Written by Alan Janes. Tx 26th February 1980
I don’t know what the mortality rate of Grange Hill is, compared to other schools in the UK, but I’d guess it’s a great deal higher. Deaths, of course, are a staple in any soap opera – they help to create interest, ratings and spark debate.
The deaths in Grange Hill are sometimes, but not always, designed with a specific point in mind – they can be morality tales with a clear message. In this case we’re told that dares can be dangerous and potentially fatal.
A craze of dares is sweeping the school and at the same time there are running fights between Grange Hill and Brookdale pupils. Since these often take place at the local shopping centre, it’s placed out of bounds (and teachers are sent on patrol there).
Naturally, many of the kids, including Tucker and Alan, happily ignore this order and they’re lucky not to be caught by Mr Baxter. But tragedy strikes when Antoni Karamanopolis (Vivian Mann) is dared by Billy Phillips (Tony London) to walk along the rooftop of the shopping precinct – he falls and is killed instantly.
Antoni was a typical supporting Grange Hill character. He appeared in a handful of episodes during series two and three, sometimes just in the background but occasionally with a few (usually not vital) lines. He was clearly the ideal person to be sacrificed – someone who would be familiar to the audience, but not one of the central characters.
Of course, this does lessen the impact of his death (imagine if it had been, say, Benny) and apart from one casual mention in a later episode he doesn’t appear to be greatly missed – there’s certainly no attempt to plant a tree in his memory, ala Danny Kendall.
Mr Baxter’s pursuit of the children through the shopping centre does provide us with an awkward moment as he follows them into the toilets and proceeds to try and look under the toilet doors. He becomes aware that he’s being observed (by a traffic warden) and tries to shrug it off by telling him that he’s looking for some boys. It’s played as a comedy moment, but it’s hard to imagine something similar being done today!