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Series / Higher Ground

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Top: Sully—er, Peter, Sophie, Anakin—er, Scott, JJ—er, Shelby, Dualla—er, Kat; Bottom: Auggie, Riley—er, Juliette, Tudgeman—er, Ezra, Kaylee—er, Daisy, Joe—er, Frank.

Airing in 2000 on what was then Fox Family, Higher Ground broke the conventions of a high school drama focusing on just the most troubled kids by giving them their own school. Mount Horizon is a rehabilitation school in the Pacific Northwest where troubled teens who have been abused, involved in drugs, prostitution, or gangs learn to grow in a safe environment. The series focuses on a group of students called the Cliffhangers, each with their own story and troubles.

Originally a Joe Lando vehicle, the series may be more well known for some of the actors who played the Cliffhangers: Hayden Christensen pre-Anakin; Jewel Staite pre-Kaylee; Kyle Downes pre-Tudgeman; A.J. Cook pre-JJ; and Kandyse McClure pre-Dualla.

No relation to the song with the same name by Red Hot Chili Peppers Stevie Wonder, or the 2011 film.


The show provides examples of

  • A Day in the Limelight: used to explain a few of the character's backstories
  • Abusive Parents
  • The Alcoholic: both of Daisy's the point of them breaking perfume bottles to get their fix
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: The sheet music was part of Daisy's solo trek package; Jewel Staite sings it at the end of the ep.
  • Backstory each of the Cliffhanger's pasts, as well as the reasons for their being sent to Horizon, are gradually revealed over the course of the series
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Scott near the end of the last episode
    • Daisy does this to her dad over her mother's (fresh) grave.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: David, who actually has ADD
  • Cut Short: subverted, in that the series was canceled after its first season and still managed to wrap up all the major plot threads.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Daisy and Ezra.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Strongly averted. Scott's rapes at the hands of his stepmother are presented as horrifying crimes that affected him deeply. Lampshaded by Shelby.
    Shellby: "This is gona sound really bad, but..I kinda thought guys always wanted it."
    Scott: "Me too"
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  • Dogged Nice Guy: Ezra. He plagiarized Romeo and Juliet so he'd impress Daisy. She does not reciprocate.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first time we see Sophie, she is parachuting down off a cliff towards Peter.
  • Golf Clubbing: Daisy's sent to Horizon after hitting her father in the head with a seven iron.
  • Goth: Daisy; forced out of the makeup and black hair dye on Day 1. She goes back to the Goth trappings for her appearance at her mother's funeral to make a statement, just before she calls the old man out.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Averted. Peter loses a bet and has to sing YMCA; he clearly mostly knows the song, but he just isn't quite hitting the notes.
  • Jerkass/Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Shelby. Possibly Scott as well, though he's generally a bit nicer.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Sophie very loves Peter and wants kids with him...the problem is, she has severe endometriosis, which pretty much rules out her getting pregnant. She actually refuses Peter's marriage proposal at first because of this.
  • "L" Is for "Dyslexia": Auggie, who is nearly illiterate, is discoverd to be dyslexic by Hannah in an early episode.
  • Loveable Rogue: Ezra
  • Parental Incest: step-parental incest, actually
  • Popularity Food Chain: Discussed a few times; the Cliffhangers are fully aware that, at any other school, Lovable Jock Scott and Spoiled Sweet Juliette would not be friends with, much less dating, say, white trash Shelby or Delinquent Auggie.
  • Rape as Backstory: Scott, Shelby, and her younger sister Jess.
  • Road Trip Plot: "Daised and Confused" has Sophie, Daisy, and Shelby go on a trip to attend Daisy's mother's funeral.
  • School Play: Romeo and Juliet, as rewritten by Ezra; Scott and Shelby, of course, play the Star-Crossed Lovers.
  • Self-Harm: Juliette is a cutter.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Auggie, a a tough kid from the barrio, favors wifebeaters. In some excellent Character Development, he abandons them after he stands up to and rejects his old life.
  • Stepford Snarker: Daisy and Shelby often use sarcasm as a defense mechanism. Ezra could qualify as one, but he's probably better described as a Sad Clown.
  • Tarot Troubles: In the teaser to "Daised and Confused", Daisy reads the tarot for her friends...and herself, which is dangerous, but there's a "full moon out...too tempting". She draws "Death" for herself, foreshadowing the death of her mother in a car accident moments later.
  • Troubled, but Cute: EVERYBODY
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Peter's father
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?
  • Wicked Stepmother: Elaine, Scott's abusive stepmom


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