sticks in the mind of everyone who sees it is the last few minutes and their terrible imagery. At least we didn’t have to see the worst of it happen onscreen. It was bad enough that Chicken should actually be savaged by the fox, and that Lantern should fall into a threshing machine while trying to save her. They were wise to cut away at the last moment and leave those fates suggested merely by sound effect with the occasional half-chewed wing or mangled shred of red paper flying across the screen. Although even that informed a generation’s trauma. A light-hearted soundtrack was added at producers’ insistence to alleviate the horror, but no-one would now agree that Spitting Image’s The Chicken Song did anything to make things better.

When the children had finished crying – if they ever finished crying – if they looked up at the screen again they would see their heroes, barely recognisable: Chicken just shreds and bits of bone, Lantern smashed and torn, his light sputtering. But that dying light signalled the start of one final juddering flight through time, and our heroes arrive on a sunny hillside by the opening of a cave in Ancient Greece, where a philosopher scoops up their remnants in his arms and carries them to their rest. The camera fixes and slowly zooms in on the firelit shadows on the wall of the cave, where we see that Chicken and Lantern are slowly becoming whole again as silhouettes. Plato (for it is he, voiced by John Gielgud) explains that through their adventures our heroes have become the best of every chicken, and of every lantern, and that they will live on forever, symbolically, as ideal forms. However much comfort THAT was supposed to be. The light in the cave slowly dies and the credits roll while that unforgettable theme tune plays out one last, sad time.

What happened on my 4.0th birthday

By Bert, aged 4.0

For my 4.0th birthday I wanted to go to the Zoo and my mum said my Nana Madge would take me. I do not like my Nana Madge very much because she has a lot of money and she likes to tell everybody what to do. She arrived on our street with lots of friends all dressed up and my mum made a noise with her mouth and said why did she always have to be the centre of attention.

My Auntie Nicki and her friend Maya had come along too. I was pleased to see Auntie Nicki because she is always lots of fun but Maya did not look very pleased to be there and she kept doing naughty fingers behind Nana Madge’s back. To be honest I do not think we will see her again as Nana is always making new friends who are young and trendy and every year it is someone different.

It started to rain and Nana said it made her need to go to wee so she quickly had a wee on a lamp post and because of the rain no-one noticed. She said it was like when you are in the bath and you need to go to wee and you can just put some extra Radox in and it will stay a secret.

For my birthday Nana Madge had got me a nice new jacket but before I could put it on she had to use it to walk over a puddle. I said that I did not mind but I wish I had got to wear the jacket before it got dirty because it looked nice. And because of the rain we could not go to the zoo but Nana Madge said she would let me have a party at her house.

Nana Madge always wants to breastfeed me even though I am 4.0 now and I do not like it but she makes me do it anyway because she says she wants to pass on her DNA. “Only luv can make you a player!” she said and I said she had spelt it wrong but she gave me a look and said how did I know because she had not written it down and I said that Auntie Nicki and Maya were shouting out the letters behind her and she gave me another bad look.

When we got to Nana Madge’s house there were lots of people waiting to get in because they had heard about the party so I do not think she ever meant to take me to the Zoo. I asked her and she said she was learning Internet Skills at the community centre every Thursday afternoon and she had only just used her phone to put the party on Facebook. She said she could not help it if she was popular.

All the girls at the party had to wear masks because Nana Madge said she did not want any competition and they all said to her that they were happy to wear the masks but because you could not see their faces you did not know what they were really thinking. The masks scared me and I could not drink the grown-up drinks and I said I wanted to go home.

Nana Madge had already got changed for the party and she said she could not go out in the rain again now because it would spoil her hair and her dress so I would have to walk home on my own. I think my Nana Madge is mean.

On my way home I walked past the Zoo and you could see the top of a Giraffe over the wall. But I did not go to the Zoo on my 4.0th birthday.

Chicken & Lantern: Series 3

Whatever happened to Chicken & Lantern? After the animated time-travelling pair’s poorly-received 1985 series producers were keen for a new direction with more focus, and with the departure of Bruce Willis (who had become too expensive for a BBC children’s show budget) Lantern was recast; Burt Kwouk inevitably taking up the part. His warmer, more reassuring Lantern allowed Prunella Scales to make Chicken more of a flighty, unpredictable character again. But crucially, the third season became defined by two things: an ongoing story with cliffhangers rather than standalone episodes, and the idea that Chicken needed a nemesis…

(If you’ve never heard of Chicken & Lantern, here’s the introduction to the first series.)

SERIES 3 EPISODE GUIDE

6 x 10 minute episodes

Transmitted on BBC1, Wednesdays at 4.35pm, 3th September – 8th October 1986

Episode 1: Cock and Conservatory

Chicken and Lantern arrive back in 1986 Basingstoke – or so they think! Passing by the window of a Radio Rentals they glance at the television and are horrified to see the band ‘Four Star’ performing their hit ‘Can’t Wait Another Second’. Lantern quickly deduces they’ve passed into a parallel universe where the band they know as Five Star only has four members!

To find out what happened to the missing Pearson sibling, the duo make haste to Romford, where they find Stedman imprisoned in a sinister conservatory. In freeing the should-have-been pop star, they’re accosted by this universe’s version of Chicken: a male fowl known as Cock who’s deliberately perverted history to take a share of Five Star’s millions for himself. With Lantern trapped in the doors of his counterpart Conservatory, and Chicken pinned down by Cock, things look grim – until all five Pearsons arrive and distract the evil pair with a slick dance routine to their hit ‘Find The Time’. Chicken & Lantern channel the power of dance to return to their own universe but their warped alter-egos pursue them…

Episode 2: Running Like Cockwork

It’s a nerve-jangling chase through time, as Chicken and Lantern try to shake off the evil Cock and Conservatory. They travel to the Ice Age, to a distant future in which everyone in the world is asleep, and finally to 1945 for a tense showdown in the New Mexico desert, minutes before the world’s first nuclear explosion. In retrospect, these abandoned locations were clearly chosen to showcase the dynamics between the new line-up of characters. Cock, a self-loathing, misanthropomorphic character whose malevolence and goals were never satisfactorily defined, was voiced with Shakespearian bile by Daniel Day-Lewis. Burt Kwouk recalls that Day-Lewis’s insistence on method acting resulted in his turning up to recording sessions coated in discarded chicken skin, seething with rage and feathers, and refers to him mildly to this day as “an unpleasant man”. Conservatory meanwhile was a less talkative presence than Lantern, more of a means of getting from time to time than a character in his own right, and his dialogue consisted mostly of a series of frustrated grunts. He was portrayed by Matthew Waterhouse.

Episode 3: Big Bang Bang Chicken

The episode 2 cliffhanger saw all the characters caught in the blast of a nuclear detonation. But long-term fans didn’t worry for our heroes’ safety, when the title sequence itself shows that exposure to fire only hastens Lantern’s ability to escape from dangerous situations. And as Conservatory only needs the warming rays of the sun on its indoor tomatoes to power its timeflights, all our protagonists find that the atomic blast propels them further through the vortex than ever before, to the beginning of the universe itself.

The primordial forces force our heroes into yet another showdown with their baleful counterparts. In abstract scenes reminiscent of the wilder excesses of Series 2, everyone discovers their archetype. Conservatory and Lantern meet the Unifying Force Of Practical Design, an avuncular demigod clearly based on Terence Conran, while Chicken and Cock face their own natures at the court of the god Gallus Galactis (the self-styled ‘Star Chicken’). It’s here we discover that Cock’s loathing for Chicken is merely the twisted product of his intense desire for her, and as all the characters head off through time again, he vows to make her his own.

Episode 4: Acockalypse Now

From the beginning of time to the end of the world! There was a popular belief in the 80s that the world would end in 2012, and the year we live in now was the setting for Episode 4’s showdown. We might laugh at some of the predictions the writers of 26 years ago made, but for fans this is a poetic and well-regarded episode. Arriving in Skegness in 2012, Chicken and Lantern discover a grey world winding down towards death – the suggestion is very much that the end will come with a whimper. Holidaymakers shuffle slowly along rusting moving pavements and communicate with each other through a network of telephone-linked Olivetti electronic typewriters slung around their necks. As the colour begins to fade from  Lantern as well as from Conservatory’s tomatoes, it seems our heroes are trapped. “What is… this… terrible place?” asks Burt Kwouk in a tearjerking speech as he flutters on a makeshift deathbed under the pier.

Ironically it’s Cock’s selfish desire to escape that reinvigorates society and saves the planet, as he’s been preserving a mystic Century Egg inside Conservatory. On breaking it open, colour is returned to the world and our leading characters are able to time travel again. But as Chicken and Lantern depart, Cock confides in Conservatory that he knows exactly where they’re headed…

Episode 5: Cock Party

“I hate the term Stag Party,” hisses Daniel Day-Lewis in this episode. “The opposite of HEN is COCK.” In an unusual move, this Cock-centric episode doesn’t feature the title characters at all. Set entirely inside Conservatory, while in pursuit of Chicken and Lantern through the time vortex, it features Cock reflecting on his recently realised love for Chicken and his plans to capture her heart. We also see flashbacks which explain his origin. A happy childhood as a family pet is marred forever when the eldest son of the family, drunk on his first taste of sherry, attempts to carry out a rough caponisation on Christmas Eve. Escaping from this terrifying ordeal, Cock swears vengeance on all humanity and stumbles into a garden centre where his partnership with Conservatory is forged.

It’s largely a monologue for Daniel Day-Lewis although Matthew Waterhouse grunts as he’s never grunted before.

Episode 6: We Are Feathered Here Today…

The final episode of the series saw Chicken and Lantern crashland in Russia, 1912 – the power of the Century Egg has allowed them to travel by exactly 100 years only. Anticipating this, Cock is already in league with Rasputin and soon brings the mystic’s hypnotic powers to bear on Chicken, resulting in Prunella Scales’s unforgettable speech. ‘I love Cock,’ she sighs. ‘No-one compares to him. So even should I never see another living soul, I’d gladly spend every waking hour of every last day of my life with my poor stunted wings wrapped around Cock.’ Delivered in a dreamy monotone, it gave a  generation of impressionable children pause for thought.

The climactic wedding scene in the Tsar’s Winter Palace was no less memorable. Just as it seems the mesmerised Chicken is about to pledge herself to Cock forever, Lantern finally escapes from Conservatory by using all his strength to smash through a double glazed window-pane. In tatters, he shines a light of truth upon Chicken, causing her to declare ‘I cock-a-doodle don’t!’ and the two dematerialise as the crowd turn upon their tormentors. The closing moments, in which the Empress hurls a shivering, plucked Cock into a large pot of boiling water along with poor Conservatory’s prize tomatoes ended the series on a disturbing note. Daniel Day Lewis’s horrible screams would echo in children’s ears until the fourth – and final – series was finally broadcast.