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.

5 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!

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  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.

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    • 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.

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      • 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.

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      • 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.

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