Grange Hill. Series Eleven – Episode Seventeen

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 1st March 1988

It seems like an awfully long time ago when Robbie first started to make googly eyes at Calley. He’s only now just beginning to think about the possibility of maybe asking her out (you clearly don’t want to rush these things). Luckily, man of the world Gonch is on hand to give him a few sage dating tips (although considering Gonch’s stuttering relationship with Ronnie, surely no sensible person would listen to him).

Poor Robbie. After eventually plucking up the courage to speak to Calley, she blanks him and wanders off. We’ll find out the reason why later.

Ronnie’s back at school. She encounters Mr Bronson in the playground who – unexpectedly – welcomes her back. He does it in his own inimitable fashion of course (initially appearing to be somewhat stern) before telling her to keep her “chin up”. A nice little character moment.

Ronnie later has a meeting with Mrs McClusky. Like Mr Bronson, she’s in a supportive mood. It’s interesting to ponder whether everybody would have been quite so understanding had it been, say Tegs, caught shoplifting. Clearly not, as Ronnie’s previously unblemished character seems to count for a great deal.

Eventually Calley, Georgina and Helen decide to come clean and confess their own shoplifting sins to Mrs McClusky. Best to say she’s not terribly pleased. I think the look she gives them could probably be described as withering. It might have made the three girls feel a little better by admitting that they had a part to play in Ronnie’s lurch to the dark side, but it now places Mrs McClusky in a difficult position – should she report them to the police? And if she does, how can it be proved that they actually have been shoplifting?

Laura and her mother have another spat. Since series eleven is drawing to a close, we’re clearly coming towards the end of the Simon storyline. It’s been one of GH‘s more leisurely stories – we haven’t seen Simon since he tried to kiss Julia at the end of episode twelve (and although he’s mentioned here, he doesn’t appear). His final appearance will be in the next episode, hopefully after stringing us along for all this time it’ll be a conclusion worth waiting for.

Another episode, another money making scheme from Gonch. Babysitting. Hmm, what could possibly go wrong? First, they need to find girlfriends (or failing that, just business associates). Gonch leaves this in Ziggy’s capable hands. Oh no …..

Ziggy’s in a somewhat annoying mood today. He spends most of the episode operating at full tactless level (such as when he asks Freddie if he could chuck some of his castoff girlfriends his way, whilst Laura is in earshot). But it’s possible that he’s met his match after he runs into Karen (Barbara Sinclair). This isn’t comedy at its subtlest – Karen, due to her larger frame, might not be everybody’s ideal dream girl (she’s definitely not Ziggy’s – every time he sees her he dashes in the other direction).

No prizes for guessing that eventually, after all the other options have been exhausted, Ziggy will be forced to ask her to join him for babysitting duties. Despite Gonch’s claim that babysitting is money for old rope, Ziggy (who was clearly born under a bad sign) finds himself at the mercy of his childish charges. When he tells them that he’s not going to read them a story, the girl asks him if he’s dyslexic. “No I’m from Liverpool” he retorts. Well it amused me.

Ziggy’s increasing irritation as the children run rings around him (debating which video – Rocky 4 or Rambo – would be the best to watch and constantly asking if Karen’s his girlfriend) is easily the best part of the episode. Eventually he cracks and tells them that if they go upstairs he’ll read them a story. “You’d better come up or else” is the girl’s parting shot, leaving Ziggy to sorrowfully reflect that he’s been reduced to fending off threats from a seven year old!

And even when he’s dealt with them, there’s still the man-eating, food-loving Karen to deal with. Her intentions are plain from the moment she starts inching closer to him on the sofa. But when she flounces off after one insult too many, Ziggy’s left alone and grows increasingly frantic – until Gonch turns up. If the house was a studio set then it’s a rather impressive one – built on two levels with a practical staircase and rooms on the first floor.

Whilst Ziggy’s suffering attacks on several fronts, everybody else – Freddie, Laura, Gonch, Robbie, Ronnie, Louise and (rather improbably) Danny – are holding a council of war at the local burger bar. Robbie complains when he gets the wrong burger. It’s noticeable that John Alford’s performance has become much more aggressive during the last year or so (by this point in the series, Robbie often seems on the point of apoplexy at the most trivial of things).

The plan to get Grange Hill back into the district cup begins here ….

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