Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 8th February 1978
Benny Green (Terry Sue Patt) has the honour of being the first pupil we see entering the grounds of Grange Hill. Quite why he’s so early is a mystery that’s not explained here – but it’s obvious from his opening scene that he lives for football. He’s also black and poor – which are both considerable disadvantages in late seventies Britain, but he’s always a positive character and never spends his time complaining about what he doesn’t have.
This opening episode is quite effective in demonstrating how intimidating secondary school can be on your first day. But whether this was reassuring or frightening for those children yet to make the leap from their primary schools is open to debate.
The various pupils we see react in varying ways. Tucker (Todd Carty) and Alan (George Armstrong) take it in their stride whilst Judy (Abigail Brown) and Justin (Robert Morgan) view the place with barely disguised horror. Both are isolated since all of their old friends have gone to different schools. Trisha (Michelle Herbert) on the other hand, seems to regard the new school with complete disinterest.
Most are placed under the care of Mr Mitchell (Michael Percival). As their form tutor, Mr Mitchell will be a key figure in guiding them through the school year and it’s clear from the outset that he’s both funny and compassionate.
On the other end of the scale is Mr Foster (Roger Sloman) who we’ll see more of in episode two. He lacks all of Mr Mitchell’s redeeming qualities and his early run-in with Tucker makes this quite clear. It’s somewhat staggering to learn that Sloman was only thirty two at the time this was made, as he looks a good ten or fifteen years older. It certainly bears out the truth that some people aged quicker back in the old days!
By the end of the episode we’ve seen Tucker and Trisha clash for the first time and everything now seems to have settled down a little. The mystery of Alan’s surname (given as Turner in the episode, Hargreaves on the end credits and later to be changed again to Humphries) is a mystery that’s never been explained (at least not to me).