Written by David Angus. Tx 10th March 1989
It’s the day of the prom and Ziggy and Georgina still haven’t got dates. This is an odd one, since it’s already been established several times throughout the series that they have a case of mutual attraction. Maybe the idea was to spin out the will they/wont they tension (i.e. will they/won’t they have a dance) right until the end of the episode. Goodness knows why, as it’s hardly edge of the seat stuff.
Nothing of note really happens in this episode – it’s more a case of deriving enjoyment from small character moments.
Several revolve around the departure of Mr Bronson. When he, Mr Griffiths, Miss Booth and Mrs McClusky are gathered together, the naturally garrulous Mr Griffiths can’t help but blurt out the clearly heartfelt sentiment that everyone will miss him.
That leaves a slightly awkward pause, with Mrs McClusky feeling duty bound to say something (“we wish you luck”) even if she can’t bring herself to agree with Mr Griffiths. Mr Bronson responds with “you are very kind” and walks away without looking at her. That’s a perfect summation of their always icy relationship.
Later, Mr Bronson is called to the stage to receive his present (a strippogram who doesn’t actually strip – well this is kid’s tv). He then makes a short and emotional speech in which maybe more of Michael Sheard than Mr Bronson was peeking through ….
So Ziggy is off, back to Liverpool. He at least gets a chance to say goodbye – Gonch, Mandy, Fiona, Vince and Susi also all bow out, but don’t have leaving scenes.
Gonch and Mandy have both scrubbed up very nicely – Gonch in his tux (which is later mangled by Mauler) and Mandy in a ballgown complete with tiara (her transformation from early series wallflower to prom beauty is therefore complete). Fiona doesn’t have much to do today, but then she’s been underused all year – which means that the loss of her character from the series will barely cause a ripple.
We get to meet Vince’s dad (played by Christopher Driscoll) for the first and last time. He gives Vince and some of the others a lift to the prom – although he could only run to a mini, rather than a limo.
Robbie’s date is finally revealed – it’s Ms Beatley from the radio. There’s a stunned reaction to this, which is fair enough (surely she’s a little old to be playing around with schoolboys?) Robbie, of course, is incredibly smug about it all – but then he’s been very smackable all year long.
The inevitable confrontation between Mauler and Trev (there can be only one Rambo, remember) is thankfully diffused when Mr Robson also comes dressed in the same garb. Indeed, the fancy dress aspect is one of the episode’s pleasures – especially spotting some of the odder costumes worn by the extras.
This was Ronald Smedley’s fourth and final year as producer. Covering the period from Christmas 1985 onwards, there were some highs along the way (Zammo’s heroin addiction) and some pretty dispiriting lows (Harriet the donkey).
Indeed, although Smedley’s producership started quite brightly in 1986 (possibly inheriting material from Ben Rhea’s brief time as producer?) GH hasn’t been firing on all cylinders for a while, which suggests that a change of producer was overdue. Albert Barber would be in the chair from series thirteen to sixteen – a period when Grange Hill began to pick up momentum again ….
10 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Twenty”
I think Mr Bronson’s “gift” was actually a kissogram? It might look lame if I saw it now, but to my 9-year-old self the mini-brawl between Gonch, Vince, Robbie, Mauler and Ted was the most exciting thing ever.
I guess the end of compulsory education explains the disappearance of a good chunk of the fifth form. We also lose Helen at this point (seen here on a pity date with Trevor!), which combined with the loss of Fiona means Georgina’s suddenly the third girl with Ronnie and Calley.
When Natalie turned up next season, I thought she and Susi were the same character, a misapprehension that lasted a good few years! (Andi Peters seemed to think the same: Interviewing the Buckfield twins around the time they departed, he seemed convinced Natalie joined at the same time as Chrissy.)
It’s slowly been dawning on me the last few weeks that I’ve somehow conflated Series 13 and 14 in my head and some things are going to take longer than I thought…
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Having watched Grange Hill from the very beginning, series 12 was where I stopped viewing. A-level’s were demanding attention & the younger cast members weren’t as identifiable to me. Helen was always a favourite & she bows out here along with others such as Vince & Mr.Bronson. I have really enjoyed your series reviews of familiar episodes & am looking forward to reading about future stories that I missed first time around.
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This episode is also the last to feature a Chicken Man theme until series 31 in 2008.
It makes sense that a new producer was introduced next series, there were a lot of changes to the show, in the presentation (which accounted for the awful ‘dramatic’ music that featured in some scenes), the writing style (which I’m convinced is the reason that Gonch and Suzi didn’t return) and cast (most of the final group of Justine’s class were introduced over the next two years). The show had a few growing pains over the next three years but definitely picked up in 1992, and series 13 and 14 are quite mediocre indeed. I do look forward to reading your thoughts eventually, whenever that may be!
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Does anyone else think that Gonch looks like Johnny Rotten?
When are you planning on taking a look at series 13?
Early next year I’d say.
Good series reviews
This episode really did mark the end of a huge chapter for the programme in many ways.
Producer Ronald Smedley stood down after four years in charge and many key members of the cast (in particularly the fifth formers) bow out here.
Series 12 felt like a series that wrapped up some long running threads that had been around for a few years.
Danny’s story eventually came to a dramatic conclusion, and this would pave the way for Mr Bronson’s departure in this very episode.
Gonch even seems to be moving away from his earlier antics and developing a more academic ambitious streak and in some ways it feels John Holmes has outgrown his character and is ready to move on.
Around the time this episode was aired, actors John Holmes, Michael Sheard (Mr Bronson) and the actress who played Mandy (can’t recall her name) all appeared as guests on the Saturday morning serial ‘Going Live’.
Michael Sheard has indicated a couple of times in later interviews (he passed away in 2005) that when he first joined the programme, he only signed up for one series and had no intentions of staying long term.
However, he thankfully gave us five series of Mr Bronson and made him one of GH’s most icon and memorable teachers.
A nice fluffy episode to go out on and this has been the best season since series 9, actually moving a lot of the characters forward and in particular giving Mr Bronson a good arc to go out on, which shows the advantages when an actor’s departure is known about long enough to write it in. Easily the most memorable teacher from my childhood era of the show.
Ron Smedley had quite a career including winning a number of awards and was for a time deputy head of BBC Schools Television before coming onto the show so it’s surprising that his middle years here were especially disappointing. However how much of the show was driven by the producer rather than the script editors? They aren’t so well recorded online (and there are periods when two are credited, perhaps reflecting the incubation period) but I’ve got an instinct that the changes in that post may be more directly related to the ups and downs in the show. Smedley (who died last year) is remember by colleagues as a supportive manager/mentor and also for taking episodes out to schools to gauge reaction on this and a number of his other series.
Not entirely sure why we had to sit through two songs by a Spandau Ballet rip-off band last episode only to get a completely different band, a pseudo Cutting Crew, at the prom itself. To be fair, they did have a more ‘John Hughes teen movie’ guitar sound which is perhaps more fitting.
As I mentioned in a comment to one of the early episodes, series 12 is the first Grange Hill series I definitely didn’t watch when broadcast. Like Marcus, above, I would have been in sixth form and probably not home in time. I don’t recall consciously deciding not to tune in, and I spent much of my teens watching Gonch, Cally, Ronnie etc so there was certainly a connection with those characters. It has been fun to finally catch up with this series and some of their final episodes.
Oddly, I do have some memory of Mandy as a character, if not her storylines. Maybe I caught an occasional episode here and there. Looking back, it is kind of funny that she needed to be introduced. They required a smart, academic female character for a plot-line and, presumably, realised they didn’t have one in the existing cast.
Listening to interviews with former cast members on the Sausage on a Fork podcast, it appears that Ron Smedley was much loved by the young actors, so even if his tenure was not always classic Grange Hill, he clearly cared for the work and the people he was working with. And, sure, apart from Danny Kendall’s story, this series has not been great but I do think this batch of characters were pretty good and worthy successors to Faye, Zammo etc.