Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Nine


Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 18th March 1985

Gonch’s latest money-making scheme is a video club, run during the lunchtimes with tapes “borrowed” from the shop where Vince’s dad works.  We briefly get a glimpse of the film they’re watching and it’s noticeable that the picture quality is authentically bad (loads of interference) which was often par for the course with tapes from video rental shops.  Although the picture here is so bad I would have been inclined to ask for my money back ….

There’s several snags with this arrangement – Vince can’t borrow the tapes for more than a day without his dad becoming suspicious and the lunch break is too short for the entire film to be seen, meaning they constantly have to fast-forward to the end, missing out most of the best bits.  Never mind though, as the ever-resourceful Gonch has yet another idea – use the media studies room to copy their own tapes, which they can then sell!

Given the wave of thefts still sweeping the school, it really stretches credibility to breaking point to learn that the key to the media studies room is kept on the doorframe.  Since there’s televisions and video-recorders aplenty inside you’d have assumed that a little extra security would have been taken in order to keep the equipment safe.  It’s easy to see why this was done in plot-terms though – Gonch and the others need to gain access to the room and can’t have been seen to steal the key – but it still feels a tad contrived.

The builders discover that Gonch and Hollo liberated some of their building supplies in order to help Mr Light.  Remarkably, they don’t seem terribly put out by this and are happy to do the repairs on Mr Light’s house for virtually nothing, although Gonch does promise to supply them with some good films on VHS.

Zammo, Mandy and Sarah observe a first-year girl being forced into a car against her will.  The girl is Calley and the woman is Angela, her real mother.  At first glance, this appears to be the latest instalment in Calley’s tale, but the focus quickly switches to the three fourth formers.  We never really find out exactly what happened at the car – it’s plain that Calley didn’t want to go with Angela and (presumably) her husband, but she later denies this.  Angela only has a few lines of dialogue, which means that this sequence is much more about providing an excuse for Zammo, Mandy and Sarah to be inside the school at lunchtime.  And this is the last we see of Angela, meaning that this plot-line rather splutters to a stop in a less than dramatic fashion.

Zammo, Mandy and Sarah run into Mr Bronson, who immediately decides they’re responsible for the theft of yet another of Mr Smart’s squash racquets.  All three, along with Mr Bronson and Mr Smart, head off to see Mrs McClusky, which leads into an interesting scene.  Zammo is voluble in his defence, stating that Mr Bronson has had it in for him since the day they met.  Mrs McClusky swiftly closes him down and asks the three of them to wait outside.  After they leave, it’s plain that she is far from convinced of their guilt, which somewhat wounds Mr Bronson.  That Mrs McClusky repeats Zammo’s doubts only after he’s left is something we’ve seen before – in front of pupils or parents she’ll always keep a united front with the staff, but behind closed doors it’s sometimes very different.

Having said all that, as Calley was nowhere to be seen when Zammo, Mandy, Sarah and Mr Bronson went to look for her, Mrs Clusky states that they’ll all still be in serious trouble unless she comes forward to collaborate their story.  How this can be I’m not quite sure, since there’s no evidence at all to link them to this, or any other, theft.  It helps to ramp up the tension – will Calley step forward to clear their name? – but it’s another moment which doesn’t quite work.

11 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Nine

  1. It looks to me that the Video Club are watching an episode of The Sweeney.

    Watching this series again I am struck by a sense of diminished horizons. Gonch and Hollo are a funny double act (although their schemes are often thinly-plotted) and the altercations between the staff are very entertaining, but its not a programme that’s interested in education itself at this stage. It felt a lot sharper and more urgent when it ran dialectical storylines about uniforms, timetables, funding that encouraged the viewer to think about authority and power.


    • I thought the brief clip was a bit Sweenyish, slightly odd if so as presumably they would have had to pay Euston for the rights (perhaps they should have used Target instead!)

      Although S8 has plenty of interest, especially the influx of new faces, it’s fair to say there’s a sense that the programme is becalmed.

      For example, some strong storylines – Calley’s dilemma at feeling torn between her real mother and her adopted parents – are largely dealt with off-screen and end up concluding in a very abrupt fashion.

      Perhaps the main legacy of Ben Rea’s sole year as producer is that it introduced a host of characters (both pupils and staff) who would develop nicely over the following years.

      When Ronald Smedley takes over as producer in 1986 he ramps up the drama (Zammo’s heroin addiction) but following that the series did seem to slowly slide downwards (the interminable saga with Harriet the Donkey in 1987 is an early sign) until about 1993 when it found a second wind.

      Or maybe when I reach the late 80’s episodes this time, I might find more of interest. Time will tell …..


      • I have a suspicion that when I get to those episodes we’ll be disagreeing a lot as about 1988-1993 is the main period I remember from childhood. I seem to have either missed Harriet or blanked her from my mind.


  2. I’ve looked again – it definitely is The Sweeney, you can see Dennis Waterman when they fast-forward the tape.

    That 1987 donkey storyline was the point when I stopped watching Grange Hill, despite at last being the same age as the characters. It didn’t seem to bear much relation to anything I experienced at school. I don’t know if I’ll feel better-disposed towards now it when I watch again!

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  3. I was 16 in 1987, so it seemed like an obvious stopping point for me and – apart from the odd episode (Mrs McClusky’s departure) – I didn’t really reconnect with the series until 1993 when BBC2 started the archive re-runs from the start which re-ignited my interest in the current series.

    Having eventually caught up with the late eighties and early nineties era via the repeats, I sensed that there was still something not quite clicking there, but from 1994 onwards the series really seemed to move back into gear for five or six years.

    Even more issues led than before, few topics (AIDS, testicular cancer) seemed off-limits and whilst its public profile was low, the series was consistently strong. Alas, it all went awry when the school relocated to Liverpool(!) and the final few series rather limped out (the last one relegated to CBBC).

    GH could never be called a forgotten series, but it’s notable that for most people it’s the 78 – 86 era that totally defines the show. Despite the fact that it went on for more than twenty years after this cut-off point, the later years seem to lack the profile of the shows “golden age” and the characters (Tucker, Benny, Trisha, Pogo, Zammo, etc, etc) created during this time are the ones that endure.


  4. I suppose from series 11 onwards, the series toned itself down and became more lighthearted with less disrect shown towards the teachers


    • Series 10, with Imelda’s sustained war of nerves against Mr Scott, was probably the longest-running thread of pupil-teacher baiting (prior to that, various teachers – Mr McGuffy, Mr Knowles – had initially been unable to keep control but it didn’t take long before they gained the upper hand).

      Later teachers (Mr Hankin) also have to run the gauntlet, but eventually come through. Off-hand, Mr Scott is the most obvious example where it’s not certain for some time as to which side will win.


  5. I’m finding this series disappointing so far after the previous seven. I find Gonch even more annoying than Annette! Not keen on this new batch of first years at all.


    • Ah, if you find Gonch annoying now then the next four years will be a bit of a trial! I quite liked his S8 persona, but his endless money-making schemes did become a little irritating when they were repeated year after year.


  6. The video the boys are watching is in fact the Sweeney – it is actually one of the Sweeney films.

    I would have to double check this GH episode again, but I think it’s the first Sweeney film they have on, where the Flying Squad apprehend the armed robbers in one of the earlier scenes at the start of the film.

    There was also an episode from the first series of Bergerac in 1981, where two priests are enjoying a late night film and they are in fact watching Sweeney 2 (the second film).

    I am a little surprised about the BBC being able to use the Sweeney material in their shows back then. Surely, the Beeb would have to pay royalties to ITV or Euston Films for the use of these film clips?


    • Maybe there was an assumption at the time that it was okay to have whatever was on the television in shot when filming/recording and nobody had thought through & written up the implications for the video revolution? I can’t image every location shoot that included the window of a television shop would either pay royalties or put in a special free signal for the sake of it.


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