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?

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.

What happened at my big sister’s wedding

By Bert, aged 3.9

It has been a while since I wrote an update but now my teacher says I should do one because my big sister Beyoncé has had a baby.

Last summer I was a pageboy at her wedding and when she was getting ready I accidentally saw that she was wearing special knickers that came all the way up to her shoulders. Although it was not really an accident because Beyoncé was walking round in her special shoulderknickers for an hour before she put her dress on and she was singing loudly all the time so I think she wanted to be noticed. Anyway you would not have known then that she was going to have a baby.

Before the wedding we had to stop in an Arboretum because Beyoncé needed a poo and as her pageboy I had to hold up her dress to make sure she did not get any poo on it. While she was waiting for the poo to come out she was going on about her last boyfriend and how glad she was that they had split up. She shouted that she saw the real him when he showed his ass. I used to like her last boyfriend though and so I did not tell Beyoncé that she had got some poo on the back of her leg.

Beyoncé had to shut up for five minutes at the wedding while they did the vows but as soon as it was over she was on about her old boyfriend again and how jealous he must be of her now and how she is completely over him and how she used to have feelings for him but she definitely does not any more. I felt sorry for her new husband because he looked a bit left out. Beyoncé also said her old boyfriend was the best thing she never had, which does not make any sense at all when you think about it.

At the reception there was a good buffet and I tried Prawns for the first time and learned a dance called Doop. And that is probably the night that Beyoncé and her husband started making the baby. I do not know how long it takes to make one but it has been at least five months since then so I think it started at the wedding.

She has called her baby Blue which I think is a stupid name. I asked her if the baby was named after the band Blue from the Eurovision Song Contest but she said no that would be stupid, it is named after the song by Eiffel 65. I remember that she used to listen to that song a lot with her last boyfriend so it is lucky that she does not think about him any more.

Chicken & Lantern: Series 2

As we have seen, the success of the first series of Chicken & Lantern was marred by the acrimonious departure of David Yip after the final episode. With a second series to be written and produced, and BBC executives pronouncing that it should be appealing to a potential North American audience, up-and-coming actor Bruce Willis was cast as Lantern. His wisecracking performance shifted the dynamic of the show entirely, forcing Prunella Scales to play Chicken as a more thoughtful, maternal character — perhaps understandable after the events at the end of the first series.

Controversially, the title sequence was reshot, and while its story of how a rotisserie chicken escapes her spit to travel through time on a Chinese lantern was much the same, it was relocated from a Basingstoke shopping precinct to Chinatown, New York City. No on-screen explanation was ever given for this contradiction, although after the show’s cancellation the continuity-heavy fan-written novels of the 90s put forward any number of wild theories to reconcile it.

SERIES 2 EPISODE GUIDE

6 x 10 minute episodes (one episode never transmitted)

Transmitted on BBC1, Mondays at 4.45pm, 7th January – 11th February 1985.

Episode 1: Whaddya Know, JCDecaux? Touching down in what they believe is present-day New York after some unseen adventures, Chicken & Lantern soon realise they are in their personal future after catching sight of a billboard featuring Chicken advertising a new egg-based easy-bake cake mix. Throughout the episode, Chicken is accosted by fans, and the contrast between her unexpected celebrity status and her insistence that she would never advertise such a product is played for full comic effect. Today this episode is generally regarded as poorly-written and an excuse for Bruce Willis to oversell his role. The fact that the events leading to future Chicken’s apparent change of principles are never explored is cited by many as the beginning of the end for the show.

Episode 2: Kentucky Fly Chicken Arriving at Knob Creek Farm in the 19th Century, the duo help to convince a young Abraham Lincoln that slavery is wrong, in an episode widely derided by TV historians for its uneasy mix of sledgehammer moralising and childish innuendo. The scene in which the boy Abraham nearly drowns in the swollen Knob Creek is thought to contain some particularly inappropriate dialogue.

Episode 3: [untitled – never broadcast] There are a lot of rumours about the banned episode of Chicken & Lantern. This is the truth. On seeing an early version of the season’s first episode in post-production, Michael Grade was furious. At a now infamous BBC drinks party, he attacked the production team for going too far to appease the hoped-for US audience and shouted “It! Should! Be! Educational!”. When challenged as to what he thought would be a good educational topic, he responded, off the cuff, “Oh, I don’t know! Do something about the chicken’s evolutionary relationship with the dinosaur.”  Skulking away furiously, the production team came up with the never-shown episode that the fans have since unofficially dubbed ‘The Partridge Family‘.

The myth goes that Prunella Scales refused to record any dialogue for the episode upon reading the script and ordered the rest of the voice cast to walk out too. Lines like “Get the cluck away from him, you motherclucker!” were quoted in fanzines. But in reality, the creative team always intended, mutinously, that it should be a dialogue-free episode.

The plot was simple: arriving in Jurassic times, Lantern is trapped in a muddy swamp and Chicken is carried off by a pterosaur. The rest of the episode follows Chicken’s epic battle with a tyrannosaurus rex and is soundtracked only by the relentless, terrifying beat of a taiko drum. Those of us who saw the pirate VHS tape that was circulated in the late 80s will never forget the sight of Chicken — her skin torn to reveal a flash of white breast meat, a flint knife tucked under her wing and a strip ripped from her pinafore to form a grim bandana around the stump of her head — emerging bloodsoaked from the prehistoric jungle. It could never have been broadcast.

Episode 4: Fowl Play With creative tensions at breaking point behind the scenes, this gentle episode was conceived as a throwback to the style of Series 1. While the idea of the adventurous pair meeting Shakespeare in a woodland glade on the banks of the Avon during the writing of As You Like It — with Lantern inspiring the character of Touchstone — was a sound one, the execution is generally considered boring. These days the episode is only really remembered for Bruce Willis’s terrible delivery of the line “Thou art damned like an ill-roasted egg,” and the audible tut from Prunella Scales that somehow remained in the final edit of the sound mix.

Episode 5: I’ll Be Beak

Chicken and Lantern arrive in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of a 21st century that they soon learn is ruled by vengeful machine overlords. They quickly head back to the present day, but a relentless cyborg goose pursues them. Lantern takes centre stage in the high-octane thrills that follow, as he darts and drifts through an abandoned foie gras factory to lead the cybernetic goose (voiced by Dolph Lundgren) to its doom. Bruce Willis often fondly recalls his performance in this episode as a career-defining highlight, claiming that he’s never grunted harder.

Episode 6: To be hidden in the face of God from the disturbance of men is to be fortified with this dark contemplation against all the chances which may come upon the soul

After the dinosaur fiasco, the creative team knew they’d never work for the BBC again. They knew that the third series of Chicken & Lantern would be put together by new blood and that this was their last chance to produce an episode that defined their era. And so the episode of C&L that ensured its lasting status as a student cult classic was born.

We see Chicken ensconced in the wimpole and habit of a Carmelite nun. She slowly paces the cloisters of a mediaeval Spanish monastery, her crispy, half-roasted skin gleaming with the secret ecstasy of mystical contemplation — the exact opposite of a headless chicken.

We see Lantern, captaining a silver rocket ship as it zips through an increasingly psychedelic landscape, dispensing bolts of red and golden light into the ether.

And we see an old man, named as ‘Qi’ in the credits, collapsed across a table in the Cantonese restaurant from the title sequence, his food-poisoning fever-dreams seeming to encompass all of Chicken and Lantern’s adventures to date.

None of these realities are presented as any more “real” than any of the others. Children everywhere were mystified and haunted by the closing sequence.  We zoom in through the window of Chicken’s monastery cell, towards her and right down her gaping neck cavity. There we find Lantern in his silver rocket ship, passing through the great red and yellow caves of her insides, before we plummet through the windows of the cockpit, right up to Lantern, and right inside him, where we see that he contains a monastery on a hillside, which we plunge towards only to find Chicken, as the sequence repeats again and again. All the while a not-quite subliminal image of Qi sweating and retching flashes on and off. After two lifelong minutes of this, the screen goes blank and we hear Prunella Scales squawk one final word before the credits roll silently. To this day the fans wage online wars as to whether her defining proclamation was “Source!” or “Sauce!”.

But of course the third series would change everything again…

What happened at the Seaside

By Bert, aged 3.9

On Sundays I am supposed to see my dad. This Sunday he could not make it but as he does not want to lose his Access Rights he sent one of his friends to take me out instead and told me not to tell my mum that he wasn’t there.

Dad’s friend said I could call him Uncle Steve and he said we could go to the Seaside, but he seemed sad.

The Seaside was silent and grey. We went past a shop with chickens in it and Uncle Steve started beating against the window. “Those poor chickens!” he said. “It is terrible what has been done to them!” I said it was not as bad as when people get murdered but Uncle Steve did not agree. He said you could murder a hundred people and it would not be as bad as eating a Zinger Tower Burger, which made me sad because I like the hash brown in it.

We were trudging slowly over the wet sand up towards the pier and I was hungry. Normally my dad takes me to KFC but I thought that might not be a good idea so I asked Uncle Steve if we could go to McDonalds. He said that was worse than if I had run over a thousand kittens.

There was an Indian restaurant on the promenade and I asked if we could go in there. “We’re being flooded, and our identity’s disappearing,” he said, shaking his head. “The price is too much.” I said what did he mean and he pointed at the sea and said he only meant that the tide was coming in and that the restaurant was expensive and he shouted at me to say I should not take his comments out of context but I did not know what that meant.

I said could we go to the Chinese buffet then. “No!” he shouted. He looked angry.

We trudged back over pebbles and mud into the town. I was so hungry and I said what would it be OK to eat and he handed me a piece of paper with lots of small writing on it and there was too much to read but I saw it said that he would not eat any kind of chili or spices but that he would have some nuts and a Fanta.

Uncle Steve gave me 60p to buy us a bag of cashews but I had to go into the newsagents on my own because he did not want to walk past the Peperamis. When I came back with the cashews he was angry because they had salt on them and he said he dearly wished he was not here. I said I was not really enjoying my day out either.

Before we went home he made me sign a note to say that MEAT IS MURDER. I did not mind signing it because he had already said that murder was nothing compared to meat so it did not make sense anyway. I think Uncle Steve is a bit confused and I hope he cheers up soon.