Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 3rd February 1989
So Danny Kendall joins the list of the Grange Hill fallen.
Antoni Karamanopolis was the first pupil to bite the dust, all the way back in 1980. His sad demise (falling from a great height after a dare went wrong) barely raised a ripple of interest or sorrow amongst his classmates. Poor Antoni. But at least his death did serve a moral story purpose – hammering home the risks about accepting foolish dares.
You can’t say the same about Jeremy Irvine’s swimming pool demise in 1984 though, which seemed to have been written as pure sensationalism. The adult soaps do it all the time (a death is good for ratings) although it’s difficult to imagine GH received much of a boost.
What’s even odder is that originally Jonah was the one supposed to die (actor Lee Sparke declined to return when he learnt that Jonah’s time was up). Killing off a regular for no good reason is difficult to fathom – especially as the partnership of Jonah and Zammo worked so well (Jonah’s replacement – Kevin – never clicked in quite the same way).
Five years on and Danny Kendall was the third pupil to perish. This is something of a watershed moment as he was the first long-running character (present since 1986) to depart feet first. Although given that Danny would have left school shortly, it’s possible he was something of a sacrificial pawn. Although his death casts a shadow over the whole school, it’s Mr Bronson who especially suffers.
This was Michael Sheard’s fifth and final year with the series. Whilst I don’t know for sure, it seems likely that this storyline – Danny’s death, Mr Bronson’s fall and eventual rather surprising rebirth – was created in order to give Sheard something especially meaty to get his teeth into. It makes sense – Michael Sheard was an excellent actor, so you may as well make full use of him.
By now, most people seem to be aware of the sad news – although Mauler and Ted are still in the dark. That’s a little hard to swallow, considering that they were hot on the heels of Ziggy, Robbie and Gonch at the end of the previous episode. Are we supposed to assume they just slunk away? A little tighter script-editing was probably called for here.
Life goes on though, as does the rumbling saga of Susi and the clothes from her mother’s catalogue (alas). Along with Clarke’s missing bike, it’s vying as the least involving plotline of the year.
A brief assembly sees Mrs McClusky confirm the news about Danny. Miss Booth is in tears whilst Mr Bronson remains stony-faced. Afterwards he attempts to regain order the only way he knows how – by bellowing at the pupils not to hang around the corridor – but it’s the wrong move at the wrong time. The way Miss Booth silently walks past him after his outburst makes this clear – as does the way he falteringly attempts but fails to speak to her.
Most of the fifth formers are in a reflective mood. All apart from Trev, who decides that he’s won the sweepstake (he put on a bet for next year which, he reasons, is as close to never as possible).
Mr Bronson doesn’t react well to the news of a memorial service for Danny. “I do not think that a delinquent pupil should be given the same treatment as that reserved for sound and cooperative members of the school community”. That doesn’t go down well with Mrs McClusky …
Later she’s able to tell Mr Bronson that Danny died of natural causes and therefore no further investigation will occur. Once again, there’s a real tinge of icy distaste on her part (it’s a nicely played scene from both of them).
Having schemed for a while in order to get close to Mandy (although all his plans tended to end in disaster), a plainly distressed Gonch now finds she’s the perfect shoulder to cry on. Mandy makes a nice bit of toast too (albeit slightly burnt) and has a good suggestion – use the sweepstake money to buy a memorial tree for Danny.
The tree planting scene was a tricky one to pull off as it could easily have teetered over the edge into maudlin sentimentality. This doesn’t happen and the final shot of the episode – a slow crane pullback of the planting – is effective. Especially since the credits are allowed to run silently apart from some ambient noise (the toiling of what I assume to be a church bell).