Grange Hill. Series Eleven – Episode Seven

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Written by Sarah Daniels. Tx 26th January 1988

The episode opens with a rare sighting of Justine’s elder sister, Tracey (Penny-Belle Fowler). Since Justine has more than an echo of Trisha about her – today she’s once again straining against the limits of school uniform – had Tracey been a regular, then like Trisha’s sister – Carol – she could have been used to tease out other aspects of Justine’s character.

I’m afraid that Mauler and his Grid Iron crew are still infesting the school corridors. After haranguing Matthew for the crime of bringing a briefcase to school, they’re distracted by Tegs, who throws a water bomb directly into Mauler’s face. Once again his reaction is horribly overplayed and yet another “comedy” chase ensues. The most interesting part of the scene is the way it demonstrates how Tegs is completely at home moving through the nooks and crannies of the school (his small frame makes it easy for him to enter the ventilation ductings).

But this time, Mr Bronson is tugged into their orbit. After Mr Bronson views the out-of-order staff toilet with disfavour, we later see Tegs duck into the children’s urinals. Mauler and the others, hot on his heels, follow him in and prepare a series of water balloons to surprise the occupant of the locked cubicle, who turns out to be …. Mr Bronson. No, really.

Obvious though it is, this is still a decent payoff – the sight of a water-soaked Michael Sheard, complete with a distressed wig, is a lovely one. Even better is to come as Mr Bronson – a towel around his head – creeps into the staffroom. Only Mrs Reagan is there to begin with (reading a poetry anthology – Lovers Nosegay) but then Mrs McClusky walks in. Mr Bronson, caught behind the door, freezes and then delicately tip toes out of the room. That’s more like it, a nicely handled comedy moment which helps to erase the non-acting of the Grid Iron crew.

Indeed, having not featured a great deal this year, Sarah Daniels’ first 1988 script is a decent one for Mr Bronson. Post soaking, he has to deal with the sniggers of his fifth form French class (passing around notes that he’s wet himself) although the arrival of Justine, carrying a note for Laura from her mother, gives him the chance to reassert his authority. Was it scripted, or an involuntary reaction from Rachel Victoria Roberts, that Justine responds with a smirk after Mr Bronson booms at her? The latter, I think.

Tegs and Justine head out to the local café for a spot of lunch. En route, Justine spies a clothes shop and goes to investigate. Tegs, keen to please her, shoplifts a scarf she had her eye on. Before he reveals his unconventional present, Tegs tells her about his home life – a mother who left home when he was five, a father in and out of prison and an older brother currently in youth custody. When he tells her that his father was banged up when his mother left them, Justine asks him if he means hospital. This is either a signifier that Justine is more innocent than her streetwise persona might suggest or it’s designed to make Tegs’ situation crystal clear to the younger viewers.

Tegs explains his burglary modus operandi. As touched upon before, GH has had its fair share of criminally inclined children, but it’s always been made clear sense that eventually they would have to face up to the consequences of their actions. Tegs’ unrepentant, unabashed character feels different – mainly because he’s neither portrayed as an inherently “bad” person or a “good” one who’s temporarily gone off the rails. For him, this sort of life seems perfectly normal.

Helen’s latest dare involves her getting a tattoo ….

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