Grange Hill: The original kids’ TV soap – and still the best

You remember... The Grange Hill title sequence.

You remember… The Grange Hill title sequence.

Cast your mind back: You’ve just trudged home from school. Mum says your tea won’t be ready ‘til half past five so you nick a Wagon Wheel, pour yourself a glass of Alpine pop and slump down on the settee in front of the telly.

You hear the jaunty music and suddenly a sausage skewered with a fork flies across the cartoon strip on the screen.

It’s Grange Hill and children’s television will never be the same again.

Thirty five years ago this month Phil Redmond’s ground-breaking soap set inside a ‘typical’ comprehensive first aired.

It went on to run for 31 series over three decades before its final episode was screened on September 15, 2008.

Grange Hill came into its own in the early to mid-Eighties powered by characters whose names are synonymous with my childhood and anyone of a certain age.

Characters such as Ronnie Birtles; Roland Browning; Ziggy Greaves; and Danny Kendall.

Back then if you weren’t out playing football or reading the latest issue of Look-In there were no game consoles, no mobile telephones and no internet to distract us.

This was even before the advent of Channels 4 and Five and so the attention of impressionable teenagers after half past three of afternoon was very much focused on ITV or BBC.

Cartoons fought for ratings with straight-laced shows like Blue Peter and John Craven’s Newsround.

Then Grange Hill arrived and everything changed.

Here was a show for kids in which kids who were (sort of) like our classmates were the stars.

Spotty oiks like us who (naming no names) endured debilitating crushes on members of the opposite sex, bunked off school, hated homework (and the cross country course) and got into trouble for wearing trainers, swearing, fighting, smoking and having dubious magazines in our rucksacks.

Crossroads and Corrie were for grown-ups but Grange Hill was for us because we understood it: We knew exactly what the stars were going through. We could identify with strict, long-suffering headmistress Mrs McClusky and fierce, wig-wearing fascist Mr Bronson.

Every school, including Holden Lane High where yours truly was scraping by, had its Gripper Stebson-type bully who we all hoped we wouldn’t bump into in the toilets or on the stairwell.

Every school had its likeable Tucker Jenkins-style rogue who all the girls quite fancied and the boys wanted to emulate but didn’t dare (and didn’t have the jacket either).

Every year group had its annoying Pogo Patterson figure – constantly coming up with hare-brained money-making ideas (scams) which invariably failed but kept him busy for five years.

Every class had its Jackie Wright, THAT girl who was Premier League to all us fourth division lads but who somehow ended up dating a total loser who we could all have happily hit with a shovel.

Not that I had anything against Zammo Maguire. In fact, he was my favourite character until the whole post-heroin addiction Just Say No record debacle.
That’s another reason Grange Hill was so exciting, of course.

As well as dealing with the usual teenage angst, first loves, raging hormones and exam-related woes, its storylines were often edgy and controversial.

People died. Kids got bullied. Teachers had dubious relationships with pupils. Drugs were a very real problem.

These were issues which TV executives and even magazines editors had shied away from tackling but which the producers of Grange Hill faced head-on.

Over the last 30 years or so there have been many imitators such as Byker Grove and Tracey Beaker which have attempted to distil what it is that makes teenagers tick.

But Grange Hill was a pioneering thing of its time to which all such shows owe a debt.
The original and still the best.’

Pick up a copy of The Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia.