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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