Written by Jane Hollowood. Tx 12th February 1982
N1 pay a visit to Chessington Zoo and it’ll come as no surprise to learn that there’s various hi-jinks along the way, although Mr Sutcliffe and Miss Mooney remain oblivious to most of them.
As it’s a location shoot, it’s all on film (GH wouldn’t switch to VT for outside recording until 1986). Probably the most notable thing about the episode is that, according to Lee Macdonald, it was the first thing they recorded. It’s easy to spot that it’s early on, since Zammo sports his very severe haircut which gradually grew out as the series progressed. Presumably they’d always intended to hold the episode back until the second half of the series, although this continuity problem does make it stick out a bit.
Roland’s the butt of most people’s jokes – he’s too fat to fit through the turnstile and is later likened to a hippopotamus. He does have one ally though – Janet. Although as will happen time and time again he doesn’t welcome her attention. She’s very blunt, telling him that if he didn’t eat so much then he wouldn’t be so unhappy, which is probably the reason why he’s so unresponsive to her. It might be the truth, but as Janet has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer her good intentions don’t have the results she hopes. Roland ends up in a wretched state, sobbing to Mr Sutcliffe.
Whilst Roland’s having a miserable time, Jonah and Zammo are enjoying themselves by having running battles with a rival school. This culminates when the other boys throw Jonah’s schoolbag into the sealion enclosure and he unwisely decides to go and get it back. It’s all going so well, until one of the zoo keepers spots him and he ends up in the water! He then has to spend the rest of the afternoon attempting to dry off whilst avoiding the keeper. And just to show that a good gag is always worth repeating, we once again see two boys (in this case Zammo and Jonah) squeeze into a toilet cubicle and pretend to be one. See the series three shopping precinct episode for another example of this.
Apart from Gavin Campbell as Mr Stuart, the overbearing teacher from the other school, the main guests are the animals themselves. Some of the shots presumably came about by sheer good luck – for example, as the children rush over to see the hippo it obligingly opened its mouth wide.
Annette catches the eye of a boy from the rival school, Carotts (David Jewell). He has red hair, unsurprisingly. She’s something of a minx, promising to write but then giving him a false name and address! We also learn that she wants to be a trapeze artist when she grows up (or anything that’s not conventional).
Miss Mooney and Mr Sutcliffe’s on/off relationship seems slightly more off than on, although both Fay and Annette are fascinated to know when they’re going to get married. She tells them that no date’s been set and as will become clear in the next series it never will.
Running at just under thirty minutes, this is a long episode (although nominally each one ran for twenty five minutes, it could vary between twenty and thirty). It’s good stuff though and after a few mainly studio-bound installments it’s nice to get out into the open again.