Grange Hill. Series Four – Episode Fourteen

grange hill s04e14

Written by Alan Janes. Tx 13th February 1981

Whilst most of this episode has a light-hearted feel, at the end there’s a much darker and disturbing tone.

The bulk of the running time is concerned with Alan and Susi’s relationship.  Or lack of it.  Tucker’s seized with a burning desire to find out if they really are a couple, so he has one of his brainwaves.  He writes a letter to Susi and signs it from Alan, suggesting a date.  He tells Alan that he and Tommy will meet up with him later at the same place.  Tommy and Tucker then stake-out the meeting place, waiting to see if Susi will make the rendezvous with the oblivious Alan.

The letter from “Alan” is certainly very florid, much to the amusement of Pamela.  “Every-time I see you my heart throbs.”  But Pamela also admits she’s a little jealous, as she’s never been asked out – and wonders if it has anything to do with the fact she spends so much time around horses.  If only she knew that Tucker’s aching to arrange a date with her – although it’s possible she may react with horror to that news!

In the end, Susi didn’t go because her mother found the letter and forbade her.  Maggie Riley (as Mrs McMahon) was one of Grange Hill‘s most formidable and snobbish mothers and her later run-in with Tony Barton (playing Mr Humphries) is a sheer joy.  Mrs McMahon is completely bested by Mr Humphries in a short, but sweet, scene.

Another running thread through the episode is the difficulty the pupils find in catching a bus home.  The lack of buses leads indirectly to a running battle between Tucker and co and some Brookdale kids.  Also making an appearance during this scene is Graham Cole (later to play Tony Stamp in The Bill).  Back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s he was making a living as an extra/walk-on (he pops up many times in Doctor Who during this period).

If most of the episode has a comic feel then the emphasis shifts dramatically at the end.  The problem with the buses causes two younger pupils, William (Stephen Cobbett) and Benny’s brother Michael (Mark Bishop) to walk home across the common.  They’ve been warned not to do this, and the reason becomes plain when William is attacked by a strange man (played by Jay Neill).

Although Grange Hill was a children’s series and couldn’t be particularly explicit, it’s still a powerful moment.  The man asks both the children to help him search for his lost dog, but this is just a ruse to isolate them.  As the two boys move apart he drags William into the bushes and a brief struggle ensues.  Luckily Tucker was passing by and William didn’t suffer anything worse than a few cuts and bruises.  This is another memorable, almost PIF (public information film) like moment, as it graphically demonstrates why children should never talk to strangers.

And it’s all the more effective because it happens so unexpectedly.  Another all-film episode, this one is efficiently directed by Colin Cant.

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