Bring Back Grange Hill

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 by

Grange Hill – complete with that iconic image of a cartoon sausage on a fork flying across the screen as the classic theme chugs along – is fondly remembered by those of a certain age, and the mid-’80s period is seen by many as the golden era. So what could be better than wallowing in an hour’s worth of nostalgia about the Just Say No days of Zammo and co, courtesy of this programme, oddly named Bring Back Grange Hill. An attempt to reunite the stars for a reunion performance of the anti-drugs anthem at a School Disco event in Hammersmith Palais, the show was potentially a great evening’s entertainment let down by both format and host.

Rather than simply get the cast back together and have them all reminiscing about the good old days (as in the Dale Winton-fronted Stars Reunited), Channel 4 decided to take a different approach. Host Justin Lee Collins, one in an ever-growing number of annoying would be comedians-cum-presenters, was, for some undisclosed reason, given just 10 days to track down the actors and get them on stage. This was conducted as if they were fugitives from the law, or members of the witness protection programme, rather than one-time child thespians now living normal lives like the rest of us. Far too much of the programme’s time was spent with Collins and crew hiding in cars, sending researchers into key cutting shops and sitting around in hotels. This approach only became interesting when George Christopher (Ziggy Greaves) demanded a discussion as to his possible involvement over a pint. Alas we didn’t get to see the ensuing chat, perhaps because he’d had second thoughts and was demanding a rise in his pre-agreed fee.

When the programme eventually decided to give airtime to the cast waxing lyrical about their internment at Grange Hill, it was quite entertaining. Lee MacDonald (Zammo Maquire) came across well, seemingly unaffected by his youthful fame and quite happy to talk about the old days. There were some interesting revelations, such as the fact that the Just Say No anthem was originally an American phenomena and, of course, the obligatory shocking expose – from Mmoloki Chrystie (Kevin Baylon) on moody video footage in some kind of Grange Hill-gate-style whistle-blowing – that they didn’t exactly say “no” when touring the States. Erkan Mustafa was on hand to talk about the correct pronunciation of “Row-Land” and also gave the amusing final word on the whole event: “Some people who I’ve seen tonight … its been nice seein’ you, but let’s leave it another 18 years.”

At least, unlike in most shows with a nostalgic bent, there weren’t a plethora of C-list celebrities on hand to give us their unwanted opinions on the show, just a presenter enamoured with his own voice who seemed to think what the viewer wanted was endless footage of himself giving bland commentary whilst waiting for the next cast member to arrive as per the agreed schedule. To further exacerbate the thirtysomething viewer, at the climax of the show from out of nowhere came a handful of other ex-Hillites, most notably Gripper. Why on Earth these people weren’t interviewed is anyone’s guess.

There certainly is a great show to be made about the 1986 Grange Hill gang, but this wasn’t it. Justin Lee Collins should at the very least expect a detention for his part, and if this review were a school report the verdict would be a sternly written “must do better” in red ink and double underlined.


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