Grange Hill. Series Eleven – Episode Eight

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Written by Sarah Daniels. Tx 29th January 1988

Mr Griffiths has had his eye on Tegs for some time and finally runs him to ground in the girl’s cloakroom. The moment when Mr Griffiths attempts to stop him escaping by holding onto his blazer – only for Tegs to slip out of it – is slightly clumsily done, as it’s plain that George A. Cooper is actually tugging it off him.

Tegs, escorted to Mrs McClusky’s office by Mr Griffiths, remains uncowed. He denies that he’s responsible for the recent spite of bike thefts – instead he offers the head his professional opinion about safety measures (locking stands and chains would be a good idea). Poor Mr Griffiths gets a roasting from Mrs McClusky after Tegs leaves the office. Mr Griffiths’ confident assertion that Tegs is the culprit is quickly shot down by Mrs McClusky, who tells him that they have absolutely no evidence against him. Mr Griffiths’ hangdog expression after being ticked off speaks volumes. His heroine-worship of Mrs McClusky has long been one of his defining traits, so to be in her bad books is a painful moment for him.

Sarah Daniels once again comes up with the goods for Michael Sheard. Mr Bronson, lurking for no good reason in Mrs McClusky’s outer office, happens to overhear the head telling Mr Griffiths that if she can’t deal with this spate of thefts then she should resign. The words “it’s time for me to resign” catches his attention and his facial expression after this apparent bombshell speaks volumes! Also good to see the ever-faithful, if mute, Janet back in her familiar position as Mrs McClusky’s secretary.

You may, or may not, be delighted to hear that Mauler’s reign of idiotic terror shows no sign of abating. Desperate as I am for any small crumb of comfort during these scenes, I have to say that there’s a very unusual camera angle (high above the set, looking directly down) during the moment when Mauler and his posse chase Clarke round and round the lockers. Top marks to director John Smith for attempting to liven up yet another “comedy” chase.

But better times are just around the corner as Mr Bronson, like an avenging angel, strides into the frame and declares that Mauler was the boy responsible for giving him the soaking. Quite how he’s worked this out is a slight mystery – he didn’t see him at the time – but no matter as it’s a chance for Michael Sheard to turn the intensity right up. “You are the boy responsible for my getting wet”. It’s a fairly innocuous line, but it’s all about Sheard’s line delivery – the way he emphasises each word with increasing force.

I also love the conclusion to the scene. Mr Bronson tells Mauler to “follow me” and the teacher strides off, only twigging after a few seconds that Mauler’s legged it in the opposite direction! It’s only a pleasure deferred though, as Mr Bronson then runs the unfortunate Mauler to ground during the next lesson. Sheard is once again on top form as Bronson tells the boy to explain to the class, in French, exactly what he did. Sheard milks every last moment out of lines such as “you pathetic, unteachable specimen”. And what exactly was Mauler’s French explanation? “Mr Bronson, in boy’s bedroom, with basket of water on the head”.

Tegs explains a little more to Justine about his philosophy of life. “I nicked two hundred quid in fifteen minutes once. You’d have to be a politician or a pop star to earn that much in quarter of an hour”.

It’s fascinating how public acceptance of tattoos has changed over the last thirty years. Ronnie (unsurprisingly, given her straight-laced persona) isn’t at all impressed with Helen’s tattoo, telling her that she’s got it for life and only a skin graft will remove it. Back in 1988, a tattoo seems to have been seen as a departure from the norm – Ronnie wonders if Helen’s gone a bit funny and Fiona agrees, commenting that it’s a bit mad.

Matthew’s travails continue. After behaving quite normally during his few brief scenes last episode, he’s back to his old, storytelling tales today. Paul Adams’ breathless listing of untruths and half-truths isn’t terribly convincing – although I’m not sure whether this was supposed to be as scripted or was simply due to Adams’ acting. For sure, it’s a difficult part to play – and reviewing Matthew’s initial storyline some thirty years on, it seems a pity that he wasn’t given the opportunity to settle into the school community for a while before attention was drawn to his fractured homelife. Had this been done, then it probably would have generated a more rounded character.

Matthew’s father once again is nothing but more than an intimidating profile. We never hear his reply to Matthew’s request that they give Clarke a lift, but Mr Pearson’s disgusted expression speaks volumes.

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3 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Eleven – Episode Eight

  1. Around the time, Grange Hill Series 11 was televised, there was another short lived children’s comedy drama being shown during the BBC1 broom cupboard slot called ‘Bad Boyes’.

    The blonde actor, who played one of Mauler’s goons in Grange Hill Series 11, played the school thug in ‘Bad Boyes’ too (I can’t recall the actor’s name).

    Bad Boyes only ran for two series in 1987/88 and is largely forgot now. It was named after the central character Brian Boyes who was something of a school wide boy.

    ITV also had a similar type of programme to Bad Boyes called ‘Gruey’ (shown around the same time) which was also short lived and again is largely forgotten. It was filmed near my neck of the woods in Bolton.

    The role of Gruey was played by Kieran O’Brien who is best remembered as Fitz’s teenage son in Cracker.


  2. Easily the best Mr Bronson episode in a long time. I had forgotten the actual soaking was in the previous episode.

    I think it works better to establish Matthew as a pupil with problems from the outset to make it more of a mystery as well as keeping him in an unsettled situation. It was a bit silly in the earliest years when problem pupils were only first shown midway through the school year, as though they had somehow been invisible before now. But it’s also ambitious for the show to do stories with 11 year olds going through great family problems when the pool of affordable experienced actors who can play the part is not deep.


  3. Slightly odd that Bronson ‘recognises’ Mauler but doesn’t actually know his name. In the French class that follows he refers to every other pupil by name, and he is the sort of teacher who would pride himself on knowing who everyone is.


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