Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Twenty

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 14th March 1986

During these posts, I’ve discussed on a few occasions how various matters during series nine tend to develop off-screen.  There’s another example of this here – with Ant – although in this case it works to the benefit of the drama.

Ant’s still seething about the way he’s being treated – convinced that the school and his parents believe everything they’ve been told by Mr Bronson.  He therefore decides to withdraw his labour from the swimming team, something which obviously upsets Mr Baxter.  But is Ant correct in his assumption? Mr Baxter makes a very interesting comment – other pupils, accused of the things Ant has, would be expelled by now.  The fact that Ant hasn’t even received a detention should suggest to him that Mr Bronson’s accusations don’t hold water.

If this is so, then possibly we’ve missed a trick by not seeing Mr Bronson discomforted, but it’s also possible that Mr Baxter is attempting to spin a rosy picture in order to get Ant back on board.  But when Ant dismisses the team as “second rate” Mr Baxter’s attitude changes to frosty and there’s a very real sense that a bridge has been burned.  Ant needs all the allies he can get, so alienating Mr Baxter wasn’t the wisest move.

Ant may have reasons for feeling a little hard done by, but he’s rather an unlikeable character – which means that it’s hard to be on his side.  Later, Laura asks him if he’ll speak to his father – who’s a solicitor – to see if he would be able to track down Louise and Cheryl’s mother.  He refuses, due to his poor current relationship with his father, but considering that Louise and Cheryl’s father has just died this seems a more than petty reason.  Miss Partridge is eventually able to win him round though.

And Mr Jones’ meeting with Louise, Cheryl and Laura also has another benefit.  He’s able to discretely question them about Ant and Mr Bronson (naturally this happens off-screen) and concludes that Ant’s version of events is the one most closest to the truth.  Does this please Ant?  Of course not, as he seems to believe that his version of events should have been unconditionally accepted.

It’s a neat move that Mr Jones is a solicitor.  This makes him a precise and methodical man who first needs to weigh up all the evidence before pronouncing judgement. He’s shown to be fair, although there’s a clearly strained atmosphere between father and son (most of the antagonism does seem to be on Ant’s side though).  He may snap angrily at his son but seconds later he regrets it (unlike, say, Mr Glover).

Danny seems to exert a strange power over the younger children.  Despite his diminutive size he’s easily able to persuade Trevor and Vince to help him with the speaking wall.  Gonch and Hollo – hiding around the corner – are frantic.  How will they be able to make it to the safety of the bus without being spotted?  All seems well when Ziggy and Robbie – a ready made pair of sacrificial lambs – saunter past, but they seem immune to Danny and keep on walking.  If Ziggy and Robbie could do so, why can’t Gonch and Hollo?  It’s just a gag moment, but it doesn’t quite ring true.

Miss Booth later waxes lyrical over the strange power Danny has, likening him to Michelangelo with his apprentices.  Rather wonderfully, her audience is Mr Griffiths – not exactly Danny’s greatest fan.  George A. Cooper doesn’t have any lines, but it’s plain from his expression exactly what Mr Griffiths thinks!

The saga of Georgina and Imelda is still rumbling on.  Despite not being touched upon for some time, Imelda’s still glowering in the corner – promising vengeance – whilst Georgina wilts and looks around for Ant to protect her.  An equally long-running – and by now more than a little annoying – saga is that of Ziggy and Robbie, still out for revenge against Imelda.  This week they have bags of flour.  I wonder what will happen next ….

Mrs McClusky pays a visit to Mrs McGuire and Zammo.  Mrs McGuire’s weary story indicates that time has moved on since the previous episode.  Zammo’s still suffering withdrawal symptoms, but his mother is convinced that he’s nearly through it (although part of her knows this may be a false hope).  This has to be the first time that Mrs McClusky has referred to Zammo as Sammy rather than McGuire – although he’s unable to respond to her.

Zammo’s heroin problem soon becomes public knowledge via the speaking wall.  Mrs McClusky demands to know who – out of Danny, Gonch, Hollo, Trevor or Vince – was responsible.  But since none of them knew about Zammo, her well-meaning attempt to keep a lid on things has only backfired.  But who the secret scribber was remains a mystery.

Mrs McClusky orders the speaking wall to be whitewashed, but later relents and agrees that Danny’s mural can stay.  But it’s too late as Mr Griffiths has already gleefully painted over it.  Danny’s not at all pleased and storms off, leaving Miss Booth in his wake.  Never mind the power Danny has with his fellow pupils, the hold he exerts over Miss Booth is also a talking point.

The sight of Fay, lounging by Mr King’s car (“going my way?”) doesn’t fill him with instant pleasure as it did before.  But it isn’t long before he’s gently stroking her hand and moving closer to her.  That they’re doing this in the school car park, in full view of everybody, isn’t the wisest move.  As so often it’s Miss Partridge who we see hovering disapprovingly in the distance.

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

  1. Thankfully, Anthony Minghella was a much better film director than he was as a TV script editor.

    I’ve realised that one problem I have with this series is that Grange Hill always required a double act (or trio) of boys who get into scrapes or come up with madcap schemes, but Hollo and Gonch are the first time that these archetypes have been rather poorly-drawn, vague, characters. The comedy feels especially strained and formulaic at this point. I know that I felt this watching in 1986, but its been instructive looking at this series again and realising that it wasn’t because of me being harder to please at 13, but because of the programme itself.

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    • One thing in Gonch and Hollo’s favour is that they’re less annoying this year than Ziggy and Robbie (whose series-long quest to gain revenge over Imelda got tiresome very quickly).

      Still, compared to the horrors of Harriet the Donkey in 1987, this is classic stuff!

      Once I’ve finished 1986 I’m going to move straight onto 1987. partly because I want to get the donkey related antics dealt with as quickly as possible.

      I’m not sure whether this rewatch will eventually make me change my mind, but I’ve always felt that the show was somewhat idling between about 1987 and the early nineties, but from 1993 until the point when Phil Redmond relocated the school to Liverpool, GH found a second wind with a slew of interesting storylines.

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