WHEN THE GATES OF GRANGE HILL swung open in 1978, who would have thought that they would stay open until 2008? Who would have thought that the sausage on the fork shown in the opening titles would become so iconic? And what about the original theme tune? The tune could only mean Grange Hill. GH became a unique, instantly recognisable, fun, slap-you-in-the-face children’s programme – it became a massive brand for BBC television. Even though the school gates are now firmly shut, the brand still has incredible popularity.
GH produced a brand of its own – a kind of sub-brand: the brand begun as a skinny schoolboy. The recipe that made the schoolboy complete was carefully balanced: a steady measuring of mischief and cheeky backchat. There was an accidental slip-of-the-hand when the banter was added. When it came to adding the emotional intelligence, the hand was precise and steady. The result was a funny, loveable, extremely popular cheeky lad. This lad is still popular today and is usually mentioned in the same breathe as Grange Hill. The brand, is of course, Tucker Jenkins.
I’m not sure the producers of GH knew how massive the Tucker brand would become. Throughout his years at GH, his popularly soared to incredible heights. The flippin-eck phrase became synonymous with only Tucker. As he progressed in school years, his leather jacket became part of his unique look. The Tucker brand had become so huge that he is sometimes mentioned before Grange Hill: “Remember Tucker from Grange Hill?”
The BBC and the producers of GH knew the Tucker brand was as solid as a thick brick wall, so why not push the brand to its limit? Why not let the brand stand alone without the GH masterbrand supporting it? This is exactly what happened and Tucker’s Luck hit our screens.
Tucker’s Luck was all about his life after leaving GH. Whilst he was still cheeky and continued with the backchat and banter, his challenges were different to the ones at GH: lack of cash, trying to find a decent job and relationship issues. The clever thing about Tucker’s Luck was this: some of us who watched Grange Hill when Tucker first appeared, actually left school the same time as Tucker did – this meant that many could relate to his situation. For those who were still at school when Tucker’s Luck began, the intrigue and engagement were still there; maybe the programme even gave them a glimpse of what life after school could look like. A win win situation for the Tucker brand.
Finally, it’s not by chance that Tucker made a guest appearance in the last episode of Grange Hill in 2008. Even at the very end, the BBC knew it was be beneficial to sign-off with Tucker making an entrance.
At the Grange Hill 40th birthday celebration, September 2018 at Elstree Studios, Tucker’s jacket was up for auction! After the event, when I’d returned to Manchester, the first question people asked was “Did you see Tucker?” The Tucker brand – still remembered, still popular and still causing excitement.
Tucker Jenkins and Grange Hill are featured in the nostalgic hardback book Section N Underpass. A nostalgic feast from the 70s and 80s: original stories, photos of advertising, sketches, straplines and lots of facts. Get your copy by clicking any of the images below: