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 (RObert Lindsay) and a special needs teacher (Michael Palin) 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!)
Michael Palin as Jim Nelson.
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.
Cast: 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
Writer: Alan Bleasdale / Executive Producer: Verity Lambert / Producers: Alan Bleasdale, David Jones / Design: Martyn Herbert / Costume: Mike O’Neill / Music: Richard Harvey, Elvis Costello
UK / Channel 4 – GBH Films / 7×75 minute episodes / Broadcast 6 June – 18 July 1991