Grange Hill. Series Five – Episode Sixteen

grange hill s05e16

Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 26th February 1982

It’s the day of the school revue and tempers are becoming more and more frayed.  There’s a very decent turn out though, which is a little surprising as at the start of the episode we’re told that very few tickets have been sold.  This is due to the fact that Pogo’s been given the sole rights to sell the tickets and he’s put his own mark up on the price.

Tucker and Alan take over the ticket sales and in a very short time they manage to ensure that the event is a sell out.  They achieve this by offering a bottle of champagne to one lucky ticket holder, although it’s not really champagne and only cost two pounds – which probably gives a fair indication of its quality.  I love the scene in the off licence as the man behind the counter (John Tordoff) looks at the pair of them dead-pan as they proudly plonk down the money – in mostly pennies and halfpennies.  He fastidiously removes a piece of fluff from the pile, before Tucker and Alan cheerly saunter off.

Tucker’s certainly changed from the tearaway we saw in series one.  His desire to ensure that the school revue is a success is his only motivation and he certainly goes to some effort to achieve this.  Most amusingly, he wangles Pogo a role in the revue (in exchange for the tickets).  Pogo’s far from impressed though, he has to dance with girls and complains non-stop that he’s unable to lift Claire – claiming she’s too heavy!

In order for the episode to work you have to believe that Mrs McClusky has no idea what the content of the revue will be.  This is hard to accept, especially since previously there were fears voiced that she’d attempt to censor the production.  But if you can swallow this then there’s a great deal of pleasure to be derived from her discomfort as the evening wears on (for extra comedy value she’s sitting next to a vicar).

The opening number has a mild bit of raunch, thanks to Precious, Suzanne and Claire (the camera drops down several times to their tight, jeans-clad bottoms) as Mrs McClusky’s smile becomes ever more fixed.  Next, Hopwood, Sutcliffe and Baxter are all ridiculed by Trisha (they’re depicted as stuffed dogs).  The first two take it in good heart, but it’s characteristic that Mr Baxter remains firmly unamused.

Cathy’s impression of Margaret Thatcher seems to be a riff on the Prime Minster’s comment that a return to Victorian values would be a good thing, except it seems that the first time Mrs Thatcher mentioned it was a year later, in 1983.  Grange Hill‘s ahead of the game then.  And broad though this section is – with gruel flying around – it does have a barbed political point to make.

It’s nice to see Tucker, Alan, Trisha and Cathy for the final time at Grange Hill, but the most unexpected appearance is that of Penny Lewis.  Last seen at the end of series three, she was then replaced by the suspiciously similar character of Pamela Cartwright for the fourth series.  And it’s probably apt that the last few minutes are Tucker’s (he launches into a song in praise of Mr McGuffy) as he was the hub of the series during the first four years – if you mention the “Tucker era” then most people will know what you mean.

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