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25 years after it first hit our screens, children’s TV drama Byker Grove is back, if only for a special film Byker Grove – All Grown Up celebrating the success of the series which will be released next month.
Huge numbers of the original cast and crew (though sadly not its most famous stars Ant and Dec) will be gathering for a reunion when the film is screened at Tyneside Cinema on November 7. But what impact did the series have?
1. It was the only serious rival to Grange Hill
Between November 1989 and December 2006, 344 episodes of Byker Grove were screened.
Although never in direct competition, Byker was the only serious challenger to the school-based drama Grange Hill’s supremacy during its own thirty year run (1978-2008).
2. The theme tune was awesome
Altogether now: Byker…GROVE! Jump before pausing briefly in mid-air for three whole seconds. Then relax.
3. It put Newcastle on the map
OK, this is a slight exaggeration. But Newcastle accents were a much rarer presence on TV in 1989 than they are today, where thanks to Cheryl Cole and Ant and Dec they are everywhere. Talking of which…
4. It gave us Ant and Dec
Teenagers Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly famously played PJ and Duncan, Dec in fact joining the cast in 1989 a full year before Ant did (in 1990).
The real life friends launched their musical career off the back of the show as PJ and Duncan spawning hits such as Tonight I’m Free and the almost impossibly moving Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble.
Now both approaching forty, they remain, of course, hugely successful light entertainment stars to this day.
5. It also launched the careers of Jill Halfpenny and many others…
The future Coronation Street, Eastenders and Strictly Come Dancing star played Nicola Dobson in her first major TV role in the series between 1989 and 1992.
Sons Of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnan, CBBC presenter Andrew Hayden-Smith and a number of future soap stars got their big break on the series.
And who could forget Donna Air?
6. It turned a generation off paintball…forever
Anyone who witnessed PJ being blinded during a game in the series would never go paintballing again (or at least wouldn’t take their protective goggles off as PJ foolishly did shortly before being shot).
Happily, PJ’s sight seemed to return for his post-Byker musical career.
7. It featured a groundbreaking gay kiss
In the same year that Brookside featured Anna Friel kissing a female friend, Byker Grove also courted controversy with a gay kiss in a cinema between characters Noddy and Gary in 1994.
The Sun newspaper was outraged and called for the producer of the episode to be sacked. The BBC boldly stood their ground.
8. Gone but not forgotten
With characters like Spuggy and the occasional bizarre story line like the sinister cult which briefly inhabited the Grove, eight years after its end it is already clear, Byker Grove will never be forgotten.
Its place in TV history is assured.