Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Fourteen

grange hill s09e14-1

Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 21st February 1986

Julia and Laura, having lied to just about everybody, set off to find the all night party.  Unsurprisingly it’s a total disaster.

The tone is set early on, after Laura gets cold feet.  Lying to her mother isn’t something that comes easily (unlike Julia, who is able to tell fibs to her father with a seemingly clear conscience).  Once again we’re presented with a remorseless Mr Glover – a man seemingly incapable of uttering a friendly word to anybody.

He’s not a favourite at the Reagan household at the moment, ever since he rejected Mrs Reagan’s job application (a never-seen man has been appointed as Mr Baxter’s replacement instead).  As touched upon before, this seemed to have been dealt with a while back, so it’s odd that it surfaced again here.

Given the obvious antipathy Mr Glover displays towards Mrs Reagan (he appears to dislike one-parent families on principle) it wouldn’t be surprising if he’d allowed his personal feelings to influence his decision making.  But there seems to be no recourse to appeal – it’s an unfair man’s world and that seems to be that.

Mrs Reagan shares her disappointment with Miss Partridge, who’s called round for a chat.  The reason why they discuss the difficulties of being a single parent (and Mr Glover’s attitude) will shortly become clear.  Seeds for a future storyline with Miss Partridge have already been subtly sown in previous episodes and this is the latest example of some gentle groundwork being laid.

Rather like Robbie and Ziggy last time, the girls face a weary trip across London.  At least they’ve got ample bus fare in their pockets, but that still doesn’t stop them from having to fend off unwelcome attention from some older boys.  Nothing terrible happens – Julia pretends that Laura is deaf and dumb (the sort of thing you probably wouldn’t get away with today) and are able to thumb their noses once they’re safely aboard their bus – but it’s plain that two young girls, out alone at night, present something of a target.  That they emerged unscathed this time was more due to luck than judgement, something which is explained to them (and no doubt any members of the audience considering similar antics) later.

The ultimate irony is that the all-night party is a total washout.  There’s no fit boys (just some weedy specimens, alas) and it isn’t long before they’re forced to slink off home – where they encounter Mrs Reagan and Mr and Mrs Glover, none of whom are terribly happy.

Mr Glover is the angriest whilst Mrs Glover (Sarah Nash) simply affects a long-suffering air.  No doubt she’s been witness to countless scenes like this before and has decided to let this latest contretemps just wash over her.  What’s significant is that Mr Glover’s ranting and raving simply makes Julia more intractable whilst Mrs Reagan’s sorrowful questioning ensures that Laura is instantly contrite (she also promises not to stray again).  For all Mr Glover’s acid comments about one-parent families in general and Mrs Reagan and Laura inparticular, we’re left in no doubt about which parent/daughter relationship is the strongest.

Elsewhere, Zammo’s on the scrounge again as he asks Roland for fifty pounds (spinning a presumably fake story about buying a bike).  Roland, despite the fact that he’s well aware that Zammo has a habit of borrowing money but not paying it back, readily agrees and dips into the petty cash at the arcade.  Sorry?  He’s willing to not only risk his job but also potentially risk getting into trouble with the police just to help Zammo out?

If this is strange, then it’s even stranger that Zammo does eventually reappear with most of the money still on him. Roland is able to get forty three pounds back from him (and Zammo forces Howard to hand over another fiver) in order that Roland can return the money to the float without anybody realising.  It’s hard to imagine that with fifty pounds in his pocket Zammo wouldn’t have gone out and spent it on drugs, but maybe he wasn’t able to track his dealer down.

Although that can’t be the case, as the iconic closing sequence depicts Roland’s discovery of a comatose Zammo surrounded by drug paraphernalia.  But although this part of the story doesn’t quite scan, it doesn’t really matter as the key reveal – Zammo’s secret is finally confirmed – is what really matters.

It’s an ominous moment.  Each credits cut is accompanied by a ricocheting sound effect (apart from this the soundtrack is silent) and a zoom into Zammo’s face.  The mood is slightly broken by the jaunty strains of Chicken Man fading in as we move away from Zammo, but it’s still a scene that carries an impact.  Now to see how the story develops from here.

grange hill s09e14-2

4 thoughts on “Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Fourteen

  1. A bumper soundtrack in this one –

    Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
    UB40 – Don’t Break My Heart
    Adam Ant – Vive La Rock
    Status Quo – What You’re Proposing

    I must say that, watching this famous episode 31 years later, I derive a lot more interest from the Julia and Laura plot than the Zammo one. Its a shame that we don’t see more of the terrible party, which as shown is an amusing vignette, but one that carries a lot of unfulfilled comic potential. The immediate physical responses of the Glovers and Mrs Regan to the return of their daughters is a particularly telling, and nicely understated, moment.


    • Thanks for the continuing musical updates, most appreciated!

      Back in 1986 it seemed to be a period where single-parent families were viewed as outside of the norm so Mrs Reagan (and later Miss Partridge) appear to be positioned in a deliberate, postive way.


  2. As someone has said already, about watching this episode again all these years later – the Julia/Laura story is a better plot than the Zammo/Roly scenes.

    Julia Glover & Laura Regan were welcome additions to the GH cast in 1986. I think because they were both teenage ‘eye candy’, they were able to encapture the young audience quite well (especially the boys!!!!).

    Their story here is probably an ironic one of how teenage girls lie to their parents to go to a prohibited event, only for it to go pear shaped.

    Both characters fitted in quite well in the series pretty quickly (like Ant & Danny). Sadly, both were a little underused in Series 10 (Laura is absent for the first half of the series) before Julia departs for another school.

    Its nice watching their antics here while they took centre stage. Just a shame they weren’t in the series that bit longer!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This season is billed as the “Just Say So” one and Britbox uses the wide shot of Zammo to bill it yet it’s notable just how long it’s taken to reach this point. And we haven’t actually seen Zammo fail to say no.

    I have a feeling this and the last episode may actually have gone out in many school’s half term week (Easter that year was early on 30th March) but finding term dates online 36 years later is not easy. A glance at Radio Times Genome suggests that the BBC didn’t yet do a morning block for children in half terms at this point or else school dates were so mixed that they felt they couldn’t pick a single week – the Radio 4 “For Schools” programmes from the previous week were repeated in this week “for the benefit of those on half-term” which hints at the problem. Being the big reveal I wonder what if any contemporary warning and support there was for parents and schools. (Later on the final episode was immediately followed – on both original transmission and the winter repeat – by a Newsround/Drugwatch special on the subject that can be found online.)

    Drug education campaigns seemed to be quite a new thing in the UK at the time with experts previously opposing them out of fear of the “boomerang effect” of increasing awareness (with some evidence from the US) but as the numbers of registered addicts rose the focus shifted and the first big anti-heroin campaigns “Heroin Screws You Up” and “Choose Life Not Drugs” came at the insistence of government ministers. The BBC had also run a campaign called “Drugwatch”. On the last episode we discussed the series avoiding a controversial subject like industrial action yet doing the heroin storyline. It seems this wasn’t so politically controversial as it might otherwise now appear.


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