Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode One

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Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 8th January 1980

It’s the start of a new school year and Grange Hill is preparing itself for an influx of fresh first years.  Mr Sutcliffe has spent hours going around the school putting up signs to help the newcomers, but unfortunately things don’t quite go to plan.

As with the notices seen in the very first episode, the arrows can be moved in the opposite direction – and Cathy does so here.  When will people learn that it’s a much better idea to draw the arrows on!  Mr Sutcliffe also attracts the ire of Mr Garfield and his colleague – since all the notices (affixed with sellotape) have damaged the walls.  This allows Mr Sutcliffe to make some forceable points to both of the caretakers, about how a school exists to serve the interests of the pupils (leaving you with the feeling that all school caretakers would much prefer it if there were no children about!)

Amongst the influx of new arrivals are Michael Green (Mark Bishop) and Karen Stanton (Carey Born).  Both are escorted to school by their older brothers, Benny and Andrew – but once they arrive things are very different.  Andrew is overprotective to a ridiculous degree, which irritates the independent Karen no end, whilst Benny leaves the overawed Michael very much to his own devices.

The other main characters in the first form are Duane Orpington (Mark Baxter), Tracey Edwards (Amanda Mealing) and Douglas “Pogo” Patterson (Peter Moran).  Only Pogo and Duane would reach the fifth form and poor Karen and Tracey don’t even manage to make it to the second half of this school year!

It was a common problem during the series – children would drop out for various reasons (exams, etc) and replacements would have to be drafted in.  In series four, it’s clear to see that Tracey’s place was taken by Clare Scott (both of them were friends with Duane, for example) whilst Karen was replaced by Suzanne Ross.

On the teacher front, Miss Peterson (Cheryl Branker) attracts some casual racist comments from Doyle, although he’s wise enough to make them just out of her earshot.  Our first sight of Miss Mooney – dropping a pile of textbooks with an annoyed comment of “bother” – is a characteristic introduction to someone who always seems slightly disorganised, but is also a first-rate teacher who cares for her pupils.

Since the first two series covered one school year, series three and four cover another – and in the gap between the second and third series the original influx of pupils have moved from the first form to the third.  The only time this gap doesn’t quite work is when Trisha asks Sudhanami Patel (Sheila Chandra) why she’s still wearing school uniform, since it’s now been made optional.  She’s had a whole (unseen) year to ask that question!

The theft of Duane’s bike seems to be an isolated incident, but we’ll see that the bike thefts become a running theme through the early episodes – culminating in Madelin Tanner receiving her long-awaited comeuppance.

Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Two

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Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 11th January 1980

Tracey asks Duane how his father reacted to the loss of his bike.  When he turns around she can clearly see – he’s sporting a black eye.  Today this would have been developed as a major plot point, but here it’s just a fact and isn’t followed up.  It’s not the first time during the early series that children either fear, or receive, domestic abuse from their parents.  And as we’ll see later in this series, some of the teachers are also quite handy as well.  It’s one of the clearest examples of how times have changed.

When the first year head Mr Curtis (Neville Barber) spots Duane’s black eye he asks how he came by it.  When Duane tells him, all he does is sigh and lets the boy leave.  He then shakes his head sadly at Miss Mooney and the matter is closed.

The friendship between Tracey and Duane is put under strain.  Tracey finds herself teased by Karen, taunted that Duane’s her boyfriend, whilst Duane becomes friendly (after a shaky start) with Pogo.  We also see the first signs of Pogo’s acquisitive nature – he sees putty in the windows and decides to take it.  The downside of this is that it makes the new windows fall out!

Whilst Tracey and Duane had been friends at primary school, different interests now push them into different directions – and eventually Duane will team up with Pogo whilst Tracey and Karen will become best friends.

At present, Karen is friendly with Sally Forsyth (Sarah Summerfield).  She’s complained of feeling ill and faint several times- this is another example of seeding a plot-point which will only come to fruition in a later episode.

The putty pilfering comes to an end after Mr Curtis impresses on everyone how dangerous it can be.  But it’s put to good use by defacing the pictures of the teachers on the notice board.  Mr Baxter, for example, is given a very fetching set of horns!

Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Three

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Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 15th January 1980

Mr Hopwood (Brian Capron) makes his first appearance in this episode.  Like Mr Sutcliffe, he’s a teacher who’s got the best interests of the children at heart – although he’s clearly no pushover.  In his first scene he berates Andrew and Alan for giving Justin the birthday bumps, but after he’s done this he casually tells the class it’s far too nice a day to stay inside and suggests they might as well go for a walk.

They venture out to a piece of wasteland where, as part of their environmental studies, they look at the local wildlife.  Alan nips off for a cigarette – which is the start of a long-running storyline that continues well into the fourth series. Since this brief ramble was a success, Penny and Susi ask Mr Hopwood if they can venture out into the proper countryside.  Mr Hopwood agrees, so next week the trip goes ahead.

Naturally enough it doesn’t all go smoothly – Justin steps in a cowpat and Alan and Andrew cause a fire. Alan and Andrew head off into the forest to have a cigarette, but unluckily for them Penny and Susi are also there.  Susi’s been complaining about her new bra, so Penny suggests they go somewhere quiet where she can look at it.

A comedy of embarrassing errors then occurs as the girls realise that they’re being inadvertently spied upon and the boys beat a hasty retreat – not knowing that their dropped cigarette was smouldering. It’s another example of Grange Hill’s moral tone – as it’s seen that one cigarette could quickly cause a blaze which might spiral out of control. But there’s a positive solution as the pupils rally round to help to put out the fire.

Susi, Penny, Alan and Andrew come to an understanding – the boys won’t tell anybody about Susi’s bra problems if they promise not to reveal how the fire started. Given how the relationship develops between Susi and Alan, it’s interesting that this episode ends with a glance between Susi and Andrew – hinting that there might be the spark (no pun intended) of attraction between the pair of them.

Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Four

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 18th January 1980

It’s time for the school council elections.  Penny Lewis is the current rep but some people, like Trisha and Doyle, aren’t happy with her.  Trisha and Penny are totally opposite characters – which brings a healthy dose of conflict into their relationship.

Trisha and Cathy are irritated about having nowhere to go during the lunch-breaks, so that’s one of the reasons why Trisha decides to stand as a council rep.  If elected, she’ll request that the third-formers have access to common rooms, like the fifth-formers.

Doyle later makes the reasonable point to Miss Peterson that since there’s more girls than boys, any boy rep doesn’t stand much of a chance of getting elected.  Miss Peterson counters that surely sex wouldn’t be the first consideration, whilst Trisha mutters that it’s all the boys ever think about!

But Doyle’s in the right place at the right time, as it’s been decided that having both male and female reps in each year would be fair.  Doyle is elected third year boy rep (much to the disgust of Penny) whilst both Penny and Trisha are beaten by an unknown outsider.  All of Doyle’s policies are good – they should be, since they were pilfered from both Penny and Trisha.

Before the results come in, there’s an epic fight between Penny and Trisha (Penny calls Trisha “a nasty two-faced bitch” which kicks off proceedings).  Tucker has nothing to due whilst the argument between Penny and Trisha is bubbling away – but Todd Carty’s facial expressions are a delight and he goes a long way to stealing the scene.

Doyle’s victory will continue to rankle with Penny for the rest of series three and it’ll be a fruitful source of conflict between the pair of them.

Elsewhere, Miss Mooney appears to be the worst possible science teacher.  She finds herself distracted by the loss of her glasses (which were on her head all the time).  Whilst she’s fretting about her glasses, there’s a small fire, which Tucker manages to put out.  He’s later berated for this – yes he did put the fire out, but he started it in the first place!  This seems a little unfair, as it was an accident, and if the pupils aren’t adequately supervised surely some of the blame should rest with the teacher.

Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Five

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 22nd January 1980

This episode is the first indication that the theft of Duane’s bike wasn’t an isolated incident.  David Mitchell (Michael Mannion) proudly shows the others his new bike.  It’s not actually brand-new – it was bought second-hand from a local bike shop – but it does look as good as new.

Duane is initially impressed, although he’s perturbed when he spots a familiar looking dent.  The early evidence would indicate that the shop is receiving the stolen bikes, respraying and customising them, then selling them on.  It seems rather foolish to sell the stolen bikes in the same area (and indeed this is a point made by the shop owner in the next episode – concerned that the bikes he’s receiving are local) but if they had been sent further afield then the plot couldn’t have been wrapped up so quickly.

It turns out that Madelin Tanner is involved, helping the thieves to steal the bikes.  Although quite why they need her help isn’t clear, since all the bikes are parked in the bike shed and are ripe for the picking – even the ones with chains.

This is quite a busy episode, as apart from setting in motion the bike plot (which will be concluded in the next episode) we’re also introduced to Chris (Jonathan Warren) , the editor of the school magazine.  He’s chairing a meeting with Mr Curtis who although he’s keen to stress that the school magazine is very much the pupil’s responsibility, still wants to see everything due for publication before the magazine is sent to the printers.

Naturally this doesn’t go down very well and cries of censorship are heard.  It’s interesting that the school magazine appears to have been going for a while and was originally set up by the pupils with no staff interference or involvement.  Quite how this happened is a bit of a mystery (presumably it can be explained as one of Mr Llewellyn’s more progressive policies) but now the staff are keen to ensure that no embarrassing material makes it into the public domain.  We’ll come back to this story-line later in the series.

Lastly, Sally is taken ill during Miss Peterson’s gym class and rumours (spread by the irresponsible Anita) state that she’s dead.  It’s been threaded through the early episodes that Sally hasn’t been well, so her fall from the gym bars doesn’t come as a complete surprise.  Just prior to her accident, the soundtrack switches to an ominous heartbeat – it’s a familiar dramatic device, but even though it’s a bit of a cliche it still works well.

The question is, was Miss Peterson responsible?  We’ve already seen that she pushes the girls hard – she doesn’t accept any excuses for non-participation in games (telling them that she expects them to still join in even if they have a broken leg!).  This doesn’t please the games-shy Anita (Joanne Boakes) who mutters that she’ll tell her Gran about this (which seems to be her stock response to almost everything).

Happily, Sally turns out to be fine and we find out in the next episode that she has a weak heart which meant that an attack could have happened at any time and therefore Miss Peterson wasn’t to blame.  And now that her plot-line is concluded, Sally vanishes, never to be seen again.  Not an uncommon occurrence in Grange Hill (think of Simon Shaw from series two).

We also get our first look at Jill Harcourt (Alex Kingston) although she’s very much in the background here and won’t emerge into prominence until later in the series, when she starts menacing Susi to complete her homework.

Grange Hil. Series Three – Episode Six

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 25th January 1980

The bicycle thefts are still continuing. Pogo decides to take the law into his own hands and organises a watch on the bike sheds (inevitably he ends up getting caught by Mr Garfield). Meanwhile, the girls are pursuing a more fruitful line of enquiry – they decide to visit the bike shop on the high street to see if any of their bikes are there.

Their presence is enough to spook the shop owner (who, as we have seen, has been receiving the stolen bikes) and it eventually sets in motion the chain of events which leads to the bike thieves and Madelin Tanner getting caught.

This takes place via a lovely film sequence. Tucker and his friends, with Mr Baxter, are returning from a cross country run whilst Pogo and his classmates are also returning to the school from the opposite direction (after a field trip to the local park). Spotting Tanner and one of the thieves (although they weren’t actually in possession of a stolen bike at the time, so it’s difficult to see what actual evidence could have been used to convict them) the two groups of children converge on the hapless pair.

Tucker manhandles Madelin Tanner, whilst Mr Baxter rugby-tackes the man and realises that he’s an ex-pupil. This would be Lesley Woods’ seventh and final appearance as Madelin Tanner and apart from three uncredited appearances on the Benny Hill Show she doesn’t appear to have made any further film or television appearances.

Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Seven

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 29th January 1980

A new girl, Fatima Bibi (Belgit Gill), is placed in the care of Sudhanami Patel (Sheila Chandra).  This seems to be because Fatima doesn’t speak any English and the assumption appears to be that Sudhanami will be able to communicate with her.

But it becomes clear very quickly that Sudhanami isn’t going to make any headway.  Mrs Conrad (Margaret Stallard), the teacher responsible for working with pupils who need to increase their English language skills, is quick to grasp the gulf between Fatima and Sudhanami.  Sudhanami comes from Uganda and Fatima hails from East Pakistan.  The unconscious racism on the part of the other members of staff who’d obviously assumed they’d be able to communicate is never directly commented upon, but is clear enough.

Grange Hill has, from the first episode, been a multi-cultural school, but it’s rarely something that’s been a central part of any ongoing story.  True, Benny did receive taunts about the colour of his skin in some of the early episodes, but he was also bullied because his family was poor.  This episode is therefore notable since it attempts to deal with two thorny topics at once – the problems of how those newly arrived (like Fatima) integrate into British society but also how the people already established (like Sudhanami and her family) adapt to the culture around them.

Fatima is a one-shot character and won’t be seen again after this episode.  This it’s a bit of a shame, since there would have been some mileage in showing her develop.  But Sudhanami does remain a semi-regular for a while (up until the end of series four).  She’s rarely central though, so this is really the one episode where she moves to the heart of the story.

Her father, Mr Patel (Minoo Golvala), wants to transfer her to an all girls school.  He seems to be almost a caricature of a traditional Indian father – he hates the fact that she goes to school with boys, listens to pop music, etc.  All this does rather beg the question as to why he allowed her to go to Grange Hill in the first place.

Although a strict traditionalist (he expects her to help in the shop and is reluctant to allow her to spend time with her friends outside of school hours) it’s clear that he does genuinely love her and has (or at least he believes he has) her best interests at heart.  As for Sudhanami herself, she’s somewhat submissive and is happy to follow her father’s directions.  If he decrees that she will take part in an arranged marriage sometime in the future, then that’s what will happen.

This may be an accurate, although not terribly progressive, portrait of the times – but it’s notable that as the series progresses we’ll tend to see children who will be much less prepared to toe the family line.  Instead they’ll be keen to embrace all that Western culture can offer, irrespective of what their parents may say.

Although this is a fairly serious episode, there are a few lighter moments.  Trisha and Cathy are aghast to find that Miss Mooney and Mr Sutcliffe are engaged – Cathy earlier remarked that Mr Sutcliffe “wouldn’t marry a thing like that”!  Trisha and Cathy also attempt to teach Fatima some useful phrases such as “Flippin’ ‘eck” and “Shut yer mouth”.

Tucker’s artistic flair is put to good use again when he designs a cut-out figure for the school fair.  The teachers line up to put their heads through the opening and have to suffer wet sponges being thrown at them.  It’s all for a good cause, so they can’t complain, and naturally the pupils are delighted for the chance to take their revenge – especially on Mr Baxter!