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The show began in 1978 and is one of the longest running on British television. It was created by Phil Redmond, who was also responsible for the Channel 4 dramas Brookside and Hollyoaks; other notable production team members down the years have included producer Colin Cant and script editor Anthony Minghella.
The drama is centred on the fictional comprehensive school of Grange Hill in the (equally fictitious) borough of north London called "Northam" (although when filming moved to Liverpool in 2003, it ceased to have any specific location), and follows the lives of the children as they progress through school.
It has been said that Phil Redmond based the show on his experiences of working at Grange Park High School, Thatto Heath, St Helens which is coincidentally at the top of a "Hill". For its first 25 years it was produced in-house by the BBC, but the show is now made independently for the corporation by Lime Pictures, the production house formerly owned by Redmond (and formerly known as Mersey Television) which is the reason for the production move.
Grange Hill's golden period was undoubtedly the middle to late 1980s. This period attained the highest ratings in the show's history and one of the most popular storylines was of fans' favourite Zammo and his addiction to heroin. This storyline ran for two series (1986-87) and focused on Zammo's descent into drugs and his strained relationship with his girlfriend Jackie and friend Kevin.
The show's other favourite characters during the golden period were Gonch and Hollo played by John Holmes and Bradley Sheppard. Gonch was the Bilko of Grange Hill and during his time at Grange Hill (1985-89) partook in many money making schemes. Most of the time these schemes were unsuccessful. There was a comedic element to the duo's relationship that worked well and contributed to the success of the programme.
Some fans of Grange Hill during this period feel the 1990s marked a steep decline in the quality of the programme - believing producers failed to adequately replace established characters from the 1980s who had left the show. Similarly, the show was accused of pandering to political correctness in 1994 with the introduction of two characters with disabilities, Denny (Lisa Hammond), who suffered from dwarfism, and Rachel Burns, who had cerebral palsy (Francesca Martinez). Both characters were presented as "one of the gang" and hated any special treatment because of their circumstances.
The show spawned a successful spin-off called Tucker's Luck (1983â€“1985), and launched the acting career of Todd Carty. Also, the 1986 cast released "Grange Hill: The Album", with two singles: "Just Say No" (tying in with a character's heroin addiction) and "You Know the Teacher (Smash Head)". A film based on the series will be released in 2007.
The series caused controversy from the start, showing a more gritty, true-to-life portrayal of school life than the rather cosy school dramas that had gone before it. Even so, creator Phil Redmond has said that it wasn't until series 3 or 4 that he was really able to start pushing the boundaries and doing things that he wanted to.
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