Grange Hill. Series Eleven – Episode Eighteen

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 4th March 1988

Mrs McClusky and Mrs Reagan have an early morning meeting with Mrs Pearson and Matthew’s social worker Mr Devenish (John Bowler) which serves as the signal that this storyline is drawing to a conclusion. I would have liked the scene to be a little longer – Mrs Pearson only has time to say that she doesn’t know how she managed to miss all the signs that Matthew was desperately unhappy (quite) before the episode moves on to other matters.

Next there’s a further example of Robbie’s extremely short fuse. He reacts angrily when Ziggy tells him that they decided not to ask Calley to join their babysitting venture (as the brace on her teeth might be a bit off-putting for potential clients). Possibly Ziggy intended it as a joke, but if so Robbie doesn’t see the funny side and yet again flies off the handle. If it was another character who was subject to violent mood swings then we might wonder what the reason was – but it seems we just have to accept that it’s Robbie’s way.

But he does demonstrate his softer side when he again asks Calley out, although she’s still fretting about the fact she has to wear a brace. Although Robbie arranges a date with her – a meeting outside the burger bar – will she have the nerve to show her face? As Robbie anxiously paces up and down on the pavement, it’s hard not to focus on the scene-stealing extra sitting inside ….

Speaking of slightly hysterical, Mrs Reagan’s crumbling since Simon won’t answer her calls. “I know he’s there listening. Why won’t he talk to me?” she sobs to Laura. Although this plotline earlier revolved around Laura’s feeling of estrangement (being pushed away by her mother’s new beau) by this point it’s hard to imagine that the child audience would have been terribly interested in the question of whether Simon and Mrs Reagan were right for each other.

It’s showdown time at the Staff Council, where Freddie and the others are battling to reverse Mr Robson’s policy of non-competitive sports. They have an unlikely ally in Mr Bronson who tells them that “to play the game with all ones spirit” is an admirable thing. But the way they roll their eyes during his impassioned monologue suggests that they see his interjection as more of a hindrance than a help. Mrs McClusky also seems to be of the same opinion ….

Mrs McClusky is able to take the wind out of their sails after she reveals that they didn’t withdraw from the District Cup after all. Oh well, that was a storyline which didn’t really go anywhere.

Given Ziggy’s disastrous attempts last time to recruit female babysitters, today Gonch decides to turn on the charm. Tracking down Calley, Georgina and Helen (who are all waiting outside Mrs McClusky’s office, anxious to know what she’s decided to do about their shoplifting spree) he launches into his spiel. “We’re looking for some girls who are available at nights”. That seems a rather adult spot of innuendo ….

Mrs McClusky escorts Calley, Georgina and Helen back to the store where they did most of their shoplifting. A low camera angle (in the scene where they approach the manager’s office) helps to create a feeling of apprehension – when we see Helen look up at the manager’s sign on the door this angle makes her seem smaller than she actually is. As has happened before (notably with Ronnie’s time at the police station) we then cut away and have to be content with Helen later telling a mildly uninterested Gonch all about it (she earlier agreed to join him on his babysitting job).

Simon makes a brief and final appearance towards the end of the episode – he and an attractive young woman are ahead of Mrs Reagan and Laura in the cinema queue. So Laura never had to break the news about Simon’s roving eye – her mother could now see that for herself. It’s a bit of a spluttering way to conclude a storyline which had been burbling away for most of the year.

It’s also slightly clumsy that after Simon happened to drop his wallet, it was Mrs Reagan (via Ronnie and Fiona) who discovered it. After she hands it back to him with a feeling of smug satisfaction, she’s finally able to banish him from her thoughts and enjoy some serious mother/daughter time instead. The status quo is restored.

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