Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Sixteen

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Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 29th February 1980

The series-long plotline of Penny verses Doyle is concluded here. After being berated by Miss Peterson for his poor performances as the third year rep, Doyle vows to get even with Penny (who he assumes has once more been telling tales about him).

He steals her project (which she has spent a considerable time on) and throws it away with the rubbish collected by the cleaners. But eventually his sins find him out, he loses his position as rep and he, and his friends, are forced to sort through the piles of rubbish to retrieve as much of Penny’s project as they can find.

Apart from an unexpected one-off appearance in series five, this would be Ruth Davis’ last episode as Penny Lewis. It’s something that happens time and again in Grange Hill, as pupils vanish for extended periods or sometimes forever (usually because real-life pressures, such as exams, intervene). Penny is replaced in series four by Pamela Cartwright, an almost identical character (bossy, a frequent contributor to the school magazine, etc). It’s tempting to think that the scripts for series four were originally written for Penny and they simply crossed her name out and wrote Pamela’s instead.

The final scene of Doyle and co leafing through the rubbish is an amusing, if low-key, ending to the series. Clearly the thought of concluding a series with a hook to lead into the next run of episodes wasn’t something that was considered at this time.

Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Fifteen

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Written by Alan Janes. Tx 26th February 1980

I don’t know what the mortality rate of Grange Hill is, compared to other schools in the UK, but I’d guess it’s a great deal higher. Deaths, of course, are a staple in any soap opera – they help to create interest, ratings and spark debate.

The deaths in Grange Hill are sometimes, but not always, designed with a specific point in mind – they can be morality tales with a clear message. In this case we’re told that dares can be dangerous and potentially fatal.

A craze of dares is sweeping the school and at the same time there are running fights between Grange Hill and Brookdale pupils. Since these often take place at the local shopping centre, it’s placed out of bounds (and teachers are sent on patrol there).

Naturally, many of the kids, including Tucker and Alan, happily ignore this order and they’re lucky not to be caught by Mr Baxter. But tragedy strikes when Antoni Karamanopolis (Vivian Mann) is dared by Billy Phillips (Tony London) to walk along the rooftop of the shopping precinct – he falls and is killed instantly.

Antoni was a typical supporting Grange Hill character. He appeared in a handful of episodes during series two and three, sometimes just in the background but occasionally with a few (usually not vital) lines. He was clearly the ideal person to be sacrificed – someone who would be familiar to the audience, but not one of the central characters.

Of course, this does lessen the impact of his death (imagine if it had been, say, Benny) and apart from one casual mention in a later episode he doesn’t appear to be greatly missed – there’s certainly no attempt to plant a tree in his memory, ala Danny Kendall.

Mr Baxter’s pursuit of the children through the shopping centre does provide us with an awkward moment as he follows them into the toilets and proceeds to try and look under the toilet doors. He becomes aware that he’s being observed (by a traffic warden) and tries to shrug it off by telling him that he’s looking for some boys. It’s played as a comedy moment, but it’s hard to imagine something similar being done today!

Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Fourteen

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Written by Alan Janes. Tx 22nd February 1980

The third years take a trip to work on the Outdoor Centre. Tucker inadvertently puts the girls’ tents up over an ants nest, Alan and Susi continue to work on their Judo, whilst Cathy puts her foot through a rotten floorboard in the upstairs part of the building and has to be taken to hospital.

The realisation that the floorboards are rotten causes concern. How much will it cost to repair them? As might be expected, money is tight and it looks as if the plans for the Outdoor Centre will have to be abandoned. Eventually a rescue plan is worked out later in the series (they decide to share Brookdale’s Outdoor Centre instead) but since it’s never seen again it’s a plotline that doesn’t go anywhere. A pity, since the odd trip to the Outdoor Centre could have been used to break up the (naturally) school-dominated run of episodes.

This is Alex Kingston’s final appearance as school-bully Jill Harcourt. Once Susi uses some of the Judo moves on her that Alan taught her, she’s no longer a threat and limps away.

Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Thirteen

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Written by Alan Janes. Tx 19th February 1980

Duane, Michael and Tracy have to brave an interrogation by Mr Keating.  His first appearance in this episode is a memorable one – we hear him clear his throat in a very ominous way – making it clear that he’s not in a very good mood!  All three children give him a different reason for their presence in school at half term (Tracy’s is the correct one) but it’s obvious he’s unsure which of them to believe, so he tells them he’ll see them all later.

Having learnt that Mr Humphries might have some materials to donate to the Outdoor Centre, Mr Hopwood pays him a visit.  He spies a very serviceable van, which Mr Humphries was considering selling, and manages to grab it at a very decent price.  It’s instructive to watch the artful way Mr Hopwood is able to strike a bargain by playing on Mr Humphries’ good nature (but since it’s all in a good cause that’s fair enough).  It’s also amusing to hear Mr Humphries ask for cash, rather than a cheque, since a cheque would have to go through the books (thereby adhering to the cliche that all small businesses like to fiddle their tax!)

Susi finds herself persecuted by Jill Harcourt (Alex Kingston) who pressurises her to complete her homework.  Jill’s not the first school bully we’ve seen in the series, but it’s not until Gripper’s reign of terror in series five and six that we actually see a bully who carries out a concerted series of attacks over a sustained period.  Like Jackie Heron in series one, Jill Harcourt’s villainy is rather negated by the fact it’s so brief (she’s vanquished in the very next episode).

As for Duane, Michael and Tracy, Mr Keating eventually discovered that Tracy was the one telling the truth – but although they submitted multiple competition entries (and all the answers were correct) they didn’t win the minibus since their entries reached the paper the day after the competition closed.  But the paper was interested enough to interview them, although the resulting article is a great disappointment since it didn’t even mention their names.

Susi continues to feel the pressure from Jill, but she doesn’t have to suffer for very long as Alan’s spotted what’s been happening and is prepared to give her extra Judo lessons so she can defend herself against Jill’s bullying.

Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Twelve

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Written by Alan Janes. Tx 15th February 1980

It’s half term and Tucker, Alan and Benny have gone to work for Alan’s father at his builders yard.  Whether this is work experience or simply a way for the three of them to earn a little extra pocket money isn’t clear, but it’ll probably not come as a great surprise to learn that things don’t quite go to plan.

The day doesn’t get off to a good start when one of the workmen trick the trio into removing a large selection of timber that had already been correctly racked up.  As the irritated Mr Humphries later tells them, they should have been putting the loose timber into order – not removing what had already been sorted.  It’s very clear that Mr Humphries is an intimidating character – even the normally ebullient Tucker is rather subdued in his presence.  When he later asks Alan how he copes with a father like that, Alan airily tells him that his mother is worse!

Another misadventure sees them larking by a van with a fire extinguisher.  When they spy Mr Humprhies approaching they find the only cover available – the back of the van.  Unfortunately for them, the van is on the way to the tip – which is miles away from the yard.  Quite why they didn’t wait until the van slowed down before jumping off is a bit of a mystery (surely three rough-and-tumble characters like Tucker, Alan and Benny could have braved a few bruises?!).

Alas, they have to walk all the way back to the yard, but the ever eloquent Tucker is able to spin an elaborate tale about how his mother was rushed into hospital with “acute something or other” but is thankfully feeling much better now.

Elsewhere, Duane along with Benny’s younger brother Michael (Mark Bishop) pops round to see Tracy.  There’s a competition in the local paper to win a minibus – if they win, says Duane, it could be donated to the school, since they need one for the proposed Outdoor Centre.  The only problem is that there’s ten tough questions to be answered, so they need to use Tracy’s encyclopedias.  Ah, those far-off pre-internet days, when answers weren’t simply available at a click of a button!

Sadly their fact-finding is brought to an abrupt end when Tracy’s mother returns home.  She’s clearly not happy to find Michael in the house and tells her daughter that he has to leave.  The conversation occurs outside the living room, but it’s loud enough for Michael to hear – and we see the camera slowly close in on his hurt face.  It presumably wouldn’t have been the first time in his young life that he’d suffered discrimination due to the colour of his skin, but this scene (understated though it is) does have something of an impact.

Although Tracy lives in a nice house and her mother appears to be a pleasant-enough person, her casual, inflexible racism would have been very common in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and it still packs quite a punch to hear such views expressed in a children’s tea-time series.

With Tracy’s encyclopaedias out-of-bounds, the trio decide to break into school and find the information they need there.  For some reason, Mr Keating is about and catches them – since they’re not prepared so say why they’re on school premises he tells them to report to him on Tuesday morning.

If Tucker, Alan and Benny’s morning didn’t quite go as planned, they do knuckle down to some work in the afternoon.  This impresses Mr Humphries and when the trio discover that one of his staff is pinching materials he’s even more impressed.  He gives them twenty five pounds as a reward (watch their faces fall though when he says, after a beat, that it’ll be donated to the Outdoor Centre!)

Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Eleven

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Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 12th February 1980

Fund-raising for the Outdoor Centre continues and culminates in a tug-of-war between the pupils and the staff.

But the most interesting part of the episode is the confrontation between Pogo and Karen. Pogo’s at his most obnoxious here – breaking the toast-rack that Karen made in woodwork for no other reason than he felt like it. For a character who’s later usually positioned as a positive one, it seems an incredibly mean and spiteful thing to do.

Karen gets her revenge though as she enlists the help of some older girls to steal Pogo’s trousers! No, it’s not a particularly sophisticated storyline, but it’s amusing nonetheless. Thanks to Miss Mooney’s prompting he does get them back though.

Elsewhere, Mr Baxter continues to victimise Benny because he chose to play for the district, rather than the school team. Michael Cronin’s always good value as the belligerent sports master, especially during the cross-country run which sees Tucker, Alan and Benny decide to take the bus, rather than complete the course in the usual way. You would have thought that by catching the bus they would have been amongst the first to finish, but they end up being the last, which is rather odd.  But for once they manage to outfox Bullet, which is a rare victory for them.

Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Ten

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Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 8th February 1980

There’s quite a lot going on in this episode. Penny is unhappy that she can’t contribute to the school magazine (following her article on Doyle) but perks up when she realises that Susi can contribute material they can write together.

Andrew Stanton’s parents continue to have marital problems – it’s a piece of incidental story colour that doesn’t seem to be developed at this time, but will eventually pay off in series four when it’s revealed that Andrew’s father has left (taking Karen with him).

There’s also more discussion about the proposed Outdoor Centre, but most of the running time revolves around Benny’s participation in the trials for the district football team. His hopes for selection aren’t helped by the fact that they’re being run by Mr Wainwright (Bernard Kay) who is clearly favouring his own pupils from Brookdale.

It’s always a pleasure to see Bernard Kay of course and the football sequences also paint an interesting picture of late seventies inner-city London life. Location-wise, Grange Hill would change over the years as production moved to different areas (most dramatically, of course, when it moved to Liverpool for the last few series). The match also takes up a fair few minutes and the only dialogue we have to guide us are Gary Hargreaves’ off-camera comments and criticisms.

Benny gets picked but he then has face a dilemma from Mr Baxter – does he choose to play for the district or the school?

The recent (far too early) death of Terry Sue Patt gives this episode an extra poignancy. Benny would tend to fade into the background (or not even appear at all) during series four, so this is one of the last Benny-centric episodes we’ll see.