Most of my young students will be far too young to remember, or know about, the thoroughly chilling Tales of the unexpected series, which used to air on television when I was …ahem… younger. Just yesterday, as I was reading a wonderful children’s thriller, I was lamenting to all who would listen in my household, that there just isn’t great children’s drama on the telly these days. The American shows on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel just don’t cut it in my opinion – all they seem to have done is teach children how to overuse the word “like” and to inflame the current obsession with celebrities! Thankfully there is no shortage of brilliant children’s fiction being written which more than fills the gap!
Anyway back to Tales of the unexpected….it wasn’t really a children’s TV show but I am sure many older children watched it, especially if they loved Roald Dahl…
Tales of the Unexpected is a British television series that aired between 1979 and 1988. Each episode told a story, often with sinister and wryly comedic undertones, with an unexpected twist ending. Early episodes were based on the adult short stories by Roald Dahl collected in the books Tales of the Unexpected, Kiss Kiss and Someone Like You… (Source Wikipedia).
Here is a video taster… Roald Dahl introduced each of the earlier episodes. He makes some insightful comments about the difference between comedy and tragedy and the subtle, hard to get-just-right sliver in between, which is black comedy…something many writers strive for, but only a few can pull off successfully. (If you want to see any episodes in full – look on You Tube for the episode called “the Landlady” or “lamb to the slaughter” – these are two I remember after all this time!) – look for the books at the Public Library….I wouldn’t recommend the short stories for younger children, but middle and senior students might enjoy them.
Now, why am I telling you about this very old fashioned TV series when I am blogging about books you may ask?…in a very round about way, I wanted to tell you about the Shiverton Hall short story I gave you a link to yesterday.
The Quality chophouse by Emerald Fennell is a stunning little short story of the black and chilling variety. The publisher had warned that the reader needed a strong stomach to read it, and they were right. There is a twist in the tail of this story that Roald Dahl would be proud of. After reading this story I was immediately reminded of the Tales of the unexpected, because this tale would have been quite at home as an episode there.
I have started Shiverton Hall and I am thoroughly enjoying it, many of the scenes take me back to Harry Potter (what is it about English boarding schools that are so interesting?)… but parts of it really are really quite scary…my ten year old daughter is reading it now, but I am not sure if letting her read it right before bed is a good idea! (she has just finished A Tale dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz and subsequently has developed an appetite for the horrific.)