Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Four

Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 12th January 1990

Mr Hargeaves is still obsessing over the unauthorised photocopier use. Today he’s targeting Miss Booth – convinced that she knows more about the numerous animal rights posters dotted around the school than she’s letting on. She doesn’t of course, and his none-too-subtle probing only serves to irritate her all the more.

Mrs Monroe, present when he begins another round of questioning, warns her to “be careful, he’ll be taking your fingerprints next”.  Indeed, Mrs Monroe is the recipient of most of the best lines today – when the still trustingly innocent Mr Hankin tells her that he’s going to take a group of third years to the canal, she comments that “there’s one or two little heads in that year that I might be tempted to hold under the water a fraction too long”.

She also does terrible things to Mr Hankin’s tie – it’s wrapped around a dog’s neck and then dipped into custard – although she blithely tells him that it’ll perk up with a damp iron! Plus there’s the moment where she gives Mr Griffiths a brief restorative shoulder rub (a busy episode for her today then).

There’s a nice moment of continuity as Deirdre Costello makes her fourth and final appearance as Mrs Donnington (she was previously seen in both series eight and eleven). Her short scene kicks off another plot-thread in a rather off-hand way – Mrs Donnington casually complains that she was slightly worried when Calley stayed out all night. You might have expected there to be much more panic on Mrs Donnington’s behalf – so her resigned calmness suggests Calley is now a frequent absentee.

Calley’s excuse (she was spending the night with Ronnie) sounds rather feeble and when Robbie later spies her getting into a man’s car for a night out, all the pieces seem to be fitting together.

Georgina and Aichaa decide to enter a modelling competition and as luck would have it, Georgina knows a local photographer so high quality photos will be no problem. Ronnie looks on – content to observe but not participate – although she’s told that she could be a decent girl next door type. Flattering with faint praise there ….

Julie continues to be something of a wet lettuce, blubbing after forgetting her sports kit (she wails that she’ll be forced to do games in her underwear).  Becky and Alice offer verbal support (and Becky manages to find her a spare kit) but the message seems plain – Julie needs to toughen up or she’s not going to survive at Grange Hill.

The episode ends with a fight in a pub involving Robbie and Mike, which is another new plot-thread that will run and run. Mike, anxious not to get involved in any trouble, accidentally trips over an injured man but his action is interpreted as a hostile one. The whole scene is rather confusing, mainly because we’re only ever told about the injuries inflicted (it’s obvious why a children’s series would steer clear of graphic violence, but it does rather rob the moment of any impact).

The last scene – Robbie, having thrown a few punches during the melee, is approached outside the pub by a well-dressed man who compliments him on the way he handled himself – is a more ominous one though.

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Three

Written by Chris Ellis. Tx 9th January 1990

Today’s episode opens with a race against time – Ronnie and Calley are using the school photocopier to run off more anti-vivisection posters, but Mr Hargreaves is getting ever closer to them ….

As the photocopier keeps ticking away agonisingly slowly, will they be able to escape before he catches them? Well yes. But he does find a warm photocopier, which sends him scurrying to the log to see who last used the machine. The total cost is probably just a drop in the ocean, but it’s plain that every penny counts for him.

I’m a bit baffled as to why the staff-room (where the photocopier is located) was unlocked. That just seems to be asking for trouble.

After a few years during which the teaching staff became fairly negligible characters, it’s interesting to observe that we’re entering an era where they become much more central again. Today that’s highlighted by an entertaining staff room meeting where Mr Hargreaves holds court to an air of general apathy.

Chief apathetic is Mrs Monroe, who masks her dislike of the man with an air of polite brutality. Mr Hargreaves has now emerged as a thrusting Thatcherite figure – eagerly espousing concepts such as economy and image, worrying about how Grange Hill is seen in the marketplace and attempting to find ways to provide good value for their consumers (i.e. the parents). He rounds off his speech with a rallying cry of “traditional values”.

Mrs Monroe later attempts to give him what he wants – a school song sung in Latin by R1 (her “empty-headed vessels” as she delightfully calls them). This leads to a nice beat of tension between the pair as he correctly assumes that she’s mocking him. Mr Hargreaves is a very different character from Mr Bronson then, but I’d say the change has done the series good.

Elsewhere, Mike and Georgina start to get a little closer, although this means that he misses his lunchtime training session (much to Robbie’s chagrin, who’s been working out on his own). Mr Hargreaves is displeased with Mike’s lack of application – as a star athlete he brings prestige to the school but without this skill he’s nothing.

Although Mr Hargreaves has been set up as a somewhat pompous and comic character (today he receives his nickname “Mad Max”) moments like this are illuminating. His single-minded drive to raise the profile of the school means that he has little interest in the pupils as people – only in what they can deliver for Grange Hill’s greater glory.

We also find out that Justine’s boyfriend is called Andy and that Rod is an extremely sharp type. Pretending to Trevor that he can’t play darts and then fleecing him in a money game isn’t very friendly.

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Two

Written by Chris Ellis. Tx 5th January 1990

Many things have altered at Grange Hill over the years, but Mrs McClusky remains the one fixed point in a changing age. At the start of today’s episode she’s quite taken with young Rod – who’s been able to repair her chair in double quick time (she makes her delight plain by spinning around a few times!)

Mr Griffiths can’t help but harrumph at the speed at which his young deputy has been able to attend to certain jobs. This is anathema to Mr Griffiths, who prefers to mull everything rather slowly (preferably with a nice cup of tea). Rods’s ability to get things done in double-quick time leaves Mr Griffiths feeling rather threatened – so he seeks reassurance from Mrs McClusky.

But it’s Mr Hargreaves who sets his mind at rest in a lovely little scene where he outrageously plays on the caretaker’s vanity (telling him that young Rodney needs the guidance of an older, more experienced man). Give George A. Cooper the comic material and he’ll never let you down.

As for Mr Hargreaves, he comes into sharper comic focus today. The new Deputy Head is emerging as a cheerfully single-minded type – he’s someone quite prepared to ride roughshod over everyone else whilst remaining convinced that it’s all for their own benefit. Efficiency is his watchword – at one point he regrets that the pupils don’t have numbers (which suggests he sees them as work units, rather than people).

Tegs and Justine give Mr Hankin a rather rough time in his science class, although that’s more to do with their on-going issues than any particular dislike for him. Tegs continues to fume that Justine has the temerity to go out with someone (whilst at the same time refusing to accept that he’s at all romantically interested in her). Hmm ….

Mrs Monroe has no such problems controlling her class – she’s more than able to hold R1 in the palm of her hand. From her first scene onwards she’s presented as an inspirational and left-field sort of teacher – whatever else she is, Mrs Monroe is certainly a one-off.

Anna Quayle had quite the career (A Hard Day’s Night, The Avengers, Basil Brush and Brideshead Revisited, to name just a few of her credits) before pulling into the harbour of Grange Hill, which turned out to be her last major television role.

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.

Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Twenty

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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 ….

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Nineteen

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Written by David Angus. Tx 7th March 1989

The fund-raising for the prom is almost complete. That’s happened in double quick time – in series gone by you would have expected this to be a running plotline for some time (with sponsored events, etc). Given that elsewhere this year we’ve had the odd hint that life in the real world can be hard, the fact that an all expenses paid end of year bash can be put on with no apparent struggle sends out a strange sort of message ….

The pupils have only collected a fairly paltry fifteen pounds for Mr Bronson’s leaving present (out of a thousand potential donors).  You might have expected a few more to have chipped in, especially as he’s still acting in an unpredictably friendly manner.

I like the fact that the staff seem to have forgotten to do their own collection until the girls – Georgina, Helen, Fiona – reminded them. Judging by the number of notes in the jam jar they’ve all been quite generous in double-quick time – although this seems to be more out of politeness than love. Mr Robson, for example, suggests they buy him a copy of Hitler’s memoirs, although he worries that it may be too light! I wonder if this was an in-joke based around Michael Sheard’s multiple turns as the Fuhrer.

The way that Mr Bronson, upon entering the staff room, spots the collection in Mr MacKenzies hand and instantly makes a donation, without even asking what it’s for, is another obvious pointer that he’s a changed man. A slight pity we didn’t have a whole year of this new, improved Mr Bronson. That could have worked well in story terms (especially if the old Mr B came bubbling to surface every now and again).

Vince is furious because Trevor used his (Vince’s) name when rubbishing the standard of school meals on the recent radio report. This is an odd little moment, mainly because it’s so obviously Trev’s voice that I can’t see how anyone would think otherwise for even a moment

Vince is keen to extract his revenge and so persuades Trev to dress as Rambo for the prom. You’ll never guess, but Mauler will be going as Rambo and won’t be at all happy to meet a pretender. It seems crushingly obvious what will happen, but maybe for once it’ll be something less than totally predictable (I’m not holding my breath though).

Tegs’ quest to find his mother leads him and Justine halfway across London to an address where she used to live. She isn’t there anymore and the woman in residence doesn’t have a forwarding address.  The way the always outwardly tough Tegs crumples in distress on the bus ride home, resting his head on Justine’s shoulder, is a touching moment that plays in contrast to the rest of the episode (which is rather lacking in this sort of subtlety).

It’s interesting that Ziggy casually mentions he won’t be returning to Grange Hill next year and even more interesting that nobody really reacts. Still, at least his departure has been foregrounded a little – today’s episode sees Clarke make his final appearance, although there’s no great goodbye from him. His last words are a fairly feeble gag about the new mosaic.

Still, wherever he’s gone, I hope he managed to hang onto his bike.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Eighteen

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Written by Sarah Daniels. Tx 3rd March 1989

A reporter from the local radio station, Paula Beatley (Barbara Durkin, probably best known for her regular role in I’m Alan Partridge), is in the school, which causes both Mr Bronson and Gonch to go into overdrive ….

It’s noticeable that the comedy gets ramped up in this episode, and it works very well (there are some genuine laugh out loud moments).  They centre around the continuing efforts of both Mr Bronson and Gonch to get a moment alone with Ms Beatley. Gonch, of course, wants to chat about his dating service but I’m not entirely sure why Mr Bronson is so keen for a chat, that’s never elaborated upon.

Maybe he’s just smitten with her? The way he holds her hand when Mrs McClusky reluctantly introduces him is a case in point (he doesn’t shake it, just clings onto it for dear life).  After the heaviness of the Danny Kendall storyline, it’s surprising how quickly Mr Bronson has been transformed into an object of comic relief – today he’s capering around the school, always one step behind Ms Beatley.

The most notable comedy amount occurs when Mr Bronson pokes his head through a row of books in the library. There’s just something about this image (and the expression on Michael Sheard’s face) which tickles my funny bone.

As for Gonch, every time he gets close to Ms Beatley he finds himself apprehended by Mauler. Or Mauler’s just about to pulverise him when Ms Beatley comes into view. Either way, Gonch never gets a chance to explain about the dating scheme (Ziggy and Robbie gazump him on that score).

There are several reasons why Mauler’s never been in the Gripper class of bully. Partly because Mauler has mostly been played for laughs, but also because we’ve never really seen him attack anyone in the way that Gripper would (gleefully kicking Roland around, for example).

So when Mauler gives a piece of dough a good hammering (explaining to Ted exactly what he’s going to do to Gonch) you just know that we’re not going to see anything really happen – this bakery substitute will have to do. Mauler later corners Gonch and threatens to stick a whisk “straight up where the sun don’t shine”. Cripes, that’s a bit rude, although this painful image is quickly diffused when Mauler explains that he means his left nostril. Something of a cop-out ….

Robbie is rather smitten with Ms Beatley. By the smug grin on his face you can tell that the lad thinks he’s pulled.

The quest to find Tegs’ mother begins to pick up speed whilst I’m cautiously optimistic to report that we can finally put the saga of Clarke’s missing bike to bed. After all this time it’s drawn to an odd (and rather oddly directed) conclusion.

It looks like the bike was pinched by a vicar’s son. He doesn’t react when Clarke goes racing up to the vicarage window and plonks down a bugging device, allowing us to hear the conversation between vicar and son (a bit of a cop-out). Neither does the lad show any emotion when Clarke wheels the bike away. After so many episodes you could be forgiven for expecting a little bit more, but let’s not grumble otherwise the bike might get stolen again.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Seventeen

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Written by Sarah Daniels. Tx 28th February 1989

It’s revealed that Mr Griffiths was single-handedly able to subdue the intruder (well, after Ziggy, Robbie, Mauler and Ted all went screaming off into the night he had no choice).  The mystery individual is now safely locked up in Mrs McClusky’s office – although the rumour has still spread like wildfire that it’s actually a ghost.

No, I don’t think this is terribly plausible either. It certainly stretches credibility to breaking point to see Robbie and Ziggy continuing to believe in supernatural occurrences (I know they’re not supposed to be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but still).

Thankfully we don’t have long to wait before the truth is put out there – a former classmate of Zammo’s, Gareth (Adrian Jeckells), has been forced to sleep rough in the school. There’s an obvious missed opportunity here as the storyline would have had a great deal more impact had the sleeper been a Grange Hill old boy we’d previously met – Zammo, Kevin, Banksey, etc.

That way, the brief tale of his life post GH would have carried a great deal more resonance.  But there’s still a certain weight to this scene – in earlier years it was suggested that life after school could be hard, but it’s never been spelt out in quite this fashion. It certainly makes you stop and wonder which of the current crop of pupils might find themselves in a similar position a few years down the line.

Gareth’s current choices seem limited, with no hostel accommodation available (plus he’s too old to be taken into care).  But Mr Bronson comes riding to the rescue (another sign of his recent change of personality) as he tells Mrs McClusky that Gareth can stay with himself and his sister on a temporary basis.

You have to say that Tegs is probably the most likely candidate to find himself on the streets once his time at Grange Hill is over. But for now he’s landed on his feet – fostered in a comfortable and welcoming home where he’s treated very well. But as he confides to Justine, there’s still something missing – the love of his real mother.  This sets us up nicely for a decent storyline – Tegs’ search for his mother.

Elsewhere, Clarke and Matthew are still on the trail of Clarke’s missing bike (I’m getting rather tired of typing that). Their next lead is a vicar (don’t ask) but they’re unable to follow him after he hops onto a bus. Tune in next time for the next thrilling installment ….

Helen’s knuckling down to some serious study, intent on getting the grades she needs for her engineering course. This leaves Georgina feeling a little sidelined, as she just wants to have fun.  Poor Georgina has had the short end of the character stick this year – either she’s been mauled by Trev or has had to suffer Ziggy’s faltering line in seduction. Either way it’s not been much of a role.

As I work my through through series twelve, I’ve pondered a few times about whether the standard of plotting had fallen over the last few years or if the audience is supposed to pick up instantly the way certain plots would develop. The blind date between Mauler and Big Tel is a case in point.

As soon as Big Tel’s name was mentioned, followed by the appearance of Mauler slapping his date form down, my senses began to prickle. That was certainly enough for me, although for those not paying attention everything was sledgehammered home later (Gonch has a dating slip from a Mau …., who likes cooking. It has to be a girl of course, so it must be Maureen).

Things wind their way to their inevitable comic conclusion, although as this is the last time we see Big Tel it looks as if Mauler will need to seek retribution from Ziggy, Robbie, et al all by himself next time.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Sixteen

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 24th February 1989

Mr Bronson appears to have undergone a change on several different fronts today. Not only does he tell Tegs (who’s still in care) that he hopes his run of bad luck will change soon, he also gives Trev a tenner towards the prom (Mandy quickly takes the note into protective custody).

A ripple of heated discussion has already gone around the fifth formers about Mr B – mainly concerned with the fact that he’s no longer wearing “it”. The attentive viewer will no doubt have already worked out what “it” is. The way Mr Bronson’s early scenes were framed exclusively on his lower half was a bit of a giveaway on that score ….

Yes, he’s now sans hairpiece. With immaculate timing, Mr Bronson saunters over to Trev and mutters that “it’s at the cleaners, Cleaver” in response to the unasked question.  Easy to imagine that Michael Sheard relished that little moment.

Helen continues to find that things are hard at the factory. Although there’s a happy ending to her time there (she gets valuable experience on the machines after she points out that Neil used the wrong drill-bit, thereby costing the company a small fortune) the most interesting part of this storyline was her earlier discussion with Mr Aldridge.

He shows Helen the computer room again and commiserates with her about the fact she’s had a tough time. The scene initially seems to be suggesting that Helen, as a woman, probably shouldn’t have been at the sharp end anyway and a nice, comfortable office job with the computers would be the best thing for her.

But that’s not the case. Mr Aldridge continues by bemoaning the fact that there simply wasn’t the time to train her to do anything useful (which isn’t their fault, it’s more to do with the way the placements are designed). This is a subtle but definite strike against the government, which was a little surprising to see (the series had been quite political in its early years, not so much recently).

Mandy and Gonch, in order to prove to Ziggy and Robbie that their computer dating questionnaire was hopelessly flawed, have arranged a blind date for Robbie and a lucky young lady (selected by the computer at random).  Robbie believes he’ll be stepping out with Emma Thompson (not that one) but he’s going to be disappointed. Can you guess who the computer believes is his perfect mate? Although the mystery is strung out for a little while, it should come as absolutely no surprise to learn that Calley is the (un)lucky girl.

Neither are delighted.

The episode ends with a mob – Ziggy, Robbie, Mauler, Ted, Mr Griffiths – chasing round the school at night, all intent on finding the intruder.  This may not be the most engaging storyline ever (thankfully though it hasn’t lingered quite as long as the saga of Clarke’s missing bike) but it’s just about worth it for George A. Cooper’s weary expressions of resignation.

You can tell that Mr Griffiths was looking forward to a nice quiet evening tracking the culprit down all by himself. But that went for a burton once the boys turned up as now it’s all hollering and a general testosterone overload.

The episode ends with Mr Griffiths running straight into the mystery man or woman. But in current time-honoured GH fashion (stretch those plotlines to breaking point, why don’t you) we don’t see who it is. Fingers crossed that next time this not-very-interesting mystery will be solved.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Fifteen

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 21st February 1989

Last time Helen attended work experience she was very much dressed for the office (despite wanting to work on the shop floor). There’s an obvious irony at work today as she’s come togged up in jeans and dungarees (ready to know what it means to work hard on machines) but finds herself shunted into the accounts department for the day.

She’s left in the delicate hands of Jeanette (Joanna Wright) and Alison (Kelly Cryer). Both are presented as short-skirted featherheads who are forever wittering on about their latest boyfriends. They have little in common with Helen – at one point they caustically comment that she probably isn’t the type to go out to clubs. Helen’s short hair and dungarees hammers this none-too-subtle point home.

She finds no more of a welcome with Neil (Garry Patrick), a boy slightly her senior who’s been working in the factory for a while. Neil’s been designated to look after her when she ventures onto the shop floor tomorrow, but he’s not relishing the task (after all, she’s a girl). This air of casual sexism is reinforced when Helen bumps into Mauler, who’s doing his work experience at the same place.

Mauler’s working in the kitchens, which is something that’s designed to raise an eyebrow. But if Helen wants to work in engineering and Mauler wants to peruse a career in cookery, why not? This plotline may be painted with rather broad brushstrokes but its heart (attempting to diffuse gender stereotypes) is in the right place.

Oh, and we also learn that Mauler’s first name is Francis. He’s kept that quiet (helped in no small part by all the teachers who only ever refer to him by his surname).

There still seems to be someone sleeping in the school overnight. It can’t be Tegs as he’s now living in care, so who is it? Trev’s convinced it’s the ghost of Danny Kendall and bets Robbie and Ziggy a fiver that they wouldn’t spend the night alone in the school.  Oh, no, not the Grange Hill ghost ….

Speaking of Trev, he seems to have fallen into bad ways again. Matthew and Clarke spy him taking multiple cans of lager out of his locker and decide to follow him to find out what he’s up to. Okay, this begs the obvious query about how they’ve missed the fact he’s been boozing his life away since the start of term.

There’s a happy-ish ending to this tale though, as Trev didn’t plan to drink the beer – he firstly tried to sell it back to the off licence and when that failed poured it into the canal. This wanton waste of good-ish alcohol enrages a random passing group of late teens who decide to duff him up for a laugh.

Matthew and Clarke come racing to Trev’s rescue (untying him and rescuing his trousers). Hurrah! But they have to leave him in the lurch (and let Trev’s trousers go floating down the canal) when Clarke realised that someone had pinched his bike again. Boo!

And so the saga of Clarke’s bike rumbles on. Goodness knows what’s so special about it.

The unholy quartet of Robbie, Ziggy, Mandy and Gonch are working on a computer dating scheme for the end of term prom. Robbie and Ziggy have already handed out a questionnaire (much to Mandy’s irritation). Robbie reacts to her criticism …. well, you can probably work out exactly how he reacts by now. He’s nothing if not totally predictable.

Mr Bronson only has one scene in this episode but it’s an absolute corker. He arrives in Mrs McClusky’s office and proffers his resignation with a certain flourish, telling her that he plans to take early retirement. The pair have had some battle royales in the past and today’s confrontation rekindles happy memories of days gone by.

Mrs McClusky clearly can’t find it in her heart to pretend that she’s sorry he’s going (on the contrary, she declares it’s for the best).  The conversation then merrily rattles downhill, concluding when she tells him that “you never supported me in any of the changes I wanted to introduce. It was as if you felt your job was to obstruct me”.

Mr Bronson counters that he’d offered her the benefit of his experience, only for Mrs McClusky to respond that it wasn’t experience she was short of. He has no answer to that and exits.

These are the sort of scenes I’m going to miss ….

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Fourteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 17th February 1989

Gonch and Mandy’s relationship hits a slightly rocky bump after he asks to borrow a fiver. That he does so immediately after giving her a birthday present can be marked down as very bad timing indeed.

She soon bounces back though and is full of ideas (whether they’re good or not is debatable). She muses on the possibility of Grange Hill throwing an American style Prom (do we have Grange Hill to blame for introducing this horror to the UK?) whilst she doesn’t think much of Gonch’s computer homework scheme. Mandy believes that computer dating will be a much more profitable venture ….

The episode has some incidental pleasures, most notably the revelation that Mauler is afraid of cows. Maybe one mooed at him when he was a small lad. Whatever the reason, when a group of bovines begin to stare at him in a threatening way, he falls over (straight into a cowpat). Shame.

The main dramatic beat of the episode is Trev’s fall and rise. It’s lunchtime and Trev’s drunk once again, so the well-meaning Vince and Fiona leave him to sleep it off behind a rock on the beach. The only problem is that the tide quickly goes out and before Trev knows what’s happening he’s been swept out to sea with only a rubber tyre for company.

Mr Bronson (lovely bobble hat, sir) has nipped into town to a local estate agent, clearly keen on buying a holiday (or retirement?) home. But the main reason for this scene becomes clear when the estate agent has to quickly proffer his apologies and leave – he’s one of the lifeboat crew.

Having the cooperation of RNLI Bembridge helps to give this part of the story considerable verisimilitude, as we follow the crew each step of the way – from the launching of the lifeboat to the rescue of a rather sodden Trev.

Sometimes Grange Hill‘s moral messages were subtle, other times they were rather forcibly hammered home.  Today’s is a rather forcible one, as a deeply contrite Trev promises to lay off the booze from now on.

Recovering in the dorm, Helen pays him a visit and the pair have a measured and quiet conversation. For Trevor this is something of a novelty, since he’s been unpleasant and bolshy for so long. To hear him speak with a measure of self awareness was certainly unexpected, but if a near death experience couldn’t shake him up, then I daresay nothing could.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Thirteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 14th February 1989

The fifth formers are off to the Isle of Wight, although Trev’s trip gets off to a bad start after Mr Mackenzie discovers his not so secret stash of beer. Initially I thought Trev was being cunning by hiding it in Vince’s bag, but it seems that their labels were just mixed up. Which leaves Vince shouldering the blame and Trev wondering where the next off licence might be ….

Mandy arrives without her glasses (she’s trying out a pair of contact lenses). Gonch, who’s been interested in her anyway, perks up even more at this new, improved model. Quite what message this gives out to spectacle wearers I’m not sure, but it’s not really a positive one.

After learning that it’s Mandy’s birthday tomorrow, Gonch is desperate to buy her a present. He has a brief window of opportunity – ten minutes – before the ferry departs, so nips off rather smartish to the shops.  He doesn’t make it back in time though and so the ferry sails without him.

Odd that he didn’t think that the ferry (or indeed the island) might have a suitable present. There’s no real damage done though as Gonch – ever resourceful – simply hops onto the next catamaran and then takes a taxi to the outdoor centre. Mr Mackenzie, left behind to locate the missing boy, is far less impressed with Gonch’s antics.

If Gonch and Mandy are drawing ever closer, then Calley and Robbie seem to be somewhat fracturing. His attempt to place a friendly hand on her leg meets with icy disapproval (Robbie, of course, reacts in the only way he knows how – he gets angry).  I can’t really blame Calley, I think she’d be well shot of him.

Ronnie now goes into extra catty mode whenever Gonch and Mandy appear whilst the fine Isle of Wight air seems to have done Mr Bronson the world of good. He’s very avuncular, particularly with Joan Hamilton (Rita Davies), the head of the outdoor centre. Indeed he’s so smitten that he even elects to take a dip with her in what clearly is a rather chilly swimming pool. Love knows no greater sacrifice than that.

There’s another school party nearby and it doesn’t take Calley and the other girls long before they’ve got very pally with the boys. Can you guess how Robbie reacts to this? Yes, he’s pretty much apoplectic. Some geezer trying to steal his bird? They’re taking real liberties.

I like the way Trev keeps buying beer and Vince keeps throwing it away. Especially when Vince starts to mess with Trev’s mind by telling him that he must have drunk it all and then forgotten! Poor old Trev’s so addled at this point that he might even begin to believe it.

Another of those mysteries which never really was a mystery is solved. Trev was the one sending Georgina notes, so she decides to take offensive action – giving him a good kicking. Presumably she’s picked up some decent tips from the self awareness class.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Twelve

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Written by David Angus. Tx 10th February 1989

Georgina receives a disturbing phone call – a heavy breather. Who can it be? Trev’s been pestering her all year, making him fhe most likely suspect, but Helen decides that Ziggy is the guilty party. Nope, don’t understand that. I’m undecided whether we’re seriously supposed to think that Ziggy might be a phone pest or whether this is just another slightly misfiring plot point.

Helen’s all dolled up as she’s off to start her work experience. The affable Mr Aldridge (Jack Galloway) gives her a whistle-stop tour of the engineering plant. She takes in the drawing office, the accounts department and the C.A.D. (computer aided design) room before finally ending up on the works floor.

There’s a vague hint of sexism along the way. A computer chap gives her a wink (steady on fella, she’s underage) whilst we’re also set up to expect some shop-floor dissent from her fellow workers next time. However, I’ve the feeling that Helen will easily wipe the floor with the bolshy lad who thinks that women and heavy machinery shouldn’t mix ….

Susi finally confesses to her mother about her catalogue borrowing habits, which is good news as it means we can draw this storyline to a conclusion. You have to feel a little sorry for Lynne Radford (Susi). Her two years on the show were drawing to an close and this was her most substantial contribution.

Possibly it was her decision to drop out after series twelve or maybe the production team felt Susi was unlikely to develop much further. With both Justine and Chrissy already established as strong characters, it’s easy to imagine that Susi would have been pushed even more to the sidelines next year.

Calley continues to be something of a lone voice in support of Mr Bronson. She makes the very reasonable point that Danny was no saint (and quickly dismisses Fiona’s rather feeble defence that Danny only acted like he did because of his illness).

A slight plot contrivance later finds Calley and Mr Bronson alone in the classroom. She attempts to breech the awkward silence, but her well meaning comment of “we don’t all hate you” possibly wasn’t the most tactful remark ever! This encounter, whether indirectly or directly, does seem to spark Mr Bronson back into life though.

Later, he decides that he will attend the Isle of Wight field trip after all (which was in jeopardy after he decided to pull out).  The way he doesn’t react when Mrs McClusky mentions that she’s thinking of allowing the pupils to bring their motorbikes into school is also interesting.

Mandy has devised a plan, which Mrs McClusky is considering, re the bikes. Ronnie seems less than impressed when she finds out though (but I think we can chalk this down to the fact that Mandy and Gonch are increasingly becoming an item). Does Ronnie still pine for Gonch? It seems hard to credit, but this is Grange Hill – where strange things happen every day.

Speaking of strange things, we learn who’s been hiding out in the school. It’s Tegs of course, and now he has Justine for company. But this storyline suddenly becomes a little less predictable when the camera reveals that there’s someone else left in school besides the two of them. It can’t be Mr Griffiths, as we’ve already seen him leave, so who is it?

Hopefully it won’t be the Grange Hill ghost.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine and Ten to be released on DVD by Eureka Entertainment (19/10/20)

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The 19th of October will see Eureka Entertainment releasing series nine and ten of Grange Hill on DVD. There’s plenty to chew over during these two series – from Zammo’s heroin addiction to Harriet the Donkey. I’ve written about series nine here and series ten here, As the release date gets a little closer hopefully I’ll be able to revisit this era of the programme both here on the blog and over on my Twitter feed.

Below is an extract from the press release.

Series 9

New pupils Eric ‘Ziggy’ Greaves, Danny Kendall, Georgina Hayes & Ant Jones are amongst the fresh faces piling through the Grange Hill gates & Zammo makes some bad decisions when he should ‘Just Say No’.  Zammo’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic & It’s Roland who eventually discovers the shocking truth. The thorny subject of smoking is tackled with new student Danny Kendall taking every opportunity for a crafty cigarette. This leads pupils to set up an anti-smoking campaign, which also targets the teachers!!  In other news the ever entrepreneurial Gonch serves up his latest money-making scheme, anyone for a slice of toast?

Series 10

Imelda Davis continues her campaign of carnage & bullying, creating difficulties for pupils & teachers alike. It’s a tough year for Danny Kendall as he battles Cancer. Roland starts up a School Fund to help pay for his treatment.   A sixth form barge trip is certainly eventful as Gonch, Ziggy, Rob & Trevor first manage to crash the boat, then send it floating off on its own with stowaway (& former Grange Hill pupil) Ant Jones inside. The school gets its own Radio station, Zammo & Jackie get Engaged; & what will happen to Harriett the Donkey…?

DVD EXTRA Feature: 1985 Christmas Special Episode (First aired 27th December 1985)

The School Christmas Fayre preparations are underway. Roland faces Christmas alone & Calley can’t decide which of her parents to spend the festive season with.

At the Fayre Zammo & Banksie’s “shaky hand” machine proves popular, as does the wet sponge stall (especially with Mr Baxter as the target!!). Gonch & Hollo unwittingly unleash pandemonium when they unlock a storeroom & a Donkey runs out. Merry Christmas everyone!!

 DVD Boxed Set Details

  • Release date 19th October 2020
  • BBFC : 12
  • RRP: £34.99
  • Series 9 x 4 Discs
  • Series 10 x 4 Discs
  • Series 9 -24 Episodes
  • Series 10 – 24 Episodes
  • Running time Series 9: – 579.41
  • Running time Series 10: – 576.47
  • Christmas Special: 29.10 (TX 27/12/85)
  • Series 9 & 10 Broadcast 1st April 1986/6th January 1987
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

 

Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Ten

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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).

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Nine

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 31st January 1989

Vince appears for the first time since episode five. You’d have thought he would have been present when Trev’s world came crashing down (thanks to Vince’s less than precise horse prediction) but for some reason he’s been held back until now. No matter, the plotline will still play out the same – Vince doing his best to hide with Ziggy relishing describing exactly how Trev will tear him limb from limb ….

Danny’s continuing absence is still a hot topic. Although his attendance record has always been patchy, it’s the fact that Mr Bronson’s car disappeared at the same time as Danny that strikes a discordant note. Gonch – in order to prevent Trev from noticing Vince cowering under a desk – mentions that he’s starting a sweepstake about when Danny will return. This off-hand remark soon snowballs into a real venture – Gonch can never resist the opportunity to make a bit of money.

Mauler and Ted debate the best way to get the keys to Ronnie’s moped.  Since they’re both very definite anti-social types, it’s slightly odd to see them with shiny briefcases.  In the past, only swotty types – like Justin Bennett – tended to carry them.

Helen’s been given the opportunity of work experience at a local garage. It’s not what she wants to do, but it’s better than working in an office.  Only just though. There’s a faint air that she’s breached a male dominated area, although this point isn’t hammered home (a muttered “women” after Helen admits she doesn’t know a head gasket from a spark-plug is enough to make the point).

Mauler and Ted put the frighteners on Gonch, intent on nabbing half of the sweepstake money. Or maybe their real plan was to pinch the keys from Ronnie’s bag. If so, then they’ve done very well and proceed to have a fine old time with the moped, much to Ronnie’s horror.

The episode concludes with Robbie, Ziggy and Gonch being pursued by Trevor, Mauler and Ted. Trev’s the first to drop out (he’s built for comfort not speed) but Mauler and Ted have more speed endurance. It’s a frantic chase through a grimy inner-city milieu, which comes to an abrupt stop when Ziggy discovers Danny’s lifeless body in the back of Mr Bronson’s car ….

Cue ominous music over the first part of the closing credits before the more jaunty ‘Chicken Man’ returns.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Eight

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Written by Chris Ellis. Tx 27th January 1989

Robbie’s grumbling about the stake money he paid to Trevor for the horse that didn’t win – he wants it back (Mauler is also keen to recover his funds). This suggests that the concept of betting isn’t particularly understood round Grange Hill way. Since nobody forced them to make the bets, for once I’ve a smidgen of sympathy for Trev.

Mr Bronson’s on his bike (nice cap, sir). He attracts the derision of Ziggy, Calley and Robbie (and just about everyone else) en route to school. But one person who remains totally oblivious to his mode of transport is Ronnie, which is a little unfortunate as she, riding her new moped, has a slight collision with him.

The fact she doesn’t have any recollection of breezing past him does rather suggest that she’s going to be a menace on the roads. So I have to sympathise with Mr Bronson on this, although we’re plainly meant to be on Ronnie’s side.

I get the feeling Mr Bronson isn’t in a very good mood today. The next person to feel his wrath is Mr Griffiths, who politely tells him that bicycles aren’t allowed in the school. This cuts no ice with Mr B who bellows at him to move aside. There’s a nice bit of comic business from George A. Cooper in this scene –  the way he recoils ever so slightly when he’s verbally attacked is a decent touch.

When telling Mr Robson about the way Mr Bronson sabotaged Danny’s job prospects, Mrs McClusky is very subdued and emotional.  Whether this was played as scripted or Gwyneth Powell made an acting choice, I’m not sure. It’s rather odd either way though – especially since at present nothing is known about Danny’s whereabouts.

Matthew and Clarke continue the hunt for Clarke’s missing bike. Now they have flags and lights to signal to each other over great distances. Ho hum. Every day I pine a little more for the days of missing clarinets ….

Mr Bronson has bad news for Helen. Her work experience at the engineers is off, instead he’s got her a placement at an insurance brokers. The action quickly moves away from this though, as Mr Bronson hears the roar of a moped engine and angrily sets off in pursuit.

Ronnie, earlier forced to park her moped outside, has now brought her damaged bike into school in order to make running repairs, with the affable Mr Mackenzie on hand to proffer some useful suggestions.

Mr Bronson doesn’t spot his fellow teacher when he comes blazing into the workshop though. Oh, and you have to say that Mr Bronson must have very acute hearing to pick out the faint roar of an engine from his office (since it’s quite a distance from the workshop). Mr B and Mr Mac have a brief but highly entertaining slanging match, which only strengthens my suspicion that Mr Bronson is teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Seven

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Written by Chris Ellis. Tx 24th January 1989

Outside of Grange Hill, Chris Ellis’ cv is somewhat slight, but he (I’m assuming he’s a he, although I’m happy to be corrected) was rather chucked in at the deep end when starting work on the series. He began by writing the last two episodes of series ten, followed by the opening two from series eleven. Ellis also contributed just two episodes this year, but his ones – seven and eight – are key. After a faltering start, this is where the drama really begins to ramp up.

We begin in a slightly subdued way though. Suzi is becoming extremely agitated about the clothes she’s received on trial from her mother’s catalogue whilst Tegs continues to live in extreme squalor, something which concerns his new social worker. Tegs is encouraged to clean up his act (and his body and his shirts) by Justine, who gives him some top cleaning tips. Although he balks at her offer to come into the bathroom and scrub his back!

Trevor’s put a bundle of his and other people’s money on Lucky Shark (the horsey picked out by Vince). In one of the most predictable story outcomes ever, it fails to win.

Mrs McClusky gets the chance to demonstrate her skills as an organiser after she directs the traffic down both sides of a particularly gloomy corridor. The school is still in something of a state of disrepair, which makes safe navigation a tad tricky. As touched upon before, it’s unusual to see Grange Hill looking quite so shabby – although this isn’t a major plot point.

It’s simply an excuse to demonstrate a couple of things – first that Mrs McClusky can still bellow with the best of them and secondly that Mr Bronson is far from pleased about Danny’s new school contract. The fact that he chooses this congested spot to argue the toss with her speaks volumes about him.

He quickly runs into Danny and airs his grievances. “School is not a restaurant where you can pick and choose from the menu”.  The problem is that Mr Bronson now appears to be totally powerless where Danny is concerned. Mind you, maybe Mr Bronson had a point when he earlier told Mrs McClusky that as deputy head he should have been consulted. Was this an oversight on her part, or did she simply not bother because she knew Danny wouldn’t get a fair hearing from him?

Mr Bronson has his revenge though – by warning Danny’s potential employers about the sort of person he is (or who Mr Bronson thinks he is). Cue a scene where both Mr Bronson and Danny berate each other at maximum volume. Given that Mr Bronson has been set to simmer for a number of episodes, his explosion is especially noteworthy.

This would make a reasonable but not terribly original episode ending. The fact that Danny appears to have stolen Mr Bronson’s car adds a little extra spice, but at present it’s still not clear how this part of the story will conclude ….

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Six

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Written by Kay Trainor. Tx 20th January 1989

Gonch is keen to use the computer before school. Ziggy is a lot less keen, but Gonch exercises his powers of persuasion and Ziggy meekly agrees, even though he hasn’t had his breakfast (this is slightly hard to believe, but no matter). Also in school early is superswot Mandy – which is the cue for some outrageous physical comedy from George Christopher. Ziggy attempts to peek at her notes (all in a good cause though, beefing up GHS – Gonch’s Homework Service) before being rumbled and beating a hasty and undignified retreat.

Gonch, Ziggy and Robbie discuss GHS’ current travails. Robbie’s contribution is to explode angrily (no change there then) whilst Gonch has his eye on the main prize – Mandy Freemont. If only he can woo her, then her intellect will be on tap to enrich their faltering business venture. His plan is a subtle one – plonk down a cheap copy of Les Miserables on the desk and wait for her to spot that he’s a kindred spirit. How can it fail?

Mr MacKenzie gets his first decent chunk of dialogue for a good few episodes (chatting with Danny about the swimming pool competition). He then spots Gonch’s Les Mis at exactly the same time as Mandy does. Curses!

Helen still wants to be an engineer, but her lack of correct options is a problem. It will also be difficult to make her way in a profession that’s still very male dominated, but it looks likely that Helen has enough drive to make a go of it. Trev is in full mocking mode when he finds out, physically giving her a hard time and casting aspersions about her sexuality (wearing braces and interested in engineering? He’s convinced she’s turning into a man).

The hunt for Clarke’s bike is on. Long term viewers will have to decide for themselves whether this is a more thrilling storyline than the search for Belinda’s lost clarinet. Personally I don’t think there’s much to choose between them.

Today they spot it from the top of a towerblock but when they get downstairs the bike has gone.  We’re not quite in Harriet the Donkey territory yet, but it’s getting close.

It’s a been a while since we’ve had a staffroom scene. Miss Booth is still attempting to get support for her self defence class, but has one major problem – Mrs McClusky wants it done on a voluntary basis which is against union rules.  It’s interesting that Grange Hill didn’t do more with the theme of union unrest (anyone who went to school in Britain during the mid to late eighties will no doubt recall that strikes were common) but presumably it was either felt to be a topic too tricky for teatime or simply something that the kids wouldn’t find interesting.

It’s girls versus boys in the roller hockey. The whole class is an expert on skates, apart from Ziggy (which is the excuse for some more pratfalls from Mr Greaves). That fact that everybody possesses excellent rollerblade skills feels unlikely to me, unless there’s been a lot of off-screen practice.

Les Diapositives de Bretagne is tonight’s attraction at the local Community Centre. Ziggy and Robbie spot Mandy outside and tell her that Gonch is a big fan, so a Mandy/Gonch date is quickly arranged. It’s not a band though – instead Gonch has to sit through a terrible ordeal. Mr Bronson and his holiday slides from Brittany ….

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Five

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Written by Kay Trainor. Tx 17th January 1989

Mauler McCall, along with his willing gang of stooges, is behaving in time-honoured GH bully fashion – extracting money with menaces (a ten pence levy for anyone using the bike sheds).  Clarke and Matthew are two of his potential victims, but have managed to escape his clutches. For now ….

It’ll be interesting to see how these two characters develop this year. Matthew had a good chunk of screentime in S11, but it was all centered around a plotline that appears to have been resolved. Clarke has yet to emerge as a character in his own right – so far he’s served as little more than a line feed for his friend.

Mr Bronson’s eyesight is very keen. At some distance he’s able to spot Justine was wearing outrageous earrings. Ah well, I suppose this proves that he’s not totally obsessed with Danny – he still has time to give others a hard time as well.

It’s noticeable that the friction between Mrs McClusky and Mr Bronson has been downplayed recently. Compare this to 1986 when they were entertainingly at each others throats for multiple episodes. Maybe it was felt that the teacher’s interactions and relationships should take a back seat for a while? That’s certainly something which ebbs and flows over the course of the series. By the mid to late nineties it was back with a vengeance (Mr Robson’s love-life, for example …)

Calley and Robbie are arguing again. You may not be surprised to learn that Robbie’s acting like an alpha male just for a change.

The latest face off between Danny and Mr Bronson is intriguing. Danny has the chance of a work experience placement with Mr Tilley (Niven Boyd) but doesn’t turn up for the meeting. He can’t be located anywhere in the school (he’s working on the mosaic in the swimming pool).

But Mr Bronson obviously knew this, as after he sees Mr Tilley off he heads straight for the pool. So he could have instructed someone to fetch Danny but seems to have decided that since he had skipped registration and lessons he didn’t deserve any favours. So Danny’s placement chance has evaporated – something which will obviously do nothing to help his tottering relationship with Mr Bronson. Although we don’t witness the fallout in this episode, surprisingly enough.

Last time when Vince picked a winning horse for Trev, Trev didn’t put any money on it. This time he’s going to put a bundle on Vince’s next choice. I really don’t think you have to be a mind-reader to work out what’s going to happen next.

Miss Booth is keen to organise self defence classes for the pupils. I like the way she attempts to make her point by putting both her hands around Mrs McClusky’s throat! A rare moment of levity for Gwyneth Powell.

Clarke continues to be terrorised by a (rather friendly looking, it must be said) Alsatian on his paper round. Matthew – riding Clarke’s bike – attempts to draw him off but crashes the bike. That’s a moment low on excitement and the end of episode cliffhanger – Clarke’s bike has been stolen! – isn’t much better.

But I’m prepared to hang on in there and hope that more engaging fare is just round the corner.

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