Hope and Glory is about a high school in financial distress and mostly it's about its teachers and their personal lives. The narration is well balanced between the orizontal storyline (how will the poor Headmaster manage to save the school from closing?) and the focus which shifts each episode from teacher to teacher, exploring their problems and what's behind the teaching persona everybody knows and perceives. And that's something I really liked. I remember being quite curious about my teachers as people when I was in school and it wasn't merely a gossiping matter. I just imagined how they'd be like outside those walls and when I got some glimpses in class I was always quite interested. And that's exactly what this show does. Moreover, I really appreciate the fact anything was never sugarcoated nor too rethorical, still managing to speak directly to the heart.
The group of teachers is quite variegated, everyone with different approaches to teaching which reflect their different approaches to life itself. Still, even with their differences, they manage to really feel like a group, being united, specially when faced with the actual closing of the school and an inspection. That's when they all put their best efforts in the mix to save the school, which is a sort of a second home to many of them. And then, their celebratory party after that, seeing them all happy and even more united than before, is probably one of my favourite moments on the season. Definitely lighter in tone than the rest of the episodes, even though they always manage to keep a really good balance between the most dramatic moments and the lighter one. The latter mainly provided by Elaine (Valery Lilley), the elderly secretary of the Headmaster. She's a lively spirited woman, always ready to say something witty, but also showing a great sense of organization (the office will probably be a real disaster otherwise). I really liked her and her developing relationship with Richard Griffith's (Uncle Vernon!) character. Being the odd one left out, she because she's not really a teacher and he because he's a supervisor, they do have a real understanding for each other and they soon start to form some sort of friendship, specially in the end as the last shot of the series confirms.
The Headmaster, Ian George (Lenny Henry), is a really compelling character, the real center and compass of the school and the show itself. Ian often shows his great sense of humanity and his affection for the students when dealing with them, still keeping his authoritative aura and making sure the rules, not the written ones but the most important ones, are respected. It's interesting to see him struggle to find some time for his private life, sometimes with comical attempts, and his health (we're told he has heart problems since the beginning). He really is the glue that keeps everything together and I appreciated his sense of morality too. Something that always brings him some problem till the very unexpected climax in the finale. That's something that left me speechless and shocked, it totally came from the left field and when I was watching the credits roll at the end I was still rooted to my seat, taking it in. The sense of sadness and gloom emanating from this dramatic ending was probably made even more devastating because he was such a central character and so easy to like.
As for the other teachers, I wasn't a big fan of the English teacher/Librarian nor the Music teacher, even though he's been growing on me a bit with time. On the other hand, I liked the unexpected pregnancy in store for Sally, the Drama teacher, and Tony, the Gym teacher. That was something bound to happen, the viewer could easily guess it, still I really liked the way they dealt with it, mostly showing the growth Tony was going through. He starts out as one of those men who still are really big boys, not taking those many responsibilities and befriending the more troubled students, but then he really starts taking his job and his life more seriously, really being supportive with Sally and trying to change for her sake too.
Finally, Annie Gilbert, Phyllis's character. Annie is a bit of a McGonagall: strict and very professional, but very loyal and with a big heart. She's the one playing good cop/bad cop with the Music teacher since they're both the Deputies and their different view of things often brings them to clash. But things change for her too. And the second episode, which is Annie-centric, is just a joy to watch. No, there's nothing light nor comical, it's actually pretty dramatic, but Phyllis does an amazing job in this. Annie struggles with her own private life too, being in a relationship with a divorced man and mostly struggling with her step-daughter. At the end, she sacrifices herself for the girl's sake (another proof of her good heart and how much she loves and understands kids, IMO), left alone once again and diving in her job. Still, the ache inevitably stays there. How can't it after the last scene of the episode and her hantingly sad look? I really wish there had been a season 4 in which Annie got back with Jeff. After that monster of girl made up her mind, started behaving as a good person and apologized to her. One can always hope...
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