Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Seventeen

grange-hill-s08e17

Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 17th April 1985

Hollo has a brainwave about how to assemble a new set for the school play at short notice – raid the rubbish dump for suitable material.  Along with Miss Booth and the rest of E1 they head down to the dump to pick up numerous likely objects.  The fact that everything’s bound to be rusty and filthy doesn’t seem to concern Miss Booth, but I guess that needs must.

The new set doesn’t go down well with all the performers and Fay’s sporting commitments means that she’s not able to make a vital rehearsal.  This is all too much for Miss Washington who goes into something of a tizzy.  Miss Washington is sporting an interesting dress – something she’s worn before, but with a plain black dress over the top of it.

Roland’s back from his French misadventure and naturally enough doesn’t really want to talk about it.  Unluckily for him, Janet’s present to fill in all of the embarrassing details.  Now that Fabienne’s departed, so has Roland’s striped jacket and beret, although this particular storyline will be referenced again in the 1985 Christmas Special.

Jackie and Banksie are still serving their suspension.  Time is clearly hanging heavily on their hands, as we see them aimlessly wheel around on a roundabout in a deserted children’s playground.   There’s rather a nice bleakness to this scene – although it’s a sunny day, the inner-city feel of the location matches Banksie’s dialogue.  He tells Jackie they’d better get used to doing nothing, after all that’s what they’ll be doing after they leave school.

This nihilistic attitude has been aired by others before, with numerous pupils wondering why (like Jackie) they should be fretting about exams when there’s no jobs to go to after they leave school.  It’s not been touched upon for a while, so this moment helps to anchor the series in the mid eighties, when unemployment was still high.

Mr Smart continues to entertain (his transformation from the cold, unbending teacher of previous years is now complete).  Make no mistake, he’s not a man to cross, but his newly found sense of humour has certainly fleshed his character out.  Here he once again crosses swords with Gonch, who had popped into his office to retrieve Mr Bronson’s wig.  Simon Heywood doesn’t milk the comedy, but his incredulous reaction that the tattered hairpiece is Mr Bronson’s (at one point he gingerly pushes it across the desk with a pencil) is nicely done.  As is the moment when he hands Mr Bronson a small parcel containing his lost property.

With Mr Smart due to write to Gonch’s parents to tell them exactly how badly behaved he’s been all year (slightly odd that he hasn’t done so before) Gonch starts to fret about how well, or not, he’s going to do in the upcoming exams.  So naturally enough he decides to cheat ….

Even for Gonch, this is a particularly hairbrained scheme.  We’re told that Vince is a bit of a swot (not the first time this year that a character trait has been dropped on us out of the blue) and has prepared tapes which will help him in the exams.  Gonch “borrows” one such tape for a French exam, but Ronnie decides to swop it (for The Meteors – presumably it was 1985’s Monkey Breath) and everything goes downhill from there.  It’s quite interesting to see Trevor, introduced in episode one as something of a hard-man, tell Gonch that he’s mad to try and cheat in the exam.  For whatever reason it wasn’t decided to follow through and make Trevor the class bully – the introduction of Imelda will help to fill that gap.

The identities of the set smashers hasn’t been one of the series’ most taxing mysteries and N4 take their own brand out vengeance out on Banksie and his shadow, Loop.

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