Flippin’ ‘Eck! It was announced by the BBC last week that after 30 years they have decided to bring school drama series Grange Hill to an end. Creator of the show Phil Redmond was said to be disappointed at the decision, and I can understand why given the rather feeble excuse that the Beeb gave. Apparently, the show no longer represents what school life is about for children of today. Er, hang on a minute. Last time I checked kids were still supposed to go to school every day (truancy problems aside) so how can a programme about a school not be relevant? Presumably Grange Hill the fictional school has changed over the years to mirror the changes in UK schools that have occured, so surely it must still reflect life in secondary school today?
Oh well, the decision has been made, and this years series will be the last, so now seems a good time to remember Grange Hill as it was during the 1980’s. The first thing most people will remember about Grange Hill is “that” theme tune and the comic book beginning featuring a kid reading a comic in class (and being spotted by the teacher), a swimming lesson, a fight in the playground, and of course everybody’s favourite, the sausage on a fork that flew into the dining room scene. Unfortunately the theme song and comic disappeared sometime around the early 1990’s, to be replaced with a rather boring montage style title sequence and a terrible tinkly tonkly theme song.
Chances are you will remember most of the main characters of the show, and I’ll start with the pupils. Many actors have started their careers in Grange Hill, and gone on to the glory of EastEnders or The Bill. Hmm, maybe that’s not such a great career advancement but never mind. Best remembered here will be Susan Tully, who played Suzanne Ross from 1981-1984, and Todd Carty, who player Tucker Jenkins, a very popular character from the early days who even got his own show, Tucker’s Luck, when the character left school. They have both played members of the Fowler family in EastEnders, although today Susan is a director (she has directed EastEnders and The Bill). Todd has had a go at directing too, but will be returning to Grange Hill as Tucker for an episode of the final series.
Other memorable pupils include Gripper Stebson (the atypical school bully), Douglas “Pogo” Patterson (the ginger haired class clown and entrepreneur), Roland “Row-land” Browning (the overweight kid), Janet St. Clair (who called Roland Row-land), Samuel “Zammo” Maguire (the drug addict who spawned the “Just Say No” song), Eric “Ziggy” Greaves (the lovable laid back Liverpudlian), Luke “Gonch” Gardner (another ginger haired wheeler dealer comedian), Danny Kendall (the artistic smoking loner who died), and Calley Donnington (the astrologist and palm-reader – I kid you not).
Of course it wasn’t just the pupils we enjoyed watching, but the teachers as well. The name of Mrs McCluskey will always live on as being the perfect name for the headteacher, whilst every school had a Mr. Bronson, that teacher that every single kid in the entire school hated. Mr. Bronson was played by the late Michael Sheard, who also played Admiral Ozzel in The Empire Strikes Back (It’s hard to watch without shouting It’s Mr. Bronson!), and has played Heinrich Himmler three times, and Adolf Hitler no less than five times, including in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Then there was Mr. Baxter, the bearded P.E. Teacher, and Scruffy McGuffy, the art teacher who the kids liked really, despite making his life hell with that nickname.
I’d like to wave a fond farewell to Grange Hill, I certainly enjoyed watching the show whilst growing up, and at times it was quite hard hitting, even if the mock swearing was sometimes quite laughable. If you want to take a further stroll down memory lane then check out the Grange Hill Fans website, which covers all aspects of the series old and new.