Keeping the little darlings glued to the box : Review

Where would you expect to hear the line "You will all get a chance to put a condom on a vegetable"? The Word, perhaps? Terry Christian reassuring the studio audience that there is enough humiliation for all? Or Don't Forget Your Toothbrush, engaged in a particularly louche competition, something involving aubergines and blindfolds? Not, I am willing to bet, Grange Hill (BBC1, Tues) at around half past five in the afternoon. The vegetables in question were modestly sized courgettes, and the speaker was attempting to subdue the understandable ribaldry of a class taking an HIV awareness course.

On the gym floor, a long red line connected two placards reading "High Risk" and "Low Risk", and pupils attempted to gauge the risks of various activities by positioning themselves somewhere along it. It looked like they were walking a tightrope, in more senses than one.

It was, before you ring the Duty Office, an intelligently written, informative scene which knew that there were limits it could not cross. You would have waited in vain for the explicit questions about anal sex. It was also funny and watchable, honest enough to admit that the boys at the back of the class would spend most of their time sniggering and exploring the condom's rich potential as a weapons system. It was, in short, characteristic of Grange Hill's ability to negotiate between an adult notion of what children should watch and children's view of what they want to watch. The paradox, which Grange Hill exploits so well, is that putting education smack in the foreground allows it to be relatively inconspicuous - the Edgar Allen Poe device of hiding something in plain sight. This week's episode, for example, contained a brief digression on black holes and the Hubble telescope which came across as character detail, rather than instruction.

The Biz (BBC1), a new series for Children's Television, has also decided on a school as its setting, though with more concessions to childhood dreams of fame and achievement. The first episode began with classroom violence, an unbridled riot of hair-pulling and open-handed slaps, but it wasn't a breakdown of class discipline; the Markov School of Dance and Drama just happens to include fight choreography in its curriculum. All this is far more conventional than Grange Hill, a return to a tested genre of ballet and boarding-school stories. There are little rivalries between the pupils, incipient pashes, minor disasters that have to be overcome. This is a drama where the school theatre burns down because of dodgy wiring, not because the school glue-sniffer unwisely lit a cigarette; a school, moreover, where nobody cheers as the flames rise into the sky. It doesn't greatly surprise you that the young girl who can't sing to save her life brings Markov to his feet with the beauty of her dance or that the infuriating school show-off, all funny voices and attitude, reveals that really he's a sensitive petal who wants to play Hamlet.

Even so, the series is nicely done and has its moments of convincing asperity. There was a nice touch during the auditions for the new intake, when a young hopeful does a dreadful soft-shoe routine. "There might be something under the glitz," murmurs one examiner. "If there is, it's very deep," replies the other gloomily. That was a line that expected you to side with the grown-ups, but as well as recognising that talent is unfairly shared out in the world, the drama also acknowledges that childish ambition might not be entirely voluntary and that the adult world that employs them might not be very altruistic. (I wondered briefly, at this point, about all the young hopefuls who failed the auditions for The Biz.) Provided that young viewers don't find child performers as emetic as most adults do, the thing might well be a hit.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?