Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Eighteen

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 4th March 1983

This is an all-film school-based episode (something which was quite common during previous series but not so during this year).  The main theme is how Mrs McClusky is able to manipulate events to her best advantage.

She’s already decided to reinstate Mr McGuffy, but that presents a slight problem – since the staff are well aware of the impending demo by the pupils to demand his return.  Mr Smart, rather delightfully, is the only teacher brave enough to query whether she’s been at all influenced by their protests.  As ever, Gwyneth Powell gives Mrs McClusky a wonderful mixture of sweetness and steel as she tells him that no, she always makes her own mind up.

Mr Smart is in a scene-stealing mood.  As Miss Mooney and Mrs McClusky discuss how gifted Jonah is, and whether he’s planning to sacrifice academic achievement in order to maintain his popularity, Mr Smart looms in the background, making tea and not speaking a word – although the eye is irresistibly drawn to him!

Jonah’s not terribly popular at the moment though.  He’s disinclined to get involved with the demo at first, but then changes his mind as he decides to create an impressive banner.  But his ambition outstrips his ability and despite all the previous comments about his brilliance, he doesn’t seem to notice that he’s not left enough space to get all the letters in.  This alienates him from the others even more, but he makes amends by opening the locked school doors, which enables the protestors to occupy the assembly hall.

And that’s his last contribution to the series.  Also bowing out in this episode are Miss Mooney and Mr Hopwood and, like Jonah, they just fade away with no acknowledgement made that they won’t be returning.  A slight pity, as both Lucinda Gane and Brian Capron had been notable presences over a number of years, but it’s not the first or last time that staff and pupils at Grange Hill just vanish with no ceremony.

The return of Mr McGuffy is a gloriously awkward moment.  As the impressively large body of pupils chant for his return, they then eerily fall silent as he does appear and slowly makes his way to the front.  Claire, Suzanne and the others are appalled to discover that he was reinstated the previous day, so they feel they’ve made all this effort for nothing.  The irony that they’re not even slightly pleased to see him (despite the banners and chanting) is picked up by him – and there’s also a real sense that they used Mr McGuffy simply as the figurehead for all their frustrations about the school.  If Mr McGuffy had been reinstated due to their pressure they would have been delighted, but since the decision was taken out of their hands it only serves to reinforce how impotent and powerless they are.

Mrs McClusky does offer the olive branch of possibly allowing the pupils to take more of a role in future decision making, but – like her manipulation of the flexi-time referendum – you can be sure she’ll always end up on top.

And with the long-range reveal of Pogo’s girlfriend (an unnamed pupil from St Mary’s) series six draws to a close.  Always a favourite series of mine, it still impresses, more than thirty years on.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Seventeen

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 1st March 1983

It’s the day of the referendum.  Jonah decides to guarantee that the result is positive by doctoring a number of voting slips.  Elsewhere, Stewpot and Duane initiate the Pogo Patterson Girlfriend Sweepstake.  They plan to sell twenty tickets at 50 pence each, meaning that the winner stands to collect five pounds (whilst Stewpot and Duane are also guaranteed a fiver).  The only problem is that they don’t know her identity and Pogo isn’t telling ……

This episode sees some interesting character development for Jonah.  On the one hand, he’s still the same reckless boy we already know from numerous previous scrapes – attempting to spoil the exam papers was foolish in the extreme (as Mrs McClusky says, it was obvious that the same hand had written on all the papers).  This action suggests that his intelligence isn’t the greatest, but later we see him breeze through his exams in record time.  In the next episode it’s confirmed that he could be a first class student if he only concentrated, but his desire to lark about has set him back.  Had Lee Sparke returned for series seven then this theme could have been developed further (would he have become estranged from Zammo as they moved into different streams?)

This wasn’t to be though, as the programme makers had intended to kill him off at the start of the next series.  It would have been the first time that a regular central character had died (Antoni Karamanopolis had tumbled to his death during series three, but he was someone who only existed on the periphery of events).  It seemed that a sudden death didn’t appeal to either Sparke or his parents, so Jonah didn’t return – causing a hasty rewrite, which we’ll discuss when we get to the episodes in question.

Fay continues to be defined by her love of sport.  She’s therefore similar to Benny in that respect – for him it was football, for her it’s hockey.  She’s delighted to have made the District Team and is rather impatient with the complaints of the others (which she sees as petty).  Diane’s still concerned about her spots (although they appear much fainter here – the script implies they’re as bad as ever, so it must be just a poor case of make up) and Annette’s worried that she may have to wear a brace for a year or two.  Fay’s heartless nature is neatly paid off at the end of the episode, allowing Diane the chance to adopt a mocking attitude for a change.

The Pogo sweepstake is great fun, although Stewpot and Duane are under pressure from the others to reveal the correct name.  If they don’t, then they’ll have to give back all the money they’ve earned.  And they’ve only got one episode left to find out!

Claire, Suzanne and Christine arrange another edition of the underground magazine to insist on Mr McGuffy’s reinstatement.  Slightly surprisingly it’s Claire who’s the prime mover, whilst the nominally more radical Suzanne and Christine are initially hesitant.

Christine’s also involved in the most memorable part of the episode.  Mr Hopwood, in Mr McGuffy’s absence, has to take his English lesson.  He and N4 debate the importance of exams.  It isn’t the first time that we’ve heard pupils take a rather pessimistic view of exams – why bother, when there’s no jobs out there?  Mr Hopwood concedes that times are hard, but it’s still better to have qualifications than not.  Christine then tells him about her cousin, who along with forty four other people applied for a job as a shelf-stacker.  And she has a University degree.  There’s nothing to be said that can counter this, so the scene ends on a close up of Mr Hopwood’s face.  This, and the rally in the next episode, are echos of GH‘s more radical past.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Sixteen

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Written by Jane Hollowood. Tx 25th February 1983

Roland’s (pretend) sprained ankle means that, to his great delight, he’s unable to take part in any more activities with the others.  Instead he’s set another task – to bake some Welsh bread, cover it with Welsh jam and butter, eat it on a Welsh hillside and then compose a poem.  Mr Price stumbles across the dozing boy, who’s baked a very decent loaf of bread but hasn’t got very far with the poem.  Maybe, Mr Price says, that’s because he’s used New Zealand butter!  It’s another nice scene for Roland and it does suggest that the trip has been a positive experience for him.

Diane also eventually enjoys herself, as she tackles the canoeing with gusto and she’s also on hand to spot that Zammo’s in difficulty and raises the alarm.  This is another example, though, of how lax the supervision is.  Simon spends his time nattering to one of the other children about a hole in their canoe, totally oblivious to the fact that Zammo’s floundering about in a capsised canoe.

But it’s a well-directed sequence by an uncredited Kenny McBain (who also directed the previous episode).  Since McBain was also the producer he didn’t receive a directors credit – a not uncommon thing to happen on BBC credits at the time.  With the camera placed close to the stricken Zammo, there’s a real sense of how dangerous and unforgiving even a fairly shallow piece of water can be.

It also has to be observed that Miss Mooney filled out a wetsuit very well, to the obvious amusement of Mr Baxter!  This was to be Lucinda Gane’s penultimate episode as Miss Mooney.  After GH she’d pop up in a few more series (notably as a regular in Mapp & Lucia) before dying at the far too early age of 55 in 2005.

The others are sampling the delights of abseiling from a great height – although Mr Baxter is far from keen.  It’s another nice comedy moment for Mr Baxter who knows he can’t back down – the loss of face would be more than he could bear – but his genuine terror is also quite apparent.  In the end he plucks up his nerve, goes for it and is clearly relived when he’s back on terra firma.  A nice touch is when Janet asks him if he was scared.  He tells her he wasn’t scared, he was terrified.

The disco in Mr Price’s barn allows Miss Mooney and Mr Baxter to show the young ‘uns how it’s done as they strut their stuff to Wot by Captain Sensible.  It’s a memorable end to the episode as the music and dancing plays out over the closing credits.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Fifteen

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Written by Jane Hollowood.  Tx 22nd February 1983

N2, along with Miss Mooney and Mr Baxter, are in Wales, at the Rhowniar Outward Bound Camp.  It’s no surprise that Mr Baxter is present – his character was always good value on school trips (the doomed French Trip during series four immediately springs to mind).

It’s clear within the opening minutes that Roland is going to give him more than a few headaches during the week.  Everybody else has been sensible enough to pack their belongings in a suitcase, but Roland being Roland decides that plastic bags will suffice.  Needless to say, once Mr Baxter removes them from the back of the coach they split open, exasperating the teacher.

Miss Mooney and Mr Baxter are introduced to Simon (Leo Doe), Doug (John Ratcliff) and Anne (Matyelok Gibbs) who will steer the children and teachers through the week’s programme.  They favour informality – first names only, for example – although neither of the two teachers seem delighted with this, since it means the kids will be able to call them Teri and Geoff.

The two children who will clearly struggle the most during the week are Roland and Diane.  Roland, because of his weight, finds certain tasks (such as clambering over a wall) to be an insurmountable problem, whilst Diane, due to her physical slightness, is placed at a disadvantage whatever she attempts.

Roland doesn’t seem to care though.  When Doug leads the others down a very narrow opening to explore a dirty tunnel (which surely Roland could have never fitted through) the boy simply remains above ground and tags behind the others when they re-emerge.  This scene does highlight that the instructors aren’t terribly observant (something which we’ll return to in the next episode).  Doug doesn’t notice that Roland isn’t amongst his party as they set off – you’d have expected he’d have done a quick head count to ensure that everybody was present and correct.  For all he knew, the boy could have been trapped underground!

Another odd moment occurs later in the episode.  Roland is sent back by Mr Baxter to change into proper mountaineering boots.  Fair enough, but the next time we see him he’s changed into trainers and a jumper (before this, he had on a crash-helmet and waterproofs).  The script seems to imply that he’s got lost on his way back to the outward bound camp, but his change of clothes makes no sense of this.  But if he had made his way back, changed, and was heading back to Mr Baxter this makes no sense either, as now he’s wearing totally the wrong clothes for mountaineering.

No matter, since isolating Roland from the others was simply a way to make him meet Mr Price (Mostyn Evans).  Mr Price is a local farmer and is able to reassure Roland that he was in no danger from a field full of bulls (they were cows).  He’s able to teach the boy some words of Welsh, tell him about the type of cows he had a close encounter with, and generally give the town-based Roland an insight into life in the Welsh countryside.  It’s a nice part of the episode, developed further next time, which shows that although Roland may not be able to join in with many of the outward bound activities, he’s still able to gain something from the trip.

No such luck so far for Diane though, who continues to cut an isolated and tragic figure.  Although most of the girls – even the tactless Annette – are friendly, there’s still the odd one (like Sarah) who continues to treat her as something of a pariah.

Later, we see that Miss Mooney looks rather fetching in dungarees as she pours out her recent romantic heartbreak to one of the outward bound tutors.  She’s clearly hoping for some solace, although Mr Baxter (Michael Cronin once again in good comic form) seems less than sympathetic as he harrumphs from his corner of the room.

The episode ends in time-honoured comic fashion as the boys rig a trap in their dorm which empties a bucket of water over Mr Baxter’s head.  Although in the ensuing merriment Roland falls off the bunk bed, spraining his ankle.  Not the most high-octane cliffhanger then …..


Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Fourteen

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 18th February 1983

We’ve reached episode fourteen and it’s the first time this year we’ve seen Mr Baxter on videotape.  Hurrah!  Michael Cronin’s only two previous appearances this year were brief film inserts, so it’s long overdue that we should have an episode where he makes a more substantial contribution.

The first scene is between Mr Baxter and Randir.  In Mr Baxter’s world, if you’re good at sports then you’re good, full stop.  Randir’s prowess on the football field has long been established and his decision to carry on playing during a vital school match even though he was carrying an injury (later discovered to be a fractured wrist) clearly meets with Mr Baxter’s unspoken approval.

The return of Gripper begins the endgame of his storyline which has dominated the series since the first episode of episode five.  It had to come to an end – indeed, it seems a little unrealistic that he’d not been expelled before – and Barry Purchese was charged with making his exit as memorable as possible.

Before that happens, there’s some other business to attend to – not least Mrs McClusky’s decision to suspend Mr McGuffy.  It’s a gloriously played comic scene between Gwyneth Powell and Fraser Cains.  When Mr McGuffy protests at Mrs McClusky’s criticism of his conduct and dress, she snaps back that “I haven’t called you here for a debate, Mr McGuffy!” as months of long held exasperation clearly bubble to the surface.

A good demonstration of Mrs McClusky’s skills as a politician is provided when she initiates a referendum into the question of flexi-time.  Mr Hopwood is more than a little surprised, but when she tells him that the referendum will only decide whether to refer the matter to the board of governors, things become clearer.  The governors will dismiss it out of hand, but Mrs McClusky will have been seen to have done something to address the situation, even if it was ultimately futile.  As I said, a skilled politician.

Gripper’s persecution of Randir is an early flashpoint.  Along with his increased mob, he’s cornered the boy in the toilets and their fun is only brought to an end when Mr Baxter storms in.  “Not back in the school five minutes and you’re spewing out your poison.”  When Gripper calls Mr Baxter a paki-lover the teacher reacts with fury, thrusting Gripper’s head into the sink and threatening to wash his mouth out with soap.  It’s a moment that crackles with electricity, although you have to say that Mr Baxter was lucky to escape a charge of assault.

If Mr Baxter is furious with Gripper, then he’s even angrier with his mob.  “As for you bunch of slimy no-goods, you’re worse than he is. He’s rotten, but you lot … you just feed off him like a bunch of maggots.”  When Georgie makes a dismissive sound, Mr Baxter steams over, grabs him by his shirt and points a finger in his face.  The look of fear in the eyes of one of the boys in the background helps to sell the intensity of the scene.

Now that Gripper’s got his own firm he reopens for business.  First is on his list is Pogo – Gripper decides that an exchange of notes (a pound note for the note he’s acquired from Pogo’s girlfriend) is fair.  Yes, Pogo has a girlfriend!  Considering that in the previous episode he was railing against girls in his usual way, this is a little surprising.  Finding out her identity will be a small running thread that’ll continue until the end of series six as Stewpot and Duane (now friends again) continue to be intrigued by his mystery girl.

Mr McGuffy’s suspension means that Mr Baxter is drafted into covering his English lesson, much to the amusement of the fourth-formers.  Precious is convinced that once he sees what they’re studying that’ll be the end of the lesson.  But Mr Baxter isn’t quite the uncultured man he might appear to be.  “Elizabethan verse romances? Oh yes, this is the stuff of literature this is. Drayton, Marlowe, Shakespeare, my word. Wasted on you bunch of philistines of course.”  Another lovely scene which demonstrates just how much Michael Cronin has been missed this year.

Aside from demanding money with menaces again, Gripper’s also got other scores to settle.  One of them is with Claire, thanks to the article on him that she wrote for the underground school magazine.  His choice of revenge – a dirty mop thrust into her face – is suitably unpleasant and provides the episode with yet another dramatic moment.  Stewpot’s naturally incensed and is all for rushing out and dealing with Gripper there and then, but Duane manages to talk him around.  Instead, they team up with Glenroy, who’s already teamed up with Randir.  Rather like the opening episode of series six, it shows how opposing factions in the school can be united because of their hatred of Gripper.

Once again, the mayhem is cut short by the timely arrival of Mr Baxter.  “No, I’m sorry lads. I can’t allow it. Not vigilante groups. Doesn’t matter how justified you may feel. But we let you all down though, haven’t we? There’s no excuse, not really. That evil toe-rag should never have been allowed back on school premises, but he was. And in the space of one morning he’s attacked people because of their colour, because of their sex.  I also hear you’re back to demanding money with menaces, Stebson.  What an utter and complete charmer you are lad.”

As the picture freeze-frames on a shot of Gripper walking to Mrs McClusky’s office to face expulsion (with the cheers of the others ringing in the background) it’s an apporiate way for his time at Grange Hill to end.  Gripper would later make a few one-off apperances, but his absence would leave something of a void.  GH would create many more bullies over the course of the next few decades, but some of them struggled to escape from the long shadow cast by Mark Savage’s intimidating performance.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Thirteen

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 15th February 1983

Claire and Stewpot, still serving their suspension, meet clandestinely in the local Spar.  This scene appeals for several reasons, not only for the fun in spotting long-vanished products on the shelves but also for Stewpot’s impressively striped jacket!  Both have been forbidden from meeting each other and it’s plain that Stewpot’s father blames Claire just as much as Claire’s mother blames Stewpot.

So when Mrs Scott and Mr Stewart both independently head up to Grange Hill to try and convince Mrs McClusky to change her mind, it might be assume that sparks will fly.  Mr Hopwood certainly thinks so and he gently berates Mr McGuffy for showing Mrs Scott into Mrs McClusky’s office.  Mr McGuffy was unaware that Mr Scott was already there, but seems convinced that Mr Hopwood deliberately engineered the situation in order to create discord.  We’ve previously seen (during Suzanne’s very brief infatuation with Mr McGuffy) that there’s been some needle between them, and this boils over now as they indulge in a blazing row.

The arrival of Mrs McClusky puts an end to it and they both slink away, somewhat abashed.  I do like the later scene where Mrs McClusky informs Mr Keating of the argument.  After learning the identity of both teachers involved in the fracas, he unbelievingly says “Mr Hopwood?”  Clearly he has no problem in believing that Mr McGuffy could be involved in such a disturbance, despite the fact that we’ve rarely seen him raise his voice.  Poor Mr McGuffy’s card is already marked though, as Mrs McClusky is convinced he’s behind the underground school magazine.

The meeting between Mrs Scott and Mr Stewart is a fascinating one.  They both start off in a very defensive manner, blaming the other child for the suspension.  But over a cup of tea in the canteen they revise their positions.  Mrs Scott, in her few brief appearances, has tended to be pictured as something of a hectoring fusspot (very much along the lines of Mrs McMahon).  However this scene allows her character to be painted a little more roundly – she’s aware that Claire’s growing up, but is regretful that this means their previously close mother/daughter bond has frayed.  Mr Stewart has a similar story, he tells her that Christopher rarely speaks to him, as his son considers him to be old and out of touch.

But even though they combine forces to confront Mrs McClusky it has no effect – the headmistress is adamant that Claire and Stewpot must serve out their period of suspension.  When she’s alone with Mr Keating, she does admit that she probably was too hasty in suspending them – but she can’t be seen to back down or reverse her position because that would be seen as weakness.  This is another highly characteristic Mrs McClusky moment.

If most of the racial tension we’ve seen so far this year has been firmly white versus black, then the confrontation between Randir and Glenroy is a reminder (previously briefly touched upon) that other tensions exist.  Glenroy isn’t impressed with Randir.  “Sikhs, acting all superior and stirring up bad feelings.”  But Woody is on hand to try and pour oil on troubled waters, telling them both that this sort of discord is precisely what Gripper wants.

With Gripper away, Denny cuts a forlorn figure.  This episode gave Julian Griffiths the chance to have more than his normal few lines – the role of Gripper’s henchman always ensured that he tended to spend his time lurking in the background.  Denny’s at his most human here and it seems, at times, as if he wants to try and repair some of the damage he’s previously caused.  Can we believe him when he tells Mr McGuffy that Gripper used to bully him as much as anyone else?

It’s no surprise though that his classmates treat him with a mixture of scorn and contempt, which means that he derives an obvious relish at the end of the episode when he tells them that Gripper’s coming back the next day.  Prior to this he had seemed keen to help Claire, Suzanne and Christine in their attempts to print another issue of the school magazine – this one focussing on Gripper – but the hapless Denny had the misfortune to run straight into Mrs McClusky, while clutching the paper.

In order to save his own skin, Denny implied that Mr McGuffy was involved in the magazine.  As we’ve seen, this wasn’t true – he knew about it, but was always careful not to ask for any particulars.  No surprise that Mrs McClusky isn’t bothered by the slender evidence – Mr McGuffy has long been a thorn in her side and this gives her just the excuse she needs to deal with him.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Twelve

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 11th February 1983

Gripper and his henchmen (with the exception of Denny) are once again tracked down by Randir, Woody and their friends and a massive fight ensues.  Even before it starts you get the sense – because it’s shot on film – that this is going to be a notable set-piece sequence and so it turns out to be.  Bodies are flung about the cloakroom with wild abandon – into lockers and against coatstands and it takes the combined efforts of Mr Keating, Mr Hopwood and Mr Baxter to bring some sort of order to proceedings.

Yes, Mr Baxter makes a brief appearance.  This is quite notable because it’s now episode twelve and his last (also brief) appearance was in episode two.  I’m not sure why he’s hardly featured in this series to date, but I’ve certainly been suffering from Baxter withdrawal symptoms.

Mr Keating’s at his imperious best – telling them that everyone in the room will be expelled.  Claire and Stewpot escape any punishment though, they were in the cloakroom but were only innocent bystanders.

What’s interesting is the way that the punishment changes once everyone reaches Mrs McClusky’s office.  It’s never stated on-screen, but presumably it must be her decision not to expel them – instead they’re all served with a two-week suspension.  It would have been nice to have a little bit of dialogue between her and Mr Keating, with each arguing their corner.

Although Mrs McClusky has now been presented with clear evidence that Gripper’s been carrying out a wave of racially motivated bullying she doesn’t decide to single him out for any special punishment.  This is odd.  She’s visited by Woody’s mother who’s upset that her son will be missing two weeks of school.  As she says, he’s never been in any sort of trouble before – and surely the fact that a number of children with previously unblemished records decided to hit back at Gripper would suggest that they were goaded into action?

Anne Kristen is once again on fine form as Miss Clark.  She steps in to prevent Gripper and Georgie from bullying Janet and her friend and later is appalled to find Stewpot and Claire locked in an embrace in the book cupboard.  “We were only necking” mutters Stewpot, but it cuts no ice with Miss Clark who tells them that this is a school, not the back row of the Roxy!  I really wish they’d made her a regular character.

Another lovely performance comes from Gillian Hanna as Miss Gossage.  Miss Gossage is a teacher who’s best described as “not all there”.  She seem to spend most of the lesson time asleep and then (according to Suzanne) always slopes off before the bell goes. As we see her dazedly walking down the corridor, humming Some Enchanted Evening, it’s plain that she’s the last person you’d pick to diffuse a racially motivated fight (Miss Clark, on the other hand, would no doubt steam right in).  Luckily for Miss Gossage, she spies Mr Hopwood and is able to pass this job onto him.

The publication of the underground magazine goes down like a lead balloon with Mrs McClusky.  Her dismissal of Flexi-Time is reasonable, as the practical problems are great, but it’s her comment on bullying which is very telling.  “I have specifically vetoed this sort of criticism of the staff and their handling of the racial situation.”  So she knows there’s a problem, and that probably more could have been done, but rather than address any failings head on she decides that the suppression of negative comments is the best course of action.

Her decision to suspend Claire and Stewpot for their embrace is a clear sign that she’s rattled.  But she also wants to track down the ringleaders responsible for the magazine.  And she’s convinced that they must have had help from the staff ….


Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Eleven

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Written by David Angus. Tx 8th February 1983

There’s two things which are odd about the start of this episode – we see Suzanne in school uniform and she’s also developed a crush on Mr McGuffy.  When we last saw Suzanne, at the end of episode nine, she was raging at how Mr Hopwood had “betrayed” her and her take on school uniform was best described as imaginative!

Something’s clearly happened which has made her decide to toe the line, at least where uniform’s concerned, but we never find out what it is.  Her hero-worship of Mr McGuffy (rather like Claire’s infatuation with Mr Hopwood in series five) is something else that’s just happened, with no prior warning.  She lends him a Toyah LP, which he promises to give a spin.  Her interest in him hasn’t escaped Mr Hopwood’s notice, who attempts to give his colleague some friendly advice about inappropriate relations.

Mr McGuffy’s having none of it though – he’s convinced that Suzanne has no feelings for him and even if she did he’d be able to rebuff her. There’s a nice spark between the two teachers and their whispered conversation in the staff room is also notable for the over-acting extra in the background.  Although she’s reading a newspaper, she’s also clearly ear-wigging and can’t help raising her eyebrows and staring at them as the story unfolds.

Mr Keating’s in fine form as he sadly examines the shocking state of Pogo’s exercise book.  The boy tells him that it fell in the bath as he was completing his homework (a transparent excuse to get out of homework no doubt) but Mr Keating is having none of it, telling Pogo that he has difficulty in believing that he takes regular baths!

This particular plot line (Pogo later sees a money-making venture in obtaining new exercise books from the cupboard in order to sell them) doesn’t really go anywhere, as it’s only designed so that Suzanne can obtain a large amount of paper from the same source.  She wants the paper to start an underground magazine – this idea was put into her head by Christine, her first notable contribution to series six.

So although Suzanne may outwardly now be conforming, she’s still railing against the numerous injustices inflicted on the pupils by Mrs McClusky.  Mr McGuffy is sympathetic and tells her and Claire that he can give their magazine his moral support, but as a teacher he can’t do any more.  As we’ll see, this conversation will later prove to have serious consequences ….

Gripper’s still causing aggro.  There’s a tussle with Pogo which is noteworthy because Pogo (normally a fairly placid character) throws the first punch, but most of Gripper’s bullying is still racially motivated.  There’s a definite feeling that things are coming to a head, especially since Randir and his friends are becoming more militant.  They give Gripper and Denny a good going-over, but it’s plain that this isn’t the end of the story.  Suzanne spots an obvious first article – the ongoing racial tensions in the school – as the lead story in their magazine.  Three guesses how that will go down with Mrs McClusky.


Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Ten

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 4th February 1983

Mr Knowles (Eric Jury) isn’t a teacher who’s able to exercise any sort of control over his pupils and N2 are merciless in exploiting his weaknesses.  Annette loves to mock his Brummie accent for example and she, together with Julie and Fay, decide to spend their lunchtime stalking him.

With Annette and Julie fluttering their eyes and declaring their love for him (even if it’s only in jest) it’s something of an eye-opening storyline.  All three girls delight in copying his bandy-legged walk and follow him to the local Spar, where he does a little shopping.  Yes, this isn’t an episode that’s brimming with edge of the seat action.  Poor Mr Knowles has no choice but to put up with their ribbing, although it’s highly characteristic that Fay is the first to tire of these games and later leaves Annette and Julie to carry on without her.

Mr Knowles seems like an archetypical one-shot character, since the episode has a very clear arc.  He starts off as pretty useless, is later shown to have some positive traits and by the end the kids are much better behaved (although they only mend their ways because they see that a School Inspector is sitting in on his class).  But his one-on-one chat with Julie at the bus-stop does demonstrate that he’s able to be an effective communicator when the rest of the class aren’t around, but the question is whether he’ll ever be able to bring those skills into the classroom.  And although it appears we’ve seen the last of him, he later does go on to appear as a semi-regular during series seven and by then this question has been answered somewhat.

One of the the reasons why Mr Knowles goes up considerably in Jonah’s estimation is because he supports the boy’s proposal for Flexi-Time.  This is a barking mad suggestion which you know that Mrs McClusky will take great delight in dismissing out of hand during the school council meeting.  And she does, although she’s icily polite when Mr Knowles pipes up in favour of it.

It may have some positive points, but the negatives (Jonah wants to make optional subjects which the school is legally bound to teach) seem fairly insurmountable.  But Mrs McClusky’s instant dismissal of the suggestion isn’t surprising, but it will no doubt only serve to create resentment.  Other head-teachers (like the progressive Mr Llewellyn) would have probably been more open to the suggestion, but Mrs McClusky (like her real-world counterpart Mrs Thatcher) was rarely interested in anybody else’s opinions and preferred to steam-roller her way through the school agenda.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Nine

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Written by Paula Milne. Tx 1st February 1983

Open Day is fast approaching, which means that the pupils all have to come up with an interesting project.  The most elaborate comes courtesy of Jonah and Zammo, who devise a computer programme intended to make them a healthy profit.

Once upon a time this would have been Pogo’s domain, but at present he doesn’t seem interested in money making schemes, so the two younger boys clearly see a gap in the market.  Their lack of computer knowledge means that have to lean heavily on the expertise of Miss Lexington.  Allyson Rees last appeared as the fragrant Miss Lexington at the end of series four, so her brief reappearance here was unexpected (but very welcome).  Although Miss Lexington seems a trusting soul, there’s also the suggestion that she doesn’t believe for a minute that the boys will donate any profit they make to charity.

No surprises that the race computer programme is doomed to failure.  The idea is sound enough – somebody runs around the school, their time is recorded and the computer then calculates how long it would take the next person to run the same course (using their age, height, weight, etc as a handicap).  Alas, Zammo  is chosen as the control runner but doesn’t complete the course (instead he sits down and chomps through an apple).  The upshot is that his estimated timings are far too generous, meaning that everybody wins and they have to hand over twenty pence each time.  So Jonah utters what was, for Grange Hill, fairly strong language (“you lazy git”) and in the interests of damage limitation they enlist Roland to block the later runners, thereby reducing their losses somewhat!

Gripper’s project on the history of weaponry doesn’t meet with Mr Hopwood’s approval, so he sets him a task in woodwork instead.  He presents the boy with a block of wood and tells him he can carve whatever he likes (provided it doesn’t resemble a weapon).  Mr Hopwood is pleased with Gripper’s progress and tells him that he could be the hit of open day.  Hmm, really?  Gripper’s masterpiece is an oblong block of wood with a hole in it.  I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like and that’s not really it.

Although it could be that Paula Milne was attempting to show that, for once, Gripper made a genuine effort to do something constructive – only to find it was ignored.  Everybody seems much more interested in Glenroy’s project on Rastafarian culture (complete with booming music) which no doubt irked the racist Gripper even more.  Earlier, there’s a lovely scene between Glenroy and Mrs McClusky in which she asks him to explain his project.  Gwyneth Powell doesn’t say much, but her expression of polite interest speaks volumes.

It’s slightly odd that Suzanne’s still fretting about her Options, since Mr Hopwood sorted that out in an earlier episode.  But here it’s still not been done, although after yet another entreaty he promises to move her to Media Studies.  No doubt he hopes that this will cause a cease-fire in Suzanne’s anti-establishment campaign (she turns up to school in an eye-catching blue-mini skirt complete with blue tights) but it’s only a momentary respite.  Once Suzanne learns that she’s only got onto the Media Studies course because someone else was there by accident she goes ballistic and she ends the episode with her strop factor turned up to eleven.

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Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Eight

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Written by David Angus. Tx 28th January 1983

Although this is a studio-bound episode, a generous application of water still manages to give the strong impression that it’s pouring with rain outside, as we see the likes of Fay, Annette, Julie, Jonah and Zammo all arrive looking decidely damp.

Neither Mrs McClusky or Mr McGuffy have been used a great deal this year, so it’s nice to see them both and even better that they share a short scene together. It once again demonstrates the gulf between their approaches to discipline – Mrs McClusky is pondering exactly what measures she should take to punish those who truant on a regular basis, whilst Mr McGuffy gently suggests that if they do nothing then the situation mght resolve itself. Quite how this would work is never made clear, so for once it seems that Mrs McClusky is in the right.

I love N2’s English lesson with Mr McGuffy. He announces that they’re going to study one of the greatest poems in the English language (to barely surpressed groans) and the stifled yawns we later see are a good indication that they’re not enjoying themselves. Mr McGuffy may be an inspirational teacher, but this isn’t one of his finest hours.

There’s another example of the chain effect of bullying. Annette taunts Roland, so he in turn taunts Diane. Fay tells him to leave her alone and he responds that he will if Annette does likewise. But Annette doesn’t let up, which makes Roland decide to take the afternoon off. Janet, who always seems to be lurking about, has some words of wisdom which go unheeded. “Running away won’t do any good, whatever it was will still be here when you come back.”

This scene also demonstrates just how scruffy and run-down the corridors look. Possibly the sets have been gradually dirtied down, if so it’s a clever visual way of signifying that money at Grange Hill continues to be tight and the budget for decorating must be minimal.

Mrs McClusky, together with Miss Mooney, Mr Browning, Roland and Annette, manages to get to the bottom of N2’s bullying triangle. Quite why she’s not taken any action against Gripper’s much more insidious racial bullying is harder to understand though.

June Page makes a couple of brief appearances as Miss Hunt. One of Page’s earliest television appearances was as Chrissie in the rather fine Dixon of Dock Green episode Seven for a Secret, Never to be Told and she’d later pop up in numerous other series, such as Doctor Who.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Seven

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 25th January 1983

The love triangle with Stewpot, Claire and gooseberry Duane is still lingering on.  This mainly consists of Duane giving Stewpot filthy looks whilst Claire isn’t terribly pleased with him either.  His decision to write Claire’s name on his hand has made their relationship very public (although to be honest I doubt it was that great a secret anyway).

Woody’s mild interest in Precious does seem to indicate that love’s currently very much in the air at GH.  Tony McPherson’s six episodes as Woody Woods was his only screen credit, which is more than a little surprising since – even with his limited screentime – he seems to have a natural presence.

Woody’s two friends, Steven (Mark Monero) and Glenroy (Stephen Woodcock), have sharply contrasting personalities.  Steven, like Woody, is relaxed and friendly whilst Glenroy is physically intimidating and more than a little bolshy.  Steven remained a peripheral character during his handful of appearances whilst Glenroy would develop quite nicely during the next series and a half, with Woodcock showing a deft line in comedy. And both Monero and Woodcock – like so many others – would later graduate to EastEnders.

Gripper and Denny tell their latest recruit, Georgie, that they don’t plan to stick around school. As the pair leave, there’s a cut to the next scene just as Georgie starts to move (meaning that it’s not clear if Georgie decided to truant with them or went to lessons instead). Given that the episode was nowhere near the 25 minute mark it’s a little surprising they didn’t let the scene play out for a few seconds more, so it would have been clear what Georgie’s decision was. Otherwise the whole scene doesn’t seem to have any purpose.

Anne Kristen makes an immediate impression as the intimidating Geography teacher Miss Clark, possibly it’s her harsh Scottish accent? Although born in Glasgow, Kristen didn’t always use her natural accent (for example, when she was a regular in Casualty, possibly her most familiar television role). Miss Clark’s another of those briefly-seen teachers who would have been a decent regular.

Gripper’s stepping up his racial bullying as we see him force both Duane and Pogo to swear an oath to the British people. To Gripper this is logical, since he considers they are the Master Race, but what exactly does he think this will achieve? It’s plain that Duane and Pogo only gave the oath under duress (as Duane later confirms to a shocked Stewpot). Is Gripper really so deluded to believe that the two boys are now firmly on his side? As later touched upon, tbe irony is that many people (such as Precious) are just as British as Gripper, although he – like many other racists down the years – isn’t able to grasp this concept.

Susanne’s still (unsurprisingly) unhappy and plans to run away from home. Claire’s appalled when she finds out and immediately enlists Stewpot’s help. I love the way that Mark Burdiss rolls his eyes in a long-suffering way, no doubt Suzanne’s not high on his list of priorities! Mr Hopwood later tells her that he’ll try to do something about her options, which seems to do the trick, for now at least.

Gripper’s confrontation with Stewpot and Claire is an edgy moment. Mark Savage (Gripper) has rarely been more intimidating as he attempts to make Stewpot swear the oath of allegiance. Characteristically he refuses, so a scuffle breaks out – which is cut short by the timely arrival of Mr Hopwood. He’s aware of the disturbing rumours surrounding Gripper, but with no tangible evidence he’s powerless.

Another key scene occurs towards the end of the episode, as Gripper pushes Precious too far and he’s forced to beat a hasty retreat. A dramatic moment which is well-played by Dulice Leicier.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Six

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 21st January 1983

N2 have headed off to St Albans on a field trip, so that means we’re on film for the whole episode.  The class are under the dutiful eye of Miss Mooney, Mr Smart and Mr Butterworth (Michael Graham Cox).  Graham Cox has one of those instantly recognisable faces, although I wasn’t too sure exactly where I knew him from.  But a quick skim through his credits (his television debut was in An Age of Kings in 1960, not a bad first series to appear in) shows that he turned up in plenty of notable series – Public Eye, Arthur of the Britons, Poldark, Secret Army, a regular in The Gentle Touch during 1984, etc.

Mr Butterworth is one of those classic one-shot GH teachers.  He’s passionate about his subject (history) and is friendly, approachable and clearly written as something of an inspirational figure.  A pity then that this is his only appearance.  And for balance we have Mr Smart, who spends his time hitting various pupils on the head with his newspaper and telling them to open their eyes!

Fay’s hockey commitments means that she’s absent, although in story terms this is a good thing since it means that Annette has to spend time with Julie and Diane.  We’ve already seen that Annette barely tolerates Julie (although given that Fay’s not here they do seem to get on better).  But Annette has even less time for Diane and she and Julie leave the other girl to her own devices.  They’ve been expressly told that they need to stay together in groups and the abandonment of Diane is only the first wrong move that they make …..

Annette’s headstrong (or pig-headed if you like) nature means that she’s convinced she knows the quickest way to the Roman theatre, despite Diane (who’s been to St Albans before) telling her she’s heading in the wrong direction.  She won’t listen though and soon the two girls meet up again with Brian (Harvey Hillyer) and Kevin (Martin Murphy).  Earlier in the day the two boys (presumably in their late teens) had stolen Julie’s crisps, but now (apparently all contrite) they offer to give them a lift to the theatre.

Their appearance and rather creepy dialogue (not to mention the shabby nature of their car!) all scream that Annette and Julie would be mad to accept, but of course they do.  Since Brian and Kevin are so clearly signposted as wrong-‘uns from their first appearance, it may have been a little more interesting to have made them seem more “normal” and non-threatening to begin with – which would have made the sudden realisation that they were dangerous all the more striking.  But no matter, it’s still a chilling moment as the girls realise that they’re not heading towards the theatre after all (instead they’re pulling off the road into the wood).

Possibly this is another reason why Fay wasn’t included in this episode, as you know for sure that she’d be far too sensible to get into a car with strange men. Thankfully nothing happens, but it’s spelled out quite clearly to them (and of course the young audience at home) that they were very lucky.

For a spot of light relief, Zammo and Jonah manage to find St Albans’ seedy underbelly whilst Roland gains a great deal of useful information for his school project, by doing nothing more than sitting in a café, eating, and recording the reminisces of days gone by from his fellow customers.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Five

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 Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 18th January 1983

The opening scene sees Zammo at the breakfast table, reading a copy of the Sun, and with a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes prominently in the frame.  If it wasn’t for the fact that we know the BBC doesn’t go in for that sort of thing, I’d swear it was blatant product placement! Jonah’s still keen on spending the afternoon at Rodney Bennett whilst Zammo isn’t, although he’s eventually persuaded.  It doesn’t take a genius to guess that this isn’t going to work out well ….

Gripper and Denny tangle with Roland for the first time since episode one.  Despite the fact they’ve been warned off this type of bullying, no doubt they feel confident that Roland will keep quiet.  But there’s also a newer, more insidious tone to Gripper’s abuse of the younger boy, as he tells Roland that he may look white but he’s actually black inside.  The running gag that Gripper is intellectually lacking is maintained when Denny, agreeing with Gripper as usual, tells him that Roland must have a pigment problem.  Needless to say, Gripper has no idea what he’s talking about.

After Diane feels faint during sports, this leads Jonah to wonder exactly why girls are always feeling faint.  Zammo tells him it’s to do with the time of the month, but doesn’t elaborate too much (although he does let drop the nugget of information that it’s all to do with the Moon!)

Later, Zammo and Jonah meet up with Jeremy and some other boys from Rodney Bennett as the plan to infiltrate the school begins in earnest.  One of the them is unmistakably John Drummond, who would turn up two years later as another character, Trevor Cleaver.  This obviously means that he must have been blessed with fresh-faced looks, since he could also pass for a first year a couple of years later in 1985.  A slight can of worms concerns Jeremy himself.  We’re told in an earlier episode that he’s only a first year, but in 1984 he seems to have jumped ahead somewhat as he transfers to Grange Hill and joins Zammo in the third year.  But it has to remembered that the inclusion of Jeremy in 1984 was something of a last minute decision – as we’ll no doubt discuss when we reach those episodes.

Zammo and Jonah’s misadventures at Rodney Bennett certainly benefit from being shot on film, as does the fact we see them enter the school after everyone else has already gone to class.  This makes the pair of them seem very small and instantly makes the school an even more foreboding place.  The sound of a hectoring teacher’s voice from off-screen (sounding all the world like he could have been auditioning for Pink Floyd’s The Wall) is another obvious sign that this is a far less welcoming place than Grange Hill.

The sight of Stanley Lebor as a harsh teacher is something of a highlight.  Although probably best known as the meek and mild Howard Hughes from the classic Richard Briers sitcom Ever Decreasing Circles, prior to this Lebor had tended to play more intmindating figures (as he does here).  Lebor’s teacher has no compunction in grabbing the two boys by their ears or banging their heads together to make a point!  And a familiar film trick, used from the very first episode onwards, is also brought into play – the camera is positioned low down and angled upwards, making the adult seem even taller than he already is.

Also, Fay’s increasing interest in sports causes more friction between her and Annette whilst Diane is the recipient of some mild bullying from Roland.  That Roland, who’s suffered at the hands of bullies more than most, should start to lash out at the girl is, in one way, quite understandable.  Anybody who draws attention away from himself is clearly welcome, but that he also lashed out at the girl immediately after being bullied by Gripper indicates how the bullying of one person can have a knock on effect, as we see them then take their frustrations out on someone else.


Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Four

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Written by Jane Hollowood. Tx 14th January 1983

Duane’s far from happy that Stewpot, in his own halting way, is attempting to ask Claire out.  Quite why this is, since Duane’s never asked her out himself, is a bit of a mystery. Duane and Claire have been friends since the first year (and it always seemed likely they would end up together) but since Duane’s not made a move by now you have to assume that he’s not interested.  Either that, or he’s a very, very slow operator.

Stewpot attempts to clear the air at breaktime. It’s always struck me as a strange detail that Duane’s reading Practical Camper whilst waiting in the tuckshop queue.  I don’t know why, it’s just a slightly unexpected magazine for him to have!

This storyline is another example of how Duane (who was a longer established character than Stewpot) has gradually been marginalised.  It seems that the rough-and-tumble Stewpot was more interesting to write for than the conventional Duane and by series seven we’ll see that Duane is even more surplus to requirements – with Stewpot and Pogo forming a decent double act, there’s no role left for Duane to play.

Gripper’s gang has grown by a few more and they continue to target Randir.  He’s rescued by Woody Woods (Tony MacPherson) who suggests he hangs around with him and his friends.  Since Woody and the others are black, there’s a clear division being made across racial lines – although it’s still yet to be openly stated that Gripper’s picking on people because of the colour of their skin.

This happens later, as Pogo asks Randir to use his scarf to make a turban.  It’s a moment of rapprochement between different cultures, which is quickly stamped on by Gripper – who tells Pogo that things aren’t going to be pleasant at Grange Hill for any foreigners soon.

Mrs McClusky seems to be aware that staff shortages are making playground bullying more of a possibility, but rather than target the bullies she elects to reduce the pupil’s breaktimes.  Mr Hopwood voices his concern that by doing this they’re not attacking the problem, only dealing with the symptoms, so it’s a strange decision.

Suzanne’s been in a strop since episode one, ever since she learnt that she wouldn’t be able to take the options she wanted.  Her split skirt doesn’t meet with Mrs McClusky’s approval either, meaning that Susan Tully’s default expression so far this year has been “disgruntled”.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Three

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Written by Jane Hollowood. Tx 11th January 1983

This episode opens with Randir and his family sitting around the breakfast table. The relationship between Randir and his father is one of mild conflict – especially since Randir’s father is portrayed as somewhat conflicted. On the one hand he wants his son to succeed at Grange Hill and make full use of the opportunities available, but when Randir mentions that he wants to attend the football trials on the weekend this doesn’t go down well. Somewhat stereotypically, the Singhs own a shop, and Randir is expected to work there at the weekend. So although his father wants him to do well at school (and therefore integrate into the local community) this is something that can only go so far (business must come first).

Although Mr Hopwood notes that Randir hasn’t made much of an effort to get to know his classmates, he’s far from the sort of isolated, victim character that Roland was. If Randir is self-contained, he’s also confident and this is one of the reasons why he catches Gripper’s attention (the fact that Claire speaks to him is another).

Even though Randir is outnumbered two to one (Gripper’s shadow, Denny, is still about) there’s no sense that Randir is at all cowed or frightened by Gripper’s approach. They’re pretty much the same, height and wright wise, so it wouldn’t be easy to pick a winner in a fair fight (although Gripper’s not likely to fight fair!). This begs the question as to why Gripper targets him, as before he’s always gone for easier and younger prey. We’ve seen that the others have shut down Gripper’s extortion scheme, so a spot of racial bullying is clearly a decent alternative, but in story terms this is slightly problematic.

As the rest of the school had eventually decided to stand up to Gripper and tell him that his bullying was no longer acceptable, why did they allow him to get away with a new wave of racially motivated bullying? It seems to be (although it’s only later lightly touched upon) there’s a general distrust between the different races (so if a black kid was being bullied a white kid wouldn’t necessarily go to help). There have been obvious exceptions to this – Benny, for example – but then Benny wasn’t a character defined by the colour of his skin or his religion, whilst Randir most certainly is.

Gripper’s acquired a new henchman in addition to Denny, Georgie (Sam Smart), and the three of them decide to unwrap Randir’s turban. This then sees a number of coincidences – Claire and Suzanne are passing at precisely that moment and Gripper decides to turn his attention onto Claire (pinning the girl against the wall and asking for a kiss). The next coincidence is that Stewpot and Duane were also close at hand and Stewpot goes rushing in, fists flailing. The fight isn’t pretty, but it’s entertaining. It’s also notable that Duane hangs back and had to be pushed forward to get involved. The upshot is that Claire and Stewpot are thrown together (there’s a certain noble look of suffering in his eyes as he lies down on a bench as Claire tends his bloody face!) and they’ll shortly become an item.

We end back where we began, with Randir and his family at home.  Randir sees his turban and his religion as factors which mark him out as different and therefore a target for people like Gripper.  His father, whilst accepting that racial abuse is a part of parcel of life, tells him that he’s a Sikh and therefore he can’t deny his culture – otherwise he’d lack any sort of identity.  The tension between a wish to conform and a desire to retain existing cultural links is an interesting one, although as his family don’t reappear after this episode it doesn’t really get developed.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Two

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 7th January 1983

There’s a disturbing flashback to the saga of Belinda’s missing clarinet with the tale of Fay’s missing hockey stick.  With Belinda now safely back in Canada, a new character, Julie Marchant (Julie York), is introduced in order to provide some discord to the Fay/Annette relationship.

As before, we see that Annette is extremely wary of anybody who attempts to establish a friendship with Fay. To Annette, Fay is her friend and she seems very disinclined to share her.  The reasons for Annette’s insecurities remain undeveloped at present and won’t really be touched upon in any depth until the following year (after it’s revealed that her home life is far from stable).

Several new characters make their debut.  Diane Cooney (Julie-Ann Steel) has severe acne and quickly becomes a figure of ridicule for the two meanest girls in the class, Mandy (Anita Savage) and Sarah (Joanne Bell).

Poor supervision of sports lessons has been a constant at Grange Hill since series one, and it continues here as Miss Saunders (Jennie Stoller) leaves her gym class under the not-very-watchful eye of Mandy and Sarah.  That Miss Saunders would chose those two girls, rather than, say, Fay, is a little hard to swallow – especially since Fay’s all-around sports ability is quite plain (even if it earns resentment, rather than appreciation,  from some of those around her – especially Annette).

Mandy and Sarah deliberately throw Diane off the vaulting horse and proceed to kick her whilst she’s on the floor –  and all the while Miss Saunders is oblivious to what’s going on.  After Fay confronts them in the changing rooms, Annette uses their argument as a cover to hide Fay’s hockey stick.  Since she’s upset about Julie’s friendship with Fay, hiding the hockey stick allows her to discredit Julie and (after she plans to later “miraculously” discover it) she no doubt believes it will strengthen her friendship with Fay. Things don’t quite go to plan though, as Mandy and Sarah discover Annette’s secret and it’s up to Julie to save the day.

This episode is also notable as it features Zammo and Jonah’s first attempt to infiltrate Rodney Bennett.  But Jonah’s plan to spend the afternoon at Rodney Bennett (don’t ask why) runs aground after Mr Baxter spots them.  But the boys are nothing if not persistent, so we’ll return to this storyline at a later date.

Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode One

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 4th January 1983

The first episode opens with a directorial flourish from Carol Wilks – a remarkably high panning shot which slowly tracks along rows and rows of houses. The camera then zooms into a selected house as we see Randir Singh (Kakir Singh) setting off for school.

That Randir is being positioned, even this early on, as something of an outsider is suggested by the fact that he’s carrying a satchel (generally only swots like Justin tend to have them) although it could have been provided so that Mr Smart can later crack a sort of Shakespearian joke at his expense.

As Randir walks down the street (and also as Jonah makes his way to Zammo’s flat) there’s an interesting use of non-diegetic sound – we hear a radio playing with Mike Read spinning a series of discs seemingly designed to sap the spirits of all those children returning to school for the new term.

If anybody ever picks up Grange Hill for DVD release (unlikely I know) then it’s a fair bet that one of the tracks, Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, would be snipped out, although at least it does play out over a scene where there’s no dialogue, so a substitution would be fairly straightforward.

The early part of the episode reintroduces us to the main characters. It’s our first sight of Roland since he fell under a car late in series five and, no surprise, he’s still far from willing to go to school. That no progress has been made, even after all his meetings with the educational psychologist, is made clear after he complains that he’s got stomach pains. Mrs Browning (one of Jo Kendal’s final appearances, as she’ll be later written out – leaving Roland and his father to fend for themselves) tells him that’s a pity as she’ll have to throw his breakfast away. Unsurprisingly he then perks up and suggests he could manage something. It’s a gag in one way, but it’s also quite a sad and depressing moment.

There’s a new teacher in town, Mr Smart (Simon Haywood). His name is a none too subtle joke, Smart by name, smart by nature. To begin with, he’s a tidy and precise martinet – a stickler for discipline (his undisguished shock at Mr McGuffy’s appearance and attitude is plain to see). But whilst he may be something of a two dimensional figure this year, over time he develops and by series eight he’s a much more relaxed, humorous and approachable figure. But no doubt this was in part due to Mr Bronson’s debut in series eight, necessitating Mr Smart’s realignment as a more sympathetic character.

Jonah starts off in a very annoying fashion and Zammo’s very dense. The laboured gag that Jonah was allowed into a shop that banned Grange Hill pupils because he’d sown on a Rodney Bennett badge was painfully obvious to everyone. Everyone that is except Zammo who doesn’t notice what’s  right in front of his eyes. It’s  also the first mention of Jonah’s Rodney Bennett cousin Jeremy (Vincent Mathews) who’ll return a few times, most notably during series seven.

Gripper’s up to his usual tricks of demanding money with menaces and is delighted to welcome his old customer Roland back. That Roland is more integrated into the school community seems obvious after the others rally round to try and make him look a little more presentable after Gripper’s done his worst (Jonah offering to sew his blazer buttons back on, for example).

Gripper’s interest in Claire (which fills her with disgust) is given its first airing, but the most notable part of this episode is how everybody bands together to finally bring an end to Gripper’s extortion racket. Logically it had to happen – given that his persecution of Roland and the others seems to be common knowledge it would have stretched credibility to breaking point if he’d simply picked up where he’d left off.

But as we’ll see, it’s the arrival of new boy Randir that suggests a new course of action to him.