In this episode: Mr Foster continues to be The Worst, and Mr Mitchell continues to be The Best.
The episode begins, much like the last, with Benny and his football in the incredibly grey school carpark.
Why does he turn up to school so early every day? Oh dear sweet Benny, I wish I understood you.
Benny is such a carefree and happy boy when he’s with his football, he doesn’t even pay attention to his surroundings. The episode decides to turn into a public information film momentarily, as Our Benny steps out in front of a car without looking. There’s a horrible screeching of brakes, and luckily the car stops just in time.
The best character in the entire show steps out to deliver a lesson on carpark safety.
“The cemeteries are full of children who didn’t look!” fumes Mr Mitchell. A wonderful line that could very easily be from one of my favourite PIFs. Honestly, this was the golden age of PIFs, it was a missed opportunity not making actual Public Information Films starring Grange Hill characters. Anyway, I’m getting off track, I’m here to talk about Grange Hill, not PIFs. Remind me to do a separate post about PIFs in the future if you’re really interested.
(And remember: on the roads near home, stop, think, then go. A-woo woo woo woo wooo.)
Back in Grange Hill, Mr Mitchell stops lecturing Benny, and instead tells him to try out for the school football team, which Benny is eager to do. But there’s a problem! Benny doesn’t have football boots! Benny looks genuinely upset at the idea that he might not be able to try out, but Mr Mitchell just gently tells him “we’ll see”, with a face that tells us he’s going to try and fix this problem. This is why Mr Mitchell is great. He can be furiously yelling at a kid, but the minute that kid is sad or has a problem, Mitch forgets all anger and instead becomes determined the help. Have I told you I love Mr Mitchell lately?
Anyway, here’s Alan and David, walking into school.
I wonder what Alan’s surname is today? Will it be Hargreaves, Turner, or something else entirely?
Well whatever, David No-Last-Name-Given and Alan Fitzgerald-For-All-I-Know are peacefully walking into school, without a care in the world. Surely nothing can ruin the cheerful quiet chat they’re having. Who would dare disturb them?
“What did you do that for? You nut! That wasn’t clever, was it?” says David. David is wise beyond his years. What a shame this is the last we’ll ever see of him.
But never mind that, for an even greater menace to Grange Hill society than Tucker Jenkins approaches.
[Imperial March plays in the background]
Truly Mr Foster is the anti-Mr Mitchell. Mr Mitchell gets the kids to behave by earning their trust and respect, by treating them like human beings worthy of his
respect. Mr Mitchell truly cares about the kids and would never do anything to hurt them, and truly wants what’s best for all of them, even if that means bending the rules a little.
Mr Foster meanwhile gets the kids to behave by making sure he is the most terrifying thing in their life. Mr Foster doesn’t respect the kids, or care in the slightest what problems of their own they might have. He doesn’t care how his actions hurt the kids, be it mentally, physically, or in terms of hurting their chances of fulfilling their own potential. He only cares that everyone sticks rigidly to the rules, which must never be bent or broken. He is the very definition of lawful evil, and he is everything I think someone responsible for children, be they a teacher or a parent, should never be.
Sure, Tucker is a little git who deserves to be told off, but he doesn’t deserve to be treated as less than human. He’s 12 at the very oldest. At least 50% of humans are little gits at that age, and they won’t learn to be better people unless they are shown a good example.
Treating all those less powerful than you as lesser and using force to discipline those who are “lesser” is not a good example, especially to a child who’s already developing selfish and violent tendencies.
Luckily Mr Mitchell and Mrs Jenkins are here, and I’m sure together they can help Tucker grow out of his little git-ish ways and grow into a fine upstanding young man any mother would be proud of. Because they’re the best.
In this particular scene, Mr Foster talks in the menacing tone of a supervillain while 11 year old children literally cower in fear.
He still somehow thinks he is in the right here.
Mr Foster then recognises Tucker as the same child he hit in assembly just a few days ago.
Tucker, who is brave but foolish, lies to Mr Foster’s face and claims it wasn’t him. Perhaps Tucker has a death wish.
Mr Foster tells them to clear off “before they do something to really upset him”. I would hate to say Mr Foster really upset, if this is him not really upset.
Alan, ever the sensible one of the group, decides to try and stay out of Mr Foster’s way.
“The size of this place, we’ll probably never see him again!” says Tucker. Tucker seems to have greatly misunderstood the purpose of school, as he seems not to realise that he will actually have to go to lessons, and see teachers.
Meanwhile, Justin has, for some bizarre reason, not only turned up for PE, but seemingly been the first one there.
Please take a moment to appreciate how almost everyone has the same haircut.
Quite understandably, Justin looks like he’s about to throw up. I relate. PE lessons are a strange form of torture forced upon the weedy and unfit youth.
Just at this moment, Tucker very loudly enters the scene.
“Is this changing room three?” he asks, while staring at a changing room door with the number three on it.
Having finally arrived, Tucker decides to ask the closest thing to a nearby responsible authority figure for advice.
Unfortunately, Justin is new too, and doesn’t know if they should go in and change. He thinks it wisest if they just wait for the teacher to arrive, and all the other kids follow his lead, as well they should. Many teachers don’t want you in a room unattended, so waiting outside if you’re unsure is a very sensible course of action. Well done, Justin.
Unfortunately, Mr Foster doesn’t see it that way, as he turns up to yell at pre-pubescent kids for not magically knowing something they’d never been told.
Turns out he wanted them changed and ready to go by the time he arrived. These children, who I must stress started the school only a few days ago, did not instantly and psychically know this, and now Mr Foster is Very Angry that the laws of reality did not bend to his will.
Tucker, clearly miffed at being so spectacularly outdone at being The Worst, decides to take this out on Justin, and calls him “stupid”. Tucker is clearly projecting.
But wait! SOMEBODY is late for PE!
Benny. Sweetheart. Darling boy. You were literally one of the first in school! How the heck are you late for your first lesson? What were you doing??
Whatever he was doing, what he is doing now is getting directions from a very polite boy, who is clearly also a non-conformist rebel, as he doesn’t have the default Grange Hill haircut.
He’s clearly also bunking, as it’s five minutes since the start of a lesson, and he seems to be walking the way Benny just came, towards the exit. My personal hero and role model. (Yes, OKAY, you could say he’s just running an errand, but that’s not as much fun, is it?)
“By the way, who you got?” says the polite revolutionary.
“Some geezer called Foster” replies poor naive Benny.
“Hard luck,” says the nice boy with the cool ‘do, as he walks away to go smoke behind the bike sheds, or wherever he’s off to. Understatement of the century, methinks.
Meanwhile, Tucker is doing his very best to reclaim his crown as The Worst. He has decided to start bullying Justin for no good reason.
He viciously pushes Justin into a bench, easily hard enough to leave a bruise. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!
Mr Foster, meanwhile, has decided to loom over the kids while “outlining a few simple and basic rules”.
This is progress I suppose. It’s an improvement on just expecting the kids to know what you want instinctively and then getting mad when they don’t.
Wait, nope, never mind, he’s decided to physically assault a child who hasn’t even done anything wrong yet.
Meanwhile, Benny is still trying to find the right changing rooms, even after the coolest kid in school gave him directions. He finally enters a door. Not the right door mind you, but a door none the less:
All this while Mr Foster is still yelling at/roughly manhandling children, as per. He whacks a few kids round the head too for good measure. What a delightful human being.
Mr Foster still hates Tucker. Understandable maybe, but he doesn’t have to show it. He claims Tucker’s kit looks scruffy, despite it not looking noticeably different from anyone else’s.
Oh, and Benny is now half naked in front of a bunch of older girls.
Oh dear. If only Benny had bunked off with the speccy kid instead.
This is normal Grange Hill behaviour, you’ll get used to it.
We then cut back to Mr Foster terrorising kids for no reason in particular.
I hope you appreciate how hard it is to keep finding new things to say about this episode, it’s very repetitive.
Mr Foster threatens to hit any child who injures themselves on the ropes with the ropes, being Mr Foster is The Worst.
He also continues to pick on Tucker, because nothing says “I am fit to be responsible for children’s wellbeing” like baring grudges against one child because he disrespected your authority one time.
But never mind, because here comes half naked Benny to distract him.
It turns out if there’s one thing Mr Foster hates more than children, it’s poor children. He’s furious that Benny’s parents couldn’t afford the strip, and orders Benny find one to borrow, despite the fact that Benny is clearly the tiniest child in the world, and even if anyone just happened to have a spare kit on them, it wouldn’t fit him. Mr Foster doesn’t care about this.
“That’s your problem. Use your initiative.” he says. I am really not a fan of Mr Foster.
Later in the changing room, Mr Foster forces boys to shower and continues to publicly shame Benny for being poor, and Tucker continues to bully Justin.
Scenes like this are very uncomfortable for me, because Tucker very strongly reminds me of my own school bully, and scenes like this make it clear that it’s all just a joke to kids like Tucker, and they don’t even realise the serious and long lasting effect it can have on the mental health of kids like Justin, or me. It’s not funny when you’re the butt of the joke, and it’s not funny when no-one takes you seriously when you say you’re upset because “well everyone else was laughing!”, and it’s not funny when people tell you to just grow a thicker skin or not take it so personally, and it’s not funny when all throughout school you find it hard to make friends because your bully is friends with all the kids you like, and even after leaving school you still find it hard to make friends because your confidence has been completely shattered, and even when people are nice to them a voice in your brain tells you that they’re just pretending so that they can make fun of you. It’s. Not. Funny.
But anyway, that got super deep and personal, back to the funny lighthearted reviews, way-hey!
You know, if anything’s it’s made worse by the fact that unlike other bullies on TV, Tucker isn’t heartless. Tucker isn’t really a bad kid. He’s determined to help Benny get the kit together so he can enter the football trials, awwwwww. He steals Justin’s shirt to give to Benny. Less awwwwww. It’s clear he just doesn’t realise how awful he’s being to Justin. Tucker has a heart, he just doesn’t have empathy or self awareness, yet. But there is hope for him! It just might take a while.
Tucker has even roped in Alan to help Benny! Alan is the coolest, most no-nonsense kid in the year, so much so that he even gets to hang out with kids from Main Character Form, despite only being in Secondary Character Form at the moment.
Tucker’s grand plan is for Alan to lend Benny his boots, despite the fact that Alan is clearly twice the size of Benny.
Look, I said Tucker had a heart, not a brain.
The true hero of the show decides to investigate why the National Preteen Moron Convention is happening outside his door.
Benny and Tucker explain the problem. Everyone makes a big deal out of how unnaturally tiny Benny’s feet are and how no other boy is going to have boots that small. I feel you, Benny.
Mr Mitchell tells Tucker and Benny to get along to the form room, and that he’ll be along in a minute.
“Something might turn up,” he says, like a sweetheart who could not make it more obvious he’s about to go and sort it for them. Tucker and Benny of course remain oblivious.
“Yeah, Mr Foster might break his neck in the gym this afternoon,” says Tucker. Alas no Tucker, it’s only series one, no-one going to actually die yet.
Mr Mitchell goes to visit Mr Foster, who is busy doing… this.
Mr Mitchell refuses to come into the gym because he’s not wearing the correct shoes, and Mr Foster, King of Lack of Self Awareness, says he “wishes everyone to could be as thoughtful” as Mr Mitchell.
Mr Mitchell seems wonderfully subtly annoyed by Mr Foster.
“Did I ever tell you how much it cost to have that floor renovated?” grumbles Mr Foster.
“About a hundred times,” says Mr Mitchell, wearily. I love him.
Mr Mitchell tells Mr Foster how good Benny is at football, and how much he wants to play, and how sad it is that Benny can’t afford the boots.
Mr Foster, in so many words, tells Mr Mitchell that he gives less that a rats backside about Benny Green, and he only cares about The Rules. The Rules are to be followed to the letter at all times and not bent for anyone, regardless of the circumstances.
Mr Mitchell has a very relatable reaction:
Me too, Tony, Me too.
Mr Mitchell arrives at the Main Character Form Room, where Trisha, bored by how little any of the girls have to do in this episode, has found something more interesting to pay attention to.
Sadly, Mr Mitchell confiscates it and forces Trisha to pay attention to the plot. Bad luck Trish.
Mr Mitchell asks all the main characters if anyone has a solution to Benny’s lack of boots. Ann Wilson suggests he borrow a pair. Tucker, projecting again, calls her stupid as well.
Hughesy, actual sunshine boy and light of my life, decides to brighten up the very boring proceedings by telling a bad joke.
“I could ask our dog sir, he’s very keen on sports.”
Mr Mitchell, knowing the set-up for a very old joke when he sees one and as keen as anyone for some entertainment, decides to play along.
“Is he Hughes? And why’s that?”
“He’s a Boxer sir!”
Everyone groans, apart from Hughesy, who is busy laughing at his own joke.
Ann Wilson actually has a sensible idea, because of course she does. If anyone here was going to have a sensible idea, it would be Ann “Brains of the Year Group” Wilson. She suggests that Benny borrow her hockey boots because they’re just like football boots really, and the hockey trials finish just before the football trials.
Well done Ann! You have saved us all.
Sometime later, and it’s time for the football trials.
Mr Foster is coming to inspect everyone to make sure they have the correct kit, but oh no! Ann Wilson hasn’t delivered the boots yet!
It’s time to turn Mr Foster’s own words on him and Use Initiative.
Mr Foster walks past Tucker, and the minute his back is turned, an act of extreme stealth takes place.
This somehow works, even thought Tucker audibly says “gimme the boots” before Mr Foster has even left the room. We’re all lucky Mr Foster is apparently deaf.
Still wondering where Ann Wilson is, Tucker decides the best course of action is to try and walk right into the girls’ changing room.
This goes about as well as can be expected, and with the female gym teacher now believing Tucker to be some kind of perv, Tucker retreats back to the boys’ changing room, as Ann Wilson finally arrives.
Ann tries to apologise and explain that she had to finish her game, but Tucker rudely interrupts her and snatches the boots, not even saying thank you.
“Thank you Ann. Don’t mention it Ann.” mutters Ann “Straight Savage” Wilson under her breath as she slopes off into her own changing room.
Mr Mitchell arrives on the scene to see if the plan is going smoothly.
He cares about them so much! AU where Mr Mitchell adopts everyone.
“I hope after all this, Mr Foster is satisfied,” says Mr Mitchell, as he walks out to the pitch with Benny.
On the pitch, Mr Foster notices Benny’s hockey boots.
“Hold on a minute!” he says. How did you get past my inspection?”
Once again, our hero, an angel from heaven, Mr Mitchell steps in to save the day.
“You used your initiative, didn’t you Green?”
I LOVE TONY MITCHELL.
Mr Foster looks about as pleased as you would expect at being outsmarted.
But he realises he can’t stop Benny playing now, and the day is won, and Benny gets to do what he always wants to do.
And this episode is finally over!
So what did we learn this week?
Well, P.E. teachers are evil, if a child partakes in dangerous behaviour, just tell them to channel that enthusiasm into a safer pastime, and even boys who disrespect women and terrorise wimpy kids have hearts, somewhere deep down inside. Very deep down.
Oh, and always use the green cross code. Because Mr Mitchell won’t be there when you cross the road.