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 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 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 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 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 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 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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