Did we like it?
We’ve always liked Waterloo Road with its colourful characters, pupils who make the Grange Hill mob seem like saints and storylines which may be ripped from the headlines but are still told well and with some shred of plausibility – and this 90-minute opener to series three kept up the standard well.
What was good about it?
• Drunk single mum Rose Kelly’s kids appeared to be lazy stereotypical chavs but layers were added over the episode. Older brother Marley has poetry and decency in his soul; Sambuca (great name) has her smelliness, scowls and gobbiness but she’s sensitive, too; little brother Denzil has never learned to read but is keen to learn. Oh, and middle brother Errol is a complete psychopath, wielding a gun (sometimes imaginary, sometimes real), issuing threats and, with no remorse, landing his little brother in trouble with the law.
• Reece Noi’s very believable acting as Earl Kelly. In his first encounter with the head, he usefully introduced himself as “your worst nightmare” but she’s so liberal that instead of excluding him on the spot, welcomed him into the warm Waterloo Road embrace.
• If the Grantly Budgen wig sub-plot (“I think it adds a certain je ne sais quoi”) was a tribute to Grange Hill’s Mr Bronson, then it’s genius.
• Neil Morrissey has made some lousy career decisions (Carrie & Barry, Paradise Heights) but he seems very assured in the role of Mr Lawson, the deputy head who tidies up the messes created by his colleagues and the pupils.
• Steph Haydock (Denise Welch) didn’t make a fool of herself for once. Maybe in this series, she’ll manage to act with a bit more maturity than the year sixes. But she’s still hilariously sex-obsessed (“You should do something every day that gets you hot and sweaty for 20 minutes.”)
• Elyes Gabel is a hot new addition to the cast as PE teacher Rob Cleaver, who got the eyes popping of gay music teacher Matt Wilding (blonde bombshell Chris Geere).
What was bad about it?
• There were a few trendy little filming techniques thrown in (slo-mo, blurriness etc) which are becoming too prevalent in drama. Maybe those made redundant when Top of the Pops closed down have found employment here.
• We still can’t believe that Rachel Mason (Eva Pope) could possibly be a headmistress, what with her having been a prostitute, fiddled the exam results and all that. How many heads would say “Yeah, whatever” when reminded that she’s recovering from massive injuries (thanks to the series three fire climax).
• Donte Charles (Adam Thomas) has been usurped as the school’s bad boy. He’s even done up a battered van for his girlfriends so she can operate the Chlo’s Cutz mobile hairdressing service – a role she hadn’t envisaged for herself, but at least his heart was in the right place (underneath his T-shirt that was bloodied in the inevitable tool mishap).