Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 5th April 1978
Both Trisha and Benny decide to play truant – but for very different reasons. Benny has been suffering racial taunts at the hands of Doyle and his friends, whilst Trisha continues to clash with the teachers over her use of jewellery and nail varnish (both of which are strictly forbidden). Mr Mitchell sets out to find them, which he does, and once again demonstrates that he’s the rare sort of teacher – the listening kind.
The chronology of this episode seems a little odd, since Benny’s back wearing casual clothes (which is one of the excuses Doyle uses to bully him). A few episodes ago we’d seen him kitted out in a new school uniform, so it’s a mystery what’s become of it.
The other taunts, about the colour of his skin, seem to be hard for him to take and its the reason why he skips school. Compared to Gripper’s reign of terror in series six it’s mild stuff, but it’s still noteworthy for the series to have tackled this topic so early on.
Trisha’s attitude is the one she’ll carry with her for the rest of her time at Grange Hill. She simply doesn’t understand why other people have the right to tell her what to wear. When school uniform is later made optional it’s something that obviously pleases her, but she’ll still find plenty of other things to complain about!
Trisha and Benny both run into each other (literally) whilst they’re truanting. This is the scene that has Trisha’s infamous line to Benny where she tells him that he “can’t help being a nig-nog.” It’s meant ironically (he answers back that she can’t help being a honky) but it’s one of those moments that would be almost certain to be snipped out now if the episode was repeated. Which is a shame, as it works in the context of the story.
It seems that nobody really believed Grange Hill would be a particular success, so the positive ratings and feedback (tempered with the negative feedback from some press and parents) seemed to have come as a surprise. A second series, with double the amount of episodes, was commissioned and from series two onwards the show would begin to develop a greater level of complexity (especially with interweaving plot-threads).