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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having missed out on the first series of 'Behind the Bike Sheds', I
cannot comment on the early goings on at Fulley Comprehensive under the
reign of headmaster Braithwaite and caretaker Poskitt. Both of them had
gone by series two, and of the students only Adam, Paul and Jenny
remained. Apparently they also lost the privileges to wear brightly
colored uniforms. However, according to series two scribe Jan Needle,
the first series was little more than a series of sketches, so he
decided to make the second series quite different and 'much better'.
The new headmistress (unmistakably modeled after Margaret Thatcher)
installed in the second television term was Megan Bigge (Val McLane).
Naturally the children were soon calling her 'Meggapig'. Back in '85 I
never understood why she had four rubber heads (found in the dumpster
at the "Spitting Image" studios I presumed) mounted on the wall of her
office. Now, thanks to a reliable source* I have finally learned that
the heads represent the staff from the first series: Braithwaite, the
old headmaster, Ivan Poskitt the Russian spy who acted as caretaker,
Fanshawe the retired ghost and Bonzo the school cat. Although Megapig
held an iron grip on the entire school and was constantly biting the
heads of jelly-babies, her deputy head, W.W. Jones (Ken Jones) was a
complete pushover who soon earned the nickname 'Whistle Willie'.
There were only 8 main students in school, but this was enough (because Children's ITV shows were produced fast and on the cheap). . Adam still held the job of introducing each episode while Paul presented 'Jim Raving's News Round' (as opposed to John Craven's). Jenny and her new best friend Skids and they thought they belonged at the New York School for the Performing Arts instead. The school crooks were A.W.O.L. and Chas, who did (or sold) anything for a quid.
Gertrude was a tiny little posh girl who was disliked by everyone except the tall, scary and Punk G.B.H. Once she got over her fear of him, they fell in love and began to rival Chas & AWOL in the dirty deeds department. According to Gertrude, GBH stood for 'Good Friend Harris' rather than Grievous Bodily Harm. The rest of the cast was filled out by members of the Harehill Dance Group, who got up and danced during the musical interludes (and occasionally got one or two lines thrown at them). Megapig also had a 20 foot Python named Metric as a pet (to replace her beloved Piranhas Jeremy & George). Obviously influenced by both the BBC's "Grange Hill" and the USA's "Fame", Behind the Bike Sheds was a spoof filled with the usual mid eighties anarchy of puns and off color jokes, as well as some implied violence that would certainly be frowned at today.
The only two adults the students could tolerate (if only barely) were Trolly Molly (Sara Mair-Thomas), the mobile canteen manageress (convenienty erasing the need for a canteen set) and an idealistic young teacher called Joe Winter. As the latter, multi talent and all round cheeky chappy Tony Slattery made his first mark on television in a part co-written by himself (in typical Slattery fashion, Tony only collaborated with Jan Needle on his own scenes) Nice guy Joe couldn't cope with those animals masquerading as students and in just a few episodes started to lose his mind, resulting in severe personality changes (making him the only character in the series with emotional growth, albeit for the worse). In the final episode, having completely flipped, Joe tied the school staff together on his beloved Molly's trolley and blew them all to kingdom come (resulting in a pink spray of paint on the wall**). Afterwards Slattery made his way through some more Children's programs (like Saturday morning show TX) before finding an adult audience and appearing in so many projects at the same time (film, TV, comedy, drama, stage) that Great Britian got completely sick of him (too much of a good thing). But it all began behind the bike sheds.
As for Behind the Bike Sheds itself, five episodes from series 2 (# 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 if I'm not mistaken) were broadcast in January/February 1986 as "The Best of Behind the Bike Shed's, which in Televisionland meant the series would neither be continued nor repeated again.
8 out of 10
* Jan Needle's hilarious and imaginatively constructed book of the second series
** According to the 1986 Behind the Bike Sheds Annual, they all survived the explosion, Gertrude got tired of GBH and sold him to a rich American kid and Chas & AWOL tried to carry Metric to a zoo, only to have it devour a police bobby before they got there.
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