I know you lot perceive me as a strong, butch, muscular, tough shelled alpha male beast of a man (and that IS partially true) but if there’s one television show that brings out my emotional side then it has to be Surprise Surprise. For those of you who are too immersed in the adventures at Waterloo Road, the concept is that Holly Willoughby and friends spring surprises on members of the public who give a lot and achieve a lot in their lives. It’s people who have done good or brave things and seek no reward for it receiving well deserved pats on the back and the stories are always inspiring.
We have had a lovely young chap who runs youth clubs and hostels for young people being surprised with a newly refurbished kitchen and we also had the lovely Jodi Ann Bickley who spends much of her time writing and sending letters of hope and love to people in need of a boost being surprised with the funds to be able to send more letters. This week we met Amy Fricker, who, at the young age of 26, has endured more hardship than most people do in their lifetime.
The thing that sets Amy apart from others is the sheer positivity she exudes despite her tough times and her bravery in the face of the numerous adversities she has faced. In pictures taken at the height of one of her illnesses, she was seen smiling and, with the help of a very supportive family, she defeated not one, but two life threatening illnesses. This came after a family tragedy when she was just 12 where she lost her mum. To even imagine the difficulty in enduring all of this before you turn quarter of a century old is just futile; there can be no words to describe what it must have been like for Amy and her loved ones.
Against all odds, she is here today, positive as ever, in a successful career with pre wedding party planners, the brilliant Hen Heaven and Stag Company. On top of that, Amy has just got married herself to life partner John, who supported her through her toughest times and it was her wedding that was the focus of Surprise Surprise.
I was honoured to be able to have a chat with the amiable and down to earth Amy, where she discussed with me her experience on the show and of the difficult times leading up to it.
(Series 10, ep.7) “Waterloo Road is home to a bunch of highly sophisticated cyber criminals,” said Allie upon seeing the school’s IT systems being dismantled and computers being removed by the police. When did these revered and relied-upon learning aids become Evidence? When Leo inexpertly hacked into the system of that mega corporation Wire Data. Because Waterloo Road isn’t full of sophisticated cyber criminals, as Allie knew because she was being witty and ironic. It’s home to Kevin Chalk, who knows his way round a computer, and Leo Fitzgerald, who would love to be a sophisticated cyber criminal but is actually a bit of an idiot.
Were Kevin’s actions based on supporting Audrey’s campaign against Wire Data, who are endangering the crested tit (“It could become the dodo of its day,” according to Audrey)? Nope. It was all to prove that he’s still the smartest boy in the school, even after his stroke. He impressed the boss of Wire Data, anyhow, and he didn’t even have to mention his phone app fortune. And just in case Mr Wire Data was thinking of prosecuting (he was), Kevin had found a secret hidden laptop and installed a worm on Wire’s system as “insurance.” Continue reading
(Series 10, ep.5) Waterloo Road has always been founded on a passionate belief that “these kids” deserve the very best education. They deserve to reach for the stars, ain’t no mountain high enough and any number of inspirational cliches. It’s what head teachers from Jack Rimmer through to Christine Mulgrew via Karen Fisher have sweated to achieve.
Vaughan Fitzgerald, the current incumbent of the swivel chair of power, is a bit different. He apparently thinks that too much hard work is bad for kids, who should be turning themselves into well-rounded individuals via the medium of not doing too much of that tedious revision. “Exams shouldn’t be the tail that wags the school dog,” he announced confusingly, just as exam papers were being handed out. Continue reading
(Series 10, ep.4) That was possibly one of the most uncomfortable hours of television viewing I’ve had in my life. It was basically just 60 minutes of watching a girl getting bullied by her peers and her teachers alike, and it was so relentlessly grim I had to check the credits to see if it was directed by Ken Loach.
I don’t know whether we were supposed to feel that the bullying was in some way justified because the victim was Gabriella Wark, who’s rich and superior and used to get her kicks trying (rather pathetically) to seduce Hector Reid and broke Kacey Barry’s arm by knocking her off a climbing wall. Even so, the level of nastiness against her was just horrible – culminating in the bedroom of her late sister being trashed by Lisa and Shaznay and Gabriella almost drowning for the second time in the episode (the first one a water-boarding incident in the school toilets – not the first time this has been used on Gabriella). The only redeeming feature of the storyline was the acting of Naomi Battrick as Gabriella and Brogan Ellis as Kacey. Both of them are stunning actors with incredible presence. Continue reading
(Series 10, ep.3) I found the main story in this week’s Waterloo Road really sad. Verruca Salt, a girl with pitifully low self esteem (me calling her Verruca probably wouldn’t help, so it’s Rhiannon from now on) had a virtual baby to look after and, bless her, it looked to be just about as much fun as she’s ever had in her life. Taking to virtual baby motherhood like a duck to water, Rhiannon took beautiful care of “Beyoncé” and even enjoyed talking to her as she wheeled her to school. She was probably only a whisker away from putting Beyoncé’s name down for nursery and arranging to have her vaccinations done.
It was all the more poignant because she thought she was really pregnant, and was harbouring visions of herself and Darren (the father) and a real Beyoncé (not the real Beyoncé – that would be implausible) living in domestic harmony. Continue reading
(Series 10, ep.2) In the parallel universe of Waterloo Road, it’s a perfectly normal idea to throw open the doors of your school to anyone who wants to wander in and make it into a “community hub.” Why not throw in a helpline so that people can ring you and ask for tasks to be performed – cleaning, DIY, whatever. If only somebody at Waterloo Road had absorbed the lessons of the various Mentoring Initiatives or the Apprentice Initiative, they’d have raised a few practical questions, the funding of the free tea and biscuits being the least of them. If Grantly Budgen (RIP) had still been around, he’d have at least had a good grumble about it all, but apart from George Windsor, everybody else was thrilled with the scheme. Continue reading
(Series 10, ep.1) There are always a lot of new faces at the start of a new term in Waterloo Road, and it’s sometimes hard to remember who’s who at first. They’ve made it stunningly easy this time, as every new character belonged to the same extended family.
New head teacher Vaughan Fitzgerald (Neil Pearson) is living with art teacher Allie Westbrook (Nicola Stephenson) and her two children, Floyd and Tiffany (Leo Flanagan and Sammy Oliver). They’ve only been at Waterloo Road for five minutes when Mrs Fitzgerald turns up and dumps the Fitzgerald sons, Leo and Justin (Zebb Dempster and Max Bowden) on their father before heading off to a medical facility in Edinburgh to have a breakdown in peace. Continue reading