Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 10th January 1984
Although Mr Smart is aware that he needs to unbend a little and show a more human side to H5, old habits die hard. When Claire, clutching a biorhythm calculator, asks him for his date of birth (in order to work out his physical, mental and emotional states) he tells her not to be impertinent. His date of birth is clearly information that he doesn’t wish to share.
But as if to demonstrate his inflexibility, later Miss Gordon and Mr Howard (Michael Osborne) are both happy to let the girls know their dates of birth. This scene, whilst demonstrating how friendly and approachable they both are, also signifies the start of Mr Howard’s campaign to woo Miss Gordon. It’s obvious to Claire and the others that he popped into her class on the merest pretext – he basically just wanted a little quality time with her.
They all approve – in their eyes Miss Gordon and Mr Howard would make an ideal couple and they don’t consider the age difference (some four years) to be a problem! Prior to this, I can’t think of many instances where the private life of a teacher was considered an acceptable story topic (apart from the trials and tribulations of Mr Sutcliffe and Miss Mooney) so this seems to mark a subtle change in the series’ format as from now on the teachers will tend to become more rounded characters. Mr Howard is another person who has apparently been at Grange Hill for years, but always out of shot. Michael Osborne makes Mr Howard relaxed and friendly – clearly a teacher who’s a favourite amongst the pupils.
But he has a rival in love, as Mr Smart is also interested in the fragrant new art teacher. It must be said that he’s rather forward – placing his arm on her shoulder as he steers her down the corridor. Mr Smart also approaches her under a flimsy pretext (in his case, advice about sets for the school play) and at present it’s far too early to say which (if either) is going to get the nod from her. Indeed, this is a story that’s going to run and run …..
After being a key figure during series six, Randir is much more low profile this year (this episode is probably his most substantial contribution). He offers to sell Pogo one of his chain letters – for a mere five pence. Pogo spies a money-making opportunity and buys all of them so he can start his own chain (this naturally ticks off Randir).
The nature of chain letters, how they work (or don’t) and exactly how you can apparently make a fortune is discussed in some detail. With a fair bit of mathematical discussion, this is probably one of Grange Hill‘s most educational episodes.
Although there are warnings that chain letters always fail, for the moment Pogo seems to be in the money. But Claire warns him that Jimmy McClaren will want his cut – the first mention of the unseen (as yet) successor to Gripper. Following Gripper was always going to be difficult, so it was probably quite wise that they chose to make Jimmy McClaren a very different character.