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)

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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 Ten, Episode Twenty Four

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Written by David Angus.  Tx 27th March 1987

The sun is (mostly) shining on the day of the great cricket charity match, with the on-field activity playing out mostly as you’d expect.  Freddie and Julia are first up for the pupils (she continues to grizzle – wondering why he picked her instead of Julie – whilst he typically takes charge, telling her only to run when he says so).

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that those – such as Freddie – who weren’t particularly in favour of a mixed match are the ones to perish most embarrassingly.  He’s bowled by Mrs McClusky and caught by Miss Booth – something which delights them and disgusts him!

When the staff step up to the crease, Mr Glover also has a humiliating exit although Mr Bronson, by contrast, is able to leave with dignity.  The way that Mr Bronson – immaculately dressed with his cricket cap and dickey-bow – confidentially takes command of the wicket suggests that he’ll also be set for an early bath.  And so he is, but Mr Bronson displays hidden depths as he accepts the decision without a murmur, only pausing to complement Robbie on the quality of his delivery.  The normally placid Mr Mackenzie doesn’t take things so well though – leaving the crease with a very ill grace ….

The cricket match is a light-hearted spot of end-of-term fun, allowing us to see the staff (especially Mrs McClusky in something of a new light).  The way that Mrs McClusky flings herself around the pitch with wild abandon is something of a treat.

But the episode also serves to wrap up some long-running plot threads, although others are left dangling.  Zammo and Jackie finally pluck up the courage to postpone their wedding plans, although they do say it’s only postponed – not cancelled (maybe they will marry in the future, just not yet).

The relationship between Ant and Georgina has come to a more permanent end though.  This was something I thought had been wrapped up a few episodes ago, but series ten never seems to know when a story is dead and buried.  So for the umpteenth time Georgina tells Ant that she’s finished with him, leaving the boy to once again smoulder with the injustice of it all.

The Banksie/Lucy/Laura triangle remains unresolved.  There certainly seems to be an attraction between Banksie and Lucy (although since he’s working at the school where she’s a pupil, surely there’s the potential for a Mr King/Fay type problem?).  Although neither directly articulate their feelings, Laura does – she’s still cast as the jealous one – but we never see Banksie make an on-screen choice.

Before we wave goodbye to the pupils of Hazelrigg Road, there’s another opportunity to see how the presence of disabled children discomforts one of the regulars.  Hollo, collecting bets on the cricket match, takes a wager from Perry, but is apprehensive when he’s told that he’ll need to reach into his pocket to get the money.  This is pretty much Hollo’s last major scene in the series, as he’s one of a number of regulars not to return next year.

The absence of the sixth-formers is understandable (although the concept of an upper-sixth form had been established, we wouldn’t see it in operation for a few years) as is the fact that Ant Jones no longer continues to darken the doors of Grange Hill (he was already surplus to requirements this year).

There’s also something of a teacher clear-out, as Mr Kennedy, Mr Scott and Miss Partridge all vanish without a word.  The absence of Mr Scott from series eleven is slightly irksome.  Since the travails of his character was one of the major themes of series ten, it’s impossible not to feel a little short-changed by the fact that we’ll never learn if he did turn out to be a capable teacher after all.

As the staff and pupils end proceedings with a conga (all except Ant – who’s yet again positioned as the outsider looking in) it concludes the weakest season by some margin of GH to date.  There were some positives – it was nice to see Banksie receive a decent storyline, Mr Scott’s journey (despite his abrupt exit) was also not without interest – but the negatives – Harriet the donkey, slapdash and sloppy scripting (some storylines seemed interminable, others weren’t as developed as they could have been) – tended to overshadow the good moments.

Series eleven offers the chance for a fresh start, with a new roster of first years.  Will the quality pick up?  We shall see shortly.

Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Twenty Three

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Written by David Angus.  Tx 24th March 1987

The day after the sit-in, the post-mortems begin.  Trevor, who played no part in it, tells the others that it was a pointless exercise which achieved nothing.  He may partly be attempting to wind them up, but it’s hard not to agree with him.  Nice though, for once, to see that Mr Scott’s tutorial is peaceful.  Maybe the fact he nearly came to blows previously with Trevor has done the trick or possibly everybody’s just too deflated to lark about.

The ringleaders, on their way to a meeting with Mrs McClusky, debate what to do if they end up with none of their demands met.  The answers simple – Roland has to go on a hunger strike.  He’s not keen …

Mrs McClusky tells them that the staff handbook will be redrafted and the issue of closed profiles was already under review prior to the pupil’s revolt.  It’s possible to wonder whether this was actually the case – maybe Mrs McClusky, always a skilled politician, is being somewhat economical with the truth.  One thing’s for certain, she never believes in conceding ground or appearing to be weak in front of the pupils.

But the likes of Freddie, equally adept with the concepts of political spin, are also able to bend the truth so that they don’t emerge humiliated.  He’s also revealed to be a man of many voices, although his Scottish accent requires a bit more work (Nicholas Donnelly’s is much more convincing).

With this plotline winding down, there’s just time to start another.  Ziggy’s participation in an upcoming friendly cricket match between the staff and pupils looks to be in doubt due to his injured leg.  Helen offers to play, although she’s met with jeers from some of the boys – she’s a girl, so of course she can’t play cricket.  The likes of Mr Kennedy are also a little dubious – could the girls face up to the awesome bowling power of Steven Banks?  Ah, the battle of the sexes is always a fruitful area for drama – a pity it’s surfaced so late in series ten, had it bubbled away for a while it would have been more entertaining than the endless adventures of Harriet.

The sixth-formers want to use the canteen on Saturday, after the cricket, as a venue to celebrate Jackie and Zammo’s upcoming wedding.  But they know that Mr Griffiths will never agree so they have to be cunning.  That’s why Fay and Julie, the minxes, con him into believing that they’re organising a party in his honour, with Mrs McClusky in attendance.  When he realises that Mrs McClusky is coming (they’re such fluent liars!) he starts to waver.

Hard to believe that the saga of the Grange Hill ghost is still lingering on.  Surely this is a horse that has been flogged to death by now?  But no, Ziggy and Gonch are able to once again convince the always-gullible Trevor that down in the basement a walled up ghost exists.  Is this a different one from the cane-wielding psychopath we’d previously learned about?

Anyway, it involves a hoover (to suck up the ectoplasm of course) and Hollo, masquerading as a ghost, stuck behind the wall.  The first Grange Hill ghost was good fun but as has happened elsewhere this year, at this point the series doesn’t seem to know when to leave well alone.  I mean, it’s been established again and again that Trevor’s not the brightest, but surely not even he would be dull enough to fall for this routine yet again?!

Zammo and Jackie continue to put on brave faces, each telling the other that they have no doubts.  But when they hug, the camera switches between both of their anxious faces.  And Jackie, a nice touch, also focuses on her engagement ring – something which has come to symbolise discord and worry, not joy.

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Grange Hill. Series Twenty, Episode Twenty Two

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 20th March 1987

The atmosphere of dissent continues.  Huddled secret meetings are the order of the day whilst Mr Bronson, observing the front entrance from on high, looks down impassively.  Julia’s role as a mole is once again restated as she’s delivered to school by her father who informs Mr Bronson that “she knows what’s expected of her”.  Julia doesn’t say anything, she just stares out of the car window ….

Danny might have previously been disinclined to get involved, but he can’t help himself – he’s convinced they’re in desperate need of organising.  It’s a little embarrassing that nobody else considered what would happen if the teachers decided to cut the power – how can you broadcast your demands without electricity?  Danny suggests they set up another base in the sixth form building (which has an independent power source that can’t be switched off).  He also reveals Julia’s true role to the others, but if they feed her disinformation then she can be an asset not a hindrance.

But before the fun and games of the sit-in, school life goes on as normal.  An informal meeting between Miss Partridge and a group of sixth formers helps to restate the lessons that Banksie’s learnt whilst he’s been at Hazelrigg Road,

A nice incidental detail is provided when we see a relaxed Mr Bronson swigging from his coffee mug.  It’s garishly decorated with two parrots (last year he suffered an off-screen attack from his sister’s pet bird, so it could be that they – along with steam engines – are something of a passion with him).

Julie, Fay and Jackie (slightly grizzling about traditional gender roles) are busy making the sandwiches for the sit-in.  But when the topic turns to the catering for Jackie’s wedding, she breaks down in tears.  Nerves or are doubts beginning to creep up on her?  It’s notable that she tells the others that Zammo’s really keen to get married (she clearly hasn’t been looking at his face recently as he’s been wearing a hangdog expression for some time).  As for her, now that she’s engaged she believes that their union is binding and irreversible.  It’s also very interesting that she suggests it could be worse – at least she likes Zammo.  Likes, not loves.

Meanwhile Zammo and Banksie are at the supermarket, stocking up on sit-in supplies.  Uniting in a common cause seems to have healed the rift between them, but the main reason for this scene becomes obvious when Banksie runs into one of his brother’s friends.  He’s only a few years older than them but he’s saddled with several children (and another on the way).  His wife – in the few seconds we see her – seems less than sympathetic, so the general picture created by this brief thumbnail sketch implies that marriage = loss of freedom.  Exactly what the shaky Zammo doesn’t want to hear.

Cheryl, Freddie, Julie and Ziggy have commandeered the radio room and broadcast to the school, requesting that their fellow pupils occupy the building.  They pop on a record – Sonic Boom Boy by Westworld – which then becomes the soundtrack for a score of enthusiastic extras who use everything they can find (chairs, blackboards) to barricade themselves into the classrooms.

Mrs McClusky is calmness personified.  She’s happy to accede to one of their demands – an interview – if it takes place in her office and they abandon the sit-in.  She also suggests disconnecting the speakers might be less disruptive than cutting the power.  And she’s not too concerned that her fellow teachers are unable to get into the classrooms – since at present they know exactly where the problematic pupils are.

I do like the fact that Hollo’s following Mr Griffiths about, meaning that every time the caretaker disconnects a speaker, it’s immediately reconnected!  At this point, pop fans, The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades by Timbuk 3 is playing.

It’s also entertaining that even when the pupils outmanoeuvre them, it’s Mr Bronson and the recently arrived Mr Glover who resort to running about like headless chickens.  Mrs McClusky continues to be very laid back.

With events now having relocated to the sixth form building, the extras – standing outside – are having a fine old time, chanting “‘ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go” with gusto whilst Miss Partridge, Miss Booth and Mrs Reagan look on less enthusiastically.

Mrs McClusky’s plan for restoring order is simple but effective.  Ring the bell for afternoon lessons and the chanting pupils outside are drawn back to the school hypnotically.  Slightly hard to believe, but there’s possibly a point being made here about the manipulation of the masses (since they were just as easily swayed by the sloganeering of the rebels, the bulk of the school community – like the electorate at large – can be capricious and unpredictable).

This leaves the others, barricaded in the sixth form common room, in something of a bind.  It’s pointless broadcasting messages of democratic freedom when there’s nobody around to listen to them ….

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Twenty One

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 17th March 1987

The pupils are still revolting, as it were.  Freddie and Laura (unusual that she’s shown here to be something of an anti-establishment firebrand) are miffed at a new directive issued by Mr Bronson.  Any pupil found to be deliberately misinterpreting the school rules will face punishment.

Freddie and Laura affect surprise and shock at this, but it can hardly have come as a surprise.  So are they genuinely upset or simply pretending for Miss Booth’s sake?  It appears to be the former, but that’s slightly hard to credit.  It’s also noteworthy that Mr Bronson isn’t the one to issue this decree, instead he remains off-stage whilst Miss Booth is cast in the unusual position of the hard woman.

It later transpires that he only intends to announce his proclamation personally to specific classes – such as E3.  The reason is plain – he can’t trust Mr Scott to do so.  That he explains this to Mr Scott – in the middle of the staffroom where everybody can overhear – is typical of Mr Bronson.  But he’s called away for a meeting with Mrs McClusky, so Mr Scott is given the joy of reading the message.

When Mr Bronson later tangles with a group of fourth-formers holding a protest meeting (Freddie and Laura are again involved) he’s at his most implacable.  The conciliatory approach doesn’t seem to be on his agenda, instead he plans to stamp down hard.  But it’s this autocratic approach which is fermenting rebellion and dissent all over the school – right up to the sixth-formers.

This sudden wave of anti-school feeling is a little hard to take seriously.  Yes, some points – closed profiles – have been debated in previous episodes but for such a staff/pupil breakdown to have occurred you’d expect there to have been many more flashpoints.  The strict interpretation of the school rules (walking in the corridors at all times, etc) was one way of protesting at the inequalities inherent in the system, but ramping it up so suddenly seems a little unnatural.

Trevor, as he has all year, alternates between being a bully and a buffoon.  On the one hand he’s keen to gain revenge on Mr Scott (where he’s allowed to be rather unpleasant) but on the other he continues to be haunted (sorry) by the Grange Hill ghost.  Gonch, Hollo, Ziggy and Robbie agree to disrupt Mr Scott’s lesson (only a few episodes ago they’d elected to ease off on the troublemaking) although they have an ulterior motive – Trevor agrees to join them later in a spot of ghostbusting.  And once they’ve humiliated Trevor again, surely Mr Scott’s troubles will be over ….

Trevor has elected to use that old chestnut – humming.  If a number of people, in different positions, all hum at the same time then it’ll be impossible to determine where the noise is coming from.  Long-time GH watchers will remember that this has been done before, although not with the spectacular results we see here.  Mr Scott might have had a very long tether, but eventually he’s come to the end of it.  He heads for the door as Trevor jeers “that’s it. Run off and get your boyfriend Kennedy”.  Once the words are out of his mouth the mood in the classroom changes.

Mr Scott turns around, the humming abruptly stops and he approaches Trevor very slowly.  As with Trevor’s previous classroom taunting of Mr Scott, everybody else is now quiet and immobile, which helps to focus all of our attention on the pair of them.  Mr Scott grabs him by the throat and aims a punch at his head … but doesn’t deliver it.  Old-school GH teachers may have smacked the pupils about, but by 1987 it clearly wasn’t acceptable – or if it did happen then the teacher would have had to lose his job straight away.  Is it significant that Mr Scott pauses after Ronnie calls out to him?

There’s a lovely meeting between Mrs McClusky and Mr Bronson.  She’s very, very miffed that he’s gone ahead with his directive without consulting her.  “You sought to determine school policy without reference to me”.  She’s not a happy bunny.

Kelly George, later to return to the series as Ray, makes his debut as a St Joseph’s pupil who tangles with Danny.  Yes, Danny’s back, although he’s not interested in joining the others in their protest.  They plan to occupy Radio Grange Hill and broadcast messages of freedom.  Hmm, I can foresee that isn’t going to end well.  But for all his studied disinterest he still quickly works out that Julia is working as a mole for her father (Freddie suspected it, but he didn’t have any evidence – only the fact that her dislike for him might be a factor).

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Twenty

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 13th March 1987

Laura isn’t keen on joining Banksie and Lucy at the craft fair, which somewhat annoys him.  It’s very noticeable that Mrs Reagan’s earlier antagonism towards Banksie has now totally dissipated – a pity that we didn’t see this thaw happen though (not for the first time events are taking place off-screen).

It’s initially not clear why Laura doesn’t want to go.  Is she tiring of Banksie or is Lucy the problem?  Laura later confides to Julia that Lucy – and specifically her disability – was the reason.  This isn’t something which reflects well on Laura, but it was inevitable that at least one character would have to articulate this viewpoint.

After expressing surprise that Lucy looked nice (“I thought she’d be twisted and, well, ugly”) Laura then goes on to list a whole litany of things which upset her.  “I can’t even stand people who are fat or ugly or who’ve got birthmarks or who limp or old women with bits of hair growing out of their chins. Can’t stand that”.  Crickey! Clearly Laura is only interested in perfection.

But if Lucy’s presence has highlighted all of Laura’s negative traits then it’s done the opposite for Banksie as working at Hazelrigg School has been a revelation for him.  He tells Lucy that it’s the first time he feels that he’s appreciated and treated like a human being.

Lucy continues to be a character with depths – we’re never invited to feel sorry for her, the fact that she’s disabled is a part of who she is but it’s not something which defines her.  In other ways she’s a typically mischievous teenager (keen to do a bit of shoplifting) and – like Calley and the others – is also interested in fashion and jewellery (both Lucy and Calley buy earrings from Fay’s stall at the craft fair).

Donkey Watch.  Harriet’s finally been offloaded to the donkey sanctuary in Essex which means that a weight has been lifted off Mr Griffiths’ shoulders (and I’m sure also from the viewers).  Helen is a bit teary but I’m sure she’ll get over it.  Bye, bye Harriet.

Ant and Georgina continue to glower at each other.  He’s not terribly pleased that she’s decided to spend her Saturday with Mr Griffiths, Helen and Harriet rather than him.  And when he’s not getting aggro from Georgina then some long-haired fellow pupils at St Josephs are also on hand to taunt him that he’s a Grange Hill lad at heart.  But the truth is that Ant doesn’t seem to be happy anywhere.

Ronnie and Gonch still seem to be a couple.  Their relationship – such as it is – has to be one of the most underdeveloped we’ve ever seen.

Julie’s choosing material for her bridesmaid’s dress, Jackie’s trying on bridal gowns, whilst Zammo’s tagging along – alternately sulking and viewing the assembled wedding paraphernalia with barely concealed horror.  It couldn’t be more obvious that he still believes that they’re rushing into marriage, but he lacks the courage to speak up.

If Zammo’s educational journey this year (he passed just about all his resits) seemed slightly unlikely (he never appeared to be a particularly gifted pupil) then Fay’s journey (she failed just about all of hers) was also slightly surprising.

The reasons are teased out in this episode as it appears that, despite the passage of time, she still hasn’t put Mr King behind her.  She’s mentioned him numerous times during the year which means that his appearance at the craft fair comes as something of a jolt.  First he encounters Miss Booth (also selling her wares) who tells him that Fay’s doing okay (the way he can’t meet her eyes is a telling moment – the guilt he feels is quite palpable).  Fay’s delighted to see him but less delighted when she realises that he’s come with a girlfriend in tow.  Mr King has moved on – new job, new relationship, new life – which only serves to reinforce how in comparison Fay has remained in stasis.

Part of her might have remained hopeful that he’d return and they’d pick up where they left off (a slim part maybe) but now she knows that’s impossible.  The camera is quick to pick up on this as Fay is given an extreme close-up at the exact moment when she realises the truth.  Poor Fay.  She’s somewhat been through the wringer during the past year, but this should hopefully serve as the wake-up call she so desperately needed.

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Grange Hill. Series Ten – Episode Nineteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 10th March 1987

Last time E3 resolved to stop giving Mr Scott a hard time.  Their resolution didn’t last very long though (another example of sloppy script-editing?) as here we see them – even Ronnie – refusing to come into registration.  The reason?  They’re obeying the rule in the staff handbook which states that “pupils must walk in the corridors at all times”.

This is a civil disobedience action which the whole school is indulging in.  But whilst the other teachers are quickly able to take order, Mr Scott remains as ineffectual as ever.  It takes a passing Mr McKenzie to crack the whip and restore the status quo – whilst his apology to Mr Scott (given the general level of anarchy he hadn’t realised a teacher was present) seems to be a further nail in the younger man’s coffin.

Mr Scott and Mr Kennedy have another staff-room heart to heart, which again consists of Mr Kennedy barely managing to keep his temper in check.  But finally Mr Scott seems to have made a breakthrough, as his science class – where he dissects a heart – captures everybody’s attention.

It’s an obvious touch that hardman Trevor would is the one to buckle at this sight (he rushes off to throw up) but the fact that Mr Scott, when given interesting material, is able to command the room offers hope for the future.  There are numerous reaction shots of both the regulars and extras, which helps to sell the fact that the lesson was a success.

Julia and Laura were pretty inseparable during S9 but that hasn’t been the case this year.  Mainly this is due to the fact that Laura was inexplicably absent for the first half of this series, but even now – when they’re both together – there’s a feeling of discord.  This is thanks to Mr Glover, who is keen to discover the ringleaders driving the work to rule campaign and elects to use Julia as a mole.  A skiing holiday is the carrot and Julia seems only too happy to betray her friends, including Laura.  This is an interesting wrinkle, just a pity that it couldn’t have been developed a little earlier (this is one storyline that might have benefitted from being spread across a number of episodes).

Gonch, Robbie and Hollo decide to follow another directive in the staff handbook, which states that skirts should be worn for cricket.  This allows Mr Bronson the chance to utter the following wonderful line.  “You boys in skirts. Come here!”.

Mrs McClusky only makes a brief appearance, but it’s a telling one.  She wonders if, given the general state of affairs, they should have listened more sympathetically to the grievances outlined by the pupils.  Mr Bronson characteristically disagrees – this anarchy must be crushed and crushed quickly.  Mrs McClusky (particularly in her early years) was always prepared to steamroller any opposition – is she mellowing in her old age?

Roland’s sponsored diet, in aid of the Danny Kendal fund, is a boon for Gonch and Hollo who – with a crushing sense of inevitability – are running a book on how much he’s going to lose.  And when Roland’s impressive weight loss starts to make them worry they might lose a fortune, it’s equally inevitable that they decide to nobble him (by dropping handfuls of chocolate bars into his bag).  The old Roland would have scoffed them down without a single thought but the new, improved Roland seems made of sterner stuff.

Banksie’s a hit at Hazelrigg Road, interacting with the children and impressing the staff, but the time he’s spending there seems to be impacting his relationship with Laura.  It’s only hinted at here, but it seems that it’s a place she has no wish to visit.  So when Banksie tells Lucy that he and Laura will be happy to escort her to the craft fair (which is in a wheelchair unfriendly building – hence the need for two people) it’s not to hard to guess the direction this storyline will take.

Donkey Watch.  Harriet’s still not well and even Helen’s baby talk doesn’t seem to be doing any good.  And after the donkey once again nibbles the bushes (“What will Mrs McClusky say?” wails Mr Griffiths, not for the first time) everybody’s forced yet again to ponder Harriet’s future.  Gonch believes that she’d be best off as cat food(!) but moving to the countryside (to a donkey sanctuary) sounds like a better bet.

Praise be!  A pity that this couldn’t have been done some fifteen episodes previously but I believe at long last there’s a light at the end of this interminable tunnel.

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Eighteen

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Written by Chris Ellis.  Tx 6th March 1987

Fay’s received her exam results and is somewhat disappointed – only one pass.  Miss Booth – attempting to pour oil on troubled waters – sees a silver lining.  Fay’s recently shown an aptitude for designing jewellery, so maybe her future lies in that direction.

Fay is understandably a little doubtful – turn a hobby into a full-time career?  It’s possibly not surprising that Miss Booth – an art teacher – is the one to suggest that academic qualifications aren’t the be all and end all.  Fay brightens a little when the teacher suggests they both take a stall at the upcoming craft fair, although as we’ll see, this is a plot point that’s been set up for a specific reason ….

The day when Trevor takes control of E3’s tutorial period has arrived and as might be expected it’s a car crash. Mr Scott bleats ineffectively in the corner that he has to take the register (because it’s a legal document) whilst Trevor rides roughshod over him.  Given Mr Scott’s surname (he’s been dubbed Selina by Trevor), it’s not a shock that Trevor decides to make Selina Scott his topic for discussion.  As the boy continues to needle away, there’s a sense that Mr Scott’s finally reaching his breaking point …

But then we cut away to the sixth form common room.  Boo!  They’re not happy with the way that the previous day’s meeting turned out (it’s interesting that once again Miss Partridge is present – she’s very much aligned herself with the pupils rather than her fellow staff members).

You can cut the tension with a cricket stump when Miss Booth pops her head around the door.  Miss Partridge and Miss Booth had something of a difference of opinion during yesterday’s meeting and now Miss Partridge seems slightly irked that Fay (on Miss Booth’s urging) wants to swop her current studies for a CPVE course which will allow her to concentrate on her creative side.  Both are too polite to shout at each other but Miss Partridge makes the point that “supporting the kids and their ideas is not necessarily an act of high treason against the staff”.

So we’re back with Trevor and Mr Scott.  The teacher continues to stare into the distance whilst Trevor, pacing around, is having a fine old time.  Eventually Mr Scott snaps and grabbing Trevor by his tie tells him that “I’m sick of your stupid behaviour, juvenile” before storming out.  Previous tutorials have seen everybody – bar Ronnie – acting up, but it’s noticeable that here only Trevor (and maybe Vince, slightly) indulged.  The rest of the class remained silent – which was especially powerful when Trevor (left with the field of battle) proclaimed that he was the winner (“wasn’t I?”).  A pyrrhic victory then.

The rest of the class, realising that Trevor’s gone too far, decide to behave in future.  This mirrors Mr Knowles’ storyline during S6, although that took place over the course of a single episode rather than eighteen.  But even if they all agree, what about Trevor?  Gonch’s plan to cut him down to size is continuing and the next part of his plan involves Calley reading a specially doctored horoscope over the airwaves ….

One twist with Mr Scott that we didn’t see with Mr Knowles is that the girls tell him they’ve decided to behave.  If they were expecting him to be grateful then they’re disappointed, as the humiliation he feels is palpable.

Banksie and Laura have a wonderful argument.  It all starts when he calls her mother two faced!  At least with Bronson, he says, you know where you stand.  Uh oh.

Freddie (whose radio persona seems to have solidified into a young Bruno Brookes) decides to broadcast some contentious material about the school handbook.  No surprise that Mr Bronson (rather wonderfully relaxing in a classroom, reading a bumper book about Steam Locomotives) isn’t at all happy.  In double quick team he reaches the studio, where he looms in a menacing fashion.  “Right, that is enough”.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen an angry Mr Bronson (not since his running battles with Ant last year).  He doesn’t shout at Freddie though – instead his fury is restrained, making it all the more menacing.  Freddie shrugs it off, but it’s plain that in this situation there’s only going to be one victor.

Donkey Watch.  And still the saga of Harriet rumbles on, seemingly a never-ending story.  She’s right off her food and not even the sweet nothings whispered by Mr Griffiths seem to do the trick.  Then Helen pops her head around the stable door for some more words of encouragement, but Harriet remains non-committal.

The manifestation of the Grange Hill ghost is wonderfully silly.  A definite highlight from series ten.

There’s another slice of muddy football action as Ant finds himself under attack from all sides.  Freddie continues to cast unfriendly glances in his direction, whilst Ant’s teammates are convinced he’s being soft on his former schoolfriends.  Even Ronnie (who lest we forget once had a crush on him) and Jane regard him as a traitor and – by association – Georgina.  This might have been a fruitful avenue to explore – Georgina’s love for Ant making her an outcast at Grange Hill – but it never was (mainly because at present Georgina rarely interacts with the likes of Calley, Ronnie and Jane).

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Grange Hill. Series Ten – Episode Seventeen

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Written by Chris Ellis.  Tx 3rd March 1987

Freddie, Julie, Ziggy, Robbie and Vince are heartened by a taped message from Danny in which he states that he’s doing well in Aberdeen.  But Roland, passing by, tells them that he’s heard – via Miss Partridge – that the truth is somewhat different.  Everybody’s worried about Danny’s progress (so presumably he’s just putting a brave face on for his friends).

That the others – especially Ziggy – choose not to believe Roland is telling.  Ziggy’s comment of “teachers” suggests that any information received from teachers must be misinformation.  This could tie into the general simmering discontent between pupils and staff, or it could be another example of Ziggy’s skewered judgement.

But at least Ziggy (staggering about on crutches after his not at all dramatic fall during the football match) is prepared to shake Ant’s hand and let bygones be bygones.  He’s the only one though as everybody else either gives Ant the silent treatment (Calley, Ronnie), makes an ironic joke (Gonch, Hollo) or calls him a villain (Freddie).  Poor Ant.  Since he doesn’t seem to be getting on too well at his new school (he mentions that most of his friends are still at GH) it’s plain that life’s not treating him well at present.

Donkey Watch.  The vet’s got good news … and bad news.  Harriet’s trip to the park (and a munch of the rhododendron bushes) has left her stomach a bit upset.  But she should make a full recovery.  Thank goodness.

Previously we were told that Imelda was the rotten apple of E3 and if she was removed then Mr Scott would be able to regain control of the class.  This isn’t how things have played out though – his affable persona from the canal trip seems to have dissipated and once again he’s hopelessly adrift as he allows the class to run riot.

Mr Scott’s proclamation that “the register is a legal document and must be taken twice daily” doesn’t have the reaction he hopes for.  His attempt to wrest the register from a previously unseen E3 girl ends up with Mr Scott scrabbling about on the floor.  With a complete loss of dignity and everybody (save Ronnie) jeering at him, this is by far his worst day at the office.

He then decides to re-establish his authority by placing any latecomers in detention, a fact which doesn’t please the very late Trevor.  Mr Scott then tries to win back E3 by telling them that he plans to let each of them organise the form tutorial.  Ronnie knows that this is a very bad idea … made even worse by the fact that Trevor will be first up.

Although Trevor’s somewhat intimidating during class (and also has been at various other points during S10) his hardman image always tends to get punctured very quickly – as demonstrated when Gonch tells him the story of the Grange Hill ghost.

Some old teacher from years ago. He used to beat kids ’till the blood run down his cane. Apparently he used to have lots of canes named after famous battleships. Then one day, one break it was, he mysteriously disappeared. There was no trace of him nor HMS Bismarck which he’d had in his hand when last seen. Maybe he went mad or some old kids from the school came back and murdered him. But everybody agrees about one thing. His spirit is not at rest. He still walks the corridors, with cane in his hand. People say they’ve heard HMS Bismarck swishing in the darkness and heard the cries of some ghostly victim.

A wonderfully delivered monologue by John Holmes, topped off by John Drummond’s increasing unease as the story becomes more and more bloodcurdling.  There may be a few things this year (hello Harriet!) which have irritated me, but this is comedy gold – and it’s something we’ll return to another time …

In some people’s eyes Miss Partridge has become too closely aligned to the pupils.  This is mentioned to her by Miss Booth – who’s never been as dogmatic as Mr Bronson (although she does possess something of a hard streak).  As for Mr Bronson himself, he is in no doubt that allowing the pupils a voice is the first step on a slippery slope.   “Pupil power is a mockery, not democracy. You cannot have power without responsibility”.

The meeting between staff and pupils doesn’t go well for the pupils.  And Miss Partridge doesn’t fare much better.  When Mrs McClusky and Mr Bronson learn that she assisted them in crafting their debating points, both of the senior teachers unite and turn on her (unusual to see them align in this way).  She storms off and the pupils aren’t far behind.  They’ve tried democracy and failed, although it’s debatable as to whether the staff, apart from Miss Partridge, were that interested in any of their points.

Even those you might class as ‘moderates’ – Miss Booth, Mrs Reagan – couldn’t seem to comprehend that secret profiles are a bad idea.  This seems slightly hard to believe, but the fact that the gang of four – Freddie, Julie, Cheryl and Roland – feel that they’ve been denied a voice via the democratic route means that alternative methods will have to be found ….

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Sixteen

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Written by Sarah Daniels.  Tx 27th February 1987

Continuity is a bit of a bugbear with me, so it slightly rankles that at the start of today’s episode Vince plugs a kettle into a socket down in his reconstructed den.  Yet a few episodes ago he told Gonch that making tea would be impossible since they’d need to plug a kettle in elsewhere and the trailing wire would bound to be seen.

Freddie, Cheryl and Roland are attempting to pull all the grievances expressed by the pupils into a single document.  That it’s still somewhat chaotic (complaints about the colour of the school diary is still high on the list) doesn’t suggest that their organisational skills are very good.  It’s also a telling moment that they’re quite happy for Miss Partridge to take their notes and type them up.  Can none of them type?  And whilst Miss Partridge obviously has their best interests at heart, she’s still “one of them” ….

We’re shortly heading into a direct confrontation between the staff and the pupils over the way the school is run.  It’s a pity though that these threads haven’t been developed more over the course of this year.  Compared, say, to SAG (from series two) it does feel somewhat undercooked.  The fact that Harriet has enjoyed a good deal more screentime is an example of strange priorities.

Louise is turning into something of a stroppy madam, skipping Mr Bronson’s French class because she can’t be bothered to attend.  It’s a pity then that she decides to lounge about in the corridor in plain sight, right where Mr Bronson can find her.

Banksie remains in a foul food, convinced that Mrs Reagan has scuppered his chances of success at Hazelrigg school although there’s no evidence for this.  His first assignment – tidying up their art room – isn’t terribly exciting, but exactly what did he expect to be doing on his first day?

After popping back to Grange Hill to vent his spleen, he returns to Hazelrigg for his afternoon stint.  His next task – posting some letters – doesn’t seem terribly exciting either, but Lucy and Perry (Jimmy Carr) tell him that they have to come as well and Banksie is required to ride to the post office in a wheelchair.  They’re lying of course, but this brief trip out is the first stage in Banksie’s development.  And playing snooker with Lucy (and the fact he gets beaten by her) only serves to strengthen his bond with the school

Donkey Watch.  Harriet’s not well and Helen is beside herself with worry.  Will Harriet live or die?  This is edge of the seat stuff, especially when an anxious Helen turns to the bible for comfort.

Ant’s presence throughout series ten has been somewhat superfluous.  Apart from his relationship with Georgina (which never seemed to go anywhere) his only other major contribution comes here – after he fouls Ziggy in a football match and instantly turns into a villain.  It’s such a feeble tackle that it’s hard to imagine how Ziggy managed to sustain so great an injury that he had to be stretchered off.  Maybe for once we can say that Ant’s been a little hard done by.

Gonch has worked out a way to gain revenge over Trevor – the Grange Hill ghost of course.  We’ve been here before (and we will again).  Will Trevor be stupid enough to fall for such an obvious trick?  Hmm …..

Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Fifteen

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Written by Sarah Daniels.  Tx 24th February 1987

Relationship woes kick off this episode.  Ronnie is sick of Gonch.  She still likes him, but she’s sick of him at the same time.  Meanwhile, Georgina and Ant continue to have communication issues.  She wants to talk about Imelda whilst he’s more interested in having a kickabout with Ziggy.

Although Georgina didn’t get very far discussing Imelda with Ant, she has a little more success with Helen.  Georgina wonders if Imelda was funny in the head or if she was just a bully.  This is the sort of debate it would have been good to have when Imelda was a member of the school, but better late than never I guess.

Imelda’s visits to a psychologist are brought up again and this theme is also touched upon later as Georgina and Helen – having got out of sports – ensconce themselves in the art room and decide to express their feelings through their artwork.  Miss Booth is intrigued and labels Helen’s work as showing “boredom and anger” whilst Georgina’s “suggests despair”.  How serious the girls were being is open to debate, but it’s a slightly unusual moment that presumably came straight from Sarah Daniels’ pen.

More characteristic of the series of a whole is Gonch’s desire to make money.  First he wonders if Calley’s horoscopes could be the answer – surely there must be a way to lay bets against them?  She’s not keen (as it doesn’t pay to mess with the future) so he turns his attention to Harriet.  It’s been a while since we’ve had a serious Donkey watch (her cameo in the previous episode doesn’t really count).  Gonch and Hollo offer to take Harriet for a walk, but what they really want to do is to offer donkey rides in the park ….

This episode also digs a little deeper into the personalities of Georgina and Helen.  Both tell Mrs Reagan that they’re not too fond of sports (which is odd to hear from Georgina, since she’s always been portrayed as a sporty type).  Mrs Reagan, keen to find out what they do like, will no doubt struggle to do anything with their suggestions though (snooker and rock climbing).

Trevor destroys Vince’s den.  It’s a mean and petty thing to have done and pushes Trevor back more into the bully persona he briefly adopted at the start of this series.  Vince isn’t happy.  “I’m going to mash his brainbox apart”.  He confronts Trevor but only gets a facefull of semolina for his pains.  Trevor seems keen to fill the void left by Imelda, needling Mr Scott in the canteen, although this episode it’s done in a subtle and non-confrontational way.  The question as to whether Mr Scott has finally won the respect of the class remains deferred for now.

Cheryl – who, lest we forget, favours healthy eating – is keen to establish an alternative canteen, offering a non-fat diet.  This is another of those plotlines that you know isn’t really going to go anywhere.

Banksie’s paranoia is healthy today.  He’s convinced that Mrs Reagan’s staring at him (even when she isn’t) and he continues to moan about his work experience placement.  He tells Laura that “clearing up after a bunch of weird kids” isn’t what he calls work experience and he’s convinced that it’ll be embarrassing.  But he heads off to Hazelrigg School anyway.

This is obviously set up to be a major character defining moment for Banksie.  His initial discomfort is plain to see as he stumbles into the dining room where the children are having their lunch (was the “hello” from one of the children scripted or a spontaneous outburst, I wonder?).  He’s rescued from his corridor wanderings by the wheelchair-bound Lucy (Leah Finch) who directs him to the headmistress’ office.  She may be confined to a wheelchair, but she’s also lively and articulate and so she (and her friend Perry) will help to educate him over the coming episodes.

Zammo continues to express embarrassment at Jackie’s desire to show off her engagement ring at every opportunity, so he’s probably not too disappointed when Mrs McClusky tells her to take it off (it’s against school policy to wear a ring on that finger).  Roland’s had quite a journey – from school outcast (1982) to wise sage (1987).  He joins Zammo for lunch and offers him his opinion.  A key moment occurs when Zammo admits that he doesn’t know why he’s getting married (“it just sort of happened”). Roland’s response seems to crystallise all the doubts that Zammo’s clearly been feeling for some time.

If I had to select my least favourite episode ending from series 10, then this one – Gonch, Hollo and Harriet hotfoot it out of the park, pursued half-heartedly by some shovel wielding park workers – would be high on the list.

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Fourteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 20th February 1987

It’s a nice touch that Calley’s interest in horoscopes (first mentioned during series eight) is referenced again here.  Often, character traits are mentioned once or twice and then forgotten about (Ziggy’s love of spiders for example).  Calley is gearing up to produce radio horoscopes (although she’s more than a little reluctant to read them out herself) whilst Vince is keen as mustard to start broadcasting.

His slot – wonderfully titled Savage Sounds – doesn’t start until ten past one and since he comes bursting in at 8:45, Freddie has to gently tell him that he’s just a little early.  A little preparation is required, but possibly not four and a half hours.

Zammo and Jackie’s secret engagement doesn’t stay secret for very long since Jackie can’t resist wearing her engagement ring.  That she’s being so public infuriates Zammo, but if he didn’t want people to know, then why bother to get engaged at all?  Why not wait until they’ve left school?

Jackie’s deliciously blatant in making sure everybody clocks her ring.  She doesn’t quite wave it under their noses, but it’s close.  Meanwhile Zammo sits next to her, twisting his hands and looking less than delighted.  Oh dear.  But the best is yet to come – as their happy news is broadcast over the airwaves for everybody to hear.  Zammo’s not at all happy when this happens, and neither is Robbie (whose relationship with Zammo has changed from hero worship during series eight to simmering antagonism now).

And how well does Banksie take the news?  Well, he’s biting his leather jacket, so I think we can assume he’s not going to be the first to shake their hands.  Miss Booth later articulates what most people (both staff and pupils) are probably thinking.  “It makes me want to cry just to think about it. They’re kids, they haven’t even started to live yet”.  Unsurprisingly everybody wonders if Jackie’s pregnant, but that’s not the case – these two crazy kids just seem to love each other … or think they do.

We’ve not seen Harriet for a while (a shame I know).  She makes a brief appearance here as Robbie, still reeling from the news about his sister and Zammo, seeks solace with the donkey.

Mr Scott’s latest science lesson with N3 seems to be going a good deal more smoothly now that Imelda is no longer part of the school community.  Everybody seems to be listening to him, well everybody except Trevor who’s attempting to get Vince to reveal the location of his secret den.

Not even Mrs McClusky can object to Calley’s horoscopes (since they offer such nuggets as “make sure your homework is handed in on time”).  Unfortunately some of the later ones go a little awry as the wrong introductory music means that they end up rather jumbled (Aquarius read out as Capricorn for example).  Ziggy was the unwitting recipient of a specially composed horoscope, designed to bolster his confidence ahead of his human fly act.

But Ziggy has a plan, one which means he doesn’t have to risk his neck.  He plans to do a Harold Lloyd and only pretend to scale the building – he plans to nip round the back of the building, dash up the fire escape and emerge on the roof – to receive the tumultuous applause that he no doubts believes is no more than his due.

But his scheme seems to have gone awry after he coolly informs the waiting crowds that he’s already planted his banner.  Since they can’t see it, it’s not surprising that they have trouble believing him.  Gonch and Trevor (unlikely bedfellows) are just preparing to duff him up when Mr Bronson comes haring round the corner, banner in hand, wondering why he saw it floating down from the assembly hall roof.  Ziggy’s delighted – even Mr Bronson’s anger doesn’t deflect from the fact that the others are not only silenced but are forced to pay up.

A slight damp squib of an ending then, in an episode which – Zammo and Jackie apart – feels curiously empty.

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Thirteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 17th February 1987

The pupils of Grange Hill have been allowed to have their say about the burning events of the day.  Sadly, most of the recordings aren’t really primetime radio material (Mr Bronson wears a wig, school custard isn’t great, etc) but a few voices do stand out.

One of them is Fay, who’s unhappy about the inflexibility of the closed report system (no doubt she’s thinking that her dalliance with Mr King might affect her future employment prospects).  The others – Banksie, Laura, Julie, Cheryl – listening back to the recordings agree, although Banksie seems a little more interested in nuzzling Laura.  It’s been something of a whirlwind romance …

Freddie interviews Mrs McClusky.  It’s not exactly a meeting of equals, as Freddie is flustered (partly due to technical problems) whilst Mrs McClusky gives a very domineering and Thatcheresque performance.  She’s patience personified as Freddie fumbles through his questions (her sympathetic smile might be an indication that she’s hardly been tested).   His final question relates to closed reports, but she effortlessly manages to bat off his feeble points.  Reacting to his comment that the files are secret, she sweetly disagrees.  “I prefer the word confidential”.

Fay later accurately suggests that Freddie’s questions weren’t really at fault, it was more to do with the fact that Mrs McClusky – a skilled politician – is well able to avoid answering anything she doesn’t want to.  If the pupils are going to get anywhere then their methods will have to change.

Margaret Simpson’s script harks back to the early eighties, a time when Mrs McClusky ruled Grange Hill with an iron fist and ruthlessly crushed any sign of dissent quickly and effectively.  Her fury when she realises that her comments have been cut up and distorted is highly characteristic of those early days.

But did Freddie and the others really believe that they could recut her interview in a less than flattering light and she’d simply let it pass?  It seems a little naïve if so.  Wise old Mr Mackenzie tells the sixth-formers that broadcasting their message of dissent over the airwaves for all the school to hear wasn’t sensible, whereas writing a reasoned, well-argued report would be more likely to bear fruit.

Zammo and Jackie are discussing getting engaged.  Banksie is a silent – and moody – observer to their intimate chit-chat.  Since he’s now involved with Laura you may have assumed that he’s over Jackie, but given his doomy countenance I don’t think that’s the case.

The arrival of Mr Bronson in the sixth form common room – deputising for an absent Miss Partridge – doesn’t help to perk Steven Banks up.  His choice of a work experience position (a garage) differs somewhat from what he’s been offered (working in a school for handicapped children).  Julie’s going to the same school – Hazelrig Road –  a piece of news which doesn’t cheer him up, although this is nothing personal.  Banksie’s just in a typically scowly mood.

Mrs Reagan continues to pull faces whenever Laura mentions Banksie.  Is it his bad-boy image, the fact he drives a motorbike or that he’s several years older than Laura which is the main problem?  The bike appears to be the thing which upsets Mrs Reagan the most, but it may be that she’s simply using this as a convenient excuse (although motorbikes can be dangerous – especially the way that Banksie rides).

Danny makes an unexpected appearance.  He’s at home, waiting to travel up to Scotland for his first round of treatment.  Freddie and Julie ask him to record a message for the grand opening of Grange Hill’s radio station.

It seems that Cheryl’s morphed into the departed Janet.  This episode she chides Roland about his unhealthy eating habits – a bar of chocolate for breakfast – and suggests he goes on a sponsored diet.  Mind you, she finishes by saying that if he did lose a few pounds then she might fancy him, something which we never heard from Janet.  Roland pulls a speculative face at this titbit of information.

Ziggy’s plan to scale the highest building in the school and plant a banner is ongoing.  He asks Robbie to paint him a banner proclaiming that ‘Ziggy Greaves Was Here’ (not sure why, since Ziggy is a remarkably self-confident sort of chap, convinced that he can do anything himself).  Ziggy’s not too pleased with Robbie’s effort – he tells him that he’s misspelt ‘Woz’ as ‘Was’.  The fact they’re using Miss Booth’s materials without her permission spells inevitable trouble.  When they hear footsteps, they dash for the nearest cupboard but sadly forget to take the banner.  ‘Ziggy Greaves Was He’ is therefore left in full view, forcing Ziggy to attempt to extract it without Miss Booth and Mr Kennedy noticing.

Do they succeed?  Of course not.  Miss Booth sets them an appropriate punishment – they have to clear up the art room later.  Naturally they use this time to also craft a second banner (which is now painted on cloth, more sensible than the paper they initially used).  So all is well.  Well apart from the blocked sink and the inevitable comedy consequences which occur.  And at the worst possible moment Miss Booth walks in.  Oops.

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Twelve

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 13th February 1987

Again, you have to wonder exactly what Ant’s getting out of this trip. He has to spend his nights hiding on the boy’s barge (clearly breaching the girl’s one would have been a step too far) so he’s not close to Georgina.  And since she tends to spend her days with the others (and there’s usually a teacher or two around as well) there seems to be few opportunities from them to grab any time together.

At the start of this one he’s somewhat dismayed to find that he can’t sneak away first thing in the morning as the barge has floated away from its mooring.  So he has to hide in one of the toilets, which comes as a surprise to the others ….

Meanwhile, how are our intrepid foursome of Gonch, Trevor, Ziggy and Robbie faring? They made it to the tent and stuck it out through the night, although neither Gonch or Robbie slept at all (they were too frightened by the sounds they could hear outside).  Trevor and Ziggy clearly had less imagination as they slept soundly, but now the time has come to confront their fears.  And they turn out to be … sheep.

I guess you can say that these episodes are somewhat low on the excitement scale.  Also, it’s slightly unbelievable that Mr Scott, who’s been keeping an eye on them, had a tent pitched up very close by.  It might have been dark when they reached their tent the previous evening, but surely they would have spotted that they weren’t alone?  Mr Scott continues to be a transformed man – far removed from the pushover he was at school.  Does this mark the start of a new chapter, or will he regress once he’s back in the corridors of Grange Hill?

The boys are irked that the girls are getting friendly will some local boys.  This inevitably leads to several battles – one of which involves Ziggy stuck up a tree and Freddie yet again bemoaning the fact that his clothes have been ruined.

Mr Scott remains the life and soul of the party.  He digs out a guitar and leads everybody into a somewhat tuneless version of Yellow Submarine.  But while this cacophony is occurring, somehow Freddie is having a doze on his bunk.  But, oh no, the gas has been left on.  Will somebody discover him in time or will he die horribly?  I wonder.  Possibly more interesting is that the others decide to run through the Beatles songbook – next on their torture list is Help although they then decide that Buddy Holly (Oh Boy) deserves their attention as well.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Banksie and Laura seems to have developed off-screen.  Her mother is far from happy that she’s tarted herself up – presumably for his benefit.  As we’ll discover during the remainder of series ten, Mrs Reagan is not a great admirer of Steven Banks.

Mr Scott’s impressive aura already seems to be dissipating.  He tells the others that there’s a hot disco in town – which turns out to be a hop held in the church hall.  “Once a wally, always a wally” mutters Trevor sagely.

Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Eleven

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 10th February 1987

The pupils are en-route to begin their half-term canal boat adventure.  Their journey is illustrated by a brief shot of two mini-buses bombing down the motorway whilst they all enthusiastically sing The Chicken Song (although it quickly descends into la, la, la, as nobody seems to remember the words).

Freddie’s going to be a problem.  He’s commandeered one of the two toilets and turned it into a wardrobe for his incredibly diverse collection of clothes.  Since all he really needs are jeans, a sweater and a comfortable pair of boots, there’s no sensible reason for him to have brought so many expensive togs.  I fear it’s going to be a long week with him on board ….

Mr Kennedy offers a short homily about canal boat safety.  But with the likes of Ziggy, Robbie and Trevor standing by the quayside, this week seems like an accident waiting to happen.  A slight moment of dramatic tension is introduced when we observe a stranger lurking in the bushes, watching the departing boats.  Our mystery man pops up several times throughout the episode, his hand constantly pulling back the bushes – all the better to spy.

Freddie is the first to be allowed to steer the boat, something which irks Ziggy no end.  And why are all the children wearing life jackets but Mr Kennedy and Mr Scott aren’t?  Given the lectures we’ve already had on safety, this seems more than a little remiss.  Fay’s ginormous camcorder is a sign of the times (today you’d probably get better picture quality on a phone).

The relationship between Laura and Banksie was one which I didn’t see coming.  It begins here.  Freddie and Julie want to head out for an evening stroll but Mrs Reagan tells them that they need at least three in their party.  Georgina agrees to go along and Mrs Reagan then corrals an unwilling Banksie to join them. Laura (tiring of Julia’s constant sniping about Freddie) also decides to join them.

But for once, Freddie had an ulterior motive which didn’t involve canoodling with Julie.  The mystery man lurking in the bushes turns out to be Ant (so those brief moments of tension didn’t last long) meaning that Freddie’s turned cupid in order to reunite Georgina and Ant.  Quite why Ant would want to traipse all this way (he’s been seeing Georgina regularly anyway) is slightly baffling and the possibility that his attempt to stowaway will be successful seems to be rather on the low side.

Banksie places an arm around Laura’s shoulders but their interaction goes no further at the moment.  But the fact she doesn’t shrug it off or look askance at him tells its own story.

Ziggy’s a terrible cook.  This is another of those obvious moments – after his proud boast that he would be able to knock them up a tasty meal with no trouble, it would have been more of a surprise had he actually delivered something edible.  Mr Kennedy is once again cast in the role of the long-suffering onlooker – viewing the devastation wreaked in the kitchen with dismay.  Luckily Roland’s on hand to save the day with a cauliflower cheese (although Mr Kennedy did earlier on ask him to keep an eye on Ziggy, something which he rather failed to do).  I guess you can say at present that the interest levels in these various plotlines are quite low.

Mr Scott is also a member of the trip, but the kind-hearted Mr Kennedy decided to stow him far away from the third year boys.  No doubt he quickly began to regret this, since it means that Mr Kennedy has to bear the brunt of their idiotic behaviour.  Jeffrey Kissoon is excellent as the increasingly harassed teacher.

Freddie (ironically dubbed ‘Johnny Cool’ by Gonch) turns out to be an industrial strength snorer, which rather obviously dents his romantic lover image.  A trip to the farm isn’t a highlight for him either – he’s dressed in his snazziest clothes, there’s mud and water around, do I really need to go on?

Gonch and Ronnie have their first argument, although since they’ve only just become an item (on screen at least) this doesn’t carry a great deal of weight.  She’s irked that Gonch and Trevor take it in turns to steer the girl’s barge (she’d agreed that only Gonch could do so).  That Gonch still likes to lark about with the boys (Trevor has now completely shook off his briefly held bully persona) shouldn’t really have come as any surprise to her though.

Mr Kennedy, now incandescent with rage at the boys, decides that Robbie, Ziggy, Trevor and Gonch should go camping – but first they have to start from the middle of nowhere and find their tent.  And if they don’t discover it then they’re likely to have a long, cold and hungry night.  Mr Scott explains the rules to them – here he’s far removed from his earlier, hesitant school-based persona.

It’s a bit of a con of course, the teachers are monitoring them from a distance, but it’s mildly entertaining nonetheless.  A pity that they couldn’t film at night though (instead we have a night filter placed on the camera). The episode ends with one of the barges genty floating downstream at night …

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Ten

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 6th February 1987

Gonch is back and bearing gifts.  They’re mostly for Ronnie – earrings, a scarf and first of all a bunch of flowers.

Mr Glover pops up for the first time this year.  He’s his usual charmless self and today is baffled as to why everybody’s raising money for Danny.  As one of the more anti-social members of the school community he wonders why anyone would waste their time on him (he doesn’t quite come out and say it wouldn’t matter if he lived or died, but that seems to be his general drift).

Besides, he believes all these extra-curricular activities are getting in the way of Grange Hill providing their pupils with a decent education.  This is a not unreasonable point (in this episode Freddie seems to live in the radio room, so quite how he’s managing to do his schoolwork is a mystery) but Mr Glover doesn’t seem to comprehend that the school should also operate as a community. When it does, then it can teach important life sessons.

As a businessman he seems to embrace the Thatcherite ideal that there’s no such thing as society.  Everybody should look out for themselves and the weak are presumably left to perish.  No wonder that Julia rolls her eyes rather delightfully at this latest diatribe.

Gonch isn’t the only returnee as Laura’s back after a long absence.  Although Gonch’s absence was scripted – Laura’s presumably just been hanging around the school always just out of shot.

As a recovering addict, it’s possibly not surprising that Zammo’s become a master of manipulation.  He wants Jackie to come with him to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting during half term.  This means she would miss the canal trip – but this is all the better in Zammo’s eyes, as he doesn’t like the thought of her and Banksie being stuck together for a week on the same barge.  So is Zammo being sincere when he tells her that he needs her moral support during this difficult period or does he simply not want to risk that she might restart her relationship with Banksie?  If it’s the latter then he’s clearly not a trusting person ….

It was already hinted at last time, but Gonch’s return has something of a destabilising effect.  Hollo finds himself a little sidelined as Gonch is now spending more time with Ronnie than he is with him.  Vince is put out that Hollo shares the secret of their underground secret den (he might want to bring Ronnie – a girl! – back there) whilst even Calley exchanges a brief look with Hollo that suggests she’s not terribly happy with the current situation either.  Although to be fair to Calley she’s much more understanding than Hollo is.

Banksie attempts once more to win Jackie back, but with the same lack of success.  And his face falls even further when she tells him that she’s not going on the canal trip after all (Gonch will be taking his place) as instead she’ll be accompanying Zammo to Narcotics Anonymous.  Poor Banksie, his plaintive cry of “oh why don’t you like me?” after Jackie leaves the common room would surely melt even the hardest of hearts.

Donkey watch.  A Harriet free episode, hurrah!

And so we bid farewell to Imelda.  After her violent antics in the previous episode she leaves in a much more low-key way.  After yet another classroom disagreement she sinks to the floor and refuses to move.  So the passing Mr Mackenzie clears the room and tells her that he can wait there all day until she decides to get up by herself.  Mrs McClusky decides expulsion is the only answer and asks Mr Glover, who’s popped by to harangue her about various matters, to sanction it.  The way his eyes light up make it clear this is something he’s more than happy to do!

We meet Mrs Davis (Marcia King) for the first and last time.  Although it’s recently been revealed that Imelda meets with an educational psychologist we’ve not (unlike Roland) been privy to any of those meetings.  Therefore Imelda’s always remained an unfathomable character.

Will Mrs Davis provide any pointers as to why her daughter is the way she is?  Well Mrs Davis is a little brassy and, to begin with, unconcerned.  She knows that her daughter is (at best) naughty but presumably considers that it’s the school’s problem, not hers.  Only when Mrs McClusky tells her that Imelda will have to leave and possibly attend a special unit (for children like Imelda “who are a little disturbed and have difficulty fitting in”) does she react.  Mrs Davis curls her lip at this.  “You teachers. The labels you put on people”.

Mr Kennedy wishes Imelda all the best as she leaves, but characteristically she doesn’t respond. Therefore she remains an enigma right until the end.

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Nine

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 3rd February 1987

I do believe Mr Bronson is human after all.  Spying Banksie walking to school he offers him a lift in his car.  Banksie initially refuses, but Mr Bronson isn’t taking no for an answer and eventually the boy agrees.  The teacher listens sympathetically to the reason why he no longer brings his motorbike to school (left outside in the street it’s liable to get knocked about) and decides that if it was left in the carpark then it would be safer.

All this and apologising for accusing him of wrecking his car too.  I wonder what’s caused this sudden sea change, could it be Danny’s illness?  There’s certainly a much more conciliatory air about Mr Bronson at present – witness the way he organises a lunchtime meeting to consider ways they can raise funds for Danny’s family.

It’s strange though to see him stripped of his usual arrogance as it’s such a defining character trait.  Without it he’s curiously vulnerable – this is most evident when he’s standing outside the assembly hall, fretting that his meeting will be poorly attended.  The reason?  Everybody’s attending a rival meeting organised by the pupils in the radio room.

His sudden cheerleading for Danny doesn’t go down well with everyone – most notably Miss Booth, who’s in something of a stroppy mood anyway.  She’s not pleased with Mr Bronson’s sudden adoption of Danny as Grange Hill’s favourite son and she’s even less delighted when Mr Kennedy takes over editorial control of the radio station.  Her bad day continues when Ziggy tells her she’s not welcome at their meeting (although it’s plain he doesn’t speak for the others).

Ziggy’s in a rather arrogant mood, which isn’t like him.  He declares that he’ll raise funds for Danny by scaling the highest building in the school and planting a banner (shades of Tucker J).  But before he can get started he needs money for the banner and a safety harness, meaning that his capital outlay makes it hard to imagine he’ll end up making that much money.  And whilst he claims to be doing it all for Danny, it seems to be more about Ziggy’s lust for glory.  As I said, a tad unusual.  He does manage to get some money from the others though, a point which will become important later ….

Imelda, it may not surprise you to learn, is still causing trouble.  It’s serious this time though as she gets involved in a classroom scrap which results in a bloody nose for Ronnie and general mayhem.  An unusual high shot gives us a bird’s-eye view of this short, but explosive piece of action.

Mr Scott’s not present (he’d already hightailed it out to find Mr Kennedy).  The older teacher doesn’t seem terribly pleased to be called, which no doubt only serves to fray Mr Scott’s already shattered nerves some more.  So Imelda is removed from class for the day with the warning that she’s well on the way to being suspended – something which appears to fill her with complete indifference.

Banksie and Jackie – separately  – take the opportunity to bend Fay’s ear.  Banksie’s wondering if he should go on the forthcoming canal trip as he can’t bear being close to Jackie if she’s still not speaking to him.  Jackie meanwhile is ruminating on her reactivated relationship with Zammo.  Fay, who’s been frantically studying all year, possibly isn’t too bothered about either of their tangled love lives but is too polite to say so.

It’s very odd to see Calley, Ronnie and Hollo together as they’re not a natural trio.  The reason quickly becomes clear as the girls have news – Gonch is due back soon.  But that’s not all – he and Ronnie are an item and have been for a while.  Hollo is unbelieving, surely Gonch would have shared this news with his best friend?  A surprising revelation that’s for sure and it’s a little odd that it’s not been mentioned before.

Donkey watch.  Helen is clearly very fond of Harriet (nothing else could excuse the baby talk she indulges in) whilst Imelda is much less so.  We can tell that Imelda’s a rotter by the way that she kicks the donkey, although this does have an ulterior motive.  She wants Ziggy’s money, which he’s hidden in Harriet’s stable ….

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Eight

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Written by Rosemary Mason.  Tx 31st January 1987

Mr Griffiths isn’t happy with the piles of bottles which are accumulating around the school.  “Mark my words they’ll be broken bottles and tears”.  This point is made seconds later after Mr Bronson reverses his car into a crate of bottles and smashes them.  Oh dear.

The radio room is taking shape.  I daresay that if this episode was repeated today then they’d probably pixilate the prominent poster of Dave Lee Travis.  The common room posters of Gary Davies and Bruno Brookes would be acceptable though.

Ant make his latest appearance, today he’s walking Georgina to school.  He’s not changed since he was a GH pupil – He’s still the same sullen, stroppy person that we grew to love (or not) last year.  It hasn’t taken him long to find his new school as tiresome as his old, although since there’s no Mr Bronson there it’s unclear what his problem now is.

Mrs McClusky stands for no nonsense as she quietens down the rowdier third-formers who are carousing through the corridors.  “I said walk, Trevor Cleaver, not stand still and smirk”.

Mr Scott continues to be a forlorn figure.  His body language as he sits in his orange Mini makes it plain that he’s continuing to fight his nerves.  The way that Mr Kennedy is suddenly revealed at his window comes as a surprise both to him and the audience.  Mr Kennedy makes the point that it’s better if he’s in the classroom before the pupils arrive (he made the same suggestion some time ago) but it seems that it doesn’t work.  Nothing seems to work, which is why he continues to flounder.  Given that Imelda is his main problem (something which is acknowledged by Mr Kennedy) is does seem a little mean that a green, young teacher has been gifted her.

Imelda might be an isolated figure – despised by all her classmates – but she still continues to rule the roost.  But there are signs that they’ve all lost their patience with her (and indeed with Mr Scott) which means that the teacher has to endure the sight of his pupils attempting to restore order, when of course it should be his job.

The question of closed profiles continues to rumble on.  The likes of Freddie and Danny aren’t particularly happy – Danny wonders what would happen if a teacher, who didn’t care for a pupil, decided to write something inaccurate or defamatory.  What checks and balances are in place?  Mr Bronson can’t really answer this and since Danny’s illness became public he’s had to tread somewhat softly with him (which is possibly the reason why he’s now singled out Banksie for special treatment.  Mr Bronson clearly always has to have someone he can needle).

Having earlier given Mr Scott a pep talk, Mr Kennedy then moves onto Mr Bronson.  The older teacher laments Danny’s illness (“young potential wasted”) which surprises Mr Kennedy, who naturally enough believed that Mr Bronson had little time for the boy.  Mr Bronson offers this in reply.  “It is often the most gifted of pupils who kick against the system. It doesn’t make the system wrong or the pupils not worth bothering about”.  A rare insight into the way Mr Bronson’s mind works o a desperate attempt to justify his previous actions?

Hollo and Vince decide that the bottle money should go to Danny Kendal’s fund whilst Ziggy and Robbie continue to attempt to crack the girl’s secret code.  This involves the pair hiding in the hay of Harriet’s stable in order to overhear their conversation.  This is such a brilliant scheme it’s hard to imagine anything going wrong.

Oh wait, this is Ziggy and Robbie we’re talking about, the pair who spent last year atempting – and failing – to gain revenge over Imelda on a weekly basis so of course their great plan is doomed.  It wasn’t too clever for Ziggy’s foot to be sticking out of the hay.

The radio is now set up for a test transmission.  Mr Bronson views the set-up with disfavour and is not backwards in coming forwards to say so.  He can’t resist flicking a few switches and impatiently ignores Miss Booth’s admonition (“I’m not a complete idiot”).  Those are fatal words as you know that the microphone will now be live and their private conversation will be broadcast around the school.  This mainly involves Mr Mackenzie jibing Mr Bronson about the scandal which exists between him and Harriet.  The mind boggles …..

Calley, Ronnie and Jane gain revenge over Imelda.  It’s noticeable how Jane this year has moved back into the centre of things having sat out a large part of the previous series.  And whist the girls are getting messy, Danny’s inspirational message continues to be broadcast around the school.  But the sting in the tale is that his message was recorded as Roland discovers when he finds an unconscious Danny on the radio room floor.

This is the cue for an unusual end credits sequence as the scene of the ambulance arriving and everybody staring anxiously plays out as the titles roll and Chicken Man plays.

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Seven

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Written by Rosemary Mason.  Tx 27th January 1987

You have to feel a little sorry for Banksie.  After pursuing Jackie for the last few years he finally got his wish – as they became an item – only for her to now dump him without a word.  At the end of the last episode we saw him discover the truth (he angrily wobbled away on his motorbike).

He’s back on his bike at the start of this one, as he catches up with Jackie on the way to school.  It seems that Jackie hasn’t even told him it’s over to his face (and since she’s clearly been pining for Zammo all this time, possibly she was never interested in him in the first place anyway).

This means that Banksie’s not in the best of moods so when he’s subjected to one of Mr Bronson’s “You boy!” he reacts in a typically truculent manner.  This is the first “You boy!” we’ve heard in a while – nice to have it back on the school timetable again.  Mr Bronson isn’t happy that Banksie’s brought his bike into school (motorised transport driven by pupils is strictly forbidden on school grounds) whilst Banksie’s clearly not pleased at being spoken to as if he was a small child.

But Mr Bronson’s main interests are elsewhere.  He’s very irked (to put it mildly) that Danny threw his diary into the fishpond (Danny’s response is that he won’t need it anymore).  This scene is shot behind Mr Bronson – we see Danny through the crook of Mr Bronson’s arm – which is an usual framing device (normally GH tends to be rather plainly directed with few interesting flourishes).  The meaning behind Danny’s statement isn’t spelled out, so for now we remain in the dark.

We meet Mr Kendall (Chris Saunders) who’s come to the school ostensibly to talk about the radio scheme but he – like Mrs McClusky – also wants to discuss Danny.  Rather embarrassingly they’re at complete cross-purposes.  She believes that he’s going to confirm that Danny’s on drugs – well he is, but only because he’s very ill.  It seems more than a little foolhardy to suggest to a parent that their son is a drug addict without any firm proof.

Roland, Danny’s instant best new friend, happens to be eavesdropping outside the office and hears everything.  Treatment is available – via a special unit in Aberdeen – but it will incur costs, so Roland immediately heads off to do a spot of fundraising.  So in an instant Danny has changed from being an enigma to some and an irritation to others.  From this point on he’s the recipient of sympathy from all.  Even Mr Bronson.

Mr Scott’s registration period remains a battleground.  Today Imelda mercilessly teases Ronnie about her unrequited passion for the teacher.  This is illusionary of course (we’re not heading down the Fay/Mr King road anytime soon) but it helps to keep the pressure stoked up.  A non-verbal signifier of Mr Scott’s continuing discipline problems can be seen on the blackboard, which is covered with scrawled messages (remarkably none of them are rude).

Banksie continues to carry his black mood into Miss Partidge’s lesson.  A spot of role-play allows him to articulate his anger at being cast aside by Jackie (a bad move that Miss Partridge elected to pair the two of them together in an exercise which cast him as a surly waiter and her as a customer).  And if this doesn’t entertain then you can always just sit back and admire the jumpers worn by the extras.

Roland’s transformation from an outsider and misfit (seen during 1982 to 1984) to a rounded member of the school community (from 1985 onwards) continues here.  He’s passionate about the radio station – partly because he thinks it’s a good idea but mostly because he wants to fulfil Danny’s wish – and his gift of the gab means he’s able to blag some free cable from a local electrical shop.

He marshals some of the others – such as Robbie and Ziggy – into helping, although things don’t quite go the way they should have done.  Some runaway cable provides a limp comedy moment which comes complete with a prat-falling milkman.  And then it turns out that they took the wrong cable, although it’s hard to blame them for this mistake as surely one lot of cable would look pretty much like another.

Grange Hill are collecting bottles, so Vince and Hollo decide to pick up as many as they can.  Remember what I said about their largely excitement free plotlines?  I miss Gonch.

Donkey watch.  This was shaping up to be a Harriet-free episode, but no she makes a brief appearance at the end as a stroppy Imelda lets her roam free.  It looks as if Harriet was responsible for damaging Mr Bronson’s car but he decides (with no evidence) that Banksie was responsible.  We’ve been here before with Mr Bronson jumping to conclusions ….

Mr Bronson enters the sixth form common room just as Banksie demonstrates his unique way of dealing with dirty coffee mugs – he throws it against the wall, smashing it to pieces (“now no-one will have to wash it up, will they?”)  Mr Bronson doesn’t like that. “You, vandal! My car and now this!”  The truth later comes to light as he spies a large pile of donkey droppings by his car (weren’t they there before?).  “She will have to go” he mutters.  Yes please.

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