Written by the acclaimed Alan Bleasdale (he of Boys From the Blackstuff fame) GBH takes the simple story of a battle between a northern councillor and a special needs teacher and turns it into an epic confrontation between good and evil.
Michael Palin is special needs teacher Jim Nelson who decides to make a stand (whilst going through something of a mid life crisis) when Michael Murray (a truly incredible performance from Robert Lindsay), newly ensconced as leader of a Northern England town council calls a strike which Nelson, putting the needs of his kids first, decides to ignore.
Its the start of a major drama as Murray is determined to make an example of Nelson and in the process getting blinkered and putting his career on the line as well as Nelson’s sanity. Added to this though are more sinister undercurrents with both left and right seeking to undermine the other.
Genuinely massive in scope, a real tour de force in fact, GBH is like a great big Dickensian novel and easily the equal of any of the great Charles’ work.
Every aspect of the seven episodes is perfect from, naturally, the scripts downwards, great soundtrack from Elvis Costello and the often overlooked Richard Harvey and stunning playing from the entire cast which besides Palin and Lindsay also includes a stand out performance from Julie Walters as Michael Murray’s elderly mother (Walters has always excelled at playing old ladies!)
There is also an icy performance from Lindsay Duncan as Barbara Critchley who is out to seduce Murray but her motives are not all they seem as well as Michael Angelis as Palin’s best friend and a young Anna Friel as Palin’s daughter.
Bleasdale has described the series (the title of which actually stands for Great British Holiday as opposed to Grevious Bodily Harm) as a liberal madmans journey through the farce that is modern Britain and it has to be said things despite the show being almost 20 years old things still haven’t changed for the better.
UK / Channel 4 – GBH Films / 7×75 minute episodes / Broadcast 6 June – 18 July 1991
Writer: Alan Bleasdale / Executive Producer: Verity Lambert / Producers: Alan Bleasdale, David Jones / Design: Martyn Herbert / Costume: Mike O’Neill / Music: Richard Harvey, Elvis Costello
ROBERT LINDSAY as Michael Murray
MICHAEL PALIN as Jim Nelson
JULIE WALTERS as Mrs Murray
LINDSAY DUNCAN as Barbara Douglas
MICHAEL ANGELIS as Martin Niarchos
TOM GEORGESON as Lou Barnes
DAVID ROSS as Mr Weller
ANDREW SCHOFIELD as Peter
ANNA FRIEL as Susan Nelson
WILLIAM GAUNT as Hunningdon
JOHN SHRAPNEL as Dr Jacobs
GARY MAVERS as Billy Thug
ALAN IGBON as Teddy
DEARBHLA MOLLOY as Laura Nelson
EDWARD MALLON as Mark Nelson
HAYLEY FAIRLONG as Jessica Nelson
COLIN DOUGLAS as Frank Twist
PETER ARMITAGE as Mr Burns
JANE DAWSON (aka DANSON) as Eileen Critchley
PHILIP WHITCHURCH as Franky Murray
1. IT COULDN’T HAPPEN HERE (6 June 1991)
2. ONLY HERE ON A MESSAGE (13 June 1991)
3. SEND A MESSAGE TO MICHAEL (20 June 1991)
4. MESSAGE SENT (27 June 1991)
5. MESSAGE RECEIVED (4 July 1991)
6. MESSAGE UNDERSTOOD (11 July 1991)
7. OVER AND OUT (18 July 1991)