Grange Hill. Series Eleven – Episode Fourteen

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 19th February 1988

Justine’s gained a couple of giggly friends, who help to arrange her hair in a kaleidoscope of colours (thanks to the judicious application of ribbons). Fair to say that the new crop of first years (despite only numbering six main speaking roles) are a fairly dysfunctional bunch – Justine’s a fashion rebel, Matthew’s cursed with the home life from hell and Tegs is an unrependant criminal. Throw in the slightly flaky Susi and Chrissy and it seems as if Clarke’s the only straightforward one amongst them (which possibly explains why he doesn’t last too long – nobody likes a normal person).

The only thing worse than Mr Bronson on the warpath is a jolly Mr Bronson. So the sight of an effusive Mr Bronson, humming a merry tune, is probably the last thing Matthew wants to see at this precise point – but see it he does. “Your face is a mask of tragedy” he helpfully tells the boy, which is just the sort of thing to raise his self esteem ….

Freddie continues to chunter about Mr Robson’s training methods whilst Susi keels over in a spectacular fashion after Mrs Reagan tells her to get changed for games. Justine’s unconventional hair results in a trip to Mrs McClusky’s office. Finally, Mrs McClusky is given a little something to do, expressing weary exasperation as to why Justine – not a normally disruptive girl – indulges in these feats of exhibitionism. I also like her outburst, after Justine suddenly decides to unpick her creation there and then. “Not here! This is my office, not a hairdressing salon, you’ll do it at home”.

Mr Robson drops a bombshell – he wants to withdraw Grange Hill from the District Cup – an act which is sure to irriate Freddie all the more. For a new character, Mr Robson’s had a decent crack of the whip so far this year. These early episodes of his are also a reminder of the more radical and aggressive teacher he used to be, before the pressures of command took precedence.

Mr Griffiths, like Mrs McClusky, has been a little underused of late. But his reminisces of his own school days, to a clearly uninterested Tegs and Justine, helps to redress the balance a little. “You had to roll down a sock, because you see in those days it wasn’t everybody who wore long trousers. And it wasn’t everybody who had socks either. That was it. You had to roll down your left sock, right down to the ankle, and that was a sign”. Wonderfully, they simply carry on their interrupted conversation after Mr Griffiths wanders away.

Tegs invites Justine to tea round his Aunties. It quickly becomes clear to the audience that he’s lying – it’s just a random house that he’s decided to burgle. Again, Justine is shown to be rather slow on the uptake – even after Tegs’ shifty explanations (he tells her that his Aunty has popped out but left the back door on the latch) she doesn’t twig. It’s only when Tegs’ “Aunty” comes down the path that the penny finally drops. A smashed back window serves as the final confirmation of his crime.

Some of the long-running plotlines remain in stasis – namely Matthew’s abusive homelife and Laura’s dilemma over her mother’s lecherous boyfriend. Elsewhere, there’s an interesting two-handed scene between Chrissy and Susi where they discuss training bras and periods. Period pains are something that the series has briefly touched upon in the past, but not quite as bluntly as we see here.

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