As series 8 of BBC popular school drama Waterloo Road passes its halfway mark, it’s worth considering whether there is anything left of the original Rochdale-based series other than its title- and its storylines.
Relocated to Scotland earlier this series, the academy is far from its former bricks and mortar, and with Grantly Budgen on dialysis (suffering from long-overdue liver failure) and Tom Clarkson stepping up as his organ donor, it seems we might be set to lose the last of the show’s original cast. So, the question on everyone’s lips is: do the recent classroom stereotypes live up to their predecessors, or is the old guard still top of the pile?
Headteacher: Jack Rimmer vs. Michael Byrne
Reluctant Rimmer and straight-talking Byrne share a lot in common: their office, staffroom romances, debacles with pupils, and capacity to save the school from constant near-closure. While Byrne’s involvement in his father’s euthanasia revealed his more sensitive side, his cold character falls short of the original fiery Jack-the-lad.
Deputy: Andrew Treneman vs. Tom Clarkson
We always expected reliable, moral Tom to climb the promotional ladder and he trumps all other deputies on the show. Treneman’s middle-class, by-the-book attitude caused friction, but is no competition for Clarkson’s charisma and commitment to a school that’s taken everything else from him.
Staffroom Romance: Kim Campbell and Max Tyler vs. Lorraine Donnegan and Nicki Boston
Tom and Lorna, Tom and Izzie, Tom and Davina, Tom and Rose…this category proved difficult to narrow down (not all options included Tom). Lorraine and Nicki’s blossoming romance is set to explode in tonight’s episode, but the unexpected match between Kim and psycho Head Max remains the most controversial of the show, leaving pregnant Kim crying on the shoulder of fellow teacher Chris Mead.
Crossing Boundaries: Steph Haydock and Maxine vs. Chalkie and Kevin
“That would never happen in a real school” is what my stepdad would always say, as teachers took on parenting roles within the school gates. Kevin and Chalkie’s robot-building, game-creating partnership seems the more promising match, but the tragic death of pregnant, ex-druggie Maxine devastated bachelorette Steph and scarred the end of series 4, if not the whole show.
Dysfunctional Families: The Kellys vs. The Barrys
The Kellys solidified their status in their various storylines: Rose’s drinking and job in the school kitchen, Earl’s psychotic love for Maxine, Sambuca’s death to cancer and butter-wouldn’t-melt Denzil’s unfortunate death. They will have to hold on tight to their crown up against Barry’s dodgy dealing, Robbie/Casey’s identity crisis and mum Carol’s bad parenting (and even worse accent), but Sambuca claims the small victory for best name ever vs. the equally ridiculous ‘Barry Barry’.
Bad Boy Convert: Bolton Smilie vs. Tariq Siddiqui
Tariq proved his worth helping to end the gang wars but he showed his greatest strength at the beginning of series 8 as Waterloo Road’s first paraplegic and it’s battle of the sports with Tariq’s kayaking against Smilie’s boxing. In the Waterloo Road Reunited crew, Bolton remains part of the most popular clique of the school’s history, but his recent return revealed his mental deterioration when he took a classroom full of students hostage, leaving his badboy reputation in the dust.
Popular Princess: Janeece Bryant vs. Dynasty Barry
The two standout high school divas, defined by their big hair, sexy swagger and uncontrollable mouths, are undoubtedly Janeece Bryant and Dynasty Barry. Dynasty’s softer side is emerging in her growing closeness with Kevin, a typical “opposites attract” storyline, but Janeece’s return as unqualified seccie, her friendship with likeable Chalkie and her adoring love for baby Cheryl make her Queen Bee still among students and staff alike.
Childhood Sweethearts: Chlo and Dante Charles vs. Imogen and Connor Mulgrew
Connor and Imogen’s secret marriage is sure to spark fireworks in the next few weeks but it will prove tough for the Scottish emo newlyweds to knock Chlo and Dante off their podium. Chlo and Connor’s teacher parents and troubled personal lives made excellent material then and now, but the Charles’ affairs, divorce and rekindled romance mark them out as most dramatic couple thus far.
Surprise Successes: Ronan Burley vs. Jodi ‘Scout’ Allen
From bad backgrounds and unreliable parents, Ronan and Scout are perhaps two of the least likely students you’d expect to go on and be successful. While Scout played out a extended role in the last series as the gem of the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), Ronan’s wheeler-dealing, fruit n’ veg business and blossoming relationship with Vicki set him to follow in Lord Sugar’s footsteps from rags to riches.