26 April, 2012

Waterloo Road Finale - Like Being Waterboarded Slowly and Painfully Over Seven Years



Waterloo Road's Seventh Series of Crap paraded to an awful conclusion this week, awful to the extent that I'm finally giving up on the show, after six years and seven series. The episode was absolute balls, the way the show is going is apalling and frankly I could vomit onto paper to write better dialogue.

As I've said in every review of this show, I used to love the show. It was clever, funny, heart-warming and dramatic. It had characters you cared about in plausible if outlandish situations, and it had Jill Halfpenny in. After Series Two, when at least 3 main cast members jumped ship, the series began to turn into more of a soap, had longer series runs and started going through headteachers like they were going out of fashion. We had Rachel Mason who was passable (I think her leaving may have been the moment it all turned to shit), Karen Fisher who was the most unlikeable person in the UK and then Mr Burn who never shows emotion apart from amorous seedy lust for inappropriate staff members. Eventually, the writers abandoned all semblance of portraying actual school life, gave up any ambitions for plausibility and started recycling plot from earlier series. Or even from just the episode before; it really didn't matter - anything would go on Waterloo Road.

I've said it before and said it again - this is a real shame. What was great, and a brilliant addition to the BBC schedules has quickly become farcical, nonsensical and a parody of its former self. With the BBC's 'move Waterloo Road production to Scotland' plan was announced, I had mixed feelings: hesitant as to whether it would be handled well, and optimistic about whether this would give the show a kick up the ass. Unfortunately, I needn't have bothered to think anything at all because as we all expected, the show's still absolutely dire.

 This week's 'finale' (finale in the sense that it's the last episode - not in the sense that it was good, dramatic, fulfilling, exciting or provided closure) was the culmination of a whole series' worth of shitty gang plots and the beginnings of Waterloo Road: Scotland branch. We also had Denby-Ashe playing the most ridiculous overly-warm ex-pupil I've seen in my life (stop kissing people) and the continued existence of George Sampson as an 'actor'. Oh and that one from the Marines added 'Home Ec' to her existing rota of teaching English, Drama and Art. *shoots self in face*.


The episode, in just 60 minutes I'll add, showed a school going from 'running fine and dandy' to 'the school's being forcibly closed and moved to another country'. Staff were told on the last day of term that 'oh we don't actually have jobs for you anymore' then they all decided to relocate their entire lives to Scotland. I don't work for the LEA, I don't work for the government and I'm not a secondary school teacher. However, it is clear that a school would have to be under warning for a while, and be steadily closed. Heck, this has even been pointed out many times in past series of the show when this was a danger. The very suggestion that over 1000 kids would be relocated to random other schools (as if these places would even be available) is ludicrous, as is the idea that you could even close a school in such a way.

Alongside this nonsensical mess of a 'plot', the episode focused on the gang strife engulfing the school (read: minorly inconveniencing the school when it's pupils act like morons and there is nothing else going on). This wasn't necessary. It didn't add anything to the plot since Josh only got a bruised arm out of the whole affair (on this note, could Tom Clarkson's life get any worse, seriously?) and the entire gang plot has been laughable. The gang invaded the school just to have a ruckus, then stayed around, removing their hoods and balaclavas in front of copious CCTV cameras and in full view of staff. Right...

What wasn't necessary about this entire plot is that the audience has watched seven series of this show, at this school, with these characters. To bring this era to a close with irrelevant sentimentality (Mr Burn couldn't make a proper speech if his 'career' depended on it, and the producers couldn't write one) and with a lack of focus on the building, the school and the original characters that make Waterloo Road, was ridiculous. They didn't even use Ronan Burley as a character despite him coming back for the episode.

Whoever writes Waterloo Road now is either a massive pothead or just a moron. They wrote into the script that the twins would be sent to different schools (this would literally not happen) and one of them said that any other school would be full of 'freaks and pyros'. HELLO! You go to WATERLOO ROAD where there's a fire every bloody series.


The whole 'move Waterloo Road to Scotland' must be the least useful idea I've ever seen on the BBC, and this is the company that still gives jobs to Nicholas Lyndhurst. Production is moving from Rochdale to Greenock - I'm pretty sure that this keeps down costs in absolutely no way. Rochdale is not exactly Tower Bridge is it. IF the move had improved the show's focus and IF the move had been handled logically and in the manner of something that was POSSIBLE I'd be less angry, but this didn't happen. I am convinced that the running costs must be exactly the same.

The teachers are (mostly) all moving to Scotland, as if that's just an easy decision. They're moving to an independent school with a benefactor who is just paying for random children of any social strata to be educated. Denby-Ashe also said 'I believe in Michael's passion for teaching' and thus is taking him to Scotland to head up to the school. It's unfortunate that, in dozens of episodes, he hasn't done anything to show to the audience that he's anything more than a mediocre teacher.

He also then, in the infinite wisdom possessed in that enormous rat-like forehead, suggested a free boarding house for some Waterloo Road pupils (there's no catch, literally anyone he randomly speaks to, even Tariq) to go and live in Scotland. Ignoring the massive upheaval of this, the fact that they'll still have to return to gang culture (presumably) in the holidays, and that kids living together will create more trouble than its worth - it's just impossible. 'Go home and speak to your parents' he said. And as only about 4 kids turned up for the bus, I'm presuming all the other parents told their children what an outrageous idea this was.

The episode skipped forward to this 'bus ride', not making clear to anyone whether this was the final move (Grantley's got a whole new wardrobe, but he's wearing all the clothes, and holding a tiny bag..) or just the 'sightseeing trip' to see whether they'll move. Scout wouldn't want to leave her tiny baby sister with their drunken mother, the one with the Afro almost left education at the beginning of this series, and Tariq has never showed any interest in school - but hey-ho I'm sure they're all more than keen to move to Scotland for their education. As the bus made it's way north, the gang decided to pitstop for a photo - 'it'll only take five minutes...' - and pulled over into a lay-by. By this point I was being sick with the implausibility and poor continuity of a prime-time BBC show but we'll continue.


As the group gathered for a shot, Grantley proposed to the dinnerlady (this wouldn't happen but anyway) and as she began to accept, Mr Burn yelled 'watch out' like some kind of Looney Tune, and an improbably slow van hit the burger van, swerved back into the road (at this point it was still about 50m from the gang) then decided to swerve back into innocent roadusers instead of staying on the road like cars should, and the screen went to black.

Seriously Waterloo Road? Fuck off. There was no need for this to happen. What's this going to achieve - a teary scene next season when someone's in a wheelchair? A quick goodbye to Budgen before getting on with the new school? The crash was pointless - the episode had fucking ended. This is the most outrageous ending to one 'era' of a television show I have ever seen. It's possibly the most ludicrous and pot-induced plot decision ever.

I'm actually a little bit sad Waterloo Road has come to this. The Waterloo Road of Lorna, of Chlo and Donte and of Denise Welch sleeping with the head. Of Kim and Andrew and Izzie Redpath. Waterloo Road wasn't important, it wasn't cultural and life-changing, but it was a damn sight better than much else on TV. For an evening's viewing, it was pretty damn good. And now it's gone past the point of return - and I for one am not happy. RIP Waterloo Road.

'No ifs, no buts, no BBC budget cuts!'

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