Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Eighteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 7th March 1986

If it wasn’t for the fact that this episode follows directly on from the previous one, you’d swear that a certain amount of time has elapsed in the relationship between Fay and Mr King.  Last time he was somewhat hesitant in agreeing that they could go to the cinema together – but today they seem much more intimate, strolling in the park hand-in-hand, whilst she’s happy to call him Peter (rather than Sir or Mr King).

This is another of those moments where the script-editing seems a little suspect, which is surprising given that Anthony Mingella’s hand was on the tiller.  Had they started this plotline a little earlier (or left an episode between their cinema jaunt and this new-found closeness) then probably things wouldn’t have seemed so jarring.

Fay and Laura have another entertaining clash.  Laura, who’s been told by her mother that the staffroom is buzzing with the news that Mr King and Fay are rather closer than they should be, can’t help but tactfully suggest to the older girl that she’s playing with fire.  As you might expect, Fay doesn’t take this well-meant tip off terribly well.

Later, Mr King tells Fay that they’re doing nothing wrong, although he seems a little perturbed to hear that others are talking about them.  Another indication that he’s well aware of the deep waters they’re swimming in can be seen after Miss Partridge, treating Cheryl and Louise to a cup of coffee in a local café, spots Mr King at another table and pops over to say hello.  Her smile of greeting dims a little after she realises that Fay’s with him and Mr King’s downcast expression speaks volumes.

Cheryl and Louise, in the aftermath of their father’s death, continue to struggle to keep their family together.  Miss Partridge, Laura and Julia pay them a visit and discover that they have no money and no support.  Once again, you have to wonder exactly what the school or social services have been doing – answer, not very much.

The school welfare officer hasn’t called round (Miss Partridge promises to chase them up, but it’s more than a little worrying that matters have been left up in the air so long).  Nobody seems inclined to call the social services in, but given that Cheryl’s only fifteen it’s plain that they’ll need a great deal of support. Although the spectre of them all being taken into care – and split up – is clearly influencing their actions.

Julia, who never seems to learn, is preparing once more to defy her father.  She wants to go to a Phil Collins gig and is quite prepared to go anyway if he denies her permission.  So expect maximum-strength pouting from her if things don’t go the way she wants.

After having barely a handful of lines all year, Jane has a little more to do in this episode.  Firstly, she’s perplexed as to why Ziggy is behaving in a friendly fashion towards her (he, of course, is attempting to make amends for throwing her clothes – rather than Imelda’s – into the swimming pool).  She then uses the speaking wall for the purpose it was originally intended (spreading news that couldn’t be disseminated in the school magazine) by sharing that Miss Booth is a secret smoker.  Later, having discovered that Ziggy was the clothes-thrower, she decides to take her revenge in the messiest way imaginable ….

Whilst these hi-jinks are typical GH fare, Margaret Simpson (always a writer who could be guaranteed to pen good character-based scenes) continues to depict a highly-traumatised Louise, back in school but barely able to function.  Unsurprisingly Laura is on hand to provide a shoulder to cry on and it’s equally unsurprising that Mr Bronson, when both are late for his tutorial group, is less than sympathetic.

It seems barely credible that Mr Bronson, if he was aware that Louise’s father had just died, would be so keen to send her to detention.  When Ant steps in to harangue him over this point, he does backtrack a little (but only to say that Louise’s detention has been deferred for now).  But maybe this scene was merely a pretext for another Mr Bronson/Ant contretemps, if so it seems to end a little abruptly (suggesting the end has been chopped off).  It does push their rivalry on a little though, with Ant sent home and a meeting with his parents arranged.

It’s interesting that Danny is keen to paint over the chit-chat on the speaking wall, complaining that this free-for-all is spoiling everything.  Yet he was the one to originally suggest that since the school magazine was toothless, a wall where anybody could write anything would be the way to go.  Again there seems to be a certain level of character inconsistency.

This episode features a key scene between Zammo and Roland.  It’s the first time they’ve spoken since episode fourteen and sees Roland, in his own slightly inarticulate way, confront Zammo about what he saw that night in the arcade.  Prior to that they have a more general chat, with Zammo seeming to be slightly more together than he has previously.  Roland explains his desire to move to France for a year – in order to be with Fabienne – although this is dependent on him passing his French O Level.  This appears to be just a throwaway line, but it’ll become important next episode – not least for the way it shows how Zammo is prepared to sacrifice Roland’s hopes for the future in order to fund his drugs habit.

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2 thoughts on “Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Eighteen

  1. Cafe music: Wham! – I’m Your Man

    The new 24-episode structure of this series gets more and more problematic as it progresses. Not only the increasingly lax plotting, but there are just too many storylines going on at once per episode, which means that they tend to both come up in a bitty and perfuctory way while at the same time dragging on week after week. I’d prefer an episode like this if Louise and Cheryl were the main focus, with just one other storyline as the B-plot. As it is, their few scenes have to do an awful lot – just as well that Margaret Simpson was the author this week.

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  2. Although GH has occasionally spun out plotlines over the duration of a full series, it’s noticeable how this year everything seems a little more fragmented. Previously we’d have followed one class for an episode or two and then switch over to another – but now it’s common to go rapidly from the second years, to the third years, to the sixth years and then back again.

    This is arguably more realistic, but it’s frustrating that plotlines aren’t now always given the time to breathe. Presumably there must have been a change in the production process at this time which allowed a great deal more out of sequence recording. Given there are strict guidelines governing the amount of time child actors can work, the previous production model (it was fairly common for the actors to work a few episodes and then be off for the next few) was clearly tailored for that reason, but dramatically it worked as well.

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