Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode One

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 3rd January 1989

Series twelve opens with a sweeping shot tracking through a fairly bleak towerblock environment. The view then switches to an overhead shot. This is Clarke’s paper-round stamping ground (and one which fills him with a sense of despair – having to deliver papers to the top floor of a block of flats isn’t an enticing prospect).

Along the way poor Clarke finds himself berated by several unhappy customers, most notably Alec Wallis (a very familiar television face). He also has to tangle with an unfriendly dog (not the most thrilling of ways to kick off the new series, I have to say).

We’re then gradually reintroduced to the regulars via a series of vignettes. Justine isn’t enjoying breakfast television (“I hate Anne Diamond”) whilst Tegs is spark out in front of his. Meanwhile, Vince confides to Trevor and Ziggy that Grange Hill is just so predictable. “Some little kid’s gonna be in trouble ‘cos they’re wearing the wrong uniforms. Robbie and Calley will be on to each other like an old married couple. Gonch’ll have some new money making racket. Somebody’ll be pining after Georgina Hayes. Bronson will be gunning for Danny Kendall”.

This seems to be a sly – and not totally inaccurate – swipe at the way that the storylines in recent years have become a little predictable. And when we see a grumpy Calley and Robbie taking lumps out of each other, the first of Vince’s predictions have come true . I swear that Robbie gets angrier every time he appears ….

Trevor’s not turned into a more attractive character since last year. Especially since he’s taken to swigging from cans of lager first thing in the morning and lusting after Georgina. Quite why Trev thinks that Georgina would be interested in beery old him is anybody’s guess.

Another familiar theme from last year gets another outing here (Justine’s obsession with flouting the school regulations). Today she’s plastering on the make-up. This exasperates her older sister, Tracey (Penny-Belle Fowler), who’s been left in charge whilst their mother’s away. This absence isn’t expanded upon – it’s simply accepted as natural that parents will sometimes leave their children to fend for themselves.

Gonch is fulfilling his accepted role in Vince’s world by launching GHS (Gonch’s Homework Service). And now he’s entered the computer age (with a bedroom PC) there will be no stopping him. Buckle up, it’s probably going to be a bumpy ride.

Ziggy attempts to start Mr Bronson’s stalled car. He’s remarkably confident of success (which of course turns out to be misplaced). Mauler, ambling by, suggests a jump start. Mr Bronson, isolated in his car, seems a little vulnerable – although it seems to be that the boys only have his best interests at heart.

Teg’s older brother, Mark, was an oft-mentioned but never seen character last year (due to the fact he was banged up in prison). Now (played by Adam Ross) he makes a sudden appearance. Tegs is delighted to see him and equally delighted to learn that he’s escaped from the nick. Tegs and Mark clearly have a close relationship (Mark is appalled, but resigned, to learn that Tegs has been fending for himself whilst Tegs’ hero-worship of his elder sibling is plain to see).

Helen has one of the standout lines of this, or any other GH episode, describing their forthcoming GCSE’s as “General Collapse of Secondary Education”. But Helen, sporting a new haircuit, barely has time to expand on this theme to Ronnie and Fiona before Georgina comes running up to them – desperate to escape Trevor’s lumbering clutches. Their collective response (“ewwwwwwww”) speaks volumes.

One person who’s not acting in a totally predictable manner is Danny, who for once is in school nice and early. But he hasn’t turned over that much of a new leaf because whilst he’s got a good reason to be there (helping Mr MacKenzie) he simply can’t bring himself to submit to the questioning of Mrs McClusky and Mr Griffiths. So he leaves school yet again ….

The episode closes with a slow close-up on Mr Bronson, who’s in no doubt that Danny’s comeuppance is long overdue. This sets into motion one of S12’s key themes. “It is time that young man was brought into line”.

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4 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode One

  1. Welcome back to this! It was during this season that I started watching the show first time round so looking forward to seeing you revisit it.

    (And also hoping that one day it’ll be a companion to Eureka’s DVD release…)

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  2. This was the start of what I consider the last year of Grange Hill’s golden era.

    Ronald Smedley would stand down as producer after this series. There is something of a feeling of nostalgia this year, as some of the cast (like Gonch and Ziggy) are making the most of their remaining time.

    We know Ziggy’s family have gone back to Liverpool and ultimately he will follow, while Helen is exploring her job opportunities post GH. Even in this first episode – Danny’s attitude towards the school is continuing to deteriorate and we have a feeling his time at GH is coming to end, although we probably wouldn’t expect the tragedy that would follow.

    A good start to a decent series.

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    • I guess as someone for whom this is early into their childhood era I don’t have quite the same sense of closure. In part this is because Calley and Trevor’s year group were already well established when I started watching so I have more of an attachment to Justine’s year group going forward even though they’re still largely experiencing the sillier storylines, Tegs aside. I guess everyone’s perspective on golden ages depends heavily on just when they started watching.

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  3. Rather a bitty start to the season and the pacing of this episode feels off as it appears as though some of the pupils have an epic walk to school given everything else that happens whilst they’re on the way. It’s also not too clear if this is meant to be a later in the day start which would explain the more relaxed nature (and one the complaints Clarke gets) but surely the teachers would have arrived beforehand? But in general a “what happens on the way to school” isn’t a very exciting way to kick off.

    (It does, however, do a good little bit of continuity set-up by showing Ziggy is familiar with what Mr Bronson’s car looks like, helping prepare for the endings of episodes 7 & 9.)

    When watching the seasons in close succession Vince’s complaint has a ring of truth and is perhaps a sign that the show is aware of how it’s been in a bit of rut lately so admits it head on. And that final close-up of Mr Bronson is a good bit of camera work, helped by the latest wig making him look rather Hitler-esque. This would have been shot right around the time he played the dictator yet again, this time in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and it’s far from the last time the comparison is evoked. It’s a good strong cliffhanger.

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