Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Seven


Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 11th March 1985

The French exchange students arrive.  Mr Bronson is no doubt hoping for a rewarding cultural cross-pollination whilst I suspect that Fay and Julie are thinking about quite another form of pollination ….

Both seem impressed with the French boys, although it has to be said that most of the exchange students (both male and female) seem to be narcissistically self-obsessed.  This may be a little unfair though, as their limited English obviously hampers them (expect various “comic” moments of misunderstanding) and it’s true that the Grange Hill types give them a welcome which varies enormously.

Amusingly, they’re treated very much little cattle as they get off the coach (“what’s your one like, I don’t think much of mine”) with Zammo being the worst offender.  For some reason he’s very much taken against his one – a perfectly inoffensive chap – and proceeds to give him a hard time.  No doubt this is because he’s still smarting over his on-off-on-off relationship with Jackie, but it’s still a rarity to see him behave in such a boorish manner.

A party at Julian’s finds everybody (to the strains of George Michael’s Careless Whisper, the perfect mid eighties smooch record) pairing off – even Roland, who’s rather taken with Fabienne (Jessica Harrison).  Given that Roland is pretty anonymous during the rest of series eight, this is a nice piece of character development, especially given his long-running issues with making friends and forming relationships.

The other main thrust of the episode is the revelation that Calley is adopted and her real mother, Angela (Jean Heard), has returned to the area and is keen to establish contact with her daughter for the fist time.  It’s a challenging role for Simone Hyams and her lack of acting experience is possibly exposed when the camera focuses on a close-up of e, overhearing her parents talking.  We should be seeing horror, pain and confusion on her face, but instead Hyams can only manage mild inconvenience.

This is only a minor niggle though, since when she’s given dialogue she’s on much firmer ground.  Her adoptive mother (played by Deidre Costello) tells her that they didn’t tell her when she was little because they thought she wouldn’t understand – Calley’s plaintive rejoinder that she’s “not been little for ages” is very nicely played and remains a memorable moment.

Ian Redford makes the first of a handful of appearances as Mr Legge – in this one he spies the absconding Gonch and Hollo and steers them reluctantly to their home economics class.  Mr Legge is clearly something of a trendy teacher (sporting a lapel badge) and his easy-going nature, albeit also with a core of steel, comes across well here.  He’s another of those short-lived characters who could easily have become a regular.

The cooking lesson also gives us another example that Ronnie is rather an iconoclast and a rebel (she breaks an egg over Trevor’s head).  This part of the episode is also of interest thanks to the question of Ronnie’s hair.  It’s in something of a Toyah style (as acknowledged) but shortly afterwards it turns back into a more normal style.  I’m not sure exactly how she could have done this, so I’ll surmise it was done in order to match a later film sequence which featured her normal hairstyle.

We close on a cliffhanger – it’s late in the evening but Calley hasn’t returned home.  Earlier, we’d seen her go off with Angela for a cup of tea, but where is she now?

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