Grange Hill. Series Eleven – Episode Fifteen

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 23rd February 1988

The kit-hire service may be dead and buried, but Ziggy and Robbie are never ones to rest on their laurels for too long. Their latest wheeze – security in the bike sheds – seems to be (at last) an easy and sure-fire money winner. Although you have to wonder why the children don’t have their own bike chains. But nothing’s ever straightforward as Mauler and his gang start to play with the bikes. So Robbie and Ziggy decide that, at long last, Mauler’s long overdue for a severe beating ….

Calley and Ronnie’s previously inseparable friendship continues to fracture. Calley has ben drawn towards Helen and Georgina (the bad girls) whilst Ronnie’s newfound interest in hip hop has seen her forge a new relationship with Fiona. Calley, Helen and Georgina ask Ronnie if she’d like to go “shopping” down the precinct (i.e. shoplifting) but it’s done in a slightly taunting and teasing way (no doubt they’re secure in the knowledge that the fundamentally decent Ronnie would never agree).

Ronnie’s miserable time continues after Gonch (her supposed boyfriend) and Fiona (her supposed friend) continue to make googly eyes at each other. But Gonch does have a decent suggestion as to how Ronnie could make a little money (to pay back her mother) – set up a stall in the precinct and sell some of her tapes. Interesting that Fiona keeps her eyes firmly on him during this scene, only looking at Ronnie after Gonch has finished speaking. Another sign of her infatuation?

The wave of thefts continue. A cabinet is shattered in the music room and all the recorders are stolen, leading to the cancellation of the Music Club. Crisis! Suspicion once again falls on Tegs, a boy with a bad reputation, but it seems too obvious that he’ll turn out to be the guilty one. If so, he’d surely have to leave the school – meaning that the time spent building up his character this year would have been wasted.

Speaking of characters, this episode is the first time that Liam (Steven Coe) emerges as a character, rather than just another face in the crowd. Given the small number of featured first-years, it’s not a bad idea to introduce some new blood – although it’s a pity that Coe’s delivery is rather wooden and lifeless.

Trevor may once have again lost his gang of hangers-on, but his taunting of Vince remains. Trev’s taken up weight-lifting (another of Mr Robson’s non-competitive sporting endeavours) and is doing pretty well. Poor Vince, continuing to follow him around like a puppy dog, would also like to have a go – but Trevor tell him that he’d never be able to life such weights, not in a million years. You probably don’t have to be a mind reader to work out what happens next – maximum humiliation for Vince …

Mr Griffiths is hot on the trail of the thieves – muttering darkly about “organised crime” to Mr Bronson. Their discussion takes place in the playground on a windy day – so was I the only one to marvel at the way that Mr Bronson’s wig stays firmly in place?

Tegs takes Justine round to his house (it’s best described as a tip). It’s rare that we ever see such a dishevelled house (even the more impoverished pupils, such as Benny, lived in fairly spick and span surroundings). Various sound effects – dogs barking, trains rumbling by – help to cement the sense of unease that’s palpable on Justine’s face.

Tegs finally admits to Justine that he can’t read. This is a plotline that’s been done before (Simon Shaw in S2) although Tegs has never seemed to have trouble in any of his lessons. This is a bit of a mystery – surely English and various other lessons would have been a little tricky for him? It might have been a decent storyline to develop – as it is, it’s only an incidental detail.

Ziggy’s rounded up a considerable posse to deal with Mauler. At the same time, Mr Griffiths is organising his troops with military precision (he’s still on the lookout for the thieves). This is rather wonderful – Mr Griffiths’ “troops” number precisely three – they look like a deputy caretaker, a general handyman and a cleaning woman. All three nod in silent assent as Mr Griffiths – swagger stick substitute in hand – details his plan to stake out the bike sheds. The arrival of Mr Bronson, who continues to regard Mr Griffith’s obsessions with an amused and jaundiced eye, is the icing on the cake.

An rare use of incidental music (rather High Noon-ish) is employed as Mauler and his gang prepare to face down Robbie, Ziggy and the others. The posturing of Mauler and Ziggy is a little tiresome, but the sight of Mr Bronson and Mr Griffiths – waiting like coiled springs and eager to pounce – amuses.

It’s a shame that the low-interest plotline of Mauler’s upcoming comeuppance is intercut with the more absorbing scenes of Ronnie’s fall from grace. Finally seduced by the trio of bad girls – Calley, Helen, Georgina – who tell her that shoplifting is an easy way to make money, she decides to give it a go. With disastrous consequences. All the warning signs are there (literally, as she passes a notice which states that “this store prosecutes shoplifters”) but she ignores them. So the outcome – Ronnie is apprehended by the manager after attempting to steal some clothes – is completely predictable. The sight of a tearful Ronnie being escorted out of the shop by two police officers whilst a group of onlookers (extras or simply members of the public?) is a powerful one though.

As is her arrival at the police station, where she ends up alone in an interview room. It seems more than a little unusual that a minor would be left unattended, but in dramatic terms it’s not a bad move since it allows her a moment of quiet reflection. As the camera closes in, the tears start to flow ….

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

  1. The stand out performance from Series 11 definately belonged to Tina Mahon has Ronnie.

    Since she arrived in Grange Hill she was always perceived as being an uptight character. She took the moral high ground on a few occasions and she could be quite abrasive and direct with the male characters when they were playing up or misbehaving. Ronnie was also one of the few who wasn’t affraid of challenging Imelda Davis and she had quite an independent streak about her.

    The theft and shoplifting story was a great plot for us to see Ronnie had her weaknesses like everyone else. The writers were careful not to portray her as callous or evil when she was committing her crimes, she was simply a teenage girl who lost her way in life.

    Post Grange Hill, Tina Mahon didn’t do any further acting. I believe she was in a relationship with co-star John Alford (Robbie) for a number of years. They were together when Alford was the subject of a drug scandal in the late 90s, but I believe they have long since parted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The music at the stand off is rather irritating. The final scene is more interesting as the closing music starts playing before the credits start rolling, suggesting they were experimenting again but it doesn’t really work as the music isn’t really suitable for a dramatic cliffhanger.


  3. So much to pick over here.

    During the Donkey Years, Robbie and Ziggy were close compatriots of Mr Griffiths, partners in crime if you will, so the idea that he knows their faces but not their names when he first reports on his findings at the bike sheds is stretching credulity, even for an audience of 11 year olds who may not have been paying lots of attention. As is the idea that he’d think they were extorting money. He knows full well that they are cheeky chappies but not bad people.

    And the Wild West fight that never happens is all a bit silly.

    The scene in which Tegs talks to Justine about the fact that he cannot read has obvious echoes of series two (although at the time of broadcast of series eleven there was unlikely to be anyone watching who will have been around for that original storyline) even down to them chatting in an area of waste-ground. Personally, I found his explanation – he’s missed too many classes – quite believable.

    What isn’t remotely believable is that the manager of Virgin Records would permit two schoolgirls to sell cassette tapes outside the shop. It is competing business and, speaking as someone who worked at HMV in the 1990s, would never happen.

    And, although I did see more than a few teenage shoplifters taken away by police during my time, the idea that three police would deal with Ronnie at the station is a bit OTT, as is the suggestion that she’d be left in an interview room alone. But seeing as this whole storyline is intended as, I assume, a warning to the young viewers, you can let that pass.

    I do agree that Tina Mahon had the makings of a good actor. I don’t think the show ever had any truly great child actors, but a fair few that showed promise and grew into their roles – and she was one of these.


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