Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Twelve

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Written by David Angus. Tx 10th February 1989

Georgina receives a disturbing phone call – a heavy breather. Who can it be? Trev’s been pestering her all year, making him fhe most likely suspect, but Helen decides that Ziggy is the guilty party. Nope, don’t understand that. I’m undecided whether we’re seriously supposed to think that Ziggy might be a phone pest or whether this is just another slightly misfiring plot point.

Helen’s all dolled up as she’s off to start her work experience. The affable Mr Aldridge (Jack Galloway) gives her a whistle-stop tour of the engineering plant. She takes in the drawing office, the accounts department and the C.A.D. (computer aided design) room before finally ending up on the works floor.

There’s a vague hint of sexism along the way. A computer chap gives her a wink (steady on fella, she’s underage) whilst we’re also set up to expect some shop-floor dissent from her fellow workers next time. However, I’ve the feeling that Helen will easily wipe the floor with the bolshy lad who thinks that women and heavy machinery shouldn’t mix ….

Susi finally confesses to her mother about her catalogue borrowing habits, which is good news as it means we can draw this storyline to a conclusion. You have to feel a little sorry for Lynne Radford (Susi). Her two years on the show were drawing to an close and this was her most substantial contribution.

Possibly it was her decision to drop out after series twelve or maybe the production team felt Susi was unlikely to develop much further. With both Justine and Chrissy already established as strong characters, it’s easy to imagine that Susi would have been pushed even more to the sidelines next year.

Calley continues to be something of a lone voice in support of Mr Bronson. She makes the very reasonable point that Danny was no saint (and quickly dismisses Fiona’s rather feeble defence that Danny only acted like he did because of his illness).

A slight plot contrivance later finds Calley and Mr Bronson alone in the classroom. She attempts to breech the awkward silence, but her well meaning comment of “we don’t all hate you” possibly wasn’t the most tactful remark ever! This encounter, whether indirectly or directly, does seem to spark Mr Bronson back into life though.

Later, he decides that he will attend the Isle of Wight field trip after all (which was in jeopardy after he decided to pull out).  The way he doesn’t react when Mrs McClusky mentions that she’s thinking of allowing the pupils to bring their motorbikes into school is also interesting.

Mandy has devised a plan, which Mrs McClusky is considering, re the bikes. Ronnie seems less than impressed when she finds out though (but I think we can chalk this down to the fact that Mandy and Gonch are increasingly becoming an item). Does Ronnie still pine for Gonch? It seems hard to credit, but this is Grange Hill – where strange things happen every day.

Speaking of strange things, we learn who’s been hiding out in the school. It’s Tegs of course, and now he has Justine for company. But this storyline suddenly becomes a little less predictable when the camera reveals that there’s someone else left in school besides the two of them. It can’t be Mr Griffiths, as we’ve already seen him leave, so who is it?

Hopefully it won’t be the Grange Hill ghost.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Ten

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 3rd February 1989

So Danny Kendall joins the list of the Grange Hill fallen.

Antoni Karamanopolis was the first pupil to bite the dust, all the way back in 1980. His sad demise (falling from a great height after a dare went wrong) barely raised a ripple of interest or sorrow amongst his classmates. Poor Antoni.  But at least his death did serve a moral story purpose – hammering home the risks about accepting foolish dares.

You can’t say the same about Jeremy Irvine’s swimming pool demise in 1984 though, which seemed to have been written as pure sensationalism. The adult soaps do it all the time (a death is good for ratings) although it’s difficult to imagine GH received much of a boost.

What’s even odder is that originally Jonah was the one supposed to die (actor Lee Sparke declined to return when he learnt that Jonah’s time was up). Killing off a regular for no good reason is difficult to fathom – especially as the partnership of Jonah and Zammo worked so well (Jonah’s replacement – Kevin – never clicked in quite the same way).

Five years on and Danny Kendall was the third pupil to perish. This is something of a watershed moment as he was the first long-running character (present since 1986) to depart feet first.  Although given that Danny would have left school shortly, it’s possible he was something of a sacrificial pawn. Although his death casts a shadow over the whole school, it’s Mr Bronson who especially suffers.

This was Michael Sheard’s fifth and final year with the series. Whilst I don’t know for sure, it seems likely that this storyline – Danny’s death, Mr Bronson’s fall and eventual rather surprising rebirth – was created in order to give Sheard something especially meaty to get his teeth into. It makes sense – Michael Sheard was an excellent actor, so you may as well make full use of him.

By now, most people seem to be aware of the sad news – although Mauler and Ted are still in the dark. That’s a little hard to swallow, considering that they were hot on the heels of Ziggy, Robbie and Gonch at the end of the previous episode. Are we supposed to assume they just slunk away? A little tighter script-editing was probably called for here.

Life goes on though, as does the rumbling saga of Susi and the clothes from her mother’s catalogue (alas). Along with Clarke’s missing bike, it’s vying as the least involving plotline of the year.

A brief assembly sees Mrs McClusky confirm the news about Danny. Miss Booth is in tears whilst Mr Bronson remains stony-faced. Afterwards he attempts to regain order the only way he knows how – by bellowing at the pupils not to hang around the corridor – but it’s the wrong move at the wrong time.  The way Miss Booth silently walks past him after his outburst makes this clear – as does the way he falteringly attempts but fails to speak to her.

Most of the fifth formers are in a reflective mood. All apart from Trev, who decides that he’s won the sweepstake (he put on a bet for next year which, he reasons, is as close to never as possible).

Mr Bronson doesn’t react well to the news of a memorial service for Danny. “I do not think that a delinquent pupil should be given the same treatment as that reserved for sound and cooperative members of the school community”.  That doesn’t go down well with Mrs McClusky …

Later she’s able to tell Mr Bronson that Danny died of natural causes and therefore no further investigation will occur. Once again, there’s a real tinge of icy distaste on her part (it’s a nicely played scene from both of them).

Having schemed for a while in order to get close to Mandy (although all his plans tended to end in disaster), a plainly distressed Gonch now finds she’s the perfect shoulder to cry on. Mandy makes a nice bit of toast too (albeit slightly burnt) and has a good suggestion – use the sweepstake money to buy a memorial tree for Danny.

The tree planting scene was a tricky one to pull off as it could easily have teetered over the edge into maudlin sentimentality. This doesn’t happen and the final shot of the episode – a slow crane pullback of the planting – is effective. Especially since the credits are allowed to run silently apart from some ambient noise (the toiling of what I assume to be a church bell).

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Nine

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 31st January 1989

Vince appears for the first time since episode five. You’d have thought he would have been present when Trev’s world came crashing down (thanks to Vince’s less than precise horse prediction) but for some reason he’s been held back until now. No matter, the plotline will still play out the same – Vince doing his best to hide with Ziggy relishing describing exactly how Trev will tear him limb from limb ….

Danny’s continuing absence is still a hot topic. Although his attendance record has always been patchy, it’s the fact that Mr Bronson’s car disappeared at the same time as Danny that strikes a discordant note. Gonch – in order to prevent Trev from noticing Vince cowering under a desk – mentions that he’s starting a sweepstake about when Danny will return. This off-hand remark soon snowballs into a real venture – Gonch can never resist the opportunity to make a bit of money.

Mauler and Ted debate the best way to get the keys to Ronnie’s moped.  Since they’re both very definite anti-social types, it’s slightly odd to see them with shiny briefcases.  In the past, only swotty types – like Justin Bennett – tended to carry them.

Helen’s been given the opportunity of work experience at a local garage. It’s not what she wants to do, but it’s better than working in an office.  Only just though. There’s a faint air that she’s breached a male dominated area, although this point isn’t hammered home (a muttered “women” after Helen admits she doesn’t know a head gasket from a spark-plug is enough to make the point).

Mauler and Ted put the frighteners on Gonch, intent on nabbing half of the sweepstake money. Or maybe their real plan was to pinch the keys from Ronnie’s bag. If so, then they’ve done very well and proceed to have a fine old time with the moped, much to Ronnie’s horror.

The episode concludes with Robbie, Ziggy and Gonch being pursued by Trevor, Mauler and Ted. Trev’s the first to drop out (he’s built for comfort not speed) but Mauler and Ted have more speed endurance. It’s a frantic chase through a grimy inner-city milieu, which comes to an abrupt stop when Ziggy discovers Danny’s lifeless body in the back of Mr Bronson’s car ….

Cue ominous music over the first part of the closing credits before the more jaunty ‘Chicken Man’ returns.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Eight

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Written by Chris Ellis. Tx 27th January 1989

Robbie’s grumbling about the stake money he paid to Trevor for the horse that didn’t win – he wants it back (Mauler is also keen to recover his funds). This suggests that the concept of betting isn’t particularly understood round Grange Hill way. Since nobody forced them to make the bets, for once I’ve a smidgen of sympathy for Trev.

Mr Bronson’s on his bike (nice cap, sir). He attracts the derision of Ziggy, Calley and Robbie (and just about everyone else) en route to school. But one person who remains totally oblivious to his mode of transport is Ronnie, which is a little unfortunate as she, riding her new moped, has a slight collision with him.

The fact she doesn’t have any recollection of breezing past him does rather suggest that she’s going to be a menace on the roads. So I have to sympathise with Mr Bronson on this, although we’re plainly meant to be on Ronnie’s side.

I get the feeling Mr Bronson isn’t in a very good mood today. The next person to feel his wrath is Mr Griffiths, who politely tells him that bicycles aren’t allowed in the school. This cuts no ice with Mr B who bellows at him to move aside. There’s a nice bit of comic business from George A. Cooper in this scene –  the way he recoils ever so slightly when he’s verbally attacked is a decent touch.

When telling Mr Robson about the way Mr Bronson sabotaged Danny’s job prospects, Mrs McClusky is very subdued and emotional.  Whether this was played as scripted or Gwyneth Powell made an acting choice, I’m not sure. It’s rather odd either way though – especially since at present nothing is known about Danny’s whereabouts.

Matthew and Clarke continue the hunt for Clarke’s missing bike. Now they have flags and lights to signal to each other over great distances. Ho hum. Every day I pine a little more for the days of missing clarinets ….

Mr Bronson has bad news for Helen. Her work experience at the engineers is off, instead he’s got her a placement at an insurance brokers. The action quickly moves away from this though, as Mr Bronson hears the roar of a moped engine and angrily sets off in pursuit.

Ronnie, earlier forced to park her moped outside, has now brought her damaged bike into school in order to make running repairs, with the affable Mr Mackenzie on hand to proffer some useful suggestions.

Mr Bronson doesn’t spot his fellow teacher when he comes blazing into the workshop though. Oh, and you have to say that Mr Bronson must have very acute hearing to pick out the faint roar of an engine from his office (since it’s quite a distance from the workshop). Mr B and Mr Mac have a brief but highly entertaining slanging match, which only strengthens my suspicion that Mr Bronson is teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Seven

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Written by Chris Ellis. Tx 24th January 1989

Outside of Grange Hill, Chris Ellis’ cv is somewhat slight, but he (I’m assuming he’s a he, although I’m happy to be corrected) was rather chucked in at the deep end when starting work on the series. He began by writing the last two episodes of series ten, followed by the opening two from series eleven. Ellis also contributed just two episodes this year, but his ones – seven and eight – are key. After a faltering start, this is where the drama really begins to ramp up.

We begin in a slightly subdued way though. Suzi is becoming extremely agitated about the clothes she’s received on trial from her mother’s catalogue whilst Tegs continues to live in extreme squalor, something which concerns his new social worker. Tegs is encouraged to clean up his act (and his body and his shirts) by Justine, who gives him some top cleaning tips. Although he balks at her offer to come into the bathroom and scrub his back!

Trevor’s put a bundle of his and other people’s money on Lucky Shark (the horsey picked out by Vince). In one of the most predictable story outcomes ever, it fails to win.

Mrs McClusky gets the chance to demonstrate her skills as an organiser after she directs the traffic down both sides of a particularly gloomy corridor. The school is still in something of a state of disrepair, which makes safe navigation a tad tricky. As touched upon before, it’s unusual to see Grange Hill looking quite so shabby – although this isn’t a major plot point.

It’s simply an excuse to demonstrate a couple of things – first that Mrs McClusky can still bellow with the best of them and secondly that Mr Bronson is far from pleased about Danny’s new school contract. The fact that he chooses this congested spot to argue the toss with her speaks volumes about him.

He quickly runs into Danny and airs his grievances. “School is not a restaurant where you can pick and choose from the menu”.  The problem is that Mr Bronson now appears to be totally powerless where Danny is concerned. Mind you, maybe Mr Bronson had a point when he earlier told Mrs McClusky that as deputy head he should have been consulted. Was this an oversight on her part, or did she simply not bother because she knew Danny wouldn’t get a fair hearing from him?

Mr Bronson has his revenge though – by warning Danny’s potential employers about the sort of person he is (or who Mr Bronson thinks he is). Cue a scene where both Mr Bronson and Danny berate each other at maximum volume. Given that Mr Bronson has been set to simmer for a number of episodes, his explosion is especially noteworthy.

This would make a reasonable but not terribly original episode ending. The fact that Danny appears to have stolen Mr Bronson’s car adds a little extra spice, but at present it’s still not clear how this part of the story will conclude ….

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Six

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Written by Kay Trainor. Tx 20th January 1989

Gonch is keen to use the computer before school. Ziggy is a lot less keen, but Gonch exercises his powers of persuasion and Ziggy meekly agrees, even though he hasn’t had his breakfast (this is slightly hard to believe, but no matter). Also in school early is superswot Mandy – which is the cue for some outrageous physical comedy from George Christopher. Ziggy attempts to peek at her notes (all in a good cause though, beefing up GHS – Gonch’s Homework Service) before being rumbled and beating a hasty and undignified retreat.

Gonch, Ziggy and Robbie discuss GHS’ current travails. Robbie’s contribution is to explode angrily (no change there then) whilst Gonch has his eye on the main prize – Mandy Freemont. If only he can woo her, then her intellect will be on tap to enrich their faltering business venture. His plan is a subtle one – plonk down a cheap copy of Les Miserables on the desk and wait for her to spot that he’s a kindred spirit. How can it fail?

Mr MacKenzie gets his first decent chunk of dialogue for a good few episodes (chatting with Danny about the swimming pool competition). He then spots Gonch’s Les Mis at exactly the same time as Mandy does. Curses!

Helen still wants to be an engineer, but her lack of correct options is a problem. It will also be difficult to make her way in a profession that’s still very male dominated, but it looks likely that Helen has enough drive to make a go of it. Trev is in full mocking mode when he finds out, physically giving her a hard time and casting aspersions about her sexuality (wearing braces and interested in engineering? He’s convinced she’s turning into a man).

The hunt for Clarke’s bike is on. Long term viewers will have to decide for themselves whether this is a more thrilling storyline than the search for Belinda’s lost clarinet. Personally I don’t think there’s much to choose between them.

Today they spot it from the top of a towerblock but when they get downstairs the bike has gone.  We’re not quite in Harriet the Donkey territory yet, but it’s getting close.

It’s a been a while since we’ve had a staffroom scene. Miss Booth is still attempting to get support for her self defence class, but has one major problem – Mrs McClusky wants it done on a voluntary basis which is against union rules.  It’s interesting that Grange Hill didn’t do more with the theme of union unrest (anyone who went to school in Britain during the mid to late eighties will no doubt recall that strikes were common) but presumably it was either felt to be a topic too tricky for teatime or simply something that the kids wouldn’t find interesting.

It’s girls versus boys in the roller hockey. The whole class is an expert on skates, apart from Ziggy (which is the excuse for some more pratfalls from Mr Greaves). That fact that everybody possesses excellent rollerblade skills feels unlikely to me, unless there’s been a lot of off-screen practice.

Les Diapositives de Bretagne is tonight’s attraction at the local Community Centre. Ziggy and Robbie spot Mandy outside and tell her that Gonch is a big fan, so a Mandy/Gonch date is quickly arranged. It’s not a band though – instead Gonch has to sit through a terrible ordeal. Mr Bronson and his holiday slides from Brittany ….

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Five

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Written by Kay Trainor. Tx 17th January 1989

Mauler McCall, along with his willing gang of stooges, is behaving in time-honoured GH bully fashion – extracting money with menaces (a ten pence levy for anyone using the bike sheds).  Clarke and Matthew are two of his potential victims, but have managed to escape his clutches. For now ….

It’ll be interesting to see how these two characters develop this year. Matthew had a good chunk of screentime in S11, but it was all centered around a plotline that appears to have been resolved. Clarke has yet to emerge as a character in his own right – so far he’s served as little more than a line feed for his friend.

Mr Bronson’s eyesight is very keen. At some distance he’s able to spot Justine was wearing outrageous earrings. Ah well, I suppose this proves that he’s not totally obsessed with Danny – he still has time to give others a hard time as well.

It’s noticeable that the friction between Mrs McClusky and Mr Bronson has been downplayed recently. Compare this to 1986 when they were entertainingly at each others throats for multiple episodes. Maybe it was felt that the teacher’s interactions and relationships should take a back seat for a while? That’s certainly something which ebbs and flows over the course of the series. By the mid to late nineties it was back with a vengeance (Mr Robson’s love-life, for example …)

Calley and Robbie are arguing again. You may not be surprised to learn that Robbie’s acting like an alpha male just for a change.

The latest face off between Danny and Mr Bronson is intriguing. Danny has the chance of a work experience placement with Mr Tilley (Niven Boyd) but doesn’t turn up for the meeting. He can’t be located anywhere in the school (he’s working on the mosaic in the swimming pool).

But Mr Bronson obviously knew this, as after he sees Mr Tilley off he heads straight for the pool. So he could have instructed someone to fetch Danny but seems to have decided that since he had skipped registration and lessons he didn’t deserve any favours. So Danny’s placement chance has evaporated – something which will obviously do nothing to help his tottering relationship with Mr Bronson. Although we don’t witness the fallout in this episode, surprisingly enough.

Last time when Vince picked a winning horse for Trev, Trev didn’t put any money on it. This time he’s going to put a bundle on Vince’s next choice. I really don’t think you have to be a mind-reader to work out what’s going to happen next.

Miss Booth is keen to organise self defence classes for the pupils. I like the way she attempts to make her point by putting both her hands around Mrs McClusky’s throat! A rare moment of levity for Gwyneth Powell.

Clarke continues to be terrorised by a (rather friendly looking, it must be said) Alsatian on his paper round. Matthew – riding Clarke’s bike – attempts to draw him off but crashes the bike. That’s a moment low on excitement and the end of episode cliffhanger – Clarke’s bike has been stolen! – isn’t much better.

But I’m prepared to hang on in there and hope that more engaging fare is just round the corner.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Four

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 13th January 1989

Calley, Ronnie and Fiona are busy planning Ronnie’s sixteenth birthday party. Fiona, the brazen hussy, has no compunction about approaching a group of (gasp!) older boys and offering them an invite – cue much girlish giggling ….

The girls have decided to throw two parties – an ‘A’ party (where all the cool kids will hang out) and an earlier ‘B’ party (where they can leave all the deadbeats and no-hopers). It’s a reasonable idea but is obviously doomed to failure. As if it wasn’t, the episode would no doubt lack a little spark.

Calley is suffering from divided loyalties. Robbie has an invite to the ‘A’ party (his belligerent and obnoxious nature means he’ll be perfect in the role of bouncer) but Ronnie and Fiona aren’t keen for Gonch and Ziggy to tag along. Calley knows that this will upset Robbie but the girls are adamant.  So Calley finds herself slightly excluded – with Fiona usurping her position as Ronnie’s best friend, as she did last year.

Ted and Robbie have a face-off about whether Calley is thick or not. Another episode, another mini-explosion from Robbie. Luckily Gonch is on hand to calm him down and explain that you have to keep a cool head in business.

Mr Griffiths doesn’t take kindly to being told to “shove off” by Danny, which is a fairly mild insult to cause the caretaker to react so strongly.  Mind you, given Grange Hill could never use the sort of language real-life pupils would spout every day, possibly the viewer is supposed to use their imagination and replace “shove” with something a little stronger.

Cue Mr Bronson stalking the corridors for his prey. He finally runs Danny to ground in Mr Robson’s registration class. Whilst a Mr Bronson rant and rave is always good fun there’s nothing more effective and menacing than when Michael Sheard dials it right down to icy calm.

We’re denied a big confrontation scene though as Danny is quickly passed from Mr Bronson to Mrs McClusky. Mrs McClusky attempts to bring Danny into line by dangling the carrot of work experience with a design firm in front of him. Given his general apathetic persona I think that’s a very generous offer. Will there eventually be a happy ending to the Danny story? Ah, best not to hold out too much hope on that score.

There then follows a fade to black as we move to Calley’s ‘B’ party. Geoffrey Beevers makes his second and final appearance as the somewhat hapless Mr Donnington. He doesn’t have a great deal to do but adds a touch of class nonetheless.

Boozy old Trev attempts to woo Georgina in the only way he knows how (this involves a fair amount of dancefloor groping). Thankfully Georgina’s ordeal doesn’t last long as Trev has to step outside for a pitstop and a few more glugs of alcohol. But he manages to make it back inside just in time to destroy Calley’s birthday cake. Throw in an appearance by Mauler and it’s pretty much the perfect evening.

This explains why the girls decide enough is enough and slink off quietly (cancelling the ‘A’ party). The gallant Gonch walks Georgina home and offers her the chance to go to a UB40 gig. She’s not keen (on UB40 anyway) but maybe this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Three

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 10th January 1989

Trevor remains convinced that Vince has savant like powers (maybe the drink has addled what few wits remain in his head). He asks Vince to pick a horse running in one of the afternoon races. Will it romp home, thereby confirming what Trevor already thinks he knows, or will it fall at the first fence, meaning that this plotline will draw to a close? I predict the former ….

Quite a few characters are introduced with character traits which are quickly dropped after a year or two. It’s therefore interesting that five years in Cally still has a firm interest in horoscopes.

Mr Bronson’s obsession with Danny continues apace. This is made clear by the way he remains at the school gate just on the offchance he might turn up, something which doesn’t go unnoticed by both Miss Booth and Mrs McClusky. Is it healthy for a teacher of Mr Bronson’s seniority to have such a mania about one pupil? It seems not (Ant Jones is mentioned) but Mrs McClusky seems disinclined to raise the point with him.

Mauler’s latest act of cartoon villainy sees him insist that Gonch’s fledgling homework service sorts out his French work. I’ve probably said this before, but Gripper Stebson he ‘aint.

Still, at least he gets his comeuppance from Mr Viner, the structural engineer (yes, really). Mr Viner (Danny McCarthy) is on hand to inspect some of the damage in the school and his work intrigues Helen. But Miss Booth can only offer her work placements in childcare or secretarial work, which pales by comparison.

Trevor is desperate to find a television to see the horse race. The only one available is being used by a bunch of swotty kids (you can tell they’re swotty by the fact they’re wearing glasses – a not terribly subtle touch, but it does work). The most vocal of their number is Mandy Freemont (Melanie Hiscock) who makes her debut here.

Gonch, tagging along with Vince and Robbie, looks a little crestfallen at how upset Mandy is by their boorish intrusion. This sows a seed for later on in the season when she removes her glasses, lets down her hair and – gosh! – suddenly blossoms from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan ….

Tegs and Justine spend the afternoon arguing about whether they should turn Mark in or not.  Since the police already know where he is and move in anyway, it’s a moot point and also something of a missed dramatic opportunity. Mark’s story therefore draws to a fairly speedy close, with Detective Bonner having the final word – telling a disbelieving Tegs that his brother wasn’t quite the innocent victim of bullying he claimed to be.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Two

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 6th January 1989

This episode opens with another look at Teg’s grimy homelife. Bedclothes that look like they haven’t been washed for months (if ever) and barking dogs outside the house help to add to the general feeling of squalor. The question of Teg’s brother, Mark, continues to bubble away.

The conflict between Mr Bronson and Danny Kendall begins to hot up. Danny’s not in class – he’s out in the corridors putting up posters for the forthcoming Mosaic competition – and Mr Bronson, after stalking through the building, eventually runs him to ground. There’s a definite air of menace to Mr Bronson here (although this was punctured when he earlier ran into Mrs Stone and her class). Whenever Michael Sheard drops his voice to a whisper, it’s incredibly effective (much more so than Mr Bronson ranting at full throttle).

Ronnie’s sixteenth birthday party is fast approaching. Who will she invite? Well not Trevor (still acting in an incredibly boorish fashion) or Ziggy (still acting in an incredibly annoying fashion). Robbie, due to his relationship with Calley, has an automatic invite, although it’s amusing that the girls are more interested in using him as a bouncer. He seems happy enough though, so for once Robbie manages to get through a scene without shouting.

Chrissie and Susi plan to order some clothes from Susi’s mother’s mail order catalogue on approval (in order that they can wear them for a while and then send them back). This is a sort of ho-hum plotline which will carry on for a time.

Much more entertaining is the revelation that Vince has psychic powers. Well not really, but when he saves Georgina from serious injury (telling her not to walk down a corridor just seconds before the ceiling collapses) it appears to be so. In the previous episode Mrs McClusky and Mr Griffiths had discussed the state of the school – he contested it was falling down whilst she maintained it was only a little frayed around the edges.

It’s true that the corridors look to have been dirtied down – presumably deliberately in order to create this sort of run down impression. It’s only a small visual touch, but it helps to give the impression that money is tight.

Are Ziggy and Robbie stupid? Time and time again they’ve come off badly thanks to Gonch’s money making schemes but they never seem to learn. And once again they’re drawn, like moths to the flame, to Gonch once more. But now that Gonch is computer savvy, maybe everything will run smoothly ….

Nice to see an old computer chestnut getting an airing here – with just a single button click, Ziggy’s able to wipe all the data on Gonch’s computer.

When Justine discovers that Mark is holed up in Tegs’ house it binds her into their criminal world. And after Tegs and Justine leave the house they run into a policeman called Bonner (Roy Spencer). Bonner is blasé about asking Tegs to empty his pockets (since Tegs complies so rapidly it’s clearly a very common occurrence).

Tegs’ father makes a very brief appearance. He doesn’t return until series thirteen, which is something of a shame as he’s played by Alan Ford, an actor with considerable presence and an impressive track record.

After the police leave, Tegs and Justine discover Mark hiding behind the fireplace (despite the fact it’s a gas fire he’s covered in soot). This amuses them both, which provides us with the episode ending. It also helps to reiterate that Justine is now on the side of the law-breakers, not law-makers, which is interesting to see.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode One

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 3rd January 1989

Series twelve opens with a sweeping shot tracking through a fairly bleak towerblock environment. The view then switches to an overhead shot. This is Clarke’s paper-round stamping ground (and one which fills him with a sense of despair – having to deliver papers to the top floor of a block of flats isn’t an enticing prospect).

Along the way poor Clarke finds himself berated by several unhappy customers, most notably Alec Wallis (a very familiar television face). He also has to tangle with an unfriendly dog (not the most thrilling of ways to kick off the new series, I have to say).

We’re then gradually reintroduced to the regulars via a series of vignettes. Justine isn’t enjoying breakfast television (“I hate Anne Diamond”) whilst Tegs is spark out in front of his. Meanwhile, Vince confides to Trevor and Ziggy that Grange Hill is just so predictable. “Some little kid’s gonna be in trouble ‘cos they’re wearing the wrong uniforms. Robbie and Calley will be on to each other like an old married couple. Gonch’ll have some new money making racket. Somebody’ll be pining after Georgina Hayes. Bronson will be gunning for Danny Kendall”.

This seems to be a sly – and not totally inaccurate – swipe at the way that the storylines in recent years have become a little predictable. And when we see a grumpy Calley and Robbie taking lumps out of each other, the first of Vince’s predictions have come true . I swear that Robbie gets angrier every time he appears ….

Trevor’s not turned into a more attractive character since last year. Especially since he’s taken to swigging from cans of lager first thing in the morning and lusting after Georgina. Quite why Trev thinks that Georgina would be interested in beery old him is anybody’s guess.

Another familiar theme from last year gets another outing here (Justine’s obsession with flouting the school regulations). Today she’s plastering on the make-up. This exasperates her older sister, Tracey (Penny-Belle Fowler), who’s been left in charge whilst their mother’s away. This absence isn’t expanded upon – it’s simply accepted as natural that parents will sometimes leave their children to fend for themselves.

Gonch is fulfilling his accepted role in Vince’s world by launching GHS (Gonch’s Homework Service). And now he’s entered the computer age (with a bedroom PC) there will be no stopping him. Buckle up, it’s probably going to be a bumpy ride.

Ziggy attempts to start Mr Bronson’s stalled car. He’s remarkably confident of success (which of course turns out to be misplaced). Mauler, ambling by, suggests a jump start. Mr Bronson, isolated in his car, seems a little vulnerable – although it seems to be that the boys only have his best interests at heart.

Teg’s older brother, Mark, was an oft-mentioned but never seen character last year (due to the fact he was banged up in prison). Now (played by Adam Ross) he makes a sudden appearance. Tegs is delighted to see him and equally delighted to learn that he’s escaped from the nick. Tegs and Mark clearly have a close relationship (Mark is appalled, but resigned, to learn that Tegs has been fending for himself whilst Tegs’ hero-worship of his elder sibling is plain to see).

Helen has one of the standout lines of this, or any other GH episode, describing their forthcoming GCSE’s as “General Collapse of Secondary Education”. But Helen, sporting a new haircuit, barely has time to expand on this theme to Ronnie and Fiona before Georgina comes running up to them – desperate to escape Trevor’s lumbering clutches. Their collective response (“ewwwwwwww”) speaks volumes.

One person who’s not acting in a totally predictable manner is Danny, who for once is in school nice and early. But he hasn’t turned over that much of a new leaf because whilst he’s got a good reason to be there (helping Mr MacKenzie) he simply can’t bring himself to submit to the questioning of Mrs McClusky and Mr Griffiths. So he leaves school yet again ….

The episode closes with a slow close-up on Mr Bronson, who’s in no doubt that Danny’s comeuppance is long overdue. This sets into motion one of S12’s key themes. “It is time that young man was brought into line”.

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