Hope and Glory puts a contemporary spin on all this. We are in the age of school inspections, the exclusion of unruly pupils and that most tiresome cliche, "naming and shaming". Hope Park School (the irony is driven home rather too hard for comfort) is on the verge of closure. And - a touch that distinguishes it from all the other teacher dramas I've mentioned - Lenny Henry's idealistic newcomer, Ian George, is not just a rank-and- file teacher, he's a head teacher.
The notion that everything, good and bad, about a school flows from the head may well be correct, but its acceptance as dogma by the educational establishment has been comparatively recent. The death of Philip Lawrence, the head teacher who was fatally stabbed outside his school while going to the aid of a pupil, played a part. And I don't think it's a coincidence that the rise of the head and the emphasis on leadership has coincided with the rise of our most presidential Prime Minister - though which is cause and which is effect would be hard to say.
It seems a bit ironic, then, that Gannon apparently sets out to rubbish the Blairite educational agenda. Last night's episode opened with George, a celebrity head, giving a keynote speech at a teachers' union conference and taking the opportunity to rubbish the government. He wouldn't be used as a stick to beat other teachers, he said; instead, the government should just give his colleagues the resources they needed and leave them to get on with the job. And the whole thrust of the drama was to argue that it is shortsighted and cruel to staff and pupils to declare a school past helping. As George patrolled Hope Park, inspecting it with a view to recommending its closure, he kept on being touched by little signs of humanity, and offended by the offhand cruelty of the departing head teacher.
It came as no surprise, then, when at the end of this first episode George decided to take over as head of Hope Park. In fact, the moment had been so heavily signalled for the past 20 minutes that in dramatic terms it was completely ineffectual. This first part had its pleasures - notably Peter Davison cast well against type as the burned-out head, screaming "You filthy little whore" at a pupil. But it also had an irritating "Your 100 Best Tunes" classical soundtrack and a vein of manipulative, saccharine sentimentality. Gannon, go and stand in the corridor until I call you.
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 3 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 4 Vogue under fire for 'Big Booty' article
- 5 Julian Assange and Edward Snowden join piracy mogul Kim Dotcom’s political campaign in New Zealand
Fifty Shades of Grey movie: New picture of Anastasia Steele unveiled
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
Cilla, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith embodies the young singer perfectly
Doctor Who, Listen, review: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode
Tyler, The Creator says having new U2 album automatically downloaded on his iPhone was 'like waking up with herpes'
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
Salmond accused of laughing off national debt with ‘what are they going to do: invade?’ joke