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Snowflake Challenge: Day Eleven

In your own space, share a favorite piece of original canon (a TV episode, a song, a favourite interview, a book) and explain why you love it so much. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.

This was incredibly difficult. My first thought was to choose a really good episode of something; but then the full extent of the prompt got me thinking, because there's movies and books to choose from as well. Also, the mention of "a favourite piece of canon" suggests that the choice shouldn't be a favourite episode, but a favourite thing that happens in a particular episode. Which complicated things even further. Eventually I narrowed it down to a shortlist of about twenty episodes, films and books; but since I had no over all favourite, I decided in the end to go for the one that's arguably the least well known. There's too much good stuff out there to try deciding whether one thing is better than all the rest; and small fandoms need support. Shortlist included at the end, just because.

So, there's a programme in Britain (or there was - it was axed in 2008, having run since 1978). It's called Grange Hill, and it depicted the lives of children at secondary school (ages 11-16). It followed kids throughout their time at the school, so we'd get to see them grow up, and go through all those many little dramas associated with adolescence. Grange Hill was well respected for its uncompromising approach, and its acknowledgement of the fact that school can suck, and that kids can be extremely unpleasant - as can teachers, all too often. Teachers didn't always like it, and neither did parents, but it told the truth, even when the truth was anything but nice.

Grange Hill: Season Six (1983). The race riots.

It was a hell of a brave storyline from a children's show. School bully Gripper Stebson, losing interest in beating up on smaller kids, turned his attentions to the black and asian kids instead. He encouraged, or when necessary intimidated, the other white kids into backing him up, and soon the school was a pressure keg. Racism is hardly a rare plotline on television, but I've never seen it done so well, and in such raw, honest detail, on British TV - and this was a kids' show. For once the white cast weren't the heroes. Too afraid to stand up to Gripper, for the most part they muttered about how it wasn't their fight anyway, with only little Stewpot being brave enough to do what he knew was right. I rewatched the first ten series of Grange Hill just recently, for the first time in a whole lot of years, and there were a lot of storylines, short and long, that impressed me. This one stood out head and shoulders above the rest. You wouldn't get children's drama like this now. Hell, I haven't seen adult drama like this in a long while. The raw pain that racism causes; the damage that it does; the sort of people who propagate it, from thoroughly nasty troublemakers, to ordinary people who just don't want to rock the boat. Outstanding acting from everybody, be it helpless teachers, anguished kids, and evil Gripper himself. Stand out scenes? Stewpot realising that his best friend thinks racism is somebody else's problem; Precious Matthews, taking all she can from Gripper and fighting back, in a scene that's about as punch-the-air as you can get; Mr Hopwood, everybody's favourite form tutor, standing toe to toe with Gripper in a scene so tense it could almost make the screen snap - although of course ultimately there's nothing that he can do.

Not just great kids' TV, but great TV all round.


The runners-up:

  • Highlander: "Comes A Horseman" (The revelation of who Methos really was).
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer: "Hallowe'en" & "The Dark Age" (The revelation of who Giles really was). Apparently I like questionable yesterdays.
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer: "Becoming" Parts 1+2 (Just about everything really).
  • Angel: "Five By Five" (The birth of the new, improved Wes)
  • Angel: "Salvage" & "Release" (Faith and Wes as the dark, flip side of Buffy and Giles. Still waiting on that spin-off...)
  • Babylon 5: "War Without End" Parts 1+2 (Just an amazing collection of shards of the show's mythos, coming together in wonderful ways).
  • Doctor Who: "Earthshock" (Heroes in a children's show really can die. Quite a revelation when you're six).
  • Torchwood: "Captain Jack Harkness" (One of the best episodes of anything ever).
  • Robin Of Sherwood: "The Greatest Enemy" (Every character gets the chance to do something awesome, and then one Robin Hood legend makes way for another. And it hurts in all the ways that good television sometimes should).
  • The Tribe: (No episode titles, but 1x08 and 1x09, with the relevation of Bray's connection to Zoot).
  • Bonanza: "Same Wind, Different Pines" (Watching it nowadays, it's everything I loved about the show as a kid, all distilled into one episode. All the fun, all the excitement, and all the reasons why I wanted to be Joe Cartwright. And probably still do).
  • The West Wing: "Two Cathedrals" (The coming together of everything in the preceding episodes, culminating in Bartlett's tirade against God. And the little bits. His anger. His grief (and ours) over Mrs Landringham. His acknowledgement of Josh as a son. His determination to carry on fighting. And, damn it, why isn't he President in real life).
  • Return To Treasure Island: the mini series or the novelisation by John Goldsmith (Every moment of it, with all the swords and the pirates and the excitement, and everything that it shows the future to be for Jim and Silver).
  • Between The Lines: "Big Boys' Rules" (Spend two seasons shaping your lead character, then throw everything you possibly can at him, break him in every way he can break, and then stand back and see what happens).
  • Sleepers (All four episodes. Every moment of).
  • Wolf Lake (All of it. It didn't last nearly long enough, but I love it simply for existing).

  • Stand By Me: (Chris and Gordie, and the fact that they had each other, when they didn't have anybody else).
  • Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence: (The whole, tangled mess of it).
  • Arsenic & Old Lace: (Everything. Mortimer, raised by those batty old sisters. The fact that these two sweet little old ladies are mass murderers. Doctor Einstein and everything he does. The Boris Karloff in-jokes that don't entirely work once it ceased to be a play and became a movie, but who cares).

  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: (Glorious, murky, involving story of the world beneath London).
  • The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik: (As if the story itself wasn't good enough to begin with, suddenly she gives me Granby and Iskierka. Iskierka is a dragon who's a pirate. Dragons and pirates, not just in the same book, but in the same character. That takes some beating, you have to admit).

    So yeah. That's day eleven. I'm going to shut up now, don't worry.
  • Comments

    ( 11 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
    liadtbunny
    Jan. 15th, 2013 04:48 pm (UTC)
    Ah, Grange Hill those were the days. I think modern TV today could learn from old kid's shows sometimes.
    swordznsorcery
    Jan. 15th, 2013 07:49 pm (UTC)
    Yes! They still do good stuff, but they don't seem to do nearly as much drama anymore, which is such a shame.
    lost_spook
    Jan. 15th, 2013 04:53 pm (UTC)
    Wow, some good choices in there. Two cathedrals particularly, though; it really is amazing.

    And: Faith and Wes as the dark, flip side of Buffy and Giles. Still waiting on that spin-off... Yes, me, too.

    And, ha, I confess I thought Grange Hill had finished in the 90s! I was a bit startled to find via this post it had only finished in 2008. I never watched it, because first I was too young and then by the time I was old enough it was pretty much the 90s and it just seemed to be something people used to watch? So, er, there was Byker Grove instead. But also Press Gang, of course. But that does sound pretty great. That was in the days when I was way too young to watch it, but my cousins all did.

    I remember the theme tune though, with the cartoon sausage in.

    :-)
    swordznsorcery
    Jan. 15th, 2013 07:55 pm (UTC)
    Heck yes, "Grange Hill" had gone right off the boil in the 90s. I saw the first series of "Byker Grove", which was okay, but that was when I stopped watching Children's BBC, I guess. It did seem like a good successor though.

    Somebody recently uploaded the whole lot of GH onto YouTube, and I was working my way through. So much impressive drama, but then by the late 80s it seemed to turn into a comedy. It's baffling. The school bully was a thoroughly nasty piece of work named Imelda. In one episode she stuffs wire wool down a boy's collar, so that there are horrible scratches all over his back. And it's played for laughs. Possibly because he's a boy and she's a girl, he's never allowed to get his own back, and all his attempts end in Wily E Coyote style failure. A shame, because the standard of acting was still good. Goodness knows what the prouducers were thinking.
    lost_spook
    Jan. 16th, 2013 10:30 am (UTC)
    Well, it looks from this, as though you're a couple years older than me - and I stopped watching CBBC about Byker Grove S3, so that sounds fair enough. :-)

    I'm just amused that I rather egotistically assumed it had ended because me and my sisters didn't watch it. Er... :lol:

    Hmm. I suppose the producers changed and were trying anything to get the audience back? And by that time you did have Press Gang, which nothing could beat, and Byker Grove were doing the serious issues - maybe there was at least some thought in their madness? Still, if we wanted comedy around then, we'd have been watching Maid Marian. (Oh. Wait, we all were... ;-D)
    swordznsorcery
    Jan. 16th, 2013 11:34 pm (UTC)
    Dungeons & Dragons! I have an old LJ friend who's pretty heavily into that. Keep meaning to watch it again. I don't think I've seen it since the eighties. Those old cartoons rock.

    Or seemed to at the time. ;)
    lost_spook
    Jan. 17th, 2013 01:16 pm (UTC)
    Heh, yes, 80s cartoons were fun. D&D was the only one I never tired of, though, and rushed out to buy the DVD so fast I forgot to even stop and feel guilty about spending money on frivolous things first. I'm still v fond of it and am making a fanvid for it at the moment, but it's been ongoing since August! I think many of the things I tend to like in stuff go back to that cartoon. :-)

    I'd feel rather more trepidatious about rewatching some of the others, though.
    swordznsorcery
    Jan. 17th, 2013 07:31 pm (UTC)
    A fanvid sounds fun. I got "Visionaries" when that came out on DVD, and that is still excellent, but I haven't bothered with "Ulysses" or "The Mysterious Cities Of Gold". I bought one of the "Defenders Of The Earth" DVDs, and that's fun, but I find that I want to shoot the kids now. There was a cartoon back in around 1980 called "Battle Of The Planets", which I adored. Tried that when it came out on DVD, and couldn't make it past the second episode.

    I think I'd probably like D&D still, but Sheila and Uni drove me nuts at the time, so I'm a bit wary now.
    lost_spook
    Jan. 17th, 2013 08:11 pm (UTC)
    Oh, yes, I remember all those. I had quite a thing for Visionaries - it had ongoing storylines and people kissed (they rarely did that in cartoons before that, as far as I could tell) but I got fed up with it by the end. This is true of just about every cartoon except D&D. Oh, and Mysterious Cities of Gold. I adored that while it was on, but I don't think I'd dare have a rewatch.

    Nobody else in my year ever remembered Battle of the Planets - I must have watched it when I was quite small and I have this scary memory. (It's unreliable but it goes way back.) I loved that so much, but I can't remember why. I think there was an episode with the villain that was the scariest and best thing I ever saw when I was tiny. Other than that, they had bird helmets?

    swordznsorcery
    Jan. 17th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC)
    They had bird helmets, yes. And yes, it probably was quite scary in a way. The bad guy was pretty good. The whole idea of it was good, actually. The Americans bought quite a grown up Japanese cartoon called "Gatchaman", and then (presumably thinking that "animation" = "for kids") redubbed it for a young audience. And therein lies the problem. They added cutesy robots, that narrate the action, and sanitise everything. In one episode, Jason smacks a guard over the head, and there's an immediate cut back to a robot, explaining that the guard soon recovered, with a minor headache. :D It's infuriating! I'd love to see the original some day, and see what it's like.

    Except apparently the proper version killed off Jason, who was awesome. *belated ferocious glaring*
    lost_spook
    Jan. 18th, 2013 09:01 am (UTC)
    :-)

    I think I must have been about four or so? So, it wouldn't have had to be all that scary. I just remember the villain finally arriving in his ship and it was this huge scary moment in my head.

    I think I'd heard that. Hmm, looks like they've got you either way! ;-)
    ( 11 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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