Grange Hill (CBBC, 1978-2008)
This is one of those CBBC shows that doesn’t need that much of an explanation really, it ran for three decades, so several generations of viewers will be familiar with it. Grange Hill was a drama series that was created by the same team as Brookside and Hollyoaks, and it was set in a secondary school somewhere in London (although the location seemed to change sometimes).
I first really remember watching the show around the time that the second version of the famous theme “Chicken Man” was introduced (and a version was also used as the theme to Give Us A Clue for a while), and this version means more to me than the more famous original version (it was also around this time that the school badge changed to a purple and yellow colour). But “Chicken Man” was dropped altogether in 1990!
The show concentrated on the lives of the pupils (most of them were known by nicknames including Teggy, Ziggy, Smelly, or whatever they were all called) and the overworked teachers. And such is the way that these things work, with every new series, another group of pupils would join, and the older ones would move on, meaning that a huge amount of characters appeared regularly over the years.
Grange Hill dealt with subjects that had never really been touched on in a children’s TV series before, and it quickly began to cause a stir. By the mid-80s, there was the spin-off series Tucker’s Luck, which followed one of the most popular characters after they left school, and the cast even had a Top Ten hit single in 1986 with “Just Say No”, which really was rather memorable.
In 1993, to celebrate the 15th anniversary, CBBC repeated the first series in a Sunday Morning slot, giving me a chance to see the earliest episodes. This run then continued into further series. In 1994, I did begin to find it rather difficult to watch the repeats because this was the year that I was going to start secondary school myself, and I hoped that it wasn’t going to be like what happened at this school. The repeat run eventually ran to showing the first 16 series.
One curious thing about the show is just how few regular cast members went on to further success in acting on TV as an adult, beyond joining EastEnders. As the years went by, the show began to fall out of favour with some viewers, and people seemed to stop talking about it, so after 30 years and 600 episodes, Grange Hill was finally condemned. Tucker returned in the very last episode (as his nephew was now a pupil) to inform us how flippin’ angry he was about it all.
There were several books released to tie in with the series, and there were also strips in several comics in the 80s including the short-lived School Fun. As well as CBBC, there were also some repeats on UK Gold. Most of the earliest series have been released on DVD too, but I don’t have them, maybe if they get to the era that I remember I might consider buying some of them.