Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 18th January 1983
The opening scene sees Zammo at the breakfast table, reading a copy of the Sun, and with a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes prominently in the frame. If it wasn’t for the fact that we know the BBC doesn’t go in for that sort of thing, I’d swear it was blatant product placement! Jonah’s still keen on spending the afternoon at Rodney Bennett whilst Zammo isn’t, although he’s eventually persuaded. It doesn’t take a genius to guess that this isn’t going to work out well ….
Gripper and Denny tangle with Roland for the first time since episode one. Despite the fact they’ve been warned off this type of bullying, no doubt they feel confident that Roland will keep quiet. But there’s also a newer, more insidious tone to Gripper’s abuse of the younger boy, as he tells Roland that he may look white but he’s actually black inside. The running gag that Gripper is intellectually lacking is maintained when Denny, agreeing with Gripper as usual, tells him that Roland must have a pigment problem. Needless to say, Gripper has no idea what he’s talking about.
After Diane feels faint during sports, this leads Jonah to wonder exactly why girls are always feeling faint. Zammo tells him it’s to do with the time of the month, but doesn’t elaborate too much (although he does let drop the nugget of information that it’s all to do with the Moon!)
Later, Zammo and Jonah meet up with Jeremy and some other boys from Rodney Bennett as the plan to infiltrate the school begins in earnest. One of the them is unmistakably John Drummond, who would turn up two years later as another character, Trevor Cleaver. This obviously means that he must have been blessed with fresh-faced looks, since he could also pass for a first year a couple of years later in 1985. A slight can of worms concerns Jeremy himself. We’re told in an earlier episode that he’s only a first year, but in 1984 he seems to have jumped ahead somewhat as he transfers to Grange Hill and joins Zammo in the third year. But it has to remembered that the inclusion of Jeremy in 1984 was something of a last minute decision – as we’ll no doubt discuss when we reach those episodes.
Zammo and Jonah’s misadventures at Rodney Bennett certainly benefit from being shot on film, as does the fact we see them enter the school after everyone else has already gone to class. This makes the pair of them seem very small and instantly makes the school an even more foreboding place. The sound of a hectoring teacher’s voice from off-screen (sounding all the world like he could have been auditioning for Pink Floyd’s The Wall) is another obvious sign that this is a far less welcoming place than Grange Hill.
The sight of Stanley Lebor as a harsh teacher is something of a highlight. Although probably best known as the meek and mild Howard Hughes from the classic Richard Briers sitcom Ever Decreasing Circles, prior to this Lebor had tended to play more intmindating figures (as he does here). Lebor’s teacher has no compunction in grabbing the two boys by their ears or banging their heads together to make a point! And a familiar film trick, used from the very first episode onwards, is also brought into play – the camera is positioned low down and angled upwards, making the adult seem even taller than he already is.
Also, Fay’s increasing interest in sports causes more friction between her and Annette whilst Diane is the recipient of some mild bullying from Roland. That Roland, who’s suffered at the hands of bullies more than most, should start to lash out at the girl is, in one way, quite understandable. Anybody who draws attention away from himself is clearly welcome, but that he also lashed out at the girl immediately after being bullied by Gripper indicates how the bullying of one person can have a knock on effect, as we see them then take their frustrations out on someone else.