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Waterloo Road: Back to school shocks

(Series 7, Ep.1) Waterloo Road started a new, 30 week, run last night at an earlier time slot than usual. The 7.30pm start was presumably to try and hook in some new viewers who haven’t been exposed to the delights of our favourite dysfunctional secondary school before.

Anyone who did tune in could have been forgiven for being slightly traumatised come 8.30. Indeed PLA Jr has announced her intention of spending the next few years “wrapped in bubblewrap,” as she now feels that being a teenager is just too fraught with danger.

But before we get on to that, what seasoned WR viewers want to know is who’s in and who’s out. Well, Cesca Montoya, Ruby Fry and Adina Lawal are out on the staff side. New teachers for this term are Eleanor Chaudry (Poppy Jhakra, previously seen on Corrie), who is a fierce, no-nonsense Tory who takes no crap from stroppy teenagers or softies like Tom Clarkson (a shame, this, as he’s her head of department).

Her polar opposite is Daniel Chalk the maths teacher (Mark Benton), the sort of teacher who practically has “kick me” written on his forehead. He’s been taken under the wing of new staff member number three. Robson Green (for it is he, playing Rob Scotcher) may just be an ‘umble caretaker (or “site supervisor” to give him his proper title), but he apparently knows more about teaching than you can shake a stick at. I don’t think I’m going to get very good odds for my bet that he’ll end up being promoted from the cleaning cupboard to the staffroom before very many weeks have passed. Talking of that cleaning cupboard, the Polish caretaker last term had only a small closet as his domain, but Rob Scotcher (will anyone call him “Hop”?) enjoys a bigger room than most of the classrooms to keep his bottles of Jeyes Fluid and his power tools and to flirt with Mrs Fisher (it’s time Karen had a bit of love interest, and obviously Chris Mead is out – that would be too spooky, what with Jess and all).      Continue reading

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Waterloo Road: And the bride wore handcuffs

(Series 6, Ep.20) Another term almost over, and head teacher Karen Fisher sat back in her chair to reflect just how well the term had gone. Both her daughters, Bex and Jess, had been saved from the clutches of a nasty pornographer and son Harry seems to be over his own “issues;” the teacher who’d been caught having an affair with one of her pupils was safely on bail and awaiting trial (and motherhood); Tom Clarkson is healing nicely and is over his agoraphobia; a nasty racist incident was swiftly dealt with; Waterloo Road’s first openly gay couple are doing very well; no-one died; and, most importantly, exam results are improving, single sex classes are working, and there’s the end-of-term gender-bending pantomime to look forward to!

You could forgive her for cracking open a Bacardi Breezer and toasting a job well done, but, as devoted Waterloo Road watchers will know, the end of term is not the time to relax. It tends to be the time when Something Dreadful Happens.

It usually happens in front of a visiting dignitary as well, so perhaps it was a mistake inviting the chair of governors along to the panto. It was certainly a mistake casting Kyle Stack as Cinderfella. He may have all the dance moves (how Holly Kenny kept a straight face when George Sampson was required to execute a “seductive” body-popping routine in front of her I don’t know), but his greatest skill is in winding up Finn Sharkey. Hence the panto didn’t go at all to plan, what with Finn and Kyle going toe-to-toe over the lovely Sambuca, Kyle being dumped from the production and Sam going all “you’re not a real man” at understudy Finn during the actual performance, when she was meant to be falling for the blinged-up prince.

Jonah (you didn’t think I’d forgotten him, did you?) used the panto chaos to escape from the school and rendezvous with Cesca to head for a wedding at Gretna Green. Chris Mead almost managed to stop them, but Cesca persuaded him to wait a crucial few minutes before calling the police: “We love each other and we want to be together – is that so wrong?” “Technically, yes,” said Chris, wearing his best sorrowful “Don’t do dis” expression. Continue reading

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Waterloo Road: But we’ve both been so careful!

(Series 6, Ep.17) Remember what first made Spanish teacher Cesca Montoya notice schoolboy Jonah Kirby in the romantic sense? It was when he rescued her from Kyle Stack’s nasty Rottweiler. “Hola,” you could see her thinking. “He’s all buff and brave and tall and dependable-looking and serene and dazzlingly smiley and that. ¡Ay, caramba!”

What didn’t seem to be uppermost in her mind, or just fleetingly anyway, was that she’s his teacher, he’s her pupil, so basically you just don’t go there (although of course Waterloo Road has already gone there several times, what with Davina and Brett and Chris Mead and Jess). Also she didn’t factor in that, despite appearances, he’s still ever so young.

This week, Cesca started looking a bit peaky in the mornings, and you know what that means. A pregnancy test confirmed that she is, indeed, pregnant with Jonah’s baby. Kids having kids, as Jeremy Kyle would tut. Because he’s ever so young and crazy in love, Jonah thinks this is all brilliant news, and he can’t wait to find himself a job and leave school and start changing nappies, and he really can’t wait to get very drunk indeed and almost tell all his mates everything.

Luckily (or not), the scene of this drunken behaviour (and I must add that Jonah is totally adorable when drunk) was an illicit warehouse party organised by Ronan and Finn, with the express motive of getting Vicky McDonald to snog Ronan. It was successful in that respect, anyway, but went a bit pear-shaped when some dodgy blokes who owned the vodka that had been conveniently left lying around turned up and demanded compensation. Despite them looking like proper hard men, they were no match for Tom Clarkson, who has recovered from his post traumatic agoraphobia and is now perfectly capable of taking on any amount of thugs if they’re threatening Our Josh and his boyfriend.

Meanwhile, the Bex/Hodge/Jess storyline finally resolved (thank the lord). When Jess went off in Hodge’s car to see Bex, Karen and Chris Mead failed to follow them, but then Hodge got nasty and made Jess wear totally the wrong shade of lipstick for her colouring, so Bex texted the address to her mum. When Chris and Karen turned up, Jess was there but Bex and Hodge had gone. They’d only gone as far as a nearby bridge, where they were fairly easy for Karen to spot from a window, given that Hodge was hauling Bex along by her hair. Luckily a bridge is an excellent spot to form a pincer movement with police at both ends of the bridge, and the evil Hodge was finally captured. Hopefully now Bex will be able to get back to school and getting those all-important qualifications.

Several points to notice: (a) Ruth Kirby is back, having mysteriously disappeared for several episodes. Let’s hope she’ll be able to knock some of her famous common sense into her big brother. (b) Finn Sharkey and Sambuca Kelly split up and got back together again, and (c) Finn looks very good in beads. (d) The party was in broad daylight, but what do I know about young people and their ways, or indeed about the problems of night-time filming which may make filming in daytime so much easier.

Next time: Ronan in false eyelashes. A treat, I’m sure you’ll agree.

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Waterloo Road: Standing up for Dave

(Series 6, Ep.14) This week Waterloo Road tackled the issue of racism. But it wasn’t the rather laboured “Polish people stealing British jobs” theme that got Twitter all-a-twitter last night. It was the relationship between Cesca and Jonah, which “went to the next level.” Yes, Jonah started the episode a boy and ended it a man, thanks to the very special private tuition of his lovely Spanish teacher. And, since Jonah is more of a man than most of the men in Waterloo Road, has Lewis Hamilton’s hair and a smile that could (and does) light up Rochdale, you can’t really blame her. Except you can, because she’s a teacher and he’s a pupil. It can’t end well and it’s wrong, I tell you. Wrong. But they do make a beautiful couple.

Meanwhile, who’s this “Dave” in the title? It’s one Dave Dowling, father to Waterloo Road student Martin Dowling, who is friends with Kyle Stack. When Dave loses out on the job of school caretaker to better-qualified and better-looking Polish person Lukas, he goes into British Bulldog mode and inspires his son and Kyle to “stand up for Dave” by being horrible to Lukas. Frankly it was all a tad heavy-handed and went back to the bad old days of series 5 when a random character was parachuted in for an episode to illuminate an “issue.” Ruby Fry took time off from her embryonic romance with Grantly Budgen (they’ve done An Inspector Calls, and now he’s taking her to Oklahoma! because she likes her theatre to involve showtunes) to add to the racism row by tending to agree that Eastern Europeans shouldn’t be taking “our” jobs. But of course our Ruby is not a “real” racist, just a decent sort who’s occasionally a tad right wing. Apparently.

Chris Mead was in charge while Karen was away (is Amanda Burton working part-time on this series?) and he got it all sorted out eventually.

While all this was going on, Ronan Burley (who has ingratiated himself into school office life by implementing a brilliant filing concept – alphabetical order. Stunning.) was happily photocopying test papers and selling them to people due to sit the test. Janeece, however, is far smarter than Ronan gives her credit for, and got Grantly Budgen to change the test. There’s nothing Ronan likes less than handing out refunds to disgruntled customers.

We still don’t know what went on between Bex and Hodge, but she told Jess it wasn’t prostitution, so that narrows it down. Hodge was not best pleased when Bex threw all the money he gave her off the roof of a shopping centre, but now he’s turned his attention to Jess. Eeek!

And Tom Clarkson is suffering from post-traumatic agoraphobia after being punched by Joe McIntyre from Corrie. Poor Josh is at his wit’s end, but at least Nate is standing by his man.

Next time: Sambuca Kelly is back! And she’s trouble!

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Waterloo Road: The art of seduction

(Series 6, Ep.12) There were various plot strands in last night’s Waterloo Road, and two of them (possibly three, if you can conceive of a romance between Grantley Budgen and Ruby Fry) were about romance.

Last week The Lovely Josh met his new gay mate Nate. It seems these two have become close very quickly, to the extent that they’re spending most of their time together, and there is most definitely Chemistry between them. As predicted, this hasn’t gone down well with Josh’s best un-gay mate, Finn, who highlighted a problem I admit I hadn’t thought of before. If Josh was going out with a girl, Finn said he’d be ok with it because he’d still be Josh’s best mate. But if Josh goes out with a boy, then that boy becomes boyfriend and best mate in one fell swoop, and Finn is sidelined.

Finn is not the Neanderthal he once appeared to be, though, and when Nate turned up at Josh’s house while Finn and Josh were having a marvellous time with Josh’s Xbox (this is not a euphemism, it’s a games console), Finn realised three was a crowd and left them to it. And when the Xboxing was over, Nate asked Josh if he had any more games they could play. Upstairs. He didn’t mean Monopoly either.

At school, efforts were being made to get Finn and Kyle Stack to be in each others’ proximity without wanting to kick chunks out of each other, via the medium of football. Finn kicked off and kicked himself out of the team, but then changed his mind. Which is just as well, because there was a vital team member missing.

Where was star player Jonah? He was busy having a one-to-one Spanish lesson with Ms Montoya. So far their relationship has not entirely teetered into the classification “unprofessional” but it’s a very near thing. Was it entirely necessary for the voluptuous Ms Montoya to place Jonah’s hand on her throat so he could feel how Spanish people form certain sounds? And is it any wonder that she later received a text from him saying “I love Spanish!” And was it really a clever idea for her to reply, “Spanish loves you!” Oh, Ms Montoya, it can only lead to trouble.

Trouble was what Janeece was in this week, as she interfered when a friend, who also had a young baby and was returning to school, became convinced that her mother was trying to take her baby away from her. This all culminated in the girl dangling the baby over the top of the school staircase (in a manner that couldn’t help but recall that Michael Jackson in Berlin incident). Under the careful questioning of Chris Mead (who was in charge of the school while Karen was away on a course) it turned out that the poor girl was mentally ill, and Janeece’s intervention had put her and the baby at risk. Poor Janeece – she always means well, and I love the way she totters round the school in her unfeasibly high heels looking self-important.

Earlier on, Chris thought he heard a baby in the school office. “Janeece – you haven’t gone and put your baby in a drawer, have you?” he wanted to know. Janeece was indignant – that would be a foolish and cruel thing to do! The baby was, in fact, in the stationery cupboard. She hadn’t wanted to take Cheryl to the creche, because she missed her. You have to love Janeece. Continue reading

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Waterloo Road: It’s back – the school that puts the fun into dysfunctional

(Series 6, Ep.11) Waterloo Road is back, in all its barking mad, brilliant, award-winning splendour. And, as usual at the start of (half) term, there are some new faces.

Pious Kim Campbell has been replaced by one Adanna Lawal (Sharlene Whyte). She’s suitably qualified for the job of head of pastoral care, as she was previously head of the Dumping Ground in Tracy Beaker, so she knows a thing or two about problem kids. She’s not pious like Kim, but she’s every bit as stubborn and enjoys contradicting and undermining Karen Fisher and Chris Mead.

Discipline, Janeece-style

This week she was attempting to undermine their latest Controversial New Initiative, which was single-sex classes. In this she was warmly supported by Ruby Fry, who can’t maintain discipline at the best of times and only managed to control a class of year 8 boys by drafting in the splendid Janeece to shout at them in their own language.

Ruby’s pre-Janeece attempt to interest a class of boys in cookery went disastrously wrong when a fight broke out between new boy Kyle Stack (Britain’s Got Talent winner George Sampson) and last year’s bad boy Finn Sharkey. As it all descended into a food fight, Ruby tried to make the boys stay and clear up the mess, but they headed for the exit anyway as soon as the bell went. “Come here!” Ruby shouted, uselessly tugging at her flowery (and floury) apron. “You’re all RUBBISH!”

In a programme which has been outstanding for the quality of its young actors, George Sampson absolutely holds his own. Kyle is the archetypal misunderstood, dragged-up loser who’s fallen through the cracks of every system. “School’s no use for the job I want,” he says. What is the job he wants? “Drug dealing,” he reckons, though you sense a lot of it is bluster and there’s a sensitive kid underneath. This is confirmed when his beloved Rottweiler Manic is taken away to be destroyed, after Kyle uses him to scare Karen’s daughter Bex, who has falsely accused him of sexually assaulting her. His little face when they took the dog away was so sad – if they ever want to remake Kes, they need go no further than George Sampson for the Billy Casper role.

On the subject of Bex (Sarah-Lou from Corrie), it was her first day back at school following her two year “lost weekend” when no-one knew where she was.  And she was getting mysterious texts, phone calls and flower deliveries from someone called “Hodge,” which was making her really upset. As usual, Karen failed to notice what was going on with her daughter. Karen calls this “giving her the space she needs.” When finally forced to acknowledge that something was wrong apart from back-to-school nerves, Karen sat Bex down for a mother-daughter chat, but Bex refused to say anything about when she was missing. “If I told you, you’d never want to see me again,” she said. But it looks like it will all come out anyway before series end, as a mysterious stranger was lurking in the darkness outside the Fisher home.

Other hints of storylines to come came from Jonah rescuing Spanish teacher Ms Montoya from the nasty dog. There’s definitely a frisson between these two (Ms Montoya and Jonah, not Ms Montoya and the dog).

And Lovely Josh Stevenson would appear to have a new gay mate whose name is Nate. Finn’s not going to be happy.

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Waterloo Road: Where’s Pious Kim Campbell when you need her?

(Series 6, Ep.8) I never thought I’d say this, but I’m missing Pious Kim Campbell, and I think the school is missing her as well. In every episode this series there’s been at least one person in need of her finely-honed student support skills (by which I mean her ability to peer intensely at them while beating herself up about not picking up on their problem earlier in the episode).

This week it was the turn of Vicki MacDonald and her lovely eyebrows to suffer in the name of entertainment. Father in a coma following a stroke, mother God knows where, living in a hostel with a hostile room-mate, it was no wonder Vicki’s schoolwork was suffering. The ace up Vicki’s sleeve was that she knows all about what went on between Deputy Head Chris Mead and headmistress’s daughter Jess Fisher; hence she was in a good position to blackmail Mr Mead to adjust her grades when she fluffed an exam.

The scriptwriter piled on the misery for poor Vicki – her classmates found out about her homelessness and were less than sympathetic. I found this a tad implausible – for example Ronan Burley only a few weeks ago was sticking his neck out to do the right thing for his girlfriend, and then stood up to his thug of a father, but was quite happy to be horrible to a girl because she was living in a hostel. Then Vicki was thrown out of the hostel when her nasty room-mate framed her, and then her dad died.

Sitting alone and miserable in a cafe, things looked bleak for Vicki, until the nasty room-mate turned up and gave her some good advice – she should turn to the people who cared about her. Vicki called Jess, who turned up with Chris Mead to get her and take her to a much nicer hostel that Chris knew about.

While all this was going on, Grantly’s wife Fleur (who has Alzheimer’s) was convinced strangers were trying to steal her “nice things.” Grantly is doing his best to help her by himself, labelling everything, leaving meals for her, but it’s obviously not enough. She ended up attacking him thinking he was a burglar, and running out into the road and almost getting run over. It’s clear she needs more help than Grantly can provide, but as she begged him not to put her in a home, he’ll try to carry on.

Ruby Fry is the only person who knows about Grantly’s situation, but she was preoccupied this week with looking after baby Poppy. As predicted, though, Janeece is starting to regret giving Poppy up to the Frys. “Just between us,” she whispered to the baby, “I’m calling you Cheryl.”

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Waterloo Road: Destroying a W of pie

(Series 6, Ep.7) Front and centre in this episode was Harry Fisher’s bulimia, which up till now has been a secret shared only between him and us. When he told his mum that sister Jess was planning to spend the night with school bad boy Finn Sharkey and Jess was grounded, Finn decided to take bullying of Harry to new levels (as a side note, what was Harry doing in the same classes as Finn and Josh? Aren’t they older than him?). This culminated in Harry experimentally trying to drown himself during a swimming lesson, but not before he’d snarfed a considerable quantity of quiche which Ruby Fry had lovingly fashioned into the initials “WR” to celebrate the inter-schools debating competition.

Of course, it all had to come out (which I realise could be construed as a tasteless pun, given the subject matter), and Karen went into guilt-and-blame overdrive. She mainly blamed husband Charlie for running off with Maggie from Casualty (who was at Waterloo Road for the inter-schools debating comp, so was very much in the faces of the Fisher family this week). Jess and Harry mainly blamed Karen, for her obsessive hero-worship of missing daughter Bex. They do have a point.

While Karen’s anguish  occupies large swathes of screen time, you badly need some comic relief, and this was provided by (the very wonderful) Ronan Burley. Now he’s got rid of nasty dad Martin Kemp he can get back to ducking and diving, wheeling and dealing like a Rochdale Del Boy. He set up a betting scam on the inter-schools debating comp which could only fail if he himself won. The topic to be debated was school uniforms, and Ronan took the “actions speak louder than words” approach by doing a striptease (or rather “a badly debated point through the medium of interpretative dance,” as he styled it) rather than actually debate. And very flexible he is, too. On whose planet did he think that this wouldn’t be a crowd pleaser? Presumably he was hoping to be disqualified, but as young Ruth Kirby bottled it, it was either let Ronan win or let the trophy go to a rival school.

The reason Ruth bottled it was because her father puts too much pressure on her to be a genius. She finally got the courage to tell him to stuff his Mensa membership. “Laters!” she told him. “That’s not a word!” he yelled – nice to see that some teachers have standards. “It’s my word,” replied Ruth.

And Janeece gave birth to her baby. It was a girl. Prior to the birth she’d decided if it was a girl she’d call her Cheryl, and if it was a boy she’d call it Cole. You can see a theme there. Turned out it was a girl, and Ruby Fry wants to call her Poppy. Poor Janeece – only moments after giving birth she was already apparently out of the charmed circle that was the new Fry family unit.

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Waterloo Road: Dads. Total embarrassment

(Series 6, Ep.5) Fathers didn’t get an entirely good press in last night’s Waterloo Road. Top embarrassing dad of the night was guest artiste Martin Kemp (off of EastEnders and Spandau Ballet), who played Ronan’s dad. Turns out that the reason Ronan has been the king of the dodgy deal over the last few weeks is not because he’s a would-be Alan Sugar. It’s because he wants to raise enough money to escape the clutches of his criminal dad, who expects Ronan to join the family “business” of thieving and violence.

Ronan’s escape fund was going nicely until it came to the attention of second annoying dad of the night, Marcus (father of  Jonah and Ruth), who is now a teacher at WR. Wading in with both feet to try and sort out Ronan’s family issues, he very nearly got beaten up for his efforts if Tom Clarkson (more on him later) hadn’t intervened. All ended well with Ronan grassing his dad up to the police, who gratefully apprehended him in mid-burglary.

Jess Fisher’s dad is an embarrassment as well. Jess discovered this week that he’s about to move in with his “fancy piece.” “Her name’s Maria,” said her dad. Oh no it isn’t – her name’s Maggie from Casualty. Whatever she’s called, Jess doesn’t want to move in with her.

Tom Clarkson is doing his best to get to grips with son Josh possibly being gay (don’t think Josh has quite worked out whether he is or not himself, but he’s worked out he doesn’t fancy Finn. Only he so does). When Josh was getting picked on for (possibly) being gay, Tom decided it would be a brilliant idea to teach him some self-defence moves – in front of the entire class. Not humiliating at all.

It’s not just dads who can be really annoying, though. There’s always Karen Fisher to represent the annoying mums, though bless her she is trying and has let Jess’s friend Vicki move into Bex’s room (Jess is keeping a watchful eye on her so she doesn’t spill the beans about Jess and Chris Mead).

Ruby Fry isn’t even a mum yet, but she’s been annoying the hell out of Janeece. Janeece is carrying the baby Ruby is expecting to adopt, and Ruby wants to make sure the foetus gets the best start in life – so she’s hovering over Janeece’s shoulder being the nutrition police. They decided to have a full and frank Q&A session, which went hilariously like this:

Ruby: “Father of the baby. Did he look like he had, or may have had, a history of heart disease and/or glaucoma?”
Janeece: “Well, it was dark. And I’d had more than a sniff of sherry.”
Ruby: “Fine. Fine. Well, you know we’ll greet any genetic mutations as a pleasant surprise. Your turn.”
Janeece: “Was you addicted to tranquilisers?”
Ruby: “Next question.”

Next week: Drugs rear their ugly heads again at Waterloo Road. And there’s heartache for Grantly Budgen.

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Waterloo Road: Another “controversial new initiative”

(Series 6, ep.3) Last week we discovered that Waterloo Road had a school nurse. This week, they were determined to use her, and what better way than to conjure up one of Waterloo Road’s famous “controversial initiatives”?

Chris Mead, who has stepped into the pastoral care void vacated by Pious Kim Campbell, decided it was a good idea to dispense the morning after pill on school premises, and not before time if the queue at the nurse’s door was anything to go by. Of course this is a serious and relevant issue, and the programme tackled it well, unusually featuring a boy (Ronan) who was so concerned about his girlfriend’s well-being that he supported her to visit the nurse in the first place, tried to steal the pills for her when she bottled it, and then rang her mum when that didn’t work.

The other person in need of a little emergency contraception was the head teacher Karen’s daughter, Jess.  The Fisher family have gone to pieces since eldest daughter Bex ran away (if they want to see her, she’ll be on Strictly Come Dancing very soon). Dad Charlie is having an affair with Maggie from Casualty. Daughter Jess’s moral fibre has come a bit loose. And son Harry spends most of his time binge-eating and throwing up, though no-one has noticed that yet.

Jess feels that, if only Chris Mead could get over this teacher/pupil inappropriate relationship business, they could have a rosy future together. Chris obviously disagrees, being an upright sort of chap. She visited him at his flat, he told her to go home and talk to her mum and popped her in a taxi. Unfortunately her sort-of friend was lurking in the shrubbery and spotted this, and will be Drawing Conclusions.

Meanwhile Lauren was busy snogging Josh Stevenson, but it seems she could be barking up the wrong tree, as next week it looks like he’ll be snogging Finn Sharkey (I know! Sounds random but if you look through tonight’s episode the clues are all there).

And Janeece was having second thoughts about keeping her baby. Working at Waterloo Road has given her a terrifying insight into what a handful kids can be.

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