Grange Hill. Series Two – Episode One

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Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 2nd January 1979

There’s an influx of new faces in the first few episodes of series two. This is because the number of episodes were doubled from series one (from nine to eighteen) so more characters had to be created to share the various plot-lines

Cathy Hargreaves, Susi McMahon and Penny Lewis would all become central characters, whilst others (such as Andrew Stanton and Antoni Karamanopolis) would be placed more in the background, but did step into the limelight occasionally.

Mr Baxter, Mr Sutcliffe and Mr Keating all debuted as well (and would all be major figures in the development of the series during the next few years). A new headmaster, Mr Llewellyn (Sean Arnold) also makes his first appearance here and it doesn’t take long before he’s ruffled more than a few feathers amongst the staff.

Mr Baxter (Michael Cronin) views the new headmaster with disfavour – in his eyes he’s a progressive and his approach is doomed to failure. The Baxter formula for keeping order is quite simple – let them know who’s boss and don’t take any nonsense. Cronin’s pitch-perfect from his first scene as he’s able to bring a nice degree of resigned weariness to Baxter as well as a finely honed sense of irony.

Mr Baxter (like some of the other new arrivals) has presumably been at the school for a while – it’s just that we’ve never seen them. This is something that happens quite often down the years at Grange Hill – pupils and teachers just appear and everybody acts as if they’ve been there for years. And as we work our way through the entire series we’ll see that the reverse is also true – some characters just vanish, with never a word spoken about their fate.

At least the departures in series two (Ann Wilson and Judy Preston) aren’t brushed under the carpet – and in the case of Judy she does appear in the first few episodes before transferring to Brookdale. Ann Wilson is mentioned in the first episode, but we never see her (and by episode three we’re told that she and her family have moved abroad).

It’s interesting to ponder why Judy Preston was written out – as Penny Lewis essentially inherited the character of Ann, Judy could have been moved alongside her as her best friend (instead, another new character – Susi McMahon – was created). Perhaps it was felt that Judy was nice, but too wet.  Her place as Trisha’s friend is taken by Cathy Hargreaves (Lindy Brill). There’s certainly no doubt that Cathy is a more interesting character than Judy and the combination of her and Trisha seemed to click from the start.

Dramatically, this episode seems to be pitched at a higher level than most of series one. After Tucker’s high-jinks accidentally breaks a classroom window, Mr Mitchell finds himself publicly criticised by Mr Llewellyn for leaving his class unattended. The fact that Mr Llewellyn berates him in front of his class is a source of considerable annoyance to him and it’s the first sign that some of the staff are finding relationships with the new head to be rather difficult (this is something that will rumble on for the next few episodes).

The other major plot-thread of the opening episode concerns Benny, who finds himself accused of stealing fifty pence. The theft occurred during a football match between Grange Hill and Brookdale, and Benny was the last person to leave the changing room. He is in possession of a fifty pence piece, which is suspicious, but it’s not solid evidence. However, it’s enough to convince some of his team-mates, who tell Mr Baxter that they won’t play if Benny’s in the team.

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Grange Hill. Series Two – Episode Two

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Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 5th January 1979

Benny’s still under suspicion and it’s enough to make him disinclined to go to school. So his parents decide to pay Mr Llewellyn a visit.

This particular story is wrapped up by the end of the episode, which does feel a little rushed (had it played out over a few more episodes then much more drama could have been mined from it). Over the years, we’ll see how Grange Hill would begin to interweave numerous plot-lines across the season. Although having said that, when Andrew Stanton is introduced in the next episode it’ll begin a storyline that isn’t resolved until the fourth series!

The true culprit is caught and punished, but it still leaves Benny feeling hurt and upset. Was he victimised because of the colour of his skin and his poor background? It’s interesting that the previous episode is quite explicit in showing how Benny came by his fifty pence (he found it lying on the ground on the way to school). Had they not done this, then there might have been some doubt as to whether he was telling the truth when he protested his innocence..

We also bid farewell to Judy as she leaves Grange Hill for Brookdale – although she’ll reappear in the final episode of series two.

Gange Hill. Series Two – Episode Three

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Written by Alan Janes. Tx 9th January 1979

This episode (the twelfth in the series) was the first not to be written by Phil Redmond. It was penned by Alan Janes who’d go on to script another eighteen episodes during the next four years or so.

Whereas series one concentrated on one class, in series two the focus often switches between two different classes and this is the first episode not to feature any of the characters who have until now been the main focus of attention (Tucker, Benny, Trisha, etc). Instead, we concentrate on two new arrivals – Antoni Karamanopolis (Vivian Mann) and Andrew Stanton (Mark Eadie).

Antoni is always falling asleep in class and a concerned Miss Summers (Philomena McDonagh) wants to know why. Since he’s Greek it’s maybe not a surprise (in clichéd television terms anyway) that his family own a restaurant and he’s been helping out several times a week. These late nights are clearly taking their toll, so Miss Summers pays his parents a visit.

Mr Karamanopolis (Alexandros Mylonas) is gloriously unrepentant about working his son so hard, but he quickly sees the error of his ways. Indeed, his change of heart does feel rather too rapid and it’s another indication that the series at this point was more comfortable in telling self-contained stories, episode by episode.

Andrew Stanton and Justin Bennett strike up a friendship, based on their love of music, but it’s hard-going at first since Andrew is constantly angry and upset. Eventually he reveals that he believes his parents are on the verge of splitting up – although by the end of the episode that doesn’t seem to be so.

This was a plot-thread that did have some legs – the Stanton’s marital problems are mentioned again in the third series and by series four Andrew’s father has finally left home (taking his younger sister with him) which drives Andrew to drink (literally – as Tucker and his friends have to try and look after the inebriated boy in a memorable episode).

Grange Hill. Series Two – Episode Four

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 12th January 1979

Love is in the air for Trisha, as both Simon Shaw (Paul Miller) and Gary Hargreaves (Mark Farmer) vie for her attention.

Simon Shaw was a rather short-lived character – he’s a central figure in the early part of series two before leaving for another school later the same year. It’s clear from the start that he’s someone with a problem – all the evidence points to the fact he has difficulty reading and writing.  Although since we’re mid-way through the school year it’s difficult to understand how this has gone unnoticed for so long. He’s clearly interested in Trisha, but she doesn’t seem to notice him – Trish has only got eyes for the fourth-form football star Gary Hargreaves (Mark Farmer).

Mark Farmer (later to turn up as a semi-regular in Minder) certainly has the gift of the gab, but Trisha’s mother warns her that he’s too old for her. Gary will pop up now and again over the next few series, almost always when the plot is football related.

Elsewhere, Mr Mitchell is appalled at the standard of grammar and punctuation in his class and Mr Baxter continues to rail against Mr Llewellyn’s timetable arrangements.

This is the first of Margaret Simpson’s scripts for Grange Hill. She’d go on to clock up nearly sixty writing credits on the show over the next decade or so (her last being the series finale in 1992).

Grange Hill. Series Two – Episode Five

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 16th January 1979

The staff/pupil council was a popular theme during the early series of Grange Hill, but after series five it rarely surfaced again. This is a little surprising, since it offered a rare opportunity for all members of the school community to have a say (even if, of course, the teachers tended to win the day most of the time – much to the pupil’s chagrin).

The thorny topic of school uniform, a running thread through series two, is brought up here. There are some, such as third-former Jess (Sara Sugarman), who are strongly opposed to uniforms – later in the episode she mutters that they might as well just brand them all and be done with it. Sugarman’s performance is so deadly earnest that it does raise a smile – for some reason the issue of school uniform seems to obsess her intensely.

Penny Lewis, as the new first year rep, has less contentious topics on her mind. She wants the school to create a bookshop, whilst the other first years want a tuck shop instead. Poor Penny – when she asks for a show of hands to support her proposal for a bookshop, none are raised, but everybody supports the idea of a tuckshop.

Her mother later suggests an obvious solution – why not have a combined tuck and bookshop. And it’s instructive to hear her pass off the idea next day in school as her own! She’s a sneaky one, is that Penny Lewis.

The school council meeting also gives us a chance to see Michael Doyle’s father, the very important (at least in his own mind) Councillor Doyle. Like his son, he’s not the nicest of chaps – Doyle Snr is pompous and officious and seems keen to block any suggestions made by the pupils. His character is in sharp contrast to Mr Llewellyn, who is prepared to listen to suggestions (and is much more approachable than his successor, Mrs McClusky would ever be).

Elsewhere, this is one of the first episodes where the trio of Tucker, Benny and Alan is clearly established. Alan was a very peripheral character in the first series, but we’ll see him become a much more central figure over the next few years. And by the time of series four he’s supplanted Benny as Tucker’s best friend (especially when Benny fades away from view in the second half of the series).

In this episode they get into trouble for taking to the school jumble sale a chaise-long they thought was left for the binman. The owner of the antique shop (or junk shop, as Tucker more accurately called it) wasn’t best pleased – but it seems that an honest mistake was made, so once the boys lug it back to the shop all was forgiven.

It’s an eye-opener to hear that the clothes sold at the jumble sale were going for five pence each. I know this was 1979, but that seems like a bargain even then! It’s even more impressive when it’s revealed that the jumble sale made £435.00. How many items at five pence a time must they have sold to make that amount of money?!

Another lovely Tucker moment occurs when he shamefacedly realises he’s sold Mrs Bennett’s rather expensive coat for five pence! Although he did honestly think it was part of the jumble, so we can’t blame him for that.

Grange Hill. Series Two – Episode Six

 

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Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 19th January 1979

Simon’s rather upset to be dropped from the school football team by Mr Baxter. He’s not able to give a reason why he missed a recent practice session – there was a notice put up, said Baxter, couldn’t he read? As Simon reacts angrily to this (plus the other hints we’ve had in earlier episodes) we can surmise this is uncomfortably close to the truth.

Tucker decides to cheer him up by initiating him into his gang, the Tremblers (this is obviously something that Tucker’s created on the spur of the moment). In order to become a member, Tucker tells him he has to climb up to the top of the school tower. Simon says he”ll do it, provided he sees the others do it first. All goes well until Mr Garfield discovers them and, not realising that Benny had already reached the top of the tower, locks him in.

Mr Garfield (Graham Ashley) was the first in Grange Hill’s long line of put-upon caretakers, and many of them followed the Garfield archetype (bad-tempered and irritable). Sadly, Ashley died in 1979 at the age of only 52 – with his final appearances as Mr Garfield airing the year after his death, in 1980. He had a very solid acting career with plenty of guest-spots in popular series (such as Porridge, Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em, Colditz and The Avengers) and was a regular in Dixon of Dock Green, although most of his episodes were wiped. Another notable credit was as Gold Five in the first Star Wars movie.

More excuses from Simon in Mr Sutcliffe’s English class – he says he can’t read as he feels sick. This break from lessons allows Simon to release Benny from the tower, but he pretends to Tucker that he couldn’t – ensuring that the others decide to return to the school in the evening to free him.

Simon’s practical joke (involving a skeleton and a candelabra!) backfires spectacularly when it accidentally causes a fire. The “flipping ‘ecks” are liberally sprinkled about as Tucker, Alan and Benny “leg it” but they don’t realise that Simon hasn’t followed them. He’s tripped over a cable and knocked himself out – leaving us on a decent cliff-hanger as the other three worry that he might be in some danger.

Grange Hill. Series Two – Episode Seven

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Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 23rd January 1979

The next day, Benny continues to fret about Simon’s safety. Tucker’s not concerned though – they went back into the school and he wasn’t there, so he must have got out alright. Tucker being Tucker, of course, can’t help himself by telling the concerned Benny that if they did discover a charred corpse they’d be able to identify it from the dental records!

It turns out that Simon’s fine, although the fire damage is quite costly and money has to be taken from the funds raised by the recent jumble sale.

His inability to read is eventually revealed when he confesses this fact to Trisha. As previously mentioned, it does stretch credibility to breaking point that he’s survived so far into the first year without his problem being recognised.  We saw in the previous episode how he was able to get out of reading by feigning sickness – are we supposed to think that he’s been doing the same thing all the year?! Trisha, of course, loves a lame duck and takes it upon herself to teach him (telling the boy he needs to address her as Miss Yates and give her an apple!)

Simon tells her why he’s kept his problems with reading a secret – he doesn’t want to have to leave Grange Hill and be placed in a “special school”. Dyslexia really became a recognised condition in the 1980’s – prior to that, as Simon says, people who couldn’t read were usually labelled “thick or stupid.” It’s another early example of the series’ public-service ethos – undoubtedly some of the audience would have identified with Simon’s problems and Mr Sutcliffe’s sympathetic reaction would have helped to reassure them.

Having said that, it’s slightly concerning that Simon will, after all, have to transfer elsewhere – with all the stigma that attending a special school entails. This may have been seen as quite reasonable back in the late 1970’s, but it does strike a slightly discordant note today.