Worst to Best

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7 Bod and the Kite

One of two episodes to explore the nature of dreams, this one sees each of the characters try to help Bod fly his kite. All, that is, except for Aunt Flo, who suggests they have a picnic to relax and forget about the problem. They all sleep, blissed out on whatever substances Aunt Flo has put in the food, and Bod's dream causes the kite to finally take flight.

6 Bod's Present

Perhaps one of the more conventional episodes, as Bod, PC Copper, Farmer Barleymow and Frank the Postman get to meet Father Christmas while delivering their presents to Aunt Flo. However, what compels with this one is a slightly dark undercurrent as all four spend a night under the snow, trapped and unable to get out. With a night sky, there's a bleaker tone, though they all seem perfectly content when they're dug out, and none of them have suffocated to death; the makers perhaps rightfully suspecting that seeing Farmer Barleymow's frozen corpse may have not appealed to the show's target audience. After this, things get back on a lighter note, so we're saved the potential horrors of such episodes as Jimmy McGovern's Bod Gets Glassed or Ken Loach's Bod on the Dole. There's even a message about how adversity can be serendipitous, with all four getting colds, just in time for Aunt Flo's present of handkerchiefs.

5 Bod and the Dog

Part of Bod's charm is the primitive animation on grainy, unrestored filmstock. In fact, "animation" is maybe too kind a word for it, as often things barely move, though it's all the more delightful because of it. However, Bod and the Dog bucks the trend somewhat, with Bod imagining what dog each of his friends would have, and, in his imagination, each of them transmogrifying into the various canines in his mind's eye. It's unusual to see so much motion in a Bod episode, with only Bod and the Kite and Bod and the Grasshopper rivalling it for action. The story closes out with five dogs where the characters would normally be, before cutting out to the usual "walk away" finale.

4 Bod and the Grasshopper

All the characters get involved with hopping across the screen, attempting to emulate a grasshopper. This takes on a surreal tone as they're all capable of stopping mid hop and hanging in the air as other things take their notice. The Zen message of missing out on life if you don't look around takes on an unusually gritty air for Bod, as PC Copper discovers a stolen car the entire force has been looking for. Although this doesn't make it the work of Alan Bleasdale, PC Copper has never been shown to do any unpleasant police work in any other episode, even the police helicopter (Bod and the Kite) just used for monitoring traffic, rather than trying to locate a fleeing heroin addict who has committed a murder.

3 Bod's Dream

A complex and impenetrable episode, where dream logic makes an episode that appeals to small children seem so devoid of meaning to an adult. Here Bod wakes from a dream about strawberries and cream, and entices everyone else into this fantasy... before they all fall down a hole and discover a massive, oversized bowl of strawberries and cream. It appears to have no realistic point, but probably ties into the famous story of Chuang Tzu, who dreamed he was a butterfly and couldn't decide which version was reality.

2 Bod and the Apple

Bod originally appeared in books, written by Michael Cole in 1963 for his children, and illustrated by his wife. Four books were completed and read out on Playschool (which Cole was producing) in 1974, before being turned into the TV series in 1975. Although other episodes were adapted into books later, when the series aired nine instalments were original stories created entirely for the programme.
     Although many of the other stories are strong, it's notable that the four original stories all score highly in this ranking: Bod's Present, Bod's Dream, Bod and the Cherry Tree and the episode here. Many other sources cite 1965 as the original publish date (including, confusingly, the official Bod Facebook page), but for reference here I'm going off the timeline that used to appear on The Official Bod Website. And yes, I confess, I did plan to run this article for the TV series' 2015 fortieth anniversary, and forgot at the last minute, necessitating the use of this extra anniversary. All of which literary detail hides the fact that Bod and the Apple is so indecipherable – albeit brilliant – that I haven't got a clue how to summarise it. As with Bod's Dream, a programme that made so much sense to the imagination of the under 5s can be so impenetrable to a more rigid, logically-minded adult, and maybe that's the entire point.

1 Bod and the Cherry Tree

If there's a complaint to be had with Bod, it's that the various exchanges between characters occasionally veers towards repetition and away from the tranquil mood usually found in the best of them. Although the five-strong cast all have memorable personalities and entrance themes, there's perhaps no need for all of them to make an appearance in this otherwise perfect episode, where Bod looks for assurance in a conversation with Aunt Flo.
     Allowing children to understand the nature of loss and the purpose of death, it sees Aunt Flo on the verge of depression after seeing leaves falling from a tree. She's clearly, within the context of the programme, suffering from the early stages of dementia, or is possibly bipolar. But in the wider world, there are serious themes being gently tackled in a programme for the very young. This was the last episode to be broadcast in the run, and a high point to end on.


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