Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Twenty Four

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Written by David Angus. Tx 1st April 1986

It’s been a while since Gonch has indulged in a money-making scheme, so it’s only right and proper that the Fun Run should offer him a chance to turn a tidy profit.  The series has been here before of course – back in 1984 – but this time Gonch is more interested in who won’t finish the race, rather than who’s going to win it (which seems to be a toss-up between those two titans of the track, Mr Kennedy and Banksie).

However, from early on we’re left with the feeling that Gonch and Hollo aren’t going to finish on top.  To begin with, Ziggy’s delighted to show them a letter he’s received from the Duke of Edinburgh (a real letter this time) inviting him to a gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall (presumably pop, since it’s hard to imagine Ziggy being enthused about an evening of classical music).  Quite why the Duke should wish to favour Ziggy is a slight mystery, but nobody said GH ever had to be true to life.

The Fun Run is an opportunity for some interesting fancy dress – most notably Mr Baxter as Wonder Woman.  That’s a combination I’d never thought I’d see.  This will turn out to be Mr Baxter’s last hurrah as during the first episode of series ten we’re told that he’d left to run a sports centre.  A slight pity that Michael Cronin’s eight years on the show wasn’t marked in some way, but possibly his departure was an unexpected one.

You may – or more possibly may not – be interested to learn that it seems Julia will be able to keep her ears pierced.  Hurrah!  It’s slightly odd though that another of her plotlines (sneaking off to buy tickets for a Phil Collins gig) never came to anything.

Ant’s set to move from Grange Hill to a private school.  But that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of him, alas ….

Following on from the uncomfortable aura surrounding Zammo last time, there’s better news in this episode.  He’s not seen in person, but Jackie has visited him and seems encouraged by his progress.  Presumably it was felt that there should be some sort of happy ending between this series and the next, but it does mean that the drama of the previous instalment ends up being rather negated.

The Fun Run is low on tension or incident.  Banksie falls off his bike and grazes his knee.  Ouch!  Gonch twists his ankle and faces having to pay out a fortune to Ronnie if he doesn’t complete the course.  Imelda and her cronies sabotage Mr Glover’s bike in error (believing it to be Ziggy’s).

The brief and awkward meeting between Mr Bronson and Ant is nice though, offering us a quiet moment between the frenetic on-track action.  Michael Sheard, as ever, is excellent – for once Mr Bronson is conciliatory (telling Ant that he’s sorry to lose him) and it’s almost possible to believe that he means it.  But if that’s the case and he truly valued Ant’s ability as a student, why did he persecute him all year?

I like the way that Mr Griffiths’ concession to fancy dress is to sport a plastic hat whilst still wearing his brown overalls!  And glory be, at long last Ziggy and Robbie gain their revenge on Imelda.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Twenty Three

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Written by David Angus.  Tx 25th March 1986

Zammo is a hot topic of discussion for the others but luckily Trevor’s on hand to correct Vince’s wild flights of fancy.  It’s a notable touch that, not for the first time, Trevor belies his generally negative image (hectoring and aggressive) in order to pour cold water on Vince’s heated imaginings.  Zammo, Trevor tells him, isn’t in prison – instead he’s in hospital, receiving treatment for his problem.

We might not see him until later on, but Zammo remains on many people’s minds – most notably Jackie of course.  Having refused Miss Booth’s offer to accompany her when she visits him, Kevin and Roland later find her sobbing bitterly in the cloakrooms.  Having sent Roland on, Kevin then does his best to comfort her.

This is a scene that’s open to interpretation.  Jackie makes her feelings for Zammo plain (she can’t forget him, but neither can she face him at present) so is Kevin being a loyal friend to them both or does he have his eye on Jackie?  His suggestion that they could both go and visit Zammo together makes sense (as Jackie says, there’s less chance that the conversation would dry up with three people present) but it’s the way that he hesitatingly suggests that afterwards they grab a hamburger which may indicate that he’s keen to supplant his best friend.

When they exit the cloakroom he places a friendly hand around her shoulders. This could be seen as either a supportive gesture or a territorial move.  Banksie just happens to be passing and unsurprisingly favours the latter.  Having sat out most of this series it’s nice to have Steven Banks back.  Not only does he clash with Kevin (taunting him about Jackie) but he’s also keen to prove his superiority over Mr Kennedy.

This is the cue for a decent comedy scene as Mr Kennedy runs rings around him on the basketball court.  Margie Barbour employs a few unusual directorial flourishes here – incidental music (very rare for this era of the programme) and a freeze-frame after Mr Kennedy lands the killer blow.  So round one to Mr Kennedy, but Banksie is convinced that he’ll beat the teacher during the Fun Run (yes I know, a Fun Run isn’t a race, but try telling Banksie that …)

Ant’s plotline (he’s run away from home) can’t really be judged as one of GH’s successes.  For one thing, it’s far too short (it gets wrapped up here) and for another, the level of jeopardy is very low.  Since he’s still dressed in his school uniform he clearly didn’t think things through very deeply (something of a trait with him) and his time seems to have spent dossing down in an abandoned house.  The use of a real location does help a little though and there’s another well-crafted directorial moment when Ant later returns to the house.  A tramp has taken up residence, but the light levels are low enough to mask this fact until he starts to move and leer at the unfortunate boy.

Apart from that, the other highlight is that Ant attempts to steal an apple from a market barrow and fails.  As I said, not the most gripping of storylines so it’s a relief that the episode closes with Ant returning home.  Back at Grange Hill he, like Zammo, remains a hot topic of discussion.  We only see Mr Bronson very briefly in this one but it’s a telling moment – Mr Baxter taunts him about his treatment of Ant which leaves Mr Bronson, for once, somewhat discomforted.

Louise and Cheryl’s story is brought to a (fairly) happy ending, thanks to the arrival of their aunt, Harriet Dean (played by Carmen Munroe).  She and her husband are happy to move to London and take care of the family, but Cheryl (a devote of healthy eating) is somewhat appalled by her aunt’s fondness for fry-ups.  We never see Harriet again, so presumably we can interpret this scene as a comic one and not a suggestion that the forceful Harriet will make all their lives a misery.

Danny’s not best pleased that his design for a school logo – suitably adjusted – will soon be pressed into service.  Mrs McClusky’s sweetly delivered comment that it will happen whether he likes it or not is a typically delightful moment from Gwyneth Powell.  When Mrs McClusky is at her sweetest then you should be very afraid ….

There’s yet another slightly unusual touch as we see Miss Booth on her way to visit Zammo.  Whilst she’s driving her car en-route, the soundtrack jumps ahead to her discussion with Grace (Heather Emmanuel) a worker at the rehabilitation centre.   With the aid of some mugs, Grace is able to give a visual explanation of Zammo’s former addiction but the question remains, will he be able to stay off drugs?

He enters the frame, lingering in the background unseen by both of them, which sets up a moment of tension.  This quickly dissipates as he seems much more like his old self, but it’s clear that the road to recovery is going to be a long one.  Several times during series nine we’ve had false dawns – Zammo appeared to be recovered but wasn’t – so it seems right that we’re left with a strong sense that his future is far from certain.

As his cheerful façade slowly begins to crumble (changing the shot to a view of Zammo through a rainy window was presumably an on-the-day choice, but since it helps to hide his tears it’s a good one) Zammo’s isolation seems absolute.  The way that Miss Booth clearly wants to comfort him but doesn’t is yet another subtle moment from a quality episode.

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Grange Hill, Series Nine – Episode Twenty One

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 18th March 1986

Zammo’s back in school, having seemingly kicked his heroin habit.  If this seems a little too good to be true then you may not be surprised to learn that it is.  Despite Jackie and Kevin constantly acting as his guard dogs, he’s somehow been able to buy some drugs and he stashes them in the toilet for later.  How he was able to get the drugs and where he got the money from is a mystery (since he’s been constantly watched for weeks).

It’s a missed opportunity that the truth is so quickly discovered.  Having an episode or two where he appeared to be back to his old self would have worked well, but given that we’re marching ever onwards towards the end of series nine, it wasn’t to be.

When he later discovers that his stash has been ruined he hot-foots it out of school, on the hunt for more.  That action makes it plain that his story is on-going but Fay and Mr King is a storyline that’s concluded here.  After blithely maintaining last episode that there was nothing wrong with their relationship, here Fay is in a state of total collapse.  It’s not clear what has forced this turnabout (an intervention from her parents or the fact it’s becoming public knowledge maybe?).

Fay doesn’t speak at all in this episode but thanks to her dramatic collapse in the gym, prior to an exam, still manages to catch the eye.  Mr King only has a handful of lines before he departs – handing in his resignation to Mrs McClusky and then clearing his desk in the time-honoured fashion.

He might be gone but Miss Partridge is still present and still worried about her job.  That she’s an unmarried mother isn’t the main issue (or so some of the governors claim).  It’s more to do with the fact that she knowingly falsified information on her application form.  Countless times in the past we’ve heard pupils bitterly mention that there’s no point in working hard (‘cos there’s no job out there) but it’s a little jolting to hear a teacher also admit that jobs are scarce.

Had she not lied, Miss Partridge maintains, then her chances of gaining a job would have been practically zero.  Mrs McClusky knows that she’ll have a fight on her hands to save her, but she’s going to fight all the same.  There’s a nice moment just before she enters the cauldron of the governors meeting – we see her applying a touch of make-up (putting her warpaint on, maybe?)

With the loyal Mr Baxter by her side, the pair have to face the terrible duo down the other end of the table – namely Mr Bronson and Mr Glover.  It’s Mr Glover who does all of the talking for them (for once Mr Bronson has nothing to say).  Mr Baxter does pipe up occasionally, but more often that not it’s to angrily retort to an insinuation made by Mr Glover.

So it’s mainly a battle of wills between Mrs McClusky and Mr Glover.  I thought the question of the headship had been decided some time back, but here it still seems to be in the balance.  Mr Glover taunts Mrs McClusky that for fear of making waves it would be best if she let Miss Partridge go quietly.  But Mrs McClusky is built of sterner stuff and in a glorious scene, which shows her at her best, she retorts that if required “she’ll sink the blessed ship!”

Ziggy and Robbie (good lads at heart) attempt to raise some money for the school by selling books – one of which contains a superstar autograph (the others also have autographs, but who really wants one signed by Humpty Dumpty?!).  The star autograph is Bono’s from U2, although nobody can pronounce his name correctly (everyone calls him Bow-no).  Or perhaps that’s how they did it back then?

Ant continues to glower away and jump to the wrong conclusions.  For once Mr Bronson is in a conciliatory mood, telling Ant gently (or as gently as he can manage) that his options aren’t valid.  It’s just unfortunate that Julia, who has selected the same options, is told later by Mr Bronson that there shouldn’t be any problem with hers.  But to be fair to Mr Bronson he didn’t have time to read them (he had to rush off to arrange the kangaroo court with Mr Glover) and he made this plain to the girl.  But the fact that he hadn’t seen them was one important sliver of information that Julia didn’t pass onto Ant.

Since he believes, incorrectly, that Julia’s been favoured over him, he tells Mr Bronson to “stick it”! and storms off.  That boy will never learn.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Twenty

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 14th March 1986

During these posts, I’ve discussed on a few occasions how various matters during series nine tend to develop off-screen.  There’s another example of this here – with Ant – although in this case it works to the benefit of the drama.

Ant’s still seething about the way he’s being treated – convinced that the school and his parents believe everything they’ve been told by Mr Bronson.  He therefore decides to withdraw his labour from the swimming team, something which obviously upsets Mr Baxter.  But is Ant correct in his assumption? Mr Baxter makes a very interesting comment – other pupils, accused of the things Ant has, would be expelled by now.  The fact that Ant hasn’t even received a detention should suggest to him that Mr Bronson’s accusations don’t hold water.

If this is so, then possibly we’ve missed a trick by not seeing Mr Bronson discomforted, but it’s also possible that Mr Baxter is attempting to spin a rosy picture in order to get Ant back on board.  But when Ant dismisses the team as “second rate” Mr Baxter’s attitude changes to frosty and there’s a very real sense that a bridge has been burned.  Ant needs all the allies he can get, so alienating Mr Baxter wasn’t the wisest move.

Ant may have reasons for feeling a little hard done by, but he’s rather an unlikeable character – which means that it’s hard to be on his side.  Later, Laura asks him if he’ll speak to his father – who’s a solicitor – to see if he would be able to track down Louise and Cheryl’s mother.  He refuses, due to his poor current relationship with his father, but considering that Louise and Cheryl’s father has just died this seems a more than petty reason.  Miss Partridge is eventually able to win him round though.

And Mr Jones’ meeting with Louise, Cheryl and Laura also has another benefit.  He’s able to discretely question them about Ant and Mr Bronson (naturally this happens off-screen) and concludes that Ant’s version of events is the one most closest to the truth.  Does this please Ant?  Of course not, as he seems to believe that his version of events should have been unconditionally accepted.

It’s a neat move that Mr Jones is a solicitor.  This makes him a precise and methodical man who first needs to weigh up all the evidence before pronouncing judgement. He’s shown to be fair, although there’s a clearly strained atmosphere between father and son (most of the antagonism does seem to be on Ant’s side though).  He may snap angrily at his son but seconds later he regrets it (unlike, say, Mr Glover).

Danny seems to exert a strange power over the younger children.  Despite his diminutive size he’s easily able to persuade Trevor and Vince to help him with the speaking wall.  Gonch and Hollo – hiding around the corner – are frantic.  How will they be able to make it to the safety of the bus without being spotted?  All seems well when Ziggy and Robbie – a ready made pair of sacrificial lambs – saunter past, but they seem immune to Danny and keep on walking.  If Ziggy and Robbie could do so, why can’t Gonch and Hollo?  It’s just a gag moment, but it doesn’t quite ring true.

Miss Booth later waxes lyrical over the strange power Danny has, likening him to Michelangelo with his apprentices.  Rather wonderfully, her audience is Mr Griffiths – not exactly Danny’s greatest fan.  George A. Cooper doesn’t have any lines, but it’s plain from his expression exactly what Mr Griffiths thinks!

The saga of Georgina and Imelda is still rumbling on.  Despite not being touched upon for some time, Imelda’s still glowering in the corner – promising vengeance – whilst Georgina wilts and looks around for Ant to protect her.  An equally long-running – and by now more than a little annoying – saga is that of Ziggy and Robbie, still out for revenge against Imelda.  This week they have bags of flour.  I wonder what will happen next ….

Mrs McClusky pays a visit to Mrs McGuire and Zammo.  Mrs McGuire’s weary story indicates that time has moved on since the previous episode.  Zammo’s still suffering withdrawal symptoms, but his mother is convinced that he’s nearly through it (although part of her knows this may be a false hope).  This has to be the first time that Mrs McClusky has referred to Zammo as Sammy rather than McGuire – although he’s unable to respond to her.

Zammo’s heroin problem soon becomes public knowledge via the speaking wall.  Mrs McClusky demands to know who – out of Danny, Gonch, Hollo, Trevor or Vince – was responsible.  But since none of them knew about Zammo, her well-meaning attempt to keep a lid on things has only backfired.  But who the secret scribber was remains a mystery.

Mrs McClusky orders the speaking wall to be whitewashed, but later relents and agrees that Danny’s mural can stay.  But it’s too late as Mr Griffiths has already gleefully painted over it.  Danny’s not at all pleased and storms off, leaving Miss Booth in his wake.  Never mind the power Danny has with his fellow pupils, the hold he exerts over Miss Booth is also a talking point.

The sight of Fay, lounging by Mr King’s car (“going my way?”) doesn’t fill him with instant pleasure as it did before.  But it isn’t long before he’s gently stroking her hand and moving closer to her.  That they’re doing this in the school car park, in full view of everybody, isn’t the wisest move.  As so often it’s Miss Partridge who we see hovering disapprovingly in the distance.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Nineteen

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 11th March 1986

Zammo’s on the scrounge again and once more Roland is his hapless victim.  Given that Roland seems to be the only person in Grange Hill aware that Zammo’s got a drugs problem, it’s slightly odd that Zammo decides to target him yet again.  This is either another case of slightly wonky plotting (given the length of time this storyline has been running I’d have expected others – especially Jackie and Kevin – to have twigged that something’s wrong with Zammo by now) or it’s an intentional move – confirming that junkies aren’t the most forward thinking of people.

It’s late at night and Roland is home alone, frantically swotting for the next day’s French oral exam.  Zammo spins him a highly suspect story about a mysterious man down the arcade who owes him a tenner.  Naturally, this involves Roland giving Zammo another ten pound note so he can change the mystery man’s twenty.  Given all Roland knows, he’s either incredibly stupid or incredibly trusting (I’d favour the latter over the former).

There’s a nice touch of continuity as we see a polaroid picture of Fabienne on Roland’s bedside cabinet (a reminder why this French exam is so important to him).  That’s what makes Zammo’s next move so shocking – when Roland goes out of the room to get the ten pound note, Zammo pockets Roland’s bedside clock.  It may not be worth much, but it’ll fetch him a few more pounds.

Remember what I said about Roland’s level of intelligence?  Hmm, I take it back.  Surely he would have realised that his bedside clock was missing?  Most people would surely use it regularly to check the time.  So this part of the plot doesn’t quite hold water – unless you believe that Roland, exhausted from his revision, fell into a deep sleep shortly after Zammo left.  That might just work ….

The upshot is that the next day Roland is late for his exam and if he misses it then all his hopes will be dashed.  This is where we see, for once, the caring side of Mr Bronson.  Pacing up and down whilst checking his pocket watch (a nice little detail – Mr Bronson would be exactly the sort of character to have such an old-fashioned timepiece) he’s clearly upset that his star pupil hasn’t shown up.  Compare and contrast to the way he’s abused Ant (sometimes unfairly) this year and it shows that deep down he does have a heart.  He’s obviously a teacher who has favourites though (a good teacher would treat everybody the same).

It’s obviously intentional that in the same episode where we see Mr Bronson give Roland a helping hand, we also see his more unrelenting side.  Mrs McClusky, Mr Baxter, together with Ant and his parents, are having a friendly chat – at least until Mr Bronson turns up and then the atmosphere changes in an instant.

Given that Mrs McClusky and Mr Baxter have both gently suggested previously to Mr Bronson that he’s waged something of a vendetta against Ant, it’s notable that they don’t mention this to Ant’s parents. A case of them closing ranks with Mr Bronson, even if they don’t entirely agree with him?

It’s a surprise that Zammo turns up for his exam.  It’s not a surprise that he’s totally mute throughout though.  Maybe he just made it to school that day in order to steal the video recorder?  How he managed to waltz out of school with nobody noticing he had it tucked under his arm is a mystery though.  And it’s odd that we don’t actually see Zammo steal it – possibly there was a general feeling this year that they had to be extra careful when depicting Zammo’s criminal activities, but on more than one occasion we’re told and not shown (which never feels entirely satisfactory).

This episode provides us with a rare opportunity to see the fifth formers together.  The likes of Banksie, Kevin and Julie – all rather sidelined this year – are given a few scenes.  Earlier in the year we learnt that Julie fancied Kevin, is that the reason why they’re revising together?  Later, Banskie continues his rehabilitation by lending Roland some money (after learning that Zammo’s left him penniless).

We finally learn why Miss Partridge has to leave early every day.  She has a young son ensconced in a nursery and, as a single parent, has to pick him up on the dot each afternoon.  Today there wouldn’t be anything remarkable in this, but some thirty years ago things weren’t quite so clear cut.

The police bring the video recorder back.  They’re looking for Kevin (since Zammo used his name when selling the recorder).  But once they track him down they know that he’s not the one – since the suspect was Caucasian.  It hardly seems credible that Mr Kennedy wouldn’t know what Caucasian meant, so why not just say white in the first place?

Roland’s also on hand and he’s the one who spills the beans about Zammo.  Of course, we don’t actually know at this point that Zammo stole the video (although it seems more than likely) but the incident serves as the trigger for him to finally reveal what he knows.  And once again we cut away at the point just before Roland tells Kevin and Mr Kennedy that Zammo’s a junkie.  That the series is continually dodging dramatic moments like this is more than a little puzzling.

Jackie visits Zammo’s flat (today it’s a standard studio set, rather than the real location used earlier on) and finds Mrs McGuire at the end of her tether.  She knows that something’s wrong but has either not considered the possibility that drugs are involved or is in a state of denial.  When the police call, Jackie meekly leaves (this seems a little unlikely, surely she’d have hung around in the passage and attempted to listen in).

But if we’re denied another dramatic story beat – Jackie learning that Zammo’s an addict – at least we’re present when Mrs McGuire is told.  This gives us another strong episode closer as she cups her hands around Zammo’s face and pleads with him to tell her it’s not true ….

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Eighteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 7th March 1986

If it wasn’t for the fact that this episode follows directly on from the previous one, you’d swear that a certain amount of time has elapsed in the relationship between Fay and Mr King.  Last time he was somewhat hesitant in agreeing that they could go to the cinema together – but today they seem much more intimate, strolling in the park hand-in-hand, whilst she’s happy to call him Peter (rather than Sir or Mr King).

This is another of those moments where the script-editing seems a little suspect, which is surprising given that Anthony Mingella’s hand was on the tiller.  Had they started this plotline a little earlier (or left an episode between their cinema jaunt and this new-found closeness) then probably things wouldn’t have seemed so jarring.

Fay and Laura have another entertaining clash.  Laura, who’s been told by her mother that the staffroom is buzzing with the news that Mr King and Fay are rather closer than they should be, can’t help but tactfully suggest to the older girl that she’s playing with fire.  As you might expect, Fay doesn’t take this well-meant tip off terribly well.

Later, Mr King tells Fay that they’re doing nothing wrong, although he seems a little perturbed to hear that others are talking about them.  Another indication that he’s well aware of the deep waters they’re swimming in can be seen after Miss Partridge, treating Cheryl and Louise to a cup of coffee in a local café, spots Mr King at another table and pops over to say hello.  Her smile of greeting dims a little after she realises that Fay’s with him and Mr King’s downcast expression speaks volumes.

Cheryl and Louise, in the aftermath of their father’s death, continue to struggle to keep their family together.  Miss Partridge, Laura and Julia pay them a visit and discover that they have no money and no support.  Once again, you have to wonder exactly what the school or social services have been doing – answer, not very much.

The school welfare officer hasn’t called round (Miss Partridge promises to chase them up, but it’s more than a little worrying that matters have been left up in the air so long).  Nobody seems inclined to call the social services in, but given that Cheryl’s only fifteen it’s plain that they’ll need a great deal of support. Although the spectre of them all being taken into care – and split up – is clearly influencing their actions.

Julia, who never seems to learn, is preparing once more to defy her father.  She wants to go to a Phil Collins gig and is quite prepared to go anyway if he denies her permission.  So expect maximum-strength pouting from her if things don’t go the way she wants.

After having barely a handful of lines all year, Jane has a little more to do in this episode.  Firstly, she’s perplexed as to why Ziggy is behaving in a friendly fashion towards her (he, of course, is attempting to make amends for throwing her clothes – rather than Imelda’s – into the swimming pool).  She then uses the speaking wall for the purpose it was originally intended (spreading news that couldn’t be disseminated in the school magazine) by sharing that Miss Booth is a secret smoker.  Later, having discovered that Ziggy was the clothes-thrower, she decides to take her revenge in the messiest way imaginable ….

Whilst these hi-jinks are typical GH fare, Margaret Simpson (always a writer who could be guaranteed to pen good character-based scenes) continues to depict a highly-traumatised Louise, back in school but barely able to function.  Unsurprisingly Laura is on hand to provide a shoulder to cry on and it’s equally unsurprising that Mr Bronson, when both are late for his tutorial group, is less than sympathetic.

It seems barely credible that Mr Bronson, if he was aware that Louise’s father had just died, would be so keen to send her to detention.  When Ant steps in to harangue him over this point, he does backtrack a little (but only to say that Louise’s detention has been deferred for now).  But maybe this scene was merely a pretext for another Mr Bronson/Ant contretemps, if so it seems to end a little abruptly (suggesting the end has been chopped off).  It does push their rivalry on a little though, with Ant sent home and a meeting with his parents arranged.

It’s interesting that Danny is keen to paint over the chit-chat on the speaking wall, complaining that this free-for-all is spoiling everything.  Yet he was the one to originally suggest that since the school magazine was toothless, a wall where anybody could write anything would be the way to go.  Again there seems to be a certain level of character inconsistency.

This episode features a key scene between Zammo and Roland.  It’s the first time they’ve spoken since episode fourteen and sees Roland, in his own slightly inarticulate way, confront Zammo about what he saw that night in the arcade.  Prior to that they have a more general chat, with Zammo seeming to be slightly more together than he has previously.  Roland explains his desire to move to France for a year – in order to be with Fabienne – although this is dependent on him passing his French O Level.  This appears to be just a throwaway line, but it’ll become important next episode – not least for the way it shows how Zammo is prepared to sacrifice Roland’s hopes for the future in order to fund his drugs habit.

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Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Seventeen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 4th March 1986

Calley’s not happy with the changes that have been made to the first issue of On Spec (the school magazine).  She feels that Mrs McClusky’s fingerprints are all over it – watering down her original fanzine idea into something that could have been produced by the school secretary.

But it’s still controversial enough to annoy Mr Glover intensely, especially the article on smoking. Since smoking is prohibited amongst the pupils, the magazine – by acknowledging that it’s a problem for all sections of the school community – is seen to condone it.  A few years back this might have been the sort of point that Mrs McClusky would have picked up on, but she didn’t seem too concerned to begin with (so she seems to have mellowed somewhat).

But now that the governors have raised concerns, she agrees that changes need to be made.  This might suggest that she’s keen to jump when she’s told to jump, but later events will prove that Mrs McClusky is still very much her own woman and still very much in charge.  The showdown between her and Mr Glover is yet to come ….

Mr King is aware that the school governors want to recall the magazine, but tips Fay the nod thereby allowing her, Calley and Ronnie to rush off to distribute it.  Hurrah, strike one for pupil and staff power!  I’ve a feeling that Mr King might get into trouble for this, but it’s his insidiously creeping relationship with Fay that’s more likely to prove his downfall.

Zammo visits the post office to cash a dodgy pension.  This is an authentically grimy slice of mid eighties London life and the dingy setting help to ramp up the tension as Zammo anxiously waits his turn.  When Banksie joins the queue, Zammo’s nerves start jangling even more.  It seems a long, long time ago when Banksie was the untrustworthy one and Zammo was the good guy.  Banksie’s posting off a job application whilst Zammo’s fraudulently collecting money to further his, and other people’s, drugs habit.

Banksie does gently jibe Zammo about his recent non-attendance at school, but like the others he still either doesn’t seem to realise that there’s anything seriously wrong or (and this might be nearer the mark with Banksie) simply doesn’t care.

It’s an interesting touch that when we later see Zammo, Howard and Doug waiting for the man (or more accurately woman – Tamsin) it’s Doug who articulates that their current lifestyle isn’t good (“there’s got to be a better way to live than this”).  You might have expected that Zammo would be the first one to realise that drugs are a dead-end street, but not so.  Possibly he’s too far gone.

Last time, Danny was keen on the concept of a speaking wall – a place where pupils could write anything they wished.  Surprisingly permission was granted, although Danny’s work is more in the artistic than verbal vein.  It’s another slice of mid eighties life – a mural depicting nuclear war (mushroom clouds, rockets and skulls).  Miss Booth stands firm as Danny’s champion – it seems that she’s recognised his talent and wishes to nurture it (otherwise her dogged determination to indulge him makes little sense).

Mr King gives Fay a lift home and – just as when the pair were spotted in the café by Laura and Julia – Julie, out walking her dog, is the latest to spy the teacher and pupil having an animated conversation.  Grange Hill’s catchment area is clearly so small that everybody can’t help tripping over everybody else.

They both plan on seeing the same film at the weekend and Fay suggests they go together.  Mr King decides that it wouldn’t be a good idea as it might give people the wrong idea (he’s rather too late on that score!) but then quickly changes his mind, arranging a date for Saturday at five.  And so he digs himself a little deeper into his ever-increasing self-inflicted hole ….

It’s been a while since we’ve seen that Grange Hill favourite – pilfered clothes from the changing room.  Ziggy decides to steal Imelda’s clothes to teach her a lesson, but of course he gets it wrong and ends up pilfering Jane’s clothes instead.  At least this gives Jane – who’s been pretty invisible this year – a little bit of screentime next episode.  Ziggy and Robbie have to disguise themselves as girls in order to breach the changing room, which is a suitably silly moment (Ziggy’s high-pitched approximation of a girl’s voice, for example).

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