Grange Hill. Series Five – Episode Eighteen

grange hill s05e18

Written by Alan Janes.  Tx 5th March 1982

The end of term exams offers Pogo a sure-fire way to make some money.  Which unsurprisingly ends in total disaster.

Pogo’s always looking for a way to buck the system.  In one exam we see him with possible answers written on his shirt cuffs, but he knows that the only way to achieve fool-proof results is to know the questions in advance.  His prayers seem to have been answered when he stumbles on some exam papers in an unlocked cabinet.  Along with Stewpot they sell the answers at ten pence a time, written on the inside of chewing gum paper (sweets are allowed in the exams so this is an ideal way not to attract attention).

If the punchline isn’t hard to guess (Pogo had found the previous years exam papers and therefore all his hard work was for nothing) it doesn’t diminish the comedy, as everybody looks increasingly puzzled as to why the answers supplied by Pogo bear no relation to the questions!

A more dramatic beat is provided when Claire comes under increasing pressure from her mother to do well in all the exams.  Although these end of term exams aren’t terribly important in the general scheme of things, to Mrs Scott they are.  Grange Hill would understandably recycle plots down the years, mainly because they were still relevant to each new generation of children tuning in.  So Mrs Scott bears a strong resemblance to Mrs MacMahon, as both failed to see that whilst the pressure of the exams was bad enough, the additional pressure they were heaping on their children only served to make matters worse.  And Claire’s bedroom, where she spends her time miserably attempting to drum some facts into her head, simply screams early eighties – there’s a poster of Adam Ant on the wall, whilst Duran Duran and the Human League play on the radio.

Elsewhere, the relationship between Mr Sutcliffe and Miss Mooney seems to be finally off.  Mr Sutcliffe clearly had commitment issues as he was much more interested in going to see a film than looking for a flat.  I’m assuming that it was already known that James Wynn wouldn’t be returning for series six (although many characters – both pupils and staff – tended to get written out in a much more unceremonious fashion.  Usually by the audience being told they’d left at the start of the first episode of the next series).

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the episode is the way that all the class comes together at the end to confront Gripper.  One of the mysteries of the series to date is why this hasn’t happened very often before – it’s true that Gripper’s an intimidating figure, but weight of numbers would be able to defeat him.  There’s a nice camera pan from Gripper’s viewpoint as he observes the ring of faces surrounding him.

It’s an interesting point on which to close what has been a strong and consistent series.  Gripper will be back next year, but his targets will have changed and it’ll herald a run of episodes that rank with the best that Grange Hill ever produced.

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