Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Three

grange-hill-s08e03

Written by David Angus.  Tx 25th February 1985

After unsuccessfully pursuing Miss Gordon for all of S7, Mr Smart’s on much firmer ground with Miss Washington – they’ve already fixed up a date at the squash court and it’s only episode three.  He’s a quick mover!  This episode also sees the first stirrings of Gonch’s skills as a salesman.  He and Hollo have various things to sell, scavenged from the rubbish tip – and I do like the way he describes that they’ve come from a “tip-top” supplier ….

The ever patient CDT teacher Mr McKenzie (Nicholas Donnelly) appears for the first time.  Donnelly would put in long service at Grange Hill, appearing for the next eight series and he’s perfect as the unflappable teacher (he seemed to specialise in such characters as he had an even longer-running but similar role in Dixon of Dock Green).

Calley is entertaining the others with some palm reading but Jane (Joann Kenny) is convinced it’s all a con.  It’s plain that Calley is simply making stuff up, but we’re still invited to side with her as Jane’s plan to expose her backfires and she ends up as the one who’s ridiculed.  This seems a little unfair, as Jane isn’t really positioned as a spiteful character.

A wave of thefts are sweeping the school, including Mr Smart’s squash racquets.  It’s just one of a number of niggles which convince the teaching staff to make a direct appeal to Mrs McClusky.  Mr Bronson is less than impressed with Mr Smart’s missing racquets, he’s more concerned with the lack of car-parking spaces.  Mr Baxter, someone who’s tended to appear mostly on film during the last few seasons, is now back to being a VT character as well – he leads the deputation, but is far from impressed at the outcome, telling the others that he feels like a “right nana” after they fail to reach a consensus.

The bickering continues into the staff room and descends into a male/female debate, only terminated when Mr Baxter blows his whistle, which shuts Mr Bronson up!  This is good stuff and it’s nice to focus a little more on the staff, something which we’ll see more of in later years.

And I have to spare a word for a scene-stealing extras right at the start, who have a brief conversation about fish fingers.

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2 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Three

  1. Mr Mackenzie does in fact make his debut here. Nicholas Donnelly was just right for this role – Mr Mac was the kindly teacher who was both approachable and had a real passion for his work. He had an excellent rapport with the pupils, but he could be equally firm with unruly behaviour when necessary, he was certainly no pushover.

    Sadly, Mr Mac was a little underused at times and certainly later on in GH, his appearances began to dwindle. By Series 16 (his final year), I think he only made three appearances in twenty episodes.

    Like Karen Ford (Miss Booth), Nicholas Donnelly, has spoken up in recent times to state that the bosses at the BBC decided simply to discontinue their characters even though they were happy to remain with the programme.

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  2. Nicholas Donnelly died earlier this month. RIP.

    There’s been a noticeable trend in the series until now that most of the teachers fall into one of four departments – English & Drama, Science, Art or PE – and the exceptions tended to be one-offs or in specific roles. It’s nice to see a bit more subject diversity with the new characters.

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