Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 3rd January 1984
The opening episode of series seven begins with Zammo rushing to meet someone. So far, so familiar (it brings to mind a similar scene from the start of series six) but when we learn that he’s not meeting Jonah, it’s the first of several instances which demonstrate that change is in the air.
Jackie Wright (Melissa Wilks) is Zammo’s new (first?) girlfriend and together they set off for her school, Brookdale. Although they hold hands on the way, Jackie complains that it’s like holding hands with a plank! Is this because he’s ashamed to be holding hands with a girl or because he has to drop her off at Brookdale? They part at the school gates and exchange a peck on the cheek, to the intense annoyance of Gluxo Remmington (David Rippey).
Gluxo presumably goes to Brookdale (although it’s more likely that his attendance record is slim to non-existent). Maybe he spends his time roaming the streets, duffing people up? He’s certainly keen to hand out a beating to Zammo, but the younger boy manages to escape (following an entertaining chase where joggers and children in the park are just some of obstacles to be overcome). WW2 reference number one – as Zammo rides to freedom on a handy bus he raises his arm to Gluxo in an ironic Nazi salute.
There are major changes with the teaching staff, as both Mr Hopwood and Miss Mooney have left. Mr Smart is assigned to be H5’s form tutor and there’s a very revealing scene where he confesses to Mrs McClusky that his performance the previous year was, in many ways, an “act”. But in order to connect with H5 and function effectively as their form tutor he realises that he needs to show them a little more of his real personality – which isn’t something he finds easy. This moment is the start of the humanizing of Mr Smart which will develop more fully in series eight where he’s, at times, a totally different character from the abrasive martinet of series six.
Miss Gordon (Kara Wilson) is N3’s new form tutor. She makes a very strong first impression on both Fay and Annette, albeit for different reasons. Fay does her best to be friendly and welcoming (with Annette characteristically remarking that she’s a bootlicker!). No surprise that Annette is neither friendly or welcoming, not only to Miss Gordon but to everyone else as well. Annette’s first appearance – plastered in make-up – is a startling one and Fay’s comment to Julie that she was rather odd during the holidays is the first hint that something may be wrong with Ms Firman.
Other plot-threads are started (why does Roland have so much money and why is he so scruffy?) but there’s no need for them to be answered in this episode. It’s simply a mystery that can be tucked away for later.
One of my pet hates is when a new character is introduced and everyone reacts as if he/she has been there for years and we’ve simply never seen them on screen before. Kevin Baylon (Mmoloki Chrystie) is a classic case in point. With the absence of Jonah it’s easy to believe that he was created to fill this gap, but that wasn’t the case at all.
Jonah was to have appeared in the first few episodes, before meeting a watery end in the school swimming pool. Either the actor, his parents or his agent didn’t fancy this, so the character of Jeremy Irvine was drafted in to take his place. In a way it’s a pity that Jonah didn’t feature, as certain parts of the plot – Zammo and Jackie’s relationship, for example – would have had more resonance if Jonah had been the one on the outside, slightly irritated that his best-friend Zammo was spending all his time with a girl.
Within a short space of time Jeremy manages to annoy virtually all of his new class-mates and he ends the episode proudly displaying the forged bus-pass he made in art class. I wonder how this will end for him ….
It’s interesting that Jeremy’s parents decide to transfer him to Grange Hill because they’ve heard rumours that Rodney Bennett (Jeremy’s old school) and Brookdale are due to merge. Series eight would see a three-school merger (with GH too, of course) so I wonder if this was an early foreshadowing of that. More likely it was just a throwaway line that someone later realised had plenty of dramatic potential.
WW2 reference number two – as H5 wait for the arrival of Mr Smart, Stewpot does his best impression of him (if he was played by Adolf Hitler that is). It’s a little hard to imagine a modern children’s serial peppered with references to the Second World War, if only for the fact that many of the audience might not understand the references.