Grange Hill. Series Seven – Episode Eight

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 27th January 1984

Suzanne, Claire, Glenroy,  Pogo, Stewpot and Mr McGuffy have headed off into the country for the UN Weekend.  It’s taking place in palatial surroundings – which comes as a little bit of a culture shock for the North London kids.  Claire, who has to speak in the debate, is fretting that she’ll come off second best, as some of the other children come from privileged private schools and probably are used to this sort of thing.  Claire isn’t, which heightens her anxiety.

Glenroy is still smarting from the fact that somebody else nabbed Ethiopia (they had to plump for Tasmania) whilst Suzanne, Pogo and Stewpot don’t seem to have the UN at the top of their personal agendas.  Suzanne, despite her earlier protests, clearly wants to spend time with Glenroy whilst Pogo and Stewpot are happy to hang out with any attractive girl they can find.

Trudy (Gina Bellman) immediately catches their attention and they both make a beeline for her.  There then follows several excruciating scenes as Trudy, polite but clearly not terribly interested, has to suffer their separate charm offensives.  This was only Bellman’s second television credit (an episode of Into the Labrynth two years earlier was her first).

Excruciating also covers the scene where one of the more privileged public school boys makes conversation with two black girls.  He asks them where they come from – Hackney, they say.  After a few more questions he seems stunned to realise that they’re actually British (that his school is representing the UK is a clear irony).  Presumably his part of the country has no black people whatsoever ….

If Stewpot and Pogo seem to be making little progress with Trudy, then Suzanne’s equally frustrated as Glenroy seems happier to spend his time talking politics with others than spending time with her.  But although all this toing and froing takes up most of the episode, towards the end we do start to concentrate on the reason why everybody’s here.

David Bellamy is in the chair for the debate on world hunger and his opening address is a memorable one.  The plight of Ethiopia would be thrust onto British television screens later in the year, so it was obviously a topic that was high on many people’s agendas.

Bellamy tells them that chronic hunger “saps your energy and lowers your resistance to disease. That means you can’t work properly. Because you see the sort of work that the hungry people of the world have to do is physical work. And there are four hundred million people in the world today whose food intake is below that which would be needed for normal bodily maintenance … the money required to provide adequate food, water, education, health, housing and above all family planning has been estimated at seventeen billion dollars a year. That’s an enormous amount of money, about as much as the world spends on armaments every two weeks.”

 

Grange Hill. Series Seven – Episode Nine

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 31st January 1984

Two members of the Tasmanian delegation (Claire and Suzanne) are taken out to lunch by two representatives of the Russian delegation.  Claire and Guy (Jamie Wilson) enjoy very cordial relations, which includes a quick snog.  Alas, ever bolshy Suzanne isn’t as easily impressed – the two boys might be sophisticated and know their way around an Indian restaurant menu, but that cuts no ice with her.  They stand for everything she despises – rich and privileged people who’ve never had to fight for anything.

At the same time, Stewpot continues his pursuit of Trudy.  She agrees (a little half-heartedly) to accompany him to evening dance.  Pogo seems to think she’s going with him, but they’re both going to be disappointed.

Trudy and Guy used to be an item and they pick this moment to get back together again.  It’s a remarkable coincidence that Stewpot and Claire were the jilted couple – out of all the people Trudy and Guy could have chosen to hook up with, they pick Stewpot and Claire.  This disappointment throws them back together, so it looks as if their on-off relationship is now back on.  It’ll continue into series eight, where Stewpot two-times her with the most unexpected girl.  Even after all these years I can’t believe it, but we’ll leave that for another time.

If the others are letting their hormones do the talking, then Glenroy remains totally committed to the debates.  Unfortunately, his aggressive manner doesn’t meet with the approval of the debate moderator and he decides to go home.  This seems to be another jab suggesting that UN is a fairly toothless organisation – Glenroy is told to be polite and moderate his tone (just like the real UN) but he counters that people in the poorer parts of the world are suffering now.  Action, not words are required.  Mr McGuffy attempts to pour oil on troubled waters, but to no avail.  However, Glenroy is persuaded to stay.

John Eastlake (Robert Kenley) has been an insufferable presence for the last two episodes.  He’s another rich kid, but unlike most of them – who are portrayed in a reasonable light – Eastlake is prejudiced and narrow-minded.  He receives his come-uppance from the others (which includes his own school-friends) and this ensures that the balance is restored.  If only they could do that at the real UN …..

There possibly wasn’t enough material to stretch across two episodes (a compressed single episode might have been better) but there were several highlights – David Bellamy’s impassioned address last time and Steven Woodcock’s incendiary turn in this one.  And Gina Bellman in both episodes was an unexpected surprise (I’d quite forgotten she’d appeared in GH).

Grange Hill. Series Seven – Episode Ten

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 3rd February 1984

Although Mr Smart started series seven by pledging to be more approachable, he doesn’t seem to have made much progress.  Mr Howard and Miss Gordon look on as Mr Smart frog-marches Zammo and an older boy into the corridor.  He caught them fighting and it was Zammo who threw the first punch.

Mr Smart, with his usual tactic of bellow first and ask questions later (if at all), isn’t prepared to listen to what Zammo has to say.  Lee Macdonald does a good job of showing Zammo’s distress – the boy is visibly panting and unable to articulate clearly.  The reason for the fight – the older boy made a joke about Jeremy – stops the teacher in his tracks and as Miss Gordon takes charge of Zammo, Mr Howard attempts to smooth things over with Mr Smart.

Mr Smart is aware that yet again he’s made something of a hash of things.  But Mr Howard is exactly the wrong person to try and gently point this out – since he’s everything that Mr Smart isn’t.  Mr Howard is calm, friendly and approachable, which is why so many pupils – including members of Mr Smart’s form – prefer to come to him with their problems, which irritates Mr Smart no end.

Off-screen, Roland’s money-lending business has become a part of McClaren Enterprises.  This makes sense – Jimmy and Nigel are just the type of people who delight in collecting debts – and Jimmy sees a further chance to make a little money.  The upcoming sponsored walk might not be a race, but he still intends to run a book on who’s going to win.  Kilvert (Howard Selfe) is the red-hot favourite and Roland collects plenty of bets.  Unfortunately Kilvert isn’t interested in a cut of the proceeds if he promises not to finish first.  Which leaves both Roland and Jimmy with a problem …

Rumblings that Grange Hill might merge with Rodney Bennett and Brookdale are heard, but the key part of the episode concerns the innuendo directed at Fay.  What was implicit in earlier episodes is now very explicit, as Mandy, Sarah and Annette all delight in mocking the girl.  Envy might play a part – Fay is an all-rounder, good at most sports – but plain nastiness seems to be the main reason.  Mandy goes the furthest – suggesting that Fay isn’t interested in boys and likes to hang around the changing rooms in order to watch the other girls (she also mentions that she wouldn’t hang about in the showers with her).  Fay’s infatuation with Miss Howard is mentioned again, but there’s never been any evidence – it just appears that the others have put two and two together to make five.  It’s very disconcerting to see Annette, who’s supposedly Fay’s best friend, take part in this bullying, with only Julie prepared to fight Fay’s corner.

Zammo and Jackie run into Gluxo again.  It’s hard to take Gluxo  seriously because he’s such a cartoon villain, but for once he doesn’t attempt to cause Zammo any harm.  Instead, he gives him a letter for Jimmy McClaren.  An invitation for Grange Hill and Brookdale to meet and settle their differences in the old fashioned way – a big punch-up!

Grange Hill. Series Seven – Episode Eleven

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Written by Jane Hollowood. Tx 7th February 1984

It’s the day of the sponsored walk.  Jackie decides to join Zammo, which causes him a little anxiety.  What will his friends say?  Unsurprisingly there’s a number of whistles and assorted comments, but they manage to get through unscathed.

Roland’s still fretting about the amount of money he’s going to lose if Kilvert comes in first.  Jimmy’s no help, telling Roland that he (Jimmy) supplies the brains of the operation whilst Roland supplies the money.  But Jimmy and Nigel do their best to nobble Kilvert with one of the evergreen classics.

It’s the old “move the arrow so it points in the opposite direction” ploy, so beloved of the series, especially at the start of a new school year (when it can be guaranteed to catch a few unsuspecting first years out).  But Kilvert ignores the arrow pointing in the wrong direction and carries on remorselessly the right way.  It seems that nothing can stop him.

Jimmy decides to pinch a bike, since he’s tired of walking.  The one he chooses – a butcher’s bike complete with meat – belongs to Gripper.  It’s nice to see Mark Savage again, even if his screentime is very brief.  After popping up at the start to shout “oi, that’s my bike!” at the absconding Jimmy, you’d have expected him to make a few appearances throughout the episode.  But he doesn’t reappear until just before the end, where he’s less than pleased with Jimmy’s antics.  There’s a nod to Gripper’s long-established lack of learning as he fails to spell meat correctly.   “And what about the meat, eh? M e e t.  Meat”.  It’s ironic that Gripper’s probably lost his job thanks to Jimmy.  If he was attempting to go straight, it looks as if Grange Hill might have indirectly forced him back into a life of crime.

Stewpot’s desperate to get Claire alone so he can talk to her, and he asks Pogo to chat to Christine.  There’s no sign of Suzanne or Precious (or indeed Duane) so it looks as if this all-film episode saved a little money by pairing down some of the regulars.  There would have been no need for the others to be there, as Claire and Stewpot only needed one other person to talk to, and Christine and Pogo serve that function admirably.

The on/off/on/off drama of Stewpot and Claire looks to be off again, although she considers his offer to join him on an orienteering weekend (along with Mr Baxter, Mr Knowles and a bunch of third years).  Does she agree?  You’ll have to wait until episode sixteen to find out ….

What’s quite nice is that Claire tells Stewpot that she can’t talk to him as she’s walking with Fay.  This partly might have been because Claire simply didn’t want to spend any time in his company, but there’s also the sense that she’s concerned about the younger girl.  Although their discussion happens off-screen, it seems to put an end to the rumours and innuendo about Fay’s crush on Miss Gordon.

Pogo drops out of the sponsored walk as he’s spotted an old girlfriend, Lucinda.  Played by Letitia Dean (credited as Titia Dean) it’s a nice little cameo.  Lucinda likes her food that’s for sure, but after Pogo treats her to a snack in the café he’s crestfallen to find out that she’s got a new boyfriend.  Poor Pogo.

Kilvert doesn’t win, Wu (Eliot Wong) does.  Jane Hollowood seems to have chosen this name so that when people ask who won the race, they can use the “Wu” – “Who?” gag (which they do several times).

Grange Hill. Series Seven – Episode Twelve

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 10th February 1984

Suzanne walks out of Grange Hill again, but this time it looks like she’s gone for good.  On her way out she encounters Mr McGuffy and Mr Smart.  Both want her to stay – although they speak to her in very different ways, as per their diametrically opposed characters.  Mr McGuffy is patient and understanding whilst Mr Smart is abrupt and hectoring.

Neither tactic works, although it’s Mr Smart who feels the most affronted.  He storms over to Mrs McClusky’s office to demand she does something, but the headmistress doesn’t share his anger.  Gwyneth Powell’s been a little underused this year, but she’s very cutting in this brief scene.

Although Suzanne’s left the school, she’ll return to the series in episodes seventeen and eighteen.  But this episode does see the final appearance of Mark Baxter as Duane Orpington.   Given the length of time he’d spent in the series it’s slightly surprising that he just seems to fade away.  One minute he’s there and the next he’s gone, with nobody appearing to notice (although I seem to recall that illness might have been the reason why Baxter didn’t appear in the rest of series seven).

Zammo eventually hands over Gluxo’s note to Jimmy.  Jimmy’s up for a scrap – provided it’s done with a sense of style – but Zammo’s not keen.  Jackie has forbidden him to get involved in any fighting, which leads to a simmering feeling of tension between him and Kevin.  Zammo doesn’t want to be thought of as a coward, but neither does he want to lose Jackie.  It’s a bit of a dilemma.

There’s the second mention of Diane’s boyfriend – and this time he’s got a name, Mark.  At the moment this doesn’t go any further, but it’s another seed planted which will come to fruition later in the series.

Roland’s chaotic home life is finally explained, as Janet (annoyingly helpful and inquisitive as ever) pops around and is told by Mr Browning that Roland’s mother has left home.  One parent families are such a fact of life now (and would also be in later series of Grange Hill) that it seems rather remarkable that this is one of the first instances in the series when it’s been explicitly stated that someone is missing a parent.

The big fight is an anti-climax, but on the plus side it means that Zammo doesn’t have to break his promise to Jackie.  Gluxo locks the Grange Hill boys into the warehouse where the fight was supposed to take place and calls the police.  That’s a somewhat uncharacteristic thing for Gluxo to have done, but GH couldn’t really have been seen to condone gang fighting, so this ending (even if it feels like a bit of a cop-out) does make sense.

Grange Hill. Series Seven – Episode Thirteen

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Written by John Godber. Tx 14th February 1984

Annette proudly displays her new Polaroid camera to the class.  She seems to have an indulgent mother who spoils her rotten – but this surface happiness hides darker secrets …..

The first of five GH episodes penned by John Godber, it provides answers to questions which were posed earlier in the series.  Annette’s mother suffers from depression and hits her daughter, so we can assume that the lavish presents are her way of saying sorry.  Knowing this explains a great deal about Annette’s behaviour (her willingness to taunt others, for example) but it also poses troubling questions.  She’s been this way since we first met her in the first year – has she really been abused all this time?

Everything comes to light after Julie jealously steals her camera.  She only meant it as a joke (this gives me nasty flashbacks to the sagas of Belinda’s clarinet and Fay’s hockey stick) but Annette doesn’t see the funny side.  They have a brief fight but Annette pulls away, clearly in pain.  This wasn’t Julie’s fault though – Annette has bruises on her arms, caused by her mother.

Earlier, the games mistress Miss Hartley also spotted the bruises and gently questioned her.  Annette insisted she fell and Miss Hartley, somewhat reluctantly, seemed to believe her.  We’ve seen this in the series before, where a teacher is aware that a pupil may be suffering abuse but decides not to act.  It’s no doubt an accurate reflection of real life, but it still feels disturbing.  Fay and Julie attempt to cheer Annette up, but there’s a sense that this story isn’t over yet.

Elsewhere, Roland’s smartened himself up – much to the delight of Janet (Simone Nylander).  She launches one of her trademark monologues as she fires question after question at the uncomprehending and uninterested Row-land.  It’s a nice moment of comic relief.

As is Roland’s transformation into a school bully.  After being bullied himself by Gripper, Roland’s now become a fully fledged member of Jimmy’s gang.  Jimmy, Nigel and Roland form an intimidating trio – Jimmy does most of the talking, Roland chips in with the odd word, whilst Nigel says nothing (although he sneers very effectively!)

Mrs McClusky, Mr Smart and Mr McGuffy discuss the merger, which now seems to be going ahead.  Mr Smart isn’t in favour, he declares it would be better if they went back to smaller schools which would give teachers a chance to spend more time with the pupils.  Mr McGuffy doesn’t see the logic in this, although there seems to be something in Mr Smart’s argument.  It’s interesting that Zammo’s mother, Mrs McGuire (Jenny Twigge) also expresses a desire to see the merger stopped.  Although she leans politically to the left (and no doubt Mr Smart leans very much to the right) they both seem to have come to the same conclusion.  Maybe for different reasons ….

Given that he’d just become Artistic Director of the Hull Truck Theatre in 1984, it’s no surprise that John Godber only penned a handful of scripts for GH.  His other episode for series seven concludes the storyline developed here and is just as dramatically satisfying.  His later work for the series is a little more light-hearted though (it includes the memorable affair of Mr Bronson’s stolen wig!).

 

Grange Hill. Series Seven – Episode Fourteen

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Written by Frances Galleymore. Tx 17th February 1984

Diane’s stories about her imaginary boyfriend become more and more elaborate. But Julie seems to smell a rat ….

This episode gives us our one chance to take a look at Diane’s homelife.  Her mother, Gloria (Linda Marlowe), couldn’t be more different to her daughter.  She’s brassy, confident and seemingly not very interested Diane at all.  No surprise then that Diane prefers the safe haven of her bedroom (which, of course, has a big poster of Duran Duran on the wall) and the romantic certainty of teen magazines.

Mr McGuffy’s drama classes seem to be the inspiration behind her endless tales of Mark (he drives a car, works in a record shop, uses aftershave, looks a little like Shakin’ Stevens, etc, etc).  Do we interpret this as a cry for help, or is she secretly delighting in fooling everyone?  Diane’s usually portrayed as a victim (or at least a fairly passive character) so there’s evidence that she relishes stringing everybody along.

This includes her mother, who finds Diane’s stash of secret love letters.   This faintly echoes the storyline of Claire and her secret diary, but it’s plain that Diane intended her mother to find the letters just so she could create a scene.  Gloria has always complained that her daughter never seems to do anything or go anywhere, so it’s more than a little ironic that when she discovers Diane apparently has a boyfriend she’s dead against it.  Diane is then able to taunt her progressive mother most effectively.

If Diane’s managed to fool Fay and Janet, with Annette not really bothered either way, then Julie is the one who seems not to believe a word of it.  But she never comes out and calls Diane a liar to her face (Julie, unlike Annette, is rarely mean or spiteful) and doesn’t press matters after Diane tearfully brings the affair to a close (imaginary Mark is forced to leave town for somewhere up North).

The merger is steaming ahead, with Mrs McClusky keen to take charge.  I like that she calls Claire and Stewpot to her office and passes over paperwork for them to give to their parents, Mrs Scott and Mr Stewart (both of whom are prominent members of the PTA).  Some might see this as underhand, but there’s no doubt that Mrs McClusky is a skilled political animal ….

Miss Gordon is keen to bring a nude life model to the school.  Mrs McClusky reacts in shock (a lovely moment) as does Mr Keating later on (another fine comic scene).  We’ll have to wait a few episodes for the punchline, but it’ll be worth it.