(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 9, ep.20) The end of another term at Waterloo Road, and by WR standards it went off without a hitch. Nobody died, Christine managed to stay sober and the only injury was Kacey Barry plummeting from a climbing wall and breaking her wrist (followed by dreadful first aid – how not to deal with a person who could well have had a spinal injury).
We left Connor and Emo Imogen bound for an exciting life of being a chef and a trainee actress respectively in That London; Nix and Vix off for their own exciting life in That Berlin (and what a lovely happy ending that was for Nikki Boston); Carol Barry sticking with George even though he isn’t rich; Kevin Chalk learning to walk again; Dynasty about to embark on a career in the bizzies; Kacey waiting for her wrist to heal before setting her sights on the Olympics; Christine moving in with Audrey so she can hopefully stay sober enough to teach English next year even if she isn’t head; and Simon Twinkle-Spark wondering why nobody likes him. He’d wonder that even more if he’d seen Sue Twinkle-Spark being kissed by his old buddy Hector Reid. Teamwork makes the dream work, indeed. Continue reading
(Series 9, ep.19) Christine’s descent back into alcohol hell was fairly predictable, given that not an episode goes by without she gazes longingly at a bottle at some point. I blame her handbags – they are conveniently big enough to conceal a bottle or a wine bag. She should go either small bag or string bag and there’d be far less temptation.
However, the bag situation is what it is and Christine’s situation was that she woke up next to a tattooed man whose name she didn’t know, and her bedroom carpet had been ruined by red wine.
Christine’s reputation was about to go the way of the bedroom carpet, when she was late for a meeting with Darren’s social worker and didn’t tell her about Darren’s penchant for pervy photography.
George was optimistic. “The occasional defeat doesn’t mean you’re losing the war,” he said. He didn’t know about Christine crashing her car and walking away (in odd shoes) at that point. Though he did know about the boozy breath and fuzzy teeth. Continue reading
(Series 9, Ep.10) I’ve absolutely loved this term at Waterloo Road. There were so many barking mad highlights – the magic mushrooms, the Mandarin teacher who spoke Mandarin less well than Kevin Chalk, Grantly Budgen being poetried to death, Kacey’s boxing ambitions, Verruca’s unfortunate selfies, Barry keeping Sue Spark’s pupils in check… it’s been eventful. I even forgot to miss Tom Clarkson most of the time.
Christine Mulgrew has been an excellent head, partly because she’s a rubbish head (if she was really good at it, half the mad incidents would never occur), but mainly because I look at her and I actually believe in her as a head teacher in a way I haven’t believed in a Waterloo Road head teacher since the sainted Jack Rimmer. George Windsor and Nikki Boston have been an excellent support, and I’ve enjoyed the story arc that’s seen Simon go from being a creepy, careerist little worm to being a more humble team player.
And above all else I’ve loved the Barrys: matriarch Carol marching up the slope at the front of the school to shout at people; Dynasty with her kind heart and performing eyelashes; Kacey and her beautifully expressive, vulnerable face; and Barry, the petty criminal whose arrogant swagger is mainly front.
This end-of-term episode saw Kacey about to set forth to America to spend a term at boxing camp, all paid for by the school’s fundraising efforts. But all the money mysteriously vanished and Kacey’s dreams were in tatters. Barry was there with a comforting shoulder to cry on. “You can’t trust this lot here, Kace, they’re full of it,” said Barry, but he’s never going to be a criminal mastermind because he let slip that he knew the money had gone – before Kacey had told him. Continue reading
(Series 9, Ep.9) Being Halloween and that, this week’s episode had a sinister turn. Guest artiste Duncan Pow (Holby’s tragic Dr Linden Cullen, who lives on in the form of a memorial shrubbery) played supply teacher Frankie McGregor. Only he wasn’t really a supply teacher, and he wasn’t really Frankie McGregor. Obviously with the water-tight policies and procedures in place at Waterloo Road this was spotted at once, wasn’t it?
Erm… no. The kids spotted something was wrong when “science teacher” Frankie knew so little about Physics that he made Sue Spark look like Stephen Hawking, but Sue didn’t notice because she was immersed in wedding plans.
Frankie took a bit of a Special Interest in lonely, isolated young Lenny Brown, and that should perhaps have rung alarm bells, particularly when Frankie offered to take Lenny fishing to a remote spot. Christine wavered about giving permission for about five seconds, then decided it would be a bit of fun for the lad and gave them the go-ahead. Continue reading
(Series 9, Ep.8) With this episode, Waterloo Road gave up any pretence of being a “contemporary drama series set in a challenging comprehensive school” as the BBC website describes it, and went for full-on, hallucinogenic craziness. It was absolutely brilliant.
The teacher with the pointy face, Audrey McFall, had hatched a scheme to get everyone interested in history and put Waterloo Road on the educational map by having everyone spend a week pretending it was the Second World War. This involved a lot of dressing up (Simon, George, Audrey and Christine all dapper in military uniform; Nikki Boston in a boiler suit; and everyone else in a range of vaguely 40s costumes). Audrey apparently had a bottomless dressing up box – anyone not in period costume was told to see Audrey “and she’ll sort you out.”
Digging for victory was also on the agenda, with the students pretending to grow their own food. Audrey “planted” carrots she got from the supermarket to make the garden look good for visiting education supremo McBain. And she also borrowed a goat. The goat’s name was Wally – officially named after Wallis Simpson, it was actually so someone could say “Where’s Wally?” when the goat inevitably disappeared. Continue reading
(Series 9, Ep.7) Grantly was given a fitting and dignified send-off, which would have been slightly less dignified if Harley had dropped his side of the coffin. Luckily Nikki Boston was on hand to help, because it could have been nasty. It wasn’t really fair to ask upset schoolboys to carry the precious remains anyway. Harley would have been better deployed giving an emotional reprise of his deadly poem from last week. As it was, the only speech was delivered by Maggie, who proudly announced that she and Grantly had been blessed with a wonderful family consisting of Harley, Verruca Salt and Tariq, who’d turned up to pay his respects and do some PE coaching. He’s a multi-tasker, that lad.
As soon as the crematorium curtains closed it was back to school and business as usual. It’s what Grantly would have wanted, because he wasn’t lazy and feckless at all – at least, not during his last day at work.
And it was definitely looking like a routine sort of day when a never-seen-before Troubled Teen peered through the school railings. This happens practically on a weekly basis and sometimes their problems are dealt with in one episode and they’re never seen again, and sometimes they get moved into the school-house and stay for a while. Eve, however, was not looking for Education, she was looking for her mother. Nikki Boston. Yes, I was shocked too, but not as shocked as Nikki was (though Nikki wasn’t as shocked as Tom Clarkson was when he heard his sperm had been stolen and Our Josh was the result – at least Nikki had been aware of Eve’s conception and birth). Eventually it came out that Nikki had been all in favour of having an abortion, and only agreed to go through with the birth on the understanding that Eve’s father would bring her up (this, coincidentally, also happens in my novel Two’s Company, though obviously not to Nikki Boston).
I’ve got to give massive praise to Heather Peace for the way she acted the scenes with Eve, and especially the scene in the car after Eve had left. I’m always amazed when an actor can show such massive vulnerability as to be able to snot-cry on camera. I also have to say that Nikki looked really pretty in this episode, despite the purple sports/leisure wear. Continue reading