WHAT HAPPENS ? : It’s the school holidays and Roland is working in an arcade. Zammo arrives and asks to borrow £50. Roland reluctantly agrees to lend him money from the arcade until the end of the day. Laura Glover tells her father, school governor, Martin Glover, that she is staying at Laura Reagan’s overnight. However, unbeknown to their parents, the girls are planning to go to an all night party instead. After a long journey, the party turns out to be a disaster and the girls return home. Zammo returns to the arcade but only gives Roland back £43 and asks to use the backroom. Suspecting his daughter has lied to him, a furious Mr Glover goes round to see Mrs Reagan. The girls return to Laura’s and Julia refuses to speak to her father or come home, locking herself in the bathroom. Meanwhile, Roland becomes suspicious after Zammo fails to come out of the back room. After investigating, Roland discovers Zammo slumped in the toilets; it is clear he has been taking drugs.
WHAT DO WE THINK ? : This episode was chosen to showcase Grange Hill as part of BBC 4’s evening of Classic Children’s Television in December 2015. Whilst its ending is truly iconic, and series 9 is one of the best remembered, as a whole, the episode is not one of the finest. This is mainly due to the fact that firstly the episode is set during the school holidays and therefore the school (and the majority of regular iconic characters (including teachers)) fails to feature.
Instead we are left with 1986’s pin ups Laura Reagan and Julia Glover’s adventures at an all night party. This is clearly what being an 80s teenage girl was all about (apparently); staying out late, wearing make up and heels, lying to parents and turning up at a dodgy party filled with spectacle wearing, body popping boys. We liked the fact that Julia’s sloppy black jumper, which, according to her father, ‘does nothing for her’, is what unravels her trail of deceit!
This story-line is clearly meant to distract us from what is going on in the arcade. Nowadays, it is obviously exactly why Zammo wants to borrow money and what his problem is; mainly because Grange Hill set the bar for this kind of story to be copied endlessly in soaps and dramas. However, in the safe children’s TV world of 1986, this ending must have come as a huge shock to viewers. With Roland’s line ; ‘But not Zammo….’ summing up exactly what the audience must have been thinking, missing the next episode would have been unthinkable.
As it is, this episode is only really the beginning of the ‘Just Say No’ story-line and there are many much more powerful episodes in series 9.
Judged on its own, in the current era and totally out of context, this episode is watchable and entertaining. It shows how Grange Hill set the standard for powerful drama for children; something that would eventually be taken for granted, before being generally disregarded. In character terms, this episode is a key-moment for Zammo, but in terms of being the very best episode of Grange Hill, there are many more deserving choices from series 9.
That said ; it has been great to see Grange Hill broadcast on the BBC once more.