It’s good to see that, a year following the release of series five and six, the next two series of Grange Hill are slated for release this November. And if the front cover is to be believed then this DVD will also include the 1981 Christmas Special (which was left off the previous DVD).
Given its school disco setting, it was assumed that music clearances had scuppered its release – so possibly the clearances have now been sorted or there may be trims/music substitutions. Time will tell.
As for series seven and eight, it’ll be good to retire my old off-airs and revisit these two years. For me, series seven has always felt like it was treading water somewhat – by this point GH would have benefited from the introduction of some fresh blood (although we’d have to wait until the following year for a new crop of first years).
Gripper (apart from a brief cameo) is missed. At least they didn’t attempt to replicate his character and Jimmy McClaren (Gary Love) is fitfully amusing from time to time (although his villainy does seem quite restrained compared to Gripper’s rampaging). Possibly the most interesting thing about Jimmy’s inclusion in the series is that it enables Roland to make the switch from victim to bully.
Jeremy Irvine’s swimming pool demise (Grange Hill‘s second pupil fatality) is the clear dramatic highpoint whilst there’s a generous (three episodes) amount of time set outside the school. Two episodes focus on the mock UN summit hosted by David Bellamy (they also feature a young Gina Bellman) whilst the third centres around the odd couple of Mr Baxter and Roland, who find themselves in trouble during an orientating weekend.
If series seven felt at times like an inferior companion to series six, then series eight initiated a major shake-up. Most of the fifth-formers failed to make it to the sixth form – only Stewpot, Claire and Precious survived. Indeed, had it not been for the plotline of Stewpot’s infatuation with Annette (a bizarre twist – Claire might have been a bit of a moaner, but surely she was preferable to Annette) then they would have nothing at all to do ….
The new crop of first-years – Gonch, Hollo, Trevor, Calley, Ronnie – fell into familiar patterns. Gonch was simply another Pogo (always with his eye on the next money-making scheme) whilst Calley and Ronnie are this years Trisha/Cathy or Annette/Fay.
There’s conflict amongst the fourth-years, as the remnants of Rodney Bennett and Brookdale found themselves rubbing shoulders with the old GH hands (although I’ve never quite understood how three schools worth of pupils could fit into two school buildings).
By far the most significant new arrival is, of course, Mr Bronson (“You boy!”). For many he defines Grange Hill, although his era (series eight – twelve, 1985 to 1989) saw some peaks and troughs for the show (series ten in 1987 was a bit of a nadir for 1980’s GH as the running thread of Harriet the Donkey was stretched to breaking point).