Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Ten

Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 2nd February 1990

Last episode’s cliffhanger is casually negated after we discover that Justine and Chrissy are once again hale and hearty (which feels like a bit of a cheat).

They, along with Natalie, continue to ruminate over their t-shirt business, although it slips somewhat into the background today (only really surfacing when Matthew admits that he’s unable to pay for the shirt he’s ordered).

Matthew has regressed back to his series eleven persona – monosyllabic and with eyes downcast, he cuts a rather forlorn figure. Tegs comes to his rescue by offering to pay for his shirt, but when he hands over a fiver Justine is automatically suspicious.

The reason why he’s flush is quickly established (he’s going to stay with his estranged mother over the weekend). Justine is immediately contrite, but the fact she dithers so long before apologising is a mark of how much their friendship has fractured

Eventually she plucks up enough courage to speak to him, as he’s waiting for his lift. But before she can finish speaking, Andy pops up and acts like a bit of an idiot. In his defence, he didn’t know what was going on (although I doubt he would have cared anyway) but it once again makes you wonder what she sees in him …

The saga of Mr Hargreaves’ missing photo continues apace, although why he’s so intent on recovering a picture of a vintage car remains somewhat baffling. It’s slightly easier to understand why Mr Griffiths is happy to get his missing picture (a shot of a young him in uniform) back – especially if that was his only copy.

The plot then gets a little wooly. Mr Hargreaves, spotting that Mr MacKenzie has a photo (Mr Griffiths’, remember) wonders if it’s his photo (of his car, remember). Rather than asking Mr MacKenzie outright (and seemingly unaware at first that Mr MacKenzie could be found in the CDT room) he ends up rummaging in the bins, believing that his picture may have been thrown away with the other wooden rubbish.

Events are being manipulated by Rod, who has Mauler firmly under his thumb (he’s subcontracted him to get the empty frame). Since Rod also now has Mr Hargreaves’ photo, when he put it together with the frame no doubt he’ll be on a nice little earner. Today’s episode abounds with examples of Rod’s ability to make a profit – getting a bacon sandwich for Mr Hargreaves and then pocketing the change, for example.

Miss Booth’s new hairstyle causes a stir whilst Mr MacKenzie gets a nice scene (rummaging in a junk – sorry, antique – shop for a present for his wife). Even Mrs McClusky is the recipient of a few decent lines today (which is quite a rarity these days) as she ruminates on her early love life.

Aichaa’s dreams of becoming a model are shattered after she’s told she’s not the type. She takes the news quite calmly, deciding that after all it wasn’t the life for her. This seems slightly hard to swallow.

Georgina, who has accompanied her friend, seems much more the type though and may just have a future. Aichaa, after a momentary spasm of annoyance over the way her friend has manipulated her, forgets all about it. This seems slightly hard to swallow.

We meet Tegs’ stepfather for the first time (played by Brian Croucher). Mr Glanville (Croucher) has an uncomfortable discussion with Tegs, due to the boy’s inability to respond. As for Mrs Glanvile (Christina Avery), she has less screentime than her husband, so hardly has the chance to make an impression here.

This should be the conclusion of a long-running storyline (Tegs’ search for his mother) but his attitude all episode long suggests that today’s not the day for happy endings. So it’s no surprise when his mother discovers that he’s left the house via the bedroom window.

Grange Hill Series Seven and Eight coming to DVD from Eureka DVD in November 2019

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It’s good to see that, a year following the release of series five and six, the next two series of Grange Hill are slated for release this November.  And if the front cover is to be believed then this DVD will also include the 1981 Christmas Special (which was left off the previous DVD).

Given its school disco setting, it was assumed that music clearances had scuppered its release – so possibly the clearances have now been sorted or there may be trims/music substitutions. Time will tell.

As for series seven and eight, it’ll be good to retire my old off-airs and revisit these two years.  For me, series seven has always felt like it was treading water somewhat – by this point GH would have benefited from the introduction of some fresh blood (although we’d have to wait until the following year for a new crop of first years).

Gripper (apart from a brief cameo) is missed.  At least they didn’t attempt to replicate his character and Jimmy McClaren (Gary Love) is fitfully amusing from time to time (although his villainy does seem quite restrained compared to Gripper’s rampaging).  Possibly the most interesting thing about Jimmy’s inclusion in the series is that it enables Roland to make the switch from victim to bully.

Jeremy Irvine’s swimming pool demise (Grange Hill‘s second pupil fatality) is the clear dramatic highpoint whilst there’s a generous (three episodes) amount of time set outside the school. Two episodes focus on the mock UN summit hosted by David Bellamy (they also feature a young Gina Bellman) whilst the third centres around the odd couple of Mr Baxter and Roland, who find themselves in trouble during an orientating weekend.

If series seven felt at times like an inferior companion to series six, then series eight initiated a major shake-up.  Most of the fifth-formers failed to make it to the sixth form – only Stewpot, Claire and Precious survived.  Indeed, had it not been for the plotline of Stewpot’s infatuation with Annette (a bizarre twist – Claire might have been a bit of a moaner, but surely she was preferable to Annette) then they would have nothing at all to do ….

The new crop of first-years – Gonch, Hollo, Trevor, Calley, Ronnie – fell into familiar patterns. Gonch was simply another Pogo (always with his eye on the next money-making scheme) whilst Calley and Ronnie are this years Trisha/Cathy or Annette/Fay.

There’s conflict amongst the fourth-years, as the remnants of Rodney Bennett and Brookdale found themselves rubbing shoulders with the old GH hands (although I’ve never quite understood how three schools worth of pupils could fit into two school buildings).

By far the most significant new arrival is, of course, Mr Bronson (“You boy!”). For many he defines Grange Hill, although his era (series eight – twelve, 1985 to 1989) saw some peaks and troughs for the show (series ten in 1987 was a bit of a nadir for 1980’s GH as the running thread of Harriet the Donkey was stretched to breaking point).

For those who want more episode by episode information, posts on series seven can be found here whilst my thoughts on series eight are here.

Grange Hill – The Rise of Gripper

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With Eureka due to release series five and six of Grange Hill on DVD later in the year, it seems like the ideal time for an irregular series of quick posts looking at some of the key themes developed across these two years. To kick off – the rise and rise of Gripper Stebson (Mark Savage).

GH had tackled bullying before (as early as the third episode of series one) but there was something very different about Gripper. Since the first series was episodic in nature, there wasn’t any room to develop the plot-thread of first-former Judy being targeted by the mean fifth-former Jackie Heron in any great depth.  One intervention later, everybody lived happily ever after ….

Gripper would prove to have much more staying power. Indeed, although he had appeared in a handful of series four episodes and would go on to cameo in a few post series six ones (“oy! that’s my bike!”) the story of Master Stebson is also, in part, the story of series five and six.

Previous victims of bullying – such as Judy and Benny (who had been targeted by Doyle) – found they had others (Trisha/Tucker) who were prepared to stand with them. Poor Roland Browning (Erkan Mustafa) had nobody and this made all of his wretched misfortunes throughout 1982 even more disturbing. If the message from series one (delivered by Trisha’s older sister to Judy) seemed just a little too pat (report a bully and all will be well) then Roland’s silent suffering had more of the ring of truth.

It’s tempting to wonder if the change in tone was initiated by Susi Hush, the new producer for series five.  It’s telling that the previous producer, Colin Cant, had – back in 1980 – cast severe doubts about whether GH could ever show the reality of bullying.

And yet that’s what was achieved throughout 1982 and 1983.  Possibly this was simply an indication of the series’ increasing confidence – although GH had had long-running plot-threads before, this was the period when they started to elongate even further. With an established audience base, it seems likely that Grange Hill had no qualms in pacing certain storylines quite slowly.

In later years this could sometimes turn out to be more of a curse than a blessing (Gonch’s interminable money-making schemes became tiresome very quickly) but Roland’s apparent suicide attempt at the end of S05E16 has a special resonance due to the fact that it was placed towards the end of a run of episodes which had featured him under attack from Gripper on so many occasions.