Grange Hill – Series Nine and Ten. Eureka DVD Review

Series Nine

Just Say No.

For many people, series nine is peak Grange Hill, thanks to the absorbing storyline which chronicles Zammo’s descent from loveable scamp to duplicitous heroin addict.  It shouldn’t be forgotten that introducing such a theme into a children’s series was a somewhat risky move – but it’s done in a very effective and obviously moral manner (certainly no-one could claim that GH was glamorising drug use).

What surprises me though, when reviewing the series, is the way several obvious dramatic beats are missed. I’m not sure if this was because the production team were being extra careful not to foreground this plot too much or whether it was the choice of incoming producer, Ronald Smedley.

The first few episodes set up a mystery – Zammo is acting a little oddly (plus his relationship with Jackie is desperately floundering) – but after that point we rarely return to the fifth formers en masse, which means that we’re denied any scenes where they express their worries about him. The audience is also not privy to moments when key figures like Jackie learn that Zammo is an addict.

And whilst Roland is the first character on-screen to learn the truth (thanks to the memorable episode fourteen cliffhanger) we don’t witness him telling the others, which is yet another surprising moment of potential drama missed.

‘Grange Hill Copyright: BBC’

That’s not to say that Zammo’s travails don’t generate any scenes which linger in the memory. As touched upon, the end of episode fourteen – showing an unconscious Zammo – is a classic moment (although it’s a pity that the jaunty theme music crashes in rather too suddenly).  Whilst the end of episode eighteen – Mrs McGuire cupping the face of her mute son, pleading with him to tell her that he’s not an addict – still carries an emotional punch.

The twenty third episode (a now slowly recovering Zammo is visited by Miss Booth) contains another key scene. Although Zammo initially displays a cheerful façade, it’s not long before a strong feeling of isolation and despair begins to seep through. Miss Booth, unable to comfort him, stands awkwardly by as Zammo’s tear stained face looks out of a rainy window.

Throughout these episodes, Lee MacDonald is always on top form. It must have been a daunting role to take on, but he’s never less than totally compelling.

Although Zammo’s slowly dawning realisation that the drugs don’t work is this year’s main theme, there are several others of interest. Such as Fay’s growing relationship with Mr King (David Straun). It’s done in a very chaste way (there’s never any suggestion that they progress beyond holding hands and taking walks in the park) but this is still enough for Mr King to lose his job. Plus there’s an entertaining power struggle between Mrs McClusky and Mr Bronson, which manages to enliven several episodes.

The influx of new characters – Georgina, Helen, Imelda, Ant, Danny – prove to be something of a mixed bag. Ant Jones takes over Zammo’s role as Mr Bronson’s chief irritant (and possibly the irritant of many watching at home as well). More positive is the arrival of Imelda – the series hasn’t had a decent bully since Gripper departed under a cloud in 1983 (plus Imelda is the series’ first long-running female bully).

Series Ten

Harriet the Donkey.

Three words which are guaranteed to strike terror into the hearts of Grange Hill fans of a certain age. It’s all Sir Phil Redmond’s fault (he was the writer of the 1985 Christmas Special – included in this set – which introduced her in the first place).  But whilst Harriet was fine as a one-off guest star in a light-hearted Christmas episode, the audience’s goodwill was probably sapped after she became the focal point of an interminable storyline during series ten. Scraping around for positives, the endless adventures of Harriet does give George A. Cooper a little more to do (which is always welcome – he’s the sort of actor I could watch all day).

When the series began, storylines were concluded in a single episode. After GH was renewed for a second series, the show began to take on a soap format, allowing plot-threads to breathe over multiple episodes. Sometimes this was to the series’ benefit – Gripper’s relentless hounding of Roland during series five needed to be drawn out, otherwise the boy’s apparent suicide attempt would have had far less impact – but by 1987 certain storylines (like Harriet) were being allowed to run on far too long.

‘Grange Hill Copyright: BBC’

Elsewhere, another of this year’s long-running storylines – featuring Mr Scott (Aran Bell) – was much more successful. GH had already shown teachers (Mr McGuffy, Mr Knowles) receiving a hard time from the pupils, but their travails tended not to last more than a few episodes. Mr Scott’s problems are different as Imelda has marked him out for maximum vengeance, so he has to endure a slow torture across multiple episodes.

But even after she’s expelled, his problems continue. Fast forward to episode seventeen and he’s struggling with his class over the register (“the register is a legal document and must be taken twice daily”).  Trevor – growing more truculent and annoying as each year passes – steps up to be his latest tormentor.

By the end of the series, an uneasy peace has broken out between Mr Scott and N3. It’s a pity that he didn’t return for series eleven though – as it means we’re denied the pay-off (could he have actually transformed himself into a respected teacher?) to the question that the series spent the best part of a year developing.

Banksie had been one of the characters to suffer most during series nine. The rivalry he enjoyed with Zammo had been a key part of series eight, but come the next year Banksie virtually turned invisible.

He’s given much more to do this year, via a storyline that chips away at his hardman image. Banksie is given a work experience placement at Hazelrigg School, a place that caters for children with disabilities. As expected, he initially reacts with disdain (muttering that “clearing up after a bunch of weird kids” will be embarrassing) but over time he comes to appreciate both the place and the people, especially after forming a friendship with the wheelchair-bound Lucy (Leah Finch).

The moral of the story – disabled children are still human beings – isn’t maybe delivered with a great deal of subtlety, but it still works, especially when others – such as Banksie’s girlfriend, Laura – are shown to be less tolerant. Making her react in this way was a good touch, especially since Laura had previously been positioned as a positive and welcoming person.

Another key series ten storyline sees a large part of the school revolting (as it were). Clashes between the pupils and the autocratic Mrs McClusky have played out several times over the past decade (although this is the last large-scale demonstration of pupil power mounted by the series). It possibly won’t surprise you to learn that Mrs McClusky – calmness personified – wins the day. Although Gwyneth Powell would remain with the series for a few more years, she’d rarely take centre stage like this again.

For some reason Eureka weren’t able to supply me with a complete set of review discs, but what I have seen – a disc apiece from both series nine and ten – looks fine to me. Some previous GH releases suffered from ‘filmising’ (most notably on the original BBC releases of the first four series) but there’s no issues on the episodes I’ve been able to sample.

Grange Hill – Series Nine and Ten might be a bit of a mixed bag, but the two series are still strong enough to come warmly recommended.

Grange Hill – Series Nine and Ten is released by Eureka Entertainment on the 19th of October 2020. It contains 49 episodes (2 series x 24 episodes plus the 1985 Christmas Special) across eight discs and has an RRP of £34.99.

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


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

Below is an extract from the press release.

Series 9

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

Series 10

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

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

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

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

 DVD Boxed Set Details

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


Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Twenty Four

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Written by David Angus. Tx 1st April 1986

It’s been a while since Gonch has indulged in a money-making scheme, so it’s only right and proper that the Fun Run should offer him a chance to turn a tidy profit.  The series has been here before of course – back in 1984 – but this time Gonch is more interested in who won’t finish the race, rather than who’s going to win it (which seems to be a toss-up between those two titans of the track, Mr Kennedy and Banksie).

However, from early on we’re left with the feeling that Gonch and Hollo aren’t going to finish on top.  To begin with, Ziggy’s delighted to show them a letter he’s received from the Duke of Edinburgh (a real letter this time) inviting him to a gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall (presumably pop, since it’s hard to imagine Ziggy being enthused about an evening of classical music).  Quite why the Duke should wish to favour Ziggy is a slight mystery, but nobody said GH ever had to be true to life.

The Fun Run is an opportunity for some interesting fancy dress – most notably Mr Baxter as Wonder Woman.  That’s a combination I’d never thought I’d see.  This will turn out to be Mr Baxter’s last hurrah as during the first episode of series ten we’re told that he’d left to run a sports centre.  A slight pity that Michael Cronin’s eight years on the show wasn’t marked in some way, but possibly his departure was an unexpected one.

You may – or more possibly may not – be interested to learn that it seems Julia will be able to keep her ears pierced.  Hurrah!  It’s slightly odd though that another of her plotlines (sneaking off to buy tickets for a Phil Collins gig) never came to anything.

Ant’s set to move from Grange Hill to a private school.  But that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of him, alas ….

Following on from the uncomfortable aura surrounding Zammo last time, there’s better news in this episode.  He’s not seen in person, but Jackie has visited him and seems encouraged by his progress.  Presumably it was felt that there should be some sort of happy ending between this series and the next, but it does mean that the drama of the previous instalment ends up being rather negated.

The Fun Run is low on tension or incident.  Banksie falls off his bike and grazes his knee.  Ouch!  Gonch twists his ankle and faces having to pay out a fortune to Ronnie if he doesn’t complete the course.  Imelda and her cronies sabotage Mr Glover’s bike in error (believing it to be Ziggy’s).

The brief and awkward meeting between Mr Bronson and Ant is nice though, offering us a quiet moment between the frenetic on-track action.  Michael Sheard, as ever, is excellent – for once Mr Bronson is conciliatory (telling Ant that he’s sorry to lose him) and it’s almost possible to believe that he means it.  But if that’s the case and he truly valued Ant’s ability as a student, why did he persecute him all year?

I like the way that Mr Griffiths’ concession to fancy dress is to sport a plastic hat whilst still wearing his brown overalls!  And glory be, at long last Ziggy and Robbie gain their revenge on Imelda.

Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Twenty Three

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Written by David Angus.  Tx 25th March 1986

Zammo is a hot topic of discussion for the others but luckily Trevor’s on hand to correct Vince’s wild flights of fancy.  It’s a notable touch that, not for the first time, Trevor belies his generally negative image (hectoring and aggressive) in order to pour cold water on Vince’s heated imaginings.  Zammo, Trevor tells him, isn’t in prison – instead he’s in hospital, receiving treatment for his problem.

We might not see him until later on, but Zammo remains on many people’s minds – most notably Jackie of course.  Having refused Miss Booth’s offer to accompany her when she visits him, Kevin and Roland later find her sobbing bitterly in the cloakrooms.  Having sent Roland on, Kevin then does his best to comfort her.

This is a scene that’s open to interpretation.  Jackie makes her feelings for Zammo plain (she can’t forget him, but neither can she face him at present) so is Kevin being a loyal friend to them both or does he have his eye on Jackie?  His suggestion that they could both go and visit Zammo together makes sense (as Jackie says, there’s less chance that the conversation would dry up with three people present) but it’s the way that he hesitatingly suggests that afterwards they grab a hamburger which may indicate that he’s keen to supplant his best friend.

When they exit the cloakroom he places a friendly hand around her shoulders. This could be seen as either a supportive gesture or a territorial move.  Banksie just happens to be passing and unsurprisingly favours the latter.  Having sat out most of this series it’s nice to have Steven Banks back.  Not only does he clash with Kevin (taunting him about Jackie) but he’s also keen to prove his superiority over Mr Kennedy.

This is the cue for a decent comedy scene as Mr Kennedy runs rings around him on the basketball court.  Margie Barbour employs a few unusual directorial flourishes here – incidental music (very rare for this era of the programme) and a freeze-frame after Mr Kennedy lands the killer blow.  So round one to Mr Kennedy, but Banksie is convinced that he’ll beat the teacher during the Fun Run (yes I know, a Fun Run isn’t a race, but try telling Banksie that …)

Ant’s plotline (he’s run away from home) can’t really be judged as one of GH’s successes.  For one thing, it’s far too short (it gets wrapped up here) and for another, the level of jeopardy is very low.  Since he’s still dressed in his school uniform he clearly didn’t think things through very deeply (something of a trait with him) and his time seems to have spent dossing down in an abandoned house.  The use of a real location does help a little though and there’s another well-crafted directorial moment when Ant later returns to the house.  A tramp has taken up residence, but the light levels are low enough to mask this fact until he starts to move and leer at the unfortunate boy.

Apart from that, the other highlight is that Ant attempts to steal an apple from a market barrow and fails.  As I said, not the most gripping of storylines so it’s a relief that the episode closes with Ant returning home.  Back at Grange Hill he, like Zammo, remains a hot topic of discussion.  We only see Mr Bronson very briefly in this one but it’s a telling moment – Mr Baxter taunts him about his treatment of Ant which leaves Mr Bronson, for once, somewhat discomforted.

Louise and Cheryl’s story is brought to a (fairly) happy ending, thanks to the arrival of their aunt, Harriet Dean (played by Carmen Munroe).  She and her husband are happy to move to London and take care of the family, but Cheryl (a devote of healthy eating) is somewhat appalled by her aunt’s fondness for fry-ups.  We never see Harriet again, so presumably we can interpret this scene as a comic one and not a suggestion that the forceful Harriet will make all their lives a misery.

Danny’s not best pleased that his design for a school logo – suitably adjusted – will soon be pressed into service.  Mrs McClusky’s sweetly delivered comment that it will happen whether he likes it or not is a typically delightful moment from Gwyneth Powell.  When Mrs McClusky is at her sweetest then you should be very afraid ….

There’s yet another slightly unusual touch as we see Miss Booth on her way to visit Zammo.  Whilst she’s driving her car en-route, the soundtrack jumps ahead to her discussion with Grace (Heather Emmanuel) a worker at the rehabilitation centre.   With the aid of some mugs, Grace is able to give a visual explanation of Zammo’s former addiction but the question remains, will he be able to stay off drugs?

He enters the frame, lingering in the background unseen by both of them, which sets up a moment of tension.  This quickly dissipates as he seems much more like his old self, but it’s clear that the road to recovery is going to be a long one.  Several times during series nine we’ve had false dawns – Zammo appeared to be recovered but wasn’t – so it seems right that we’re left with a strong sense that his future is far from certain.

As his cheerful façade slowly begins to crumble (changing the shot to a view of Zammo through a rainy window was presumably an on-the-day choice, but since it helps to hide his tears it’s a good one) Zammo’s isolation seems absolute.  The way that Miss Booth clearly wants to comfort him but doesn’t is yet another subtle moment from a quality episode.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Twenty Two

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 21st March 1986

Ant’s run away from home.  This was apparently on his mind after Mr Bronson vetoed his options, but as so often this year it’s a piece of information we learn after the event.  Mr Jones is naturally distraught and therefore gives Mr Bronson short shrift when he expresses his sympathy.

One interesting point.  Outside Mrs McClusky’s office is a poster which reads “Education – Cuts Don’t Heal”.  It can be seen several times during the year, although it’s never commented upon.

The school magazine has been quiet for a while, but now it cranks back into action with a campaign to save Miss Partridge.  It’s all been done without the consent of the staff obviously, and so it seems reasonable that it’s going to create a little strife.  But Mrs McClusky doesn’t mind – to the contrary it underlines just how much Miss Partridge is valued – it’s Miss Partridge herself who is somewhat irked to find her personal life a matter of public debate ….

Mr Glover and Mr Baxter have an entertaining confrontation.  Mr Glover is upset that Julia, against his wishes, has had her ears pierced.  Mr Baxter’s somewhat perplexed as to exactly what he was supposed to have done about it (especially since it happened during the lunchtime).

Mrs McClusky stands in for the departed Mr King and, against everybody’s expectations, apparently turns out to be a more than decent maths teacher (making the lesson come alive for N2).

But this episode mainly revolves around Zammo.  Once again he appears to be clean – telling Jackie that’s he’s finally kicked the habit.  He also opens up and explains why he started in the first place.  “It’s like, you hang around with a certain crowd, they’re all doing something, making a big deal out of it. One comes up to you and says ‘I dare ya’ but in a way they’re daring you not to, so you have a go and you hate it. But you keep on because you show them you can do it. But when you can do it, well that thing don’t matter anymore, all that matters is the next smoke”.

During this monologue the camera slowly closes on Zammo’s face and by the end he seems to have convinced Jackie, especially when he produces what appears to be his last wrap of heroin and flushes it down the sink.  It’s easily Lee Macdonald’s best scene this year (especially when you learn later than once again Zammo is lying).  Jackie’s tears of joy help to make it a touching moment, but the attentive viewer should by now be primed to expect a later reversal.

Zammo’s speech does leave a few unanswered questions (if, of course, it was anywhere near the truth).  The most obvious is why he fell in with this particular crowd in the first place.  A bunch of drug addicts would hardly seem to be the ideal friends for him – so what pushed him in their direction?

His apparently honest outpouring convinces Jackie to leave him alone, but we later learn that he’s stolen his mother’s cashcard (which had been well hidden) and is out somewhere on the streets.  The action then switches to a typically rundown block of flats (babies crying in the distance) where he views the devastation wrought on Howard’s front door with alarm.  With Howard picked up by the police, Zammo needs a new supplier (although it was never clear before that Howard performed this function) and luckily the fairly well-dressed Shane (David Fenwick) looks set to fill the void.  It’s reasonable to assume that Shane is happy to sell the drugs but not stupid enough to take them.

The last few minutes have to be amongst the series’ most iconic moments – certainly it has to be GH’s most repeated scene.  For the final time Zammo’s lies find him out as Jackie discovers a stash of heroin hidden in his calculator.  As he and Kevin clash, Jackie tears the bag and scatters the powder on the floor.  As Zammo, by this stage functioning on instinct alone, desperately tries to scoop it up, the police arrive to take him away.

With a sobbing Jackie in the background and the non-diegetic sound of police sirens on the soundtrack, it closes the episode in a highly dramatic fashion as we freeze-frame on Zammo’s face.

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Grange Hill, Series Nine – Episode Twenty One

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 18th March 1986

Zammo’s back in school, having seemingly kicked his heroin habit.  If this seems a little too good to be true then you may not be surprised to learn that it is.  Despite Jackie and Kevin constantly acting as his guard dogs, he’s somehow been able to buy some drugs and he stashes them in the toilet for later.  How he was able to get the drugs and where he got the money from is a mystery (since he’s been constantly watched for weeks).

It’s a missed opportunity that the truth is so quickly discovered.  Having an episode or two where he appeared to be back to his old self would have worked well, but given that we’re marching ever onwards towards the end of series nine, it wasn’t to be.

When he later discovers that his stash has been ruined he hot-foots it out of school, on the hunt for more.  That action makes it plain that his story is on-going but Fay and Mr King is a storyline that’s concluded here.  After blithely maintaining last episode that there was nothing wrong with their relationship, here Fay is in a state of total collapse.  It’s not clear what has forced this turnabout (an intervention from her parents or the fact it’s becoming public knowledge maybe?).

Fay doesn’t speak at all in this episode but thanks to her dramatic collapse in the gym, prior to an exam, still manages to catch the eye.  Mr King only has a handful of lines before he departs – handing in his resignation to Mrs McClusky and then clearing his desk in the time-honoured fashion.

He might be gone but Miss Partridge is still present and still worried about her job.  That she’s an unmarried mother isn’t the main issue (or so some of the governors claim).  It’s more to do with the fact that she knowingly falsified information on her application form.  Countless times in the past we’ve heard pupils bitterly mention that there’s no point in working hard (‘cos there’s no job out there) but it’s a little jolting to hear a teacher also admit that jobs are scarce.

Had she not lied, Miss Partridge maintains, then her chances of gaining a job would have been practically zero.  Mrs McClusky knows that she’ll have a fight on her hands to save her, but she’s going to fight all the same.  There’s a nice moment just before she enters the cauldron of the governors meeting – we see her applying a touch of make-up (putting her warpaint on, maybe?)

With the loyal Mr Baxter by her side, the pair have to face the terrible duo down the other end of the table – namely Mr Bronson and Mr Glover.  It’s Mr Glover who does all of the talking for them (for once Mr Bronson has nothing to say).  Mr Baxter does pipe up occasionally, but more often that not it’s to angrily retort to an insinuation made by Mr Glover.

So it’s mainly a battle of wills between Mrs McClusky and Mr Glover.  I thought the question of the headship had been decided some time back, but here it still seems to be in the balance.  Mr Glover taunts Mrs McClusky that for fear of making waves it would be best if she let Miss Partridge go quietly.  But Mrs McClusky is built of sterner stuff and in a glorious scene, which shows her at her best, she retorts that if required “she’ll sink the blessed ship!”

Ziggy and Robbie (good lads at heart) attempt to raise some money for the school by selling books – one of which contains a superstar autograph (the others also have autographs, but who really wants one signed by Humpty Dumpty?!).  The star autograph is Bono’s from U2, although nobody can pronounce his name correctly (everyone calls him Bow-no).  Or perhaps that’s how they did it back then?

Ant continues to glower away and jump to the wrong conclusions.  For once Mr Bronson is in a conciliatory mood, telling Ant gently (or as gently as he can manage) that his options aren’t valid.  It’s just unfortunate that Julia, who has selected the same options, is told later by Mr Bronson that there shouldn’t be any problem with hers.  But to be fair to Mr Bronson he didn’t have time to read them (he had to rush off to arrange the kangaroo court with Mr Glover) and he made this plain to the girl.  But the fact that he hadn’t seen them was one important sliver of information that Julia didn’t pass onto Ant.

Since he believes, incorrectly, that Julia’s been favoured over him, he tells Mr Bronson to “stick it”! and storms off.  That boy will never learn.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Twenty

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 14th March 1986

During these posts, I’ve discussed on a few occasions how various matters during series nine tend to develop off-screen.  There’s another example of this here – with Ant – although in this case it works to the benefit of the drama.

Ant’s still seething about the way he’s being treated – convinced that the school and his parents believe everything they’ve been told by Mr Bronson.  He therefore decides to withdraw his labour from the swimming team, something which obviously upsets Mr Baxter.  But is Ant correct in his assumption? Mr Baxter makes a very interesting comment – other pupils, accused of the things Ant has, would be expelled by now.  The fact that Ant hasn’t even received a detention should suggest to him that Mr Bronson’s accusations don’t hold water.

If this is so, then possibly we’ve missed a trick by not seeing Mr Bronson discomforted, but it’s also possible that Mr Baxter is attempting to spin a rosy picture in order to get Ant back on board.  But when Ant dismisses the team as “second rate” Mr Baxter’s attitude changes to frosty and there’s a very real sense that a bridge has been burned.  Ant needs all the allies he can get, so alienating Mr Baxter wasn’t the wisest move.

Ant may have reasons for feeling a little hard done by, but he’s rather an unlikeable character – which means that it’s hard to be on his side.  Later, Laura asks him if he’ll speak to his father – who’s a solicitor – to see if he would be able to track down Louise and Cheryl’s mother.  He refuses, due to his poor current relationship with his father, but considering that Louise and Cheryl’s father has just died this seems a more than petty reason.  Miss Partridge is eventually able to win him round though.

And Mr Jones’ meeting with Louise, Cheryl and Laura also has another benefit.  He’s able to discretely question them about Ant and Mr Bronson (naturally this happens off-screen) and concludes that Ant’s version of events is the one most closest to the truth.  Does this please Ant?  Of course not, as he seems to believe that his version of events should have been unconditionally accepted.

It’s a neat move that Mr Jones is a solicitor.  This makes him a precise and methodical man who first needs to weigh up all the evidence before pronouncing judgement. He’s shown to be fair, although there’s a clearly strained atmosphere between father and son (most of the antagonism does seem to be on Ant’s side though).  He may snap angrily at his son but seconds later he regrets it (unlike, say, Mr Glover).

Danny seems to exert a strange power over the younger children.  Despite his diminutive size he’s easily able to persuade Trevor and Vince to help him with the speaking wall.  Gonch and Hollo – hiding around the corner – are frantic.  How will they be able to make it to the safety of the bus without being spotted?  All seems well when Ziggy and Robbie – a ready made pair of sacrificial lambs – saunter past, but they seem immune to Danny and keep on walking.  If Ziggy and Robbie could do so, why can’t Gonch and Hollo?  It’s just a gag moment, but it doesn’t quite ring true.

Miss Booth later waxes lyrical over the strange power Danny has, likening him to Michelangelo with his apprentices.  Rather wonderfully, her audience is Mr Griffiths – not exactly Danny’s greatest fan.  George A. Cooper doesn’t have any lines, but it’s plain from his expression exactly what Mr Griffiths thinks!

The saga of Georgina and Imelda is still rumbling on.  Despite not being touched upon for some time, Imelda’s still glowering in the corner – promising vengeance – whilst Georgina wilts and looks around for Ant to protect her.  An equally long-running – and by now more than a little annoying – saga is that of Ziggy and Robbie, still out for revenge against Imelda.  This week they have bags of flour.  I wonder what will happen next ….

Mrs McClusky pays a visit to Mrs McGuire and Zammo.  Mrs McGuire’s weary story indicates that time has moved on since the previous episode.  Zammo’s still suffering withdrawal symptoms, but his mother is convinced that he’s nearly through it (although part of her knows this may be a false hope).  This has to be the first time that Mrs McClusky has referred to Zammo as Sammy rather than McGuire – although he’s unable to respond to her.

Zammo’s heroin problem soon becomes public knowledge via the speaking wall.  Mrs McClusky demands to know who – out of Danny, Gonch, Hollo, Trevor or Vince – was responsible.  But since none of them knew about Zammo, her well-meaning attempt to keep a lid on things has only backfired.  But who the secret scribber was remains a mystery.

Mrs McClusky orders the speaking wall to be whitewashed, but later relents and agrees that Danny’s mural can stay.  But it’s too late as Mr Griffiths has already gleefully painted over it.  Danny’s not at all pleased and storms off, leaving Miss Booth in his wake.  Never mind the power Danny has with his fellow pupils, the hold he exerts over Miss Booth is also a talking point.

The sight of Fay, lounging by Mr King’s car (“going my way?”) doesn’t fill him with instant pleasure as it did before.  But it isn’t long before he’s gently stroking her hand and moving closer to her.  That they’re doing this in the school car park, in full view of everybody, isn’t the wisest move.  As so often it’s Miss Partridge who we see hovering disapprovingly in the distance.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Nineteen

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 11th March 1986

Zammo’s on the scrounge again and once more Roland is his hapless victim.  Given that Roland seems to be the only person in Grange Hill aware that Zammo’s got a drugs problem, it’s slightly odd that Zammo decides to target him yet again.  This is either another case of slightly wonky plotting (given the length of time this storyline has been running I’d have expected others – especially Jackie and Kevin – to have twigged that something’s wrong with Zammo by now) or it’s an intentional move – confirming that junkies aren’t the most forward thinking of people.

It’s late at night and Roland is home alone, frantically swotting for the next day’s French oral exam.  Zammo spins him a highly suspect story about a mysterious man down the arcade who owes him a tenner.  Naturally, this involves Roland giving Zammo another ten pound note so he can change the mystery man’s twenty.  Given all Roland knows, he’s either incredibly stupid or incredibly trusting (I’d favour the latter over the former).

There’s a nice touch of continuity as we see a polaroid picture of Fabienne on Roland’s bedside cabinet (a reminder why this French exam is so important to him).  That’s what makes Zammo’s next move so shocking – when Roland goes out of the room to get the ten pound note, Zammo pockets Roland’s bedside clock.  It may not be worth much, but it’ll fetch him a few more pounds.

Remember what I said about Roland’s level of intelligence?  Hmm, I take it back.  Surely he would have realised that his bedside clock was missing?  Most people would surely use it regularly to check the time.  So this part of the plot doesn’t quite hold water – unless you believe that Roland, exhausted from his revision, fell into a deep sleep shortly after Zammo left.  That might just work ….

The upshot is that the next day Roland is late for his exam and if he misses it then all his hopes will be dashed.  This is where we see, for once, the caring side of Mr Bronson.  Pacing up and down whilst checking his pocket watch (a nice little detail – Mr Bronson would be exactly the sort of character to have such an old-fashioned timepiece) he’s clearly upset that his star pupil hasn’t shown up.  Compare and contrast to the way he’s abused Ant (sometimes unfairly) this year and it shows that deep down he does have a heart.  He’s obviously a teacher who has favourites though (a good teacher would treat everybody the same).

It’s obviously intentional that in the same episode where we see Mr Bronson give Roland a helping hand, we also see his more unrelenting side.  Mrs McClusky, Mr Baxter, together with Ant and his parents, are having a friendly chat – at least until Mr Bronson turns up and then the atmosphere changes in an instant.

Given that Mrs McClusky and Mr Baxter have both gently suggested previously to Mr Bronson that he’s waged something of a vendetta against Ant, it’s notable that they don’t mention this to Ant’s parents. A case of them closing ranks with Mr Bronson, even if they don’t entirely agree with him?

It’s a surprise that Zammo turns up for his exam.  It’s not a surprise that he’s totally mute throughout though.  Maybe he just made it to school that day in order to steal the video recorder?  How he managed to waltz out of school with nobody noticing he had it tucked under his arm is a mystery though.  And it’s odd that we don’t actually see Zammo steal it – possibly there was a general feeling this year that they had to be extra careful when depicting Zammo’s criminal activities, but on more than one occasion we’re told and not shown (which never feels entirely satisfactory).

This episode provides us with a rare opportunity to see the fifth formers together.  The likes of Banksie, Kevin and Julie – all rather sidelined this year – are given a few scenes.  Earlier in the year we learnt that Julie fancied Kevin, is that the reason why they’re revising together?  Later, Banskie continues his rehabilitation by lending Roland some money (after learning that Zammo’s left him penniless).

We finally learn why Miss Partridge has to leave early every day.  She has a young son ensconced in a nursery and, as a single parent, has to pick him up on the dot each afternoon.  Today there wouldn’t be anything remarkable in this, but some thirty years ago things weren’t quite so clear cut.

The police bring the video recorder back.  They’re looking for Kevin (since Zammo used his name when selling the recorder).  But once they track him down they know that he’s not the one – since the suspect was Caucasian.  It hardly seems credible that Mr Kennedy wouldn’t know what Caucasian meant, so why not just say white in the first place?

Roland’s also on hand and he’s the one who spills the beans about Zammo.  Of course, we don’t actually know at this point that Zammo stole the video (although it seems more than likely) but the incident serves as the trigger for him to finally reveal what he knows.  And once again we cut away at the point just before Roland tells Kevin and Mr Kennedy that Zammo’s a junkie.  That the series is continually dodging dramatic moments like this is more than a little puzzling.

Jackie visits Zammo’s flat (today it’s a standard studio set, rather than the real location used earlier on) and finds Mrs McGuire at the end of her tether.  She knows that something’s wrong but has either not considered the possibility that drugs are involved or is in a state of denial.  When the police call, Jackie meekly leaves (this seems a little unlikely, surely she’d have hung around in the passage and attempted to listen in).

But if we’re denied another dramatic story beat – Jackie learning that Zammo’s an addict – at least we’re present when Mrs McGuire is told.  This gives us another strong episode closer as she cups her hands around Zammo’s face and pleads with him to tell her it’s not true ….

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Eighteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 7th March 1986

If it wasn’t for the fact that this episode follows directly on from the previous one, you’d swear that a certain amount of time has elapsed in the relationship between Fay and Mr King.  Last time he was somewhat hesitant in agreeing that they could go to the cinema together – but today they seem much more intimate, strolling in the park hand-in-hand, whilst she’s happy to call him Peter (rather than Sir or Mr King).

This is another of those moments where the script-editing seems a little suspect, which is surprising given that Anthony Mingella’s hand was on the tiller.  Had they started this plotline a little earlier (or left an episode between their cinema jaunt and this new-found closeness) then probably things wouldn’t have seemed so jarring.

Fay and Laura have another entertaining clash.  Laura, who’s been told by her mother that the staffroom is buzzing with the news that Mr King and Fay are rather closer than they should be, can’t help but tactfully suggest to the older girl that she’s playing with fire.  As you might expect, Fay doesn’t take this well-meant tip off terribly well.

Later, Mr King tells Fay that they’re doing nothing wrong, although he seems a little perturbed to hear that others are talking about them.  Another indication that he’s well aware of the deep waters they’re swimming in can be seen after Miss Partridge, treating Cheryl and Louise to a cup of coffee in a local café, spots Mr King at another table and pops over to say hello.  Her smile of greeting dims a little after she realises that Fay’s with him and Mr King’s downcast expression speaks volumes.

Cheryl and Louise, in the aftermath of their father’s death, continue to struggle to keep their family together.  Miss Partridge, Laura and Julia pay them a visit and discover that they have no money and no support.  Once again, you have to wonder exactly what the school or social services have been doing – answer, not very much.

The school welfare officer hasn’t called round (Miss Partridge promises to chase them up, but it’s more than a little worrying that matters have been left up in the air so long).  Nobody seems inclined to call the social services in, but given that Cheryl’s only fifteen it’s plain that they’ll need a great deal of support. Although the spectre of them all being taken into care – and split up – is clearly influencing their actions.

Julia, who never seems to learn, is preparing once more to defy her father.  She wants to go to a Phil Collins gig and is quite prepared to go anyway if he denies her permission.  So expect maximum-strength pouting from her if things don’t go the way she wants.

After having barely a handful of lines all year, Jane has a little more to do in this episode.  Firstly, she’s perplexed as to why Ziggy is behaving in a friendly fashion towards her (he, of course, is attempting to make amends for throwing her clothes – rather than Imelda’s – into the swimming pool).  She then uses the speaking wall for the purpose it was originally intended (spreading news that couldn’t be disseminated in the school magazine) by sharing that Miss Booth is a secret smoker.  Later, having discovered that Ziggy was the clothes-thrower, she decides to take her revenge in the messiest way imaginable ….

Whilst these hi-jinks are typical GH fare, Margaret Simpson (always a writer who could be guaranteed to pen good character-based scenes) continues to depict a highly-traumatised Louise, back in school but barely able to function.  Unsurprisingly Laura is on hand to provide a shoulder to cry on and it’s equally unsurprising that Mr Bronson, when both are late for his tutorial group, is less than sympathetic.

It seems barely credible that Mr Bronson, if he was aware that Louise’s father had just died, would be so keen to send her to detention.  When Ant steps in to harangue him over this point, he does backtrack a little (but only to say that Louise’s detention has been deferred for now).  But maybe this scene was merely a pretext for another Mr Bronson/Ant contretemps, if so it seems to end a little abruptly (suggesting the end has been chopped off).  It does push their rivalry on a little though, with Ant sent home and a meeting with his parents arranged.

It’s interesting that Danny is keen to paint over the chit-chat on the speaking wall, complaining that this free-for-all is spoiling everything.  Yet he was the one to originally suggest that since the school magazine was toothless, a wall where anybody could write anything would be the way to go.  Again there seems to be a certain level of character inconsistency.

This episode features a key scene between Zammo and Roland.  It’s the first time they’ve spoken since episode fourteen and sees Roland, in his own slightly inarticulate way, confront Zammo about what he saw that night in the arcade.  Prior to that they have a more general chat, with Zammo seeming to be slightly more together than he has previously.  Roland explains his desire to move to France for a year – in order to be with Fabienne – although this is dependent on him passing his French O Level.  This appears to be just a throwaway line, but it’ll become important next episode – not least for the way it shows how Zammo is prepared to sacrifice Roland’s hopes for the future in order to fund his drugs habit.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Seventeen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 4th March 1986

Calley’s not happy with the changes that have been made to the first issue of On Spec (the school magazine).  She feels that Mrs McClusky’s fingerprints are all over it – watering down her original fanzine idea into something that could have been produced by the school secretary.

But it’s still controversial enough to annoy Mr Glover intensely, especially the article on smoking. Since smoking is prohibited amongst the pupils, the magazine – by acknowledging that it’s a problem for all sections of the school community – is seen to condone it.  A few years back this might have been the sort of point that Mrs McClusky would have picked up on, but she didn’t seem too concerned to begin with (so she seems to have mellowed somewhat).

But now that the governors have raised concerns, she agrees that changes need to be made.  This might suggest that she’s keen to jump when she’s told to jump, but later events will prove that Mrs McClusky is still very much her own woman and still very much in charge.  The showdown between her and Mr Glover is yet to come ….

Mr King is aware that the school governors want to recall the magazine, but tips Fay the nod thereby allowing her, Calley and Ronnie to rush off to distribute it.  Hurrah, strike one for pupil and staff power!  I’ve a feeling that Mr King might get into trouble for this, but it’s his insidiously creeping relationship with Fay that’s more likely to prove his downfall.

Zammo visits the post office to cash a dodgy pension.  This is an authentically grimy slice of mid eighties London life and the dingy setting help to ramp up the tension as Zammo anxiously waits his turn.  When Banksie joins the queue, Zammo’s nerves start jangling even more.  It seems a long, long time ago when Banksie was the untrustworthy one and Zammo was the good guy.  Banksie’s posting off a job application whilst Zammo’s fraudulently collecting money to further his, and other people’s, drugs habit.

Banksie does gently jibe Zammo about his recent non-attendance at school, but like the others he still either doesn’t seem to realise that there’s anything seriously wrong or (and this might be nearer the mark with Banksie) simply doesn’t care.

It’s an interesting touch that when we later see Zammo, Howard and Doug waiting for the man (or more accurately woman – Tamsin) it’s Doug who articulates that their current lifestyle isn’t good (“there’s got to be a better way to live than this”).  You might have expected that Zammo would be the first one to realise that drugs are a dead-end street, but not so.  Possibly he’s too far gone.

Last time, Danny was keen on the concept of a speaking wall – a place where pupils could write anything they wished.  Surprisingly permission was granted, although Danny’s work is more in the artistic than verbal vein.  It’s another slice of mid eighties life – a mural depicting nuclear war (mushroom clouds, rockets and skulls).  Miss Booth stands firm as Danny’s champion – it seems that she’s recognised his talent and wishes to nurture it (otherwise her dogged determination to indulge him makes little sense).

Mr King gives Fay a lift home and – just as when the pair were spotted in the café by Laura and Julia – Julie, out walking her dog, is the latest to spy the teacher and pupil having an animated conversation.  Grange Hill’s catchment area is clearly so small that everybody can’t help tripping over everybody else.

They both plan on seeing the same film at the weekend and Fay suggests they go together.  Mr King decides that it wouldn’t be a good idea as it might give people the wrong idea (he’s rather too late on that score!) but then quickly changes his mind, arranging a date for Saturday at five.  And so he digs himself a little deeper into his ever-increasing self-inflicted hole ….

It’s been a while since we’ve seen that Grange Hill favourite – pilfered clothes from the changing room.  Ziggy decides to steal Imelda’s clothes to teach her a lesson, but of course he gets it wrong and ends up pilfering Jane’s clothes instead.  At least this gives Jane – who’s been pretty invisible this year – a little bit of screentime next episode.  Ziggy and Robbie have to disguise themselves as girls in order to breach the changing room, which is a suitably silly moment (Ziggy’s high-pitched approximation of a girl’s voice, for example).

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Sixteen

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Written by Rosemary Mason. Tx 28th February 1986

What have I said before about how the unfortunate Ant always seems to be discovered by Mr Bronson with his metaphorical trousers down? With grinding inevitability it happens again here – Laura wants to put up an anti-smoking poster in their new temporary classroom but Ant is less keen (it’ll chip the wall, he says).

Laura presses ahead and when she makes a slight mess Ant takes it upon himself to try and repair the damage.  And that’s when Mr Bronson walks in – to be presented with the sight of Ant, Laura and the offending poster.

That Mr Bronson is no fan of the no-smoking campaign has been made clear already.  He tells Ant and Laura to present themselves to Mr Baxter later (“and no buts”).  “Like the poster” says Julia (which is a decent gag).  Laura gets off lightly but Ant finds himself placed in detention by Mr Baxter.  Ant sees this as further evidence of Mr Bronson’s victimisation but this doesn’t quite hold up – after all it was Mr Baxter who made the decision (Mr Bronson wasn’t there).  Once again there seems to be a slight disconnect between reality and Ant’s view of the world.

He complains to Georgina that Mr Bronson imagines things and is out to get him, but is forced to admit that his detention had a solid basis in fact.  Ant’s later interview with Mr Baxter and Mr Bronson is short but painful.  The subsequent conversation between the two teachers is also somewhat sparky.  Mr Baxter lays it out.  “That boy’s on the right side. But if you go on hammering him the way you are he’ll end up on the wrong side. And that’ll be another one we’ve lost”.

Mr Baxter knows that Mr Bronson has been excessive in his treatment of Ant, but this isn’t something he can communicate to the boy (the staff have to close ranks maybe?) meaning that Ant believes that he has no future at the school, a belief which will impact his later decisions.  To be fair to Ant, there is evidence that Mr Bronson has been victimising him, but Ant’s attitude has sometimes let him down as well.  So there’s no absolute right on one side and wrong on another – instead their conflict has been conducted in shades of grey.

Gonch and Hollo continue to enjoy themselves.  Proudly sporting smoking patrol armbands they’re on the prowl – but are frustrated that the nicotine miscreants are nowhere to be found.  Others have more luck – Mr Kennedy heads out to his car for a quiet puff, only to be surrounded by a group of sorrowful extras.  Tempers certainly seem to be fraying as the normally placid Miss Booth is suddenly rather bad tempered (Fay believes this is because she’s suffering from nicotine withdrawal).

The staff smokers later find themselves corralled into attending lunchtime jogging sessions with Mrs Reagan.  It’s somewhat remarkable how everybody has meekly fallen into line (both staff and pupils).  This seems far too good to be true.

Danny Kendall, in the most unsurprising twist ever, wins the logo competition.  Mrs McClusky is slightly apprehensive at the prize giving as no member of staff has seen the winning entry.  She hopes that it doesn’t contain “a nude punk or worse” (a delightfully old-fashioned comment which would have been rather out of date, even then).  He entered two pieces – one scruffy design under his own name and the wining entry under the non-de-plume of Eamon McClusky.  Did he hope that the McClusky name would influence the panel?  It’s plain that he felt his own name would scupper his chances.

His skill as an artist forces everybody to reassess their opinions of him (as touched upon before, it’s remarkable that he’s hidden his light under a bushel for so long) but other than his newly discovered artistic bent he’s still the same old Danny.  Receiving his prize (a ten pound book token) from Mrs McClusky he’s unable to smile and say thank you.  Mrs McClusky interprets this as disappointment, but it’s more to do with the fact that he lacks the necessary social skills for this sort of situation.  So he storms out and Miss Booth sets off in hot pursuit – something which will become a familiar pattern over the next few years.

When she does find him, he tells her that the magazine is doomed to failure.  What they need is a wall where anybody can write anything they want – essentially a magazine, but in a solid-brick format and with no editing.  What he really wanted was the internet but – Prestel apart – he was a little too early.

Fay heads off for another chat with Mr King.  An innocent conversation maybe, but Laura’s also in the corridor and pulls a disapproving face.  There’s another very short scene with Zammo – he’s in school again, but doesn’t want to see the announcement of the logo winner, much to Jackie’s irritation.  It’s another small sign that Zammo’s still around even if his storyline isn’t advancing at present.

A tear-stained Louise tells Laura and Julia that her father is dead.  This isn’t something which comes as a great shock – as it seems to have been the way the storyline was inevitably heading – but it’s a little strange that the school has been so slow to respond.  Despite the fact that there’s been a problem for a while, apart from Mrs Reagan sending her daughter and Julia to investigate unofficially, nothing else seems to have been done.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Fifteen

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Written by Rosemary Mason. Tx 25th February 1986

Mr Griffiths is being his usual intolerant self.  Regarding the gleaming corridors with pride, he confides to one of the cleaning ladies that it’s only the incoming influx of children which is a problem – without them the school would run much more efficiently!

Two things are concerning him today.  One, the general level of smoking (which is also the main topic of the episode) and two, the current amnesty on school library books.  Organised by Janet, it’s a painless way to ensure that overdue books are returned with no penalty – but this is something that Mr Griffiths simply can’t understand.

So he takes to lurking in the corridors, biding his time so he can spring out and nab an unwary child.   When Gonch, Hollo, Robbie and Ziggy learn this their eyes light up – each load themselves up with a collection of books and dash around the playground (Robbie’s “whhhhhhheeeeeeeeee” as he runs past Mr Griffiths is especially memorable).  This is rather silly, but entertaining nonetheless.

Even better is the moment when Mrs McClusky bumps into the boys.  She’s impressed with the number of books they’re returning, but she also can’t help but peruse some of the titles.  Lifting the top book from Gonch’s pile she reads the back cover blurb. “One Day You’ll Go. Cathy knew with a certainty from deep within that one day she’d find Chris”.  When she asks the boys to write a précis of the top book on their pile, Mr Griffiths approves wholeheartedly (his look of total admiration as Mrs McClusky walks away is plain to see).

Smoking has been a fact of life at Grange Hill since the series began, but this is pretty much the first time it’s been discussed in depth.  Both a section of the staff and pupils are disgusted with the habit – amongst the staff it’s Mrs Reagan who’s the most vehemently opposed which forces smokers like Mr Kennedy to keep a low profile.  I like Mr Bronson’s chuckle after he asks Mrs Reagan if she’s the smoker (naturally she denies it strongly).

Everywhere you go in the school there’s evidence of smoking.  The workmen putting up the temporary classrooms are indulging, the teachers are enjoying a puff, the children have their own secret smoking den whilst the evidence of their habit is all around the place (piles of fag ends scattered everywhere).  This seems a little like overkill, but it does serve as the trigger for the first issue of the new school magazine.

Everybody’s got views on smoking, so it’s an obvious topic to discuss.  Surely nobody could disapprove?  Well, Mr Bronson’s not happy for one.  The notion that the pupils want to see a non-smoking ban extended to the staff room appalls him – he may not smoke, but for him pupils dictating to staff is the thin end of the wedge.

Mr Bronson clearly has a sixth sense where Ant is concerned.  Whenever Ant’s placed in a compromising position Mr Bronson always seems to be there – ready to pounce.  Here, Ant’s handing round copies of the magazine to the smokers and Danny, interested in the logo competition, asks him to hold his cigarette whilst he has a look.  Mr Bronson, with the righteous fury of an avenging angel, sees Ant holding a ciggy and unsurprisingly jumps to the wrong conclusion.  Oh dear.

Gonch and Hollo have thrown themselves into the anti smoking campaign woth gusto.  Popping up posters around the school, they wonder if Mr Griffiths might want one (after all, he’s always complaining about having to clear up after smokers).  Shock, horror it’s revealed that he’s another secret smoker – although it’s a pipe for him.  Resplendent in a very natty cardigan, he’s enjoying a quiet puff in his room, only to be rudely interrupted by the boys.  Shoving his pipe into his pocket (he’s another who’s obviously a little ashamed of his habit) he then proceeds to set his cardigan on fire in another classic Mr Griffiths comedy moment.

There’s no particular rush to confront Zammo’s problem.  We only see him briefly when he, Jackie, Banksie and others attend the school magazine meeting.  It’s surprising that Zammo, who’s hardly been in school recently (or so it seems), should have allowed himself to be dragged along.  But at least he’s granted a few lines, which is more than Banksie is allowed (poor Stephen Banks, relegated to the status of a non-speaking extra at present).

Roland discusses obliquely Zammo with Janet (although he doesn’t mention him by name).  As yet, Roland hasn’t done anything about what he witnessed in the arcade and despite the evidence of his own eyes is clearly not willing to believe that Zammo could be mixed up with drugs.

Elsewhere, outside of school Mr King and Fay literally bump into each other.  With plenty to discuss about the school magazine, he suggests they grab a coffee.  This is innocent enough, but it’s the start of a slippery slope – especially after Julia and Laura see them together.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Fourteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 21st February 1986

Julia and Laura, having lied to just about everybody, set off to find the all night party.  Unsurprisingly it’s a total disaster.

The tone is set early on, after Laura gets cold feet.  Lying to her mother isn’t something that comes easily (unlike Julia, who is able to tell fibs to her father with a seemingly clear conscience).  Once again we’re presented with a remorseless Mr Glover – a man seemingly incapable of uttering a friendly word to anybody.

He’s not a favourite at the Reagan household at the moment, ever since he rejected Mrs Reagan’s job application (a never-seen man has been appointed as Mr Baxter’s replacement instead).  As touched upon before, this seemed to have been dealt with a while back, so it’s odd that it surfaced again here.

Given the obvious antipathy Mr Glover displays towards Mrs Reagan (he appears to dislike one-parent families on principle) it wouldn’t be surprising if he’d allowed his personal feelings to influence his decision making.  But there seems to be no recourse to appeal – it’s an unfair man’s world and that seems to be that.

Mrs Reagan shares her disappointment with Miss Partridge, who’s called round for a chat.  The reason why they discuss the difficulties of being a single parent (and Mr Glover’s attitude) will shortly become clear.  Seeds for a future storyline with Miss Partridge have already been subtly sown in previous episodes and this is the latest example of some gentle groundwork being laid.

Rather like Robbie and Ziggy last time, the girls face a weary trip across London.  At least they’ve got ample bus fare in their pockets, but that still doesn’t stop them from having to fend off unwelcome attention from some older boys.  Nothing terrible happens – Julia pretends that Laura is deaf and dumb (the sort of thing you probably wouldn’t get away with today) and are able to thumb their noses once they’re safely aboard their bus – but it’s plain that two young girls, out alone at night, present something of a target.  That they emerged unscathed this time was more due to luck than judgement, something which is explained to them (and no doubt any members of the audience considering similar antics) later.

The ultimate irony is that the all-night party is a total washout.  There’s no fit boys (just some weedy specimens, alas) and it isn’t long before they’re forced to slink off home – where they encounter Mrs Reagan and Mr and Mrs Glover, none of whom are terribly happy.

Mr Glover is the angriest whilst Mrs Glover (Sarah Nash) simply affects a long-suffering air.  No doubt she’s been witness to countless scenes like this before and has decided to let this latest contretemps just wash over her.  What’s significant is that Mr Glover’s ranting and raving simply makes Julia more intractable whilst Mrs Reagan’s sorrowful questioning ensures that Laura is instantly contrite (she also promises not to stray again).  For all Mr Glover’s acid comments about one-parent families in general and Mrs Reagan and Laura inparticular, we’re left in no doubt about which parent/daughter relationship is the strongest.

Elsewhere, Zammo’s on the scrounge again as he asks Roland for fifty pounds (spinning a presumably fake story about buying a bike).  Roland, despite the fact that he’s well aware that Zammo has a habit of borrowing money but not paying it back, readily agrees and dips into the petty cash at the arcade.  Sorry?  He’s willing to not only risk his job but also potentially risk getting into trouble with the police just to help Zammo out?

If this is strange, then it’s even stranger that Zammo does eventually reappear with most of the money still on him. Roland is able to get forty three pounds back from him (and Zammo forces Howard to hand over another fiver) in order that Roland can return the money to the float without anybody realising.  It’s hard to imagine that with fifty pounds in his pocket Zammo wouldn’t have gone out and spent it on drugs, but maybe he wasn’t able to track his dealer down.

Although that can’t be the case, as the iconic closing sequence depicts Roland’s discovery of a comatose Zammo surrounded by drug paraphernalia.  But although this part of the story doesn’t quite scan, it doesn’t really matter as the key reveal – Zammo’s secret is finally confirmed – is what really matters.

It’s an ominous moment.  Each credits cut is accompanied by a ricocheting sound effect (apart from this the soundtrack is silent) and a zoom into Zammo’s face.  The mood is slightly broken by the jaunty strains of Chicken Man fading in as we move away from Zammo, but it’s still a scene that carries an impact.  Now to see how the story develops from here.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Thirteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 18th February 1986

It’s half term, which is the cue for two episodes worth of out of school antics.  Ziggy and Robbie’s misadventures on the streets of London runs across this episode only whilst the travails of Roland/Zammo and Laura/Julia are spread across both.

Robbie elects to show Ziggy the sights, but since they don’t have any money the boys are forced to be creative.  For some reason (maybe budget related) there wasn’t a school trip this year, so these two episodes function as our main opportunity to see a handful of characters outside of the school environment.  That Margaret Simpson concentrates on only six regulars (although Louise also makes a brief appearance) helps to ensure that all the characters are afforded a decent amount of character development.

Robbie and Ziggy do a spot of ducking and diving (blagging their way onto a Thames pleasure boat for example) which gives their meanderings a slightly nihilistic feel.   It isn’t overstated, since they remain optimistic and cheerful, but there’s a vague sense that they’re dead-end kids with nothing to do and nowhere to go.  Later, when they run out of money the pair are forced to jump the barriers at the Tube station (and dodge the inevitably angry ticket collector).

But whilst both may be a little naughty at times they also still retain their child-like view of the world.  Ziggy’s belief that the Duke of Edinburgh had an intense interest in chalk, for example, or here – as Robbie elects to take Ziggy to a church where some years ago he saw bodies lying in an open crypt.  Unsurprisingly it’s a massive waste of time (the church has been turned into flats and the poor occupant they buzz is naturally perplexed by their request to see the bodies!).

For those who enjoy playing spot the well-known extra, look out some five minutes in as Pat Gorman makes a brief appearance (as man on escalator).

Across the years we only very rarely (Ray, Tucker) saw ex-pupils return to the series as adults.  This is a slight shame as it would have been interesting to have seen which ones sank and which ones swam.  Based on their time in school and their efforts here, it’s hard to imagine either Robbie or Ziggy having a glittering future once the doors of Grange Hill have closed on them for the last time.  But you never know ….

Laura and Julia are different cases altogether.  Both are intelligent, articulate and blessed with well-off parents, but neither of their home lives are necessarily always straightforward with Julia probably faring the worse.  We’ve already been primed that Julia’s father, Mr Glover (Vincent Brimble), is something of a tyrant and so it proves as we meet him for the first time.

Bad tempered would best sum him up. He’s far from happy with his daughter (especially the way she hogs the phone) and is firmly of the opinion that Laura and her mother are very bad influences on her. That he’s heading out to interview Mrs Reagan for the vacant post of head of sports at Grange Hill only adds a little spice to proceedings ….

Earlier in the series it was revealed that Mr Glover had blocked Mrs Reagan’s application. So either this is a second interview or somehow the plotline had become a little fractured (slightly sloppy script-editing maybe?)

Julia and Laura want to go to an all-night party but it’s plain that Mr Glover would never give his permission.  So they decide to go anyway (telling Julia’s parents and Laura’s mother that they’ve gone to visit Julia’s father).  Although Mr Glover might be painted in a somewhat two-dimensional way, it’s difficult not to admit that – as we’ll see next time – his judgement wasn’t the one which was lacking.

The mystery of Louise’s homelife is teased out a little more after she runs into Laura and Julia.  It’s obvious that Louise, with younger brothers in tow, doesn’t want to stop and talk, leaving the uncomfortable impression once again that all isn’t well at home.

It’s worth remembering that Mrs Reagan had asked the girls a while back to see if they could find out what the problem with Louise and her sister was.  But hey don’t appear to have done a great deal about this so far and it’s quite noticeable that although they do express a flicker of concern that Louise seems rushed off her feet, seconds afterwards they ignore her and return to the hot topic of whether Julia should have her ears pierced.

It has to be intentional that there’s a sharp cut early on from Ziggy’s bleak homelife (he shares a grimy one room flat with his parents) to the relatively palatial homes of both Laura and Julia. After Ziggy tells Robbie that anything (even traipsing around the city) has to be better than being stuck inside, the contrast between them and the two girls (chatting on the phone about boys they fancy and who – maybe – fancy them) is striking.

Meanwhile, Zammo’s story is reaching crisis point.  Zammo, along with Doug, Howard (Mike Smart) and Tamsin (Tracey Willmott) make their way to the arcade where Roland is working part-time.  All of Zammo’s companions are of the dubious variety, which instantly makes Roland a little suspicious – but he agrees that they can use the backroom (so that Tamsin can cut Zammo’s hair).  We later see them exit, with Zammo’s hair unchanged, so whatever happened in the room didn’t involve hair. By now the attentive viewer should have a good idea exactly what has been going on – which will be confirmed next time.

Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Twelve

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 14th February 1986

It’s a filthy wet day outside, which possibly might explain why Grange Hill is graced with Danny’s presence for the whole day.  That’s not to say he keeps out of trouble though – an early skirmish with Mrs Reagan means that he’s sent to Mr Baxter’s office.

This is an episode which really examines what makes Danny tick.  His self-contained nature and reluctance to engage have been seen before – although it’s now suggested that he’s tried the patience of just about every teacher in the school.  Danny just wants to be left alone, which is obviously never going to happen.  He might be an (unwilling) member of the school but doesn’t accept that any of the school rules should apply to him.

We’ve not really seen him encounter Mr Bronson before.  In the future Mr Bronson and Danny will share some dramatic storylines, but here the teacher is almost genial (or as genial as Mr Bronson ever gets).  Knowing that Danny is likely to stray if left unattended, Mr Bronson takes charge of him and escorts him to Mr Baxter’s office (“you have a tendency to veer off course, don’t you Kendall? Like a defective supermarket trolley”).

Mr Baxter’s heart to heart with the boy is again played out against the backdrop of rain lashing against the windows.  This helps to create a sense of claustrophobia as the teacher then leaves Danny alone to ponder his future, although Danny believes he hasn’t got one – at Grange Hill at least – since he’s already been marked down as a troublemaker.  Although there still might be hope for others.

Given that he’s rarely interacted with either his fellow pupils or the teachers on a friendly basis, it’s slightly surprising that he speaks to Laura on behalf of Georgina (Georgina wants Laura to have a word with her mother about Ant’s feud with Mr Bronson).  True, Danny doesn’t say anything when Georgina asks him, but he does do it – even though he later tells Ant that he should apologise to Mr Bronson.  He doesn’t have to mean it, he only has to say the words …..

One of the problems with creating a character like Danny, who appeared out of nowhere during series nine as a third year, is that his previous school life is a complete blank.   There’s the first hint that he might just have an interest in a school activity – he speaks to Miss Booth about the competition to create a new school logo – but this suggests that he’s spent several years displaying no artistic talent whatsoever.  Given that he later seems to live in the art room, this is a little hard to believe.

Nominations for the staff/pupil editorial committee are made.  Laura is desperate to be elected (and is) whilst Gonch (unwillingly) as well as Calley and Fay (willingly) are also voted on.  Fay then suggests they have a male member of staff to compliment Miss Booth and Miss Partridge.  She suggests Mr King (does Julie slightly roll her eyes at this?).  It’s been a few episodes since Fay expressed her feelings for Mr King (she really likes him but doesn’t, repeat doesn’t, fancy him).  Hmm, this is plainly set up as an accident waiting to happen.

There’s been a nice touch of continuity this year as we’ve seen several teachers with colds.  First it was Miss Partridge and now it’s Mr Bronson.  It’s hardly a major plot point, but it’s noticeable nonetheless.  This episode is also noteworthy for the brevity of Mrs McClusky’s appearance – she pops up in the first scene, exchanges a few words with Mrs Reagan, and then vanishes.  Hopefully Gwyneth Powell recorded scenes for some other episodes on the same day, otherwise it seems a bit of a waste to drag her out just for thirty seconds.

Mr Bronson and Mr Baxter break the bad news to Ziggy that the Duke of Edinburgh isn’t coming to Grange Hill.  Well, Mr Baxter breaks the bad news (Mr Bronson isn’t too sympathetic).  I love the way that Mr Baxter points out that Ziggy’s letter is an obvious forgery, making the reasonable suggestion that the Duke would know how to spell Edinburgh!  Gardener and Holloway clearly haven’t been paying attention during their English lessons …..

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Eleven

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Written by John Godber. Tx 11th February 1986

Ziggy and Robbie are diligently collecting every scrap of chalk they can find, convinced that a grateful Duke of Edinburgh will be delighted with their efforts.  I love the way that most of the teachers – Mr King, Mr Kennedy – also swallow this story hook, line and sinker but suspicious old Mr Baxter proves much harder to convince.  It’s a small character beat, but it demonsrates that Mr Baxter has been round the block several times and doesn’t take anything on trust.

Calley’s school fanzine (or the school magazine as it now seems to be) has Mrs McClusky’s blessing, although she obviously wants some form of editorial control to be wielded by the staff.   This isn’t the sort of news that Calley, Ronnie, Laura, Fay and Julie want to hear, but Mrs McClusky – skilled politician that she is – seems to have gotten her way.  These days Mrs McClusky seems to be a more relaxed individual than the control freak of the early 1980’s, although possibly she’s just the same – it’s just that the ratio between velvet glove and iron fist has changed.  So whilst she may appear to be more conciliatory there’s still the same drive to ensure that she always gets her own way.

A little time seems to have passed since the recording of the previous episode (maybe there was a mid-season break?) as several pupils, notably Helen are now sporting new hairstyles.  But whilst Helen might look slightly different, she’s still Imelda’s yes-woman (Georgina remains Imelda’s maybe-woman).  Imelda’s latest wheeze is demanding money with maximum menaces – twenty pence from every first year and once they’ve paid up the edge of their timetable is clipped (confirming that they’ve paid).

This seems like a sensible plan, although there’s a few obvious flaws, not least the fact that some resourceful first-years clip their own timetables, thereby fooling the older girls.  This lack of forward planning, as well as Imelda’s own recklessness, spells the end for her as her scheme is rumbled and she’s suspended.  This gives the others a temporary respite, but she’ll be back …..

She did take a little catching though, as Mr Baxter and Mr Griffiths found out.  Still, once Mr Griffiths had a firm hold of her, Mr Baxter’s anger was enough to quieten her down.  This is another good episode for Michael Cronin – as we also see Mr Baxter share a few nice scenes with Ant and display disbelief that the Duke of Edinburgh would ever consider visiting a place like Grange Hill.

Georgina is distraught. Now that Imelda’s been caught she knows she will be next to face the wrath of Mrs McClusky.  What will her parents say?  Ant attempts to console her (this involves holding her close) but one again the fates are against him as Mr Bronson happens to walk by.  “In case you have forgotten, this is a school Mr Jones, not a harem!”

The viewer hardly has time to draw breath from this beautifully delivered line from Michael Sheard before the action ramps up several notches.  Mr Bronson pulls Ant from the bench where he and Georgina are sitting and eyeballs him – Ant then roughly pushes him away, causing Mr Bronson to fall over (naturally, his first action when he hits the ground is to check that his wig is still in place!)

What’s fascinating about this moment is that Ant claims that he never touched him when it’s plainly obvious that he shoved the teacher quite violently.  Ant may like to play the victim but the facts don’t always equate with this (as has been seen before).  Mr Bronson’s not best pleased as you might expect.  “You’ve done it now, Jones.  Assault, that’s what this is. Assault”.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Mrs McClusky’s faithful, but non-speaking secretary, Janet. She has one of her finest moments here as Mr Bronson frog-marches Ant and Georgina into Mrs Clusky’s office and stammers that Ant assaulted him.  Although it’s when he divulges that Ant and Georgina were kissing that Janet pulls a wonderful face.  Lovely stuff!

Ant is given an ultimatum.  If he apologies to Mr Bronson then the matter will be considered closed.  But the headstrong Ant can’t bring himself to do so ……

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Ten

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Written by Sarah Daniels. Tx 7th February 1986

The temporary classrooms finally arrive – this spells trouble for Mr Bronson’s car which, if he doesn’t move it, is likely to be turned into a pile of scrap metal.  Mr Baxter is understandably not terribly concerned (believing that it would probably be worth more to him as scrap!) but eventually deigns to send the ever-helpful Janet up to the staffroom to warn him.

There’s obvious comic potential in the sight of Mr Bronson running to the aid of his car, which is heightened when it’s revealed that the crane driver is – wait for it – a woman (played by Holly De Jong).  Calley and Ronnie, watching from an upstairs window, debate the merits of female crane drivers (Ronnie wonders how on earth a woman could have possibility got such a job).  The reactions from the older male teachers are equally as nonplussed.  Mr Baxter blurts out “you’re a woman” to her.  She replies that yes she is, and wonders if he teaches biology!

Mr Griffiths’ hero worship of Mrs McClusky is always a joy to behold.  Here, she tells him that it’ll be some time before they can go back to the old school, so the temporary classrooms will be around for a while.  He’s not delighted at the news (“oh my god”) but the look of pleasure and pride on his face when she tells him that he’s the first person she’s told about this – ahead of all the staff – is worth the price of admission alone.  Puffing out his chest and standing straight like a soldier, he assures her that his staff will give the school their 100% co-operation.  If only everybody could be as easily manipulated as Mr Griffiths …..

Ziggy and Robbie continue their never-ending quest to gain revenge on Imelda.  This week it’s water balloons.  I don’t really need to tell you that this ends in total catastrophe for them, do I?  In other news, Robbie’s had a haircut.  Not the most thrilling nugget of information I know, but when watching the series back-to-back things like this stand out.

Speaking of Ziggy, he’s had a reply back from the Duke of Edinburgh.  Since he’s absent, Gonch asks if he can pop round to his flat to deliver the letter.  That sounds remarkably helpful, so you probably won’t be shocked to learn that Gonch plans to substitute the rather bland and non-committal reply with something much more creative – which will lead Ziggy to believe that the Duke will shortly be visiting Grange Hill and will be pleased to receive as many chalk ends from Ziggy as can be collected.

Will Ziggy fall for such an obvious falsehood?  Course he will!  To further their devilish plans, Gonch and Hollo visit a local newsagents to run off some blank headed paper with the Duke of Edinburgh’s crest, which will enable them to write their own letter.  The shop is a lovely time capsule of the period – complete with mouth-watering jars of sweets behind the counter (although they were surely an anachronism even back then) – and a friendly shopkeeper (played by the very recognisable Brenda Cowling) happy to help the two lads (she believes they’re working on the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme).

A slight sliver of reality is introduced when they bluff her that the Duke is interested in the travails of inner-city life.  She sympathizes with this and tells them that running a shop in an area like this is no joke, due to the amount of shoplifting that goes on.   It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see them take advantage of such a kindly woman and indeed Hollo does stuff some chocolate bars into his pocket when she isn’t looking, but Gonch (“how would you like it if she was your Nan?”) makes him put them back.  He has his standards then.

There’s a lovely visual gag as the pair exit the shop and run back to school.  They pass a church which displays an ominous sign (be sure your sin will find you out).  And since the sign handily tells us that it’s Leavesden Road Baptist Church, a quick skim through Google Maps will find the same location today.  When I’ve got the time it might be interesting to try and pinpoint some of the other GH locations from this era.

Zammo’s devious plan to convince his mother that he hasn’t sold her decanter (instead he broke it in an accident) is played out here.  Part one requires pinching a glass beaker from a lab assistant (played by Tom Keller).  Whilst we know that Zammo isn’t the most together of people these days, this is odd.  For one thing, the smashed beaker wouldn’t resemble in any way the smashed decanter and for another, it’s difficult to see how dropping the decanter a couple of feet would have caused it to break (surely for something that sturdily built it would have to have fallen from a great height).

It’s therefore more than a little interesting that Mrs McGuire seems to swallow this unbelievable story so readily.  True, she does wonder where the stopper is (Zammo, thinking quickly, tells her that he’s sold it) but otherwise Zammo’s plan seems to have worked.  Or has it?  There’s several different ways this scene can be interpreted – either Mrs McGuire does believe her son’s story or she can’t yet bring herself to confront his lies and evasions.

The disappearance of her bike (presumably stolen and sold by Zammo like everything else) is another of those moments where it’s left dangling as to whether she believes his protests of innocence or not.  What’s noticeable about this scene is that Zammo seems more together and lies more fluently than he recently has been able to do to Jackie (he also looks his mother in the eye, something he hasn’t been able to do with Jackie).  There are several possibilities to explain this – either he feels more guilty when he lies to Jackie or he’s recently been drugged up and is therefore temporarily back in control.  Nothing’s ever explicitly stated, so the viewer is left to draw their own conclusions.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Nine

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Written by Sarah Daniels.  Tx 4th February 1986

The overcrowding becomes chronic as Mr Kennedy is forced to conduct a drama lesson with G3 on the stairs. Most enter into the spirit of things although Laura isn’t pleased about the way having to squat on the stairs is dirtying her uniform whilst Danny just isn’t pleased. He makes it plain that he’d sooner be anywhere else but here – pretending to be a passenger aboard a spacecraft just isn’t his forte.

Ziggy and Robbie’s plan to gain revenge on Imelda continues.  They conjur up a noxious, sticky brew and are all set to deliver the killer blow.  I wonder what happens next?  Oh yes, Mr Griffiths just happens once again to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up being the unwilling recipient of their hard work.  There’s an undeniable predictability about this, but a touch of knockabout farce is always welcome plus it helps to balance out the more serious themes elsewhere.

A fair amount of this episode takes place outside the school grounds. Therefore we’re presented with ample local colour as Ant and Georgina walk past the canal (with towerblocks in the distance) and elsewhere Jackie stalks Zammo down the local high street. The early series of GH had a strong inner-city feel, which has tended to fade away more recently, so these scenes help to reconnect the characters to their environment.

Mrs Reagan is convinced that all is not well with Louise’s family and asks Laura and Julia to investigate. Laura’s initially reluctant to act as a spy, but soon enters into the spirit of things.

But it’s Zammo and his problems which are dominating.  This episode gives Doug (Paul Vincent) his first dialogue – a few episodes back Jackie had spotted him and Zammo in the distance.  Just by looking at him we can tell that Doug’s bad news – and if any further evidence was needed, the way that he and Zammo rifle through Mrs McGuire’s belongings, looking for anything decent they can sell, should confirm our suspicions.

Doug finds slim pickings, but a cut glass decanter makes his eyes light up (Barry Manilow records less so). The flat scene was recorded on location rather than in the studio which means that like the previous location scenes it helps to firmly ground this episode in mid eighties London.

Mrs McGuire makes the first of her handful of series nine appearances next time.  It’s slightly odd that she’s been held back until this point as you’d have assumed there would have been a certain amount of dramatic mileage to be gained from her interactions with Zammo.  Maybe the intention was not to foreground precisely what Zammo’s problem was too soon, but it does feel slightly odd.

Zammo’s increasing isolation from his friends and family makes sense, but it’s notable that – Jackie apart – we’ve not seen anybody express concern about him.  Apart from the dramatic possibilities missed, this maybe sends out the wrong message – friends and family should be the ones primed to spot danger signs and then attempt to help. Maybe the message here is that had Zammo’s friends been more active the situation wouldn’t have spiraled out of control.

This was the first GH episode written by Sarah Daniels.  Daniels (b. 1957) came to prominence as a playwright in the early 1980’s and by the time that decade was over had penned a series of challenging plays, all of which had a strong feminist streak.  Critic Carole Woddis once called her “the only radical lesbian feminist to have made it into the mainstream”.

The same year that she debuted on Grange Hill, her play Neaptide was running at the National Theatre.  Neaptide has recently been performed again at the National as a rehearsed reading (it launched the National’s short Queer Theatre season).  It’s interesting to ponder whether the school setting of the play informed any of her work on GH.

Grange Hill wouldn’t seem at first glance to be the obvious television programme for her, but clearly she found working on the series to be stimulating, since she would go on to write sixty six episodes between 1986 and 2007.  This impressive unbroken run, stretching from series nine to series thirty (although for some reason she didn’t return for the series’ thirty first and final series), is easily her most substantial television contribution (elsewhere she penned a handful of episodes for EastEnders and Medics).

Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Eight

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Written by Frances Galleymore.  Tx 31st January 1986

The mark of a decent bully is how effective they are at extorting money from others.  Gripper was, of course, a past master at this – but so far Imelda has lagged behind somewhat.  So this episode gives her the chance to catch up as she decides that a piece of Gonch’s toast business would be very welcome.

Gonch is having none of this though, which makes him – and more especially his trousers – a target for Imelda and the others.  Have I mentioned that Imelda’s gang is nicknamed the Terrahawks?  That’s one up on Gripper who never had a name for his gang.

There’s possibly an article to be written about the number of times boys are relieved of their trousers in Grange Hill (although this isn’t the time or place you may be thankful to learn).  Imelda only wanted the money in Gonch’s pockets, so why she couldn’t have just reached in his pockets is a slight mystery.

No matter though as it’s an opportunity to show the usually self-reliant Gonch under pressure.  He can stand up to most people – the way he bats off the approach of Trevor and Vince (also keen to get a slice – sorry – of the toast action) is a treat – but Imelda’s a special case.

Ziggy’s also engaging in his own battles with Imelda.  Unfortunately Mr Griffiths is in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes collateral damage (a bucket of paint on the head).  Mr Griffiths blames the innocent Ziggy for this, so there’s plenty of fist shaking and chases around the school as Frances Galleymore takes the opportunity to ramp up the comedy.  Ziggy and Robbie’s attempt to breach the girl’s changing room – all in the course of justice, naturally – is another entertaining scene. It’s also notable as the first real time they join forces – from now on the pair will pretty much be inseparable.

Prior to Imelda’s involvement, Gonch and Hollo’s toast business had been thriving although they had to deal with the odd consumer complaint (“There’s an earwig in my butter!”) Gonch attempts to pour oil on troubled waters by telling Jane that it was only a small one.

Georgina and Helen share another quiet scene. Georgina’s desire to break away from Imelda’s influence becomes ever more apparent whilst Helen continues to tread a fine line between the pair of them. Another oft-stated theme is repeated here – Georgina is keen to settle down and pass her exams, a statement which Helen reacts to incredulously. What’s the point in working when there won’t be any jobs for them after they leave school?

Mr Bronson’s cruel streak is very much in evidence.  A recent letter-writing initiative saw Roland write to Fabienne and – after he’s perused it – Mr Bronson asks the boy to read the letter out in class.  It’s somewhat personal in nature and the fact that Mr Bronson knew this but still asked Roland to proceed is a telling moment.

This is a rare visit to N5’s class. It’s not commented upon, but Zammo is very conspicuous by his absence ….

Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Seven

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Written by Frances Galleymore.  Tx 28th September 1986

Julia contnues to moon over Ant whilst Georgina continues to avoid Imelda.

Mr Bronson’s not a happy chappy (the overcrowded staff room is just one of many irritations). Some of the non-speaking extras are also dischuffed – banging down empty coffee containers in a petulant manner – but Mr Bronson is the one who voices the discontent many feel.

A solution to their problems has been found – portacabins.  But when they don’t turn up on time Mr Bronson isn’t terribly pleased (to put it mildly).  That he chooses Mr Baxter to be the recipient of his anger is understandable since he’s not foolish enough to tackle Mrs McClusky head on – so the pair once again lock horns in an entertaining fashion. As ever, Mr Bronson favours the direct approach, bluntly accusing Mr Baxter of using his position as deputy head to ensure that the sports department gets the best of everything whilst the rest of the staff suffer.

You don’t need to be a mind reader to work out that he’s entirely wrong (Mr Baxter has funded extra-curricular activities, like the swimming team, out of his own pocket). This is another clear sign of Mr Bronson’s character defects – if you’re going to accuse a colleague of misconduct it’s best to have clear evidence. Alas, he never seems to learn this basic rule.

Danny is the recipient of some decent dialogue which goes a little way to explaining exactly what makes him tick. Enjoying a smoke in the chemistry lab, he’s unabashed when discovered by Julia and Laura and goes on to explain his worldview. “That’s what it’s all about in an institution, breaking down independence, everyone joins in doing it”. Imelda, like Gripper before her, is the more obvious example of an uncontrollable pupil but Danny’s a little different as he flies under the radar most of the time. That he’s vocal about keeping his identity and not letting the system crush him might suggest that a close family member has recently seen the inside of a prison.

That old chestnut – two teachers squabbling over who should be in a certain classroom – gets another airing here. Mr Bronson is in possession and is disinclined to give it up in favour of Mr King. Mr Bronson crows about his victory somewhat after a passing Mrs McClusky suggests that Mr King could use part of the canteen, but his celebration is shortlived after Mrs McClusky (in her deceptively sweet way) makes it plain that maturity and tact are key to solving problems like this. Ouch!

Georgina is worried that she’ll be a target for Imelda, but Ant – continuing to play the alpha male – tells her not to worry, he’s got her back.  Bless!  If you haven’t guessed what happens next then you’ve possibly not been paying attention – Ant’s nemesis Mr Bronson once again appears at the most inopportune moment to harangue the boy – leaving Ant frustrated and Georgina forced to join forces with Imelda once more ….

Given that Mr Bronson is still smarting from the oblique rebuke he’s just received from Mrs McClusky, the arrival of Ant – seven minutes late – isn’t going to improve his temper one little bit. Ant has his familiar excuse (Mr Baxter) which serves as the trigger to send Mr B into meltdown. Michael Sheard hits the heights here (imagine this dialogue delivered by Sheard at full-throttle). “Aaaaaah, Mr Baxter! That explains everything. Every time you are late it is Mr Baxter’s fault. Why?”

Further delights are to be found after Mr Bronson tells Ant that they will settle this with Mr Baxter once and for all immediately after school. Ant, who has arranged to meet Georgina, tells him he’s not free. Sheard once again comes up trumps. “Not free? Change your social diary”. Wonderful stuff.

Ant is discovered to have been a little economical with the truth (Mr Baxter might have been the reason why he missed registration, but he still could have made Mr Bronson’s lesson on time) which means that the boy faces a double-pronged attack from both teachers who temporarily forget their own differences to turn on him.

Mr Kennedy’s letter writing lessons continue. Ziggy tells him that he plans to write to the Duke of Edinburgh. Remember this, it’ll become important later ….