Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode One

Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 2nd January 1990

A new year, a new decade and a new producer (Albert Barber). All of which means that it’s easy to spot that the series has undergone a subtle revamp. There’s a new theme tune and opening titles for starters, which was a positive move – it’s good to see the series moving forward, rather than clinging onto the past with yet another regigged version of ‘Chicken Man’.

There’s also an influx of new characters – both pupils and teachers. Most make an appearance here, even if some (Mrs Monroe) don’t speak. Mr Hankin (Lee Cornes) has slightly more to work with – his debut scene (scrabbling on the floor for his textbooks, knocked over by an unruly pupil) is a deft shorthand move. He seems affable enough, but this moment marks him out as someone who will find class management a problem.

Mr Hargreaves (Kevin O’Shea), the new deputy head, seems to have no such problems on that score. Right from this first episode there seems plenty of scope to develop his character. Slightly surprising that O’Shea’s television career has been fairly limited (with only two regular roles – GH and The Gentle Touch).

The way Mr Hargreaves deflates Mr Griffiths’ affronted pomposity is very nicely played, as is his later encounter with Mauler. In time-honoured fashion, Mauler is changing the direction of the arrow on the blackboard, thereby attempting to confuse the first years. Luckily, Mr Hargreaves catches him and subjects the six-former to a lengthy and impassioned speech. Which impresses Mauler not one little bit ….

Mauler (unfortunately) doesn’t seem to have grown as a person since last year (ditto Trevor and Robbie – who are both as irritating as ever). Ted seems a little better adjusted though.

It’s always melancholy to witness the debut of actors (such as Jamie Lehane, playing Jacko) who have passed away. Although substantial plotlines in this first episode are conspicuous by their absence, Jacko’s misadventures with his pet dog (who’s roaming the school corridors, searching for his master) do provide some low-level comic relief.

Natalie Stevens (Julie Buckfield), is one of those characters who we are invited to believe has always been in the school (just out of shot for the last two years). Ditto René Zagger as Mike Bentley, although maybe he’s slightly more of a new arrival. Positioned as something of a heartthrob (and an athletics ace to boot) it’s plain he’s got his eye on Georgina.

Most contrived moment of the episode concerns Justine and Tegs. We see Justine waiting for someone – who else could it be but Tegs? That’s what we’ve been primed to expect (especially as when he appears, she smiles and moves towards him). But no … she walks on by (totally blanking him) and into the arms of another boy. Eek!

There’s plenty more plot-threads established – the loneliness of new-girl Julie Corrigan (Margo Selby), Aichaa’s (Veena Tulsiani) reluctance to hang around with her much younger brother Akik (Sundeep Suri), the arrival of shifty deputy caretaker Rod (Wayne Norman), Matthew’s straightened financial circumstances and Ronnie’s growing obsession with animal rights.

Phew! Hopefully now these have all been established they can be tackled in a less fragmentary way as the series continues. Time will tell.

9 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode One

  1. Just stumbled across this: Great to see you back on the show!

    Mr Hankin would go on to be one of the longest-serving characters: He’s there right up until the end of the Elstree era!


  2. Grange Hill’s 13th series marked probably one of the biggest changes to the programme in it’s 30 year run.

    Ronald Smedley’s legendary time in the producers chair came to an end the previous year.
    Albert Barber intended to push the show in a different direction in the dawn of a new decade.

    Amongst the changes was a completely new theme tune and a new production style and atmosphere (which included background music).

    I always regarded GH’s magic ended in Series 12. Series 13 just didn’t feel the same – too many popular faces had gone and the newcomers didn’t seem to fill the shoes of their predecessors.

    Max Hargreaves was one of those cheesey characters who I didn’t take to – maybe the fact he was Mr Bronson’s successor had something to do with it?

    I generally think that 1990 & 91 saw a weaker period of GH. Thankfully by 1992, the show started to regain some of it’s earlier qualities with stronger stories and better acting from its younger cast.


    • I’ve no great love for Ronald Smedley’s stint as producer -1987 to 1989 especially. 1990 was, for me, the point at which the series began to recover its form although it would take a few years before it really began to hit its stride. From then, until the move to Liverpool, the series enjoyed its last golden age.


      • Yes, certainly from 1992 (series 15) throughout the rest of the 1990s, they started to cover some really good stories and the acting improved.

        I had stopped watching GH by the time they moved to Liverpool, but I did watch the episode when Todd Carty returned as a middle aged Tucker Jenkins (it may have been the final episode).

        When the axe fell in 2008, GH did feel like a poorer sister show to Hollyoaks (both were filmed at Lime Studios), a world away from the Elstree era.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The start of the Liverpool era was a bit awkward, a sort of mix of trying to carry on in the vein of the preceding years with more juvenile elements thrown in, but I think once the show figured out what it was, most of that era was extremely good. At least until the final series, which I’ve seen very little of but which seemed to go off at a kind of weird tangent.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Another rather fluffy intro episode and this one is even worse than last year’s as it has too many new characters to introduce as well as re-establishing some of the old ones plus the silliness of the dog story – did nobody realise animals and the school don’t mix? Still the pacing is better by focusing on the school itself rather than the journey. But I wish for some of the earlier seasons where the more individual nature of the episodes and alternating between classes made it easier to spread out the introductions.

    The sets feel like they’ve had a revamp as well which adds to the sense of a new era. We’re into the middle years of my time watching the show as a child (I drifted away during series 16 when it was no longer certain I’d be able to catch the episodes) and other than Natalie I’m struggling to remember any of the new characters fondly.

    One thing that surprises me is that the new deputy headmaster has been recruited from outside the school rather than promoting up an existing member of staff as with just about every previous one shown, though there is a shortage of obvious candidates amongst the existing staff – it’s hard to see Miss Booth or Mc MacKenzie really taking to the discipline side of the role and promoting Mr Robson might have felt like a retread of Mr Baxter at this point. We’re not meant to like Mr Hargreaves but even within that context he feels extremely awkward and it might have helped to establish upfront just what his previous teaching background is and how it differs from the established staff.


  4. What the hell are Mauler and Ted doing in the 6th form?! Unless it’s some resits. They’ve never been exactly academically minded!


  5. Well, this was an odd experience. I have been slowly making my way through all the GH series on Britbox (of which this is the last currently available) and this is the first one that feels totally alien to me. I would have been 19 at the time, and had already left home, so it is highly unlikely I would have seen episodes when they were broadcast – although faint flickers of recognition when it comes to some characters, such as Mrs Monroe and the young new caretaker. And I distinctly remember at least one of my friends being amused that Lee Cornes had joined the show, him being more familiar to us for his alternative comedy career.

    The new opening credits (perhaps now even more dated than the previous ones) and overall look and feel just isn’t ‘my’ Grange Hill. That is fine, of course, and reflects how things would have been at the time. I was too old for it by then, and way too old for it now, and it was no longer created for me.

    That being said, from a nostalgic viewpoint, I am interested to see what happens to Cally and Ronnie, two characters I did enjoy watching previously and who were/are roughly the same age as me.

    Mr Hargreaves has more than a little of the Gordon Brittas about him, I feel.


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