Written by Jane Hollwood. Tx 9th February 1982
Education cuts, as previously discussed in episode four, once again get an airing here. Miss Mooney tells N1 that they don’t have enough science equipment to go round. “We get so much money to spend over the year on science equipment and I’m afraid it’s gone already.” The discussion about the politics of this is kept to a minimum but it’s still there (Zammo. “How are we supposed to learn without the proper gear and all?” Fay. “It’s the education cuts innit?”)
Miss Mooney has a suggestion. A local company is offering money if they can collect Minto Bar wrappers. Six hundred wrappers equals thirty pounds – it seems like a good idea and when the boys and girls decide to have a competition to see who can collect the most wrappers that just adds a little extra spice.
Although she’s previously been a non-speaking background character, this episode sees Janet St. Clair (Simone Nylander) utter her first lines. Janet starts as she means to go on as she wonders if encouraging them to eat more chocolate is a good idea! Later she pops up at the tuck shop counter, asking anybody who buys a Minto Bar to pass their wrapper over. Nylander’s performance, even this early on, is so earnest that it’s undeniably comic and this will prove to be a rich seam of comedy over the next five years (often featuring Janet’s attempts to make friends with the unwilling Roland).
The one dissenting voice is Annette’s. Like Mr Stewart in episode four she’s not happy with the concept of fundraising – she believes that the authorities should provide the equipment they need. Although Fay dismisses her comments as simply Annette being in a mood, it’s clear that she has a point.
When Roland claims he can lay his hands of three hundred wrappers he becomes the class hero. But can he really follow through? Well, yes and no. Roland sees this as his big chance to be popular for once, but it’s no surprise that things aren’t quite straightforward as they seem. His father works for a company that delivers the bars and he has a box in his van – but he tells Roland he can’t just give him a whole box. They might not miss one or two bars, but if a whole box goes missing then he’ll lose his job.
Roland’s downcast, but even knowing this he still goes in the dead of night to the van and begins to slowly remove the wrappers. It’s another memorable moment in the character’s development – he’s promised Zammo, Jonah and the others and doesn’t want to let them down, but he also knows that his actions will probably cost his father his job. In this case, it’s clear that attempting to curry favour at school is the most important thing to him.
As an aside, this episode is a rarity as we see both parents of a schoolchild at the same time. Mr Browning (Mike Savage), Mrs Browning (Jo Kendall) and Roland are shown enjoying the evening’s television whilst also partaking of some treats from Mr Browning’s van. Although Mrs Browning would later leave home, one parent families were still unusual during this period of the programme, but for some reason (presumably budget-related) we tended to only see one parent of any given family. So the likes of Mr Tucker, Mrs Humphries and Mr McMahon might be mentioned occasionally, but were never glimpsed. It also caught my attention that we never see what the Brownings are watching – instead the illusion of their television viewing is created by sound effects and some evocative library music. Also telling is that neither parent pays their son very much attention as both are much more interested in the television.
Roland’s pilfering of his dad’s stock comes to light and Mr Browning storms to the school, demanding to be recompensed. Whilst this is going on the managing director of Minto Bars, Mr Brocklehurst (Peter Dennis), is arranging some nice publicity shots with the class and the attractive Miss Minto Bar (Liz D’Esterre). Delightfully, Miss Minto Bar has even had the front of her hair sprayed green – all the better to match the colour of the wrappers! Peter Dennis gives a nice comic turn as the rather slimy Brocklehurst, who clearly cares more about publicity than he does about doing good for local schools.
Although he is the one who’s able to suggest a solution that allows Mr Browning to keep his job, the school to get their science equipment as well as provide him with plenty of good publicity – so in the end everybody (including Roland) ends up as a winner.