(Series 5, ep 7) It was black armbands for everybody this week – including Baby Genevieve – as the whole town pulled together to pay tribute to the funerial legend that was Daddy Simpson. As well as the sending off, there were also some arrivals. We had a cameo (for once, not from a Welshman), a return of an old favourite and (to my frustration) a revival of a familiar problem. Continue reading
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I recently made a trip to London to visit a childhood friend of mine. With both of us having moved on to concrete pastures away from our green-belted Scottish haven, it was inevitable that we would end up with a bottle of wine reminiscing long into the night. It’s fair to say that one of the most common causes of our laugher were discussions around the particular oddball characters or town quirks that formed the backdrop of our youth. Like a homemade patchwork quilt, we all have our distinctive squares coloured by different accents, houses or backgrounds, but the feel of it is the same. It provides a familiar comfort, even if at times it can be a little itchy or smothering.
Relating to the nostalgic intimacy of a tight-knit, eccentric community isn’t what drew me to Stella (it was the presence of the talented Ben Glover on the soundtrack that did that), but it is a main part of what got me hooked. It wasn’t a shock that such a vivid and relatable character-led comedy drama would come from Ruth Jones; the whirlwind success of Gavin and Stacey proved she is Queen of the small-town caricature, but there is something about the extra grit and emotion alongside this that gives Stella its own identity. Before the end of the first episode you already feel an attachment to the characters, both those who are there purely as eclectic village furniture and also those who fulfil the more dimensional roles. Continue reading
(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
(Series 6, Ep.19) The thing with Jonah Kirby is, one minute he looks like quite a plausible boyfriend for a 20-something year old teacher (saving her from scary dogs, being a lovely shoulder to cry on after a hard day, being ever so supportive generally and a bit of a hunk). Then the next minute he’s kicking a football against the wall, or scrapping with his mates, and he’s just a seventeen year-old schoolboy again.
The Jonah/Cesca romance has been interesting in that it’s seemed to be a perfectly mutual, completely genuine thing – no coercion, no power games, just a mature young man and an immature older woman getting together against the odds. Proper Romeo and Juliet stuff. Except that we knew it couldn’t last, and we knew that Cesca was very much in the wrong in letting her heart rule her head and take her into a taboo relationship with someone who was supposed to be in her care. “No-one was hurt!” she protested to Karen after everything unravelled this week. On the contrary, Karen told her, Jonah has been hurt.
He only started to understand the extent of this in this episode, as he realised that taking his girlfriend on cosy camping trips with his dad and his sister is never likely to be an option. That he may never have the glittering career that everyone predicted for Waterloo Road’s star pupil as he has to leave school early and get a McJob to support his imminent offspring. Ronan told him that Cesca looks like a woman who appreciates the finer things in life and wouldn’t find life on the dole with Jonah all that attractive. Though PLA Jr pointed out that Cesca’s mobile phone is rubbish so maybe she’s willing to settle for reduced circumstances after all.
So, considering they’ve been ever so discreet and only ever had sex in cupboards and the art room in broad daylight, how did the secret romance become public knowledge? Well, it was mainly due to that famous lack of discretion, and Chris Mead having a diploma in body language. He can spot the difference between people discussing Spanish homework and a lovers’ tiff even through a fire door. Add this to Jonah’s odd behaviour generally, and Cesca’s shock resignation (she told Karen her father had had a heart attack and she was going back to Spain, when in fact she was bound for Gretna Green and a quickie wedding with Rochdale’s most eligible schoolboy). Chris got the final proof he needed when Cesca fell off a ladder and went to hospital for a check-up, and Chris pulled back the cubicle curtain to find her in a clinch with Jonah, and after that it was a short step to Jonah’s father and the police being called and Karen wearing her very best “I’m so disappointed in you” expression (though she always seems to be smiling at the same time, which undermines it somewhat). Continue reading
(Series 6, Ep.18) It was nice to see attention shift away from the Fisher family and on to one of my favourite Waterloo Road characters, the magnificent Ronan Burley. I love Ronan. He’s a cheeky chancer, always looking for a money-making opportunity (which quite often fails) and he’s a show-off, witness his marvellous striptease in the school uniform debate. But he also has a more serious side – facing up to his bullying criminal of a father, or being responsible about contraception.
This week Ronan showed a flair for makeup and fashion design, in a bid to capture the heart of Vicky McDonald. Ok, so she snogged him last week, but this week an apparently more tempting prize appeared in the form of Ronan’s work mentor Dan, played by hunky Will Mellor. A series of misunderstandings, mainly by Vicky and Adanna Lawal, who is turning out to be every bit as pious as Pious Kim Campbell, led to Dan being accused of taking advantage of a schoolgirl. Dan, however, said quite firmly that he “doesn’t date children,” which makes him quite rare among the adult population of Waterloo Road these days.
While Dan had been busy entertaining Vicky with an innocent pizza and a glass of wine (Wine? During a school day? Dan hadn’t wanted to appear “tight” when Vicky said she always liked a glass of wine with her lunch), Ronan was back at school fashioning a piece of haute couture out of a tartan picnic blanket. He wanted Vicky to have something to wear for the fashion show, little realising that she was already wearing a nasty-looking red halter-neck frock that Dan had given her. Ronan’s blanket dress was actually quite stylish, and I expect Stella McCartney was sitting at home with her sketchpad on her knee, scribbling away furtively.
(Series 6, Ep.15) The thing about headmistress Karen Fisher is that she doesn’t listen. People (her family, mainly) start to tell her things, important things, and she changes the subject, cuts them off, thinks they’re talking about something else. She’s completely preoccupied with her own stuff, and those around her suffer. So this week the person who probably suffers most of all, son Harry, took it upon himself to cause a bit of mayhem by taking her phone and using it to send messages to her colleagues at the school. By lucky coincidence – or else he’s a Machiavellian genius – his emails were all perfectly designed to unsettle their recipients. For example Ms Montoya received an ominous note telling her that a grave matter had come to Karen’s attention. Cesca naturally thought this must mean her relationship with Jonah had been rumbled – unthinkable, as they’re so discreet. No-one will notice anything as long as it occurs in the bike shed, the art room that is always mysteriously empty, or the cleaning cupboard. Actually, since they only had a caretaker for a day, and they don’t seem to have school cleaners, there’s probably not a lot of use for that cleaning cupboard.
The messages Ruby Fry and others got had them so upset that Grantly Budgen summoned a union rep, and it was all a good chance for people to tell Karen what they thought of her. Everything got sorted out eventually, and Karen and Harry had a mother/son bonding moment on the stairs and went out for that classic peace-making snack, the pizza.
Meanwhile, as Karen sorted out the problems of her youngest child, middle child Jess was checking into a hotel room with the sleazy Hodge, who is using her to get at sister Bex. It’s going to take more than a pizza to sort that lot out.
The plan of segregating boys and girls in lessons is not going well, with the boys falling even further behind. Even a cunning scheme to motivate the boys by getting a local businessman in to run a kind of Dragons Den workshop ended in humiliation for Kyle Stack and a small invasion by the girls, led by Sambuca Kelly, who were angry that they’d been left out. Sadly the best invention they could come up with was a dating website. I know it’s worked well for Sarah Beeny, but honestly, girls, there’s more to life than romance, particularly when Jonah Kirby is already taken, Bolton Smiley has left, Josh Stevenson is gay and Kyle Stack is thick and unpleasant. That only leaves a choice of Ronan Burley and Finn Sharkey, and even if they concentrate full-time on romance it’s not going to be enough to keep a dating site busy.
Grantly Budgen and Ruby Fry went on a date, in the sense that they arranged to have lunch together and Grantly said “It’s a date,” as you do. But when Janeece told Ruby that she thought Grantly fancied her, Ruby went all awkward and made a huge point of telling Grantly how much she loved her husband and how she soooooo wasn’t looking for a relationship. After her little racist blip last week, Ruby was back on form, and I hope that this little double-act with Grantly keeps going because it’s very funny.
Next time: We find out what Bex did in her two-year lost weekend when pictures are discovered on the internet. And she wasn’t backpacking in Thailand.
Posted by PLA (more Waterloo Road here)
(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!
Posted by PLA (more Waterloo Road here)