|Index||10 reviews in total|
'GBH' set a formidable standard for TV drama to follow when it was first shown on Channel 4 in 1991, and nothing managed to better it. It is, superficially, the story of two men. The first is Michael Murray (Robert Lindsay), the brash leader of the council of an unnamed Northern city (but blatantly inspired by the Derek Hatton regime in 1980s Liverpool- only Hatton was never this fascinating!). Murray is, it seems a man who runs the town like a gangster and a 'baddie'. The other is Jim Nelson (Michael Palin in his best ever dramatic performance) the idealistic headmaster of a school for special needs children). The arena is set for a funny two-hour film about politicians and the common man. But 'GBH' is 11 hours long; we are taken into the deepest recesses of the two protagonists' minds- Murray is hounded by a memory from his schooldays and even in his brief moment of triumph suddenly shouts 'I wish I was a good man!' Nelson, although standing up to Murray, becomes shocked at his own courage, which leads to him seeking psychiatric help. Meanwhile, the scope of the series widens from local to national, with both men caught in a plot of ever-increasing complexity where our feelings for characters deepen with the revelations about them onscreen. Robert Young directs the series with astonishing cinematic flair and Alan Bleasdale shows again why he is as good a television writer as Dennis Potter, if not better. The incredible scope of the series puts it in the same league as the greatest mini-series of all, 'Edge of Darkness'. It encompasses heartbreaking tragedy (the electrocution scene) with hilarious comedy (Murray, stricken with a twitch and a 'Strangelove' arm, trying to find condoms in a hotel full of 'Doctor Who' fans) with consummate ease. It remains hard to find nowadays- the discontinued VHS release has been sold for exorbitant amounts - but it remains the jewel of 90s television and is not to be missed if you get the chance to see it.
This is British drama at it's ultimate. There has been little to touch it
since it's release. Bleasedale's script is full of twists and turns taking
you from outright hatred and revulsion of the main characters through
sympathy and finally on to adoration.
The story is truly mesmerising, on the face of it a plain story of extreme left-wing politics in local government. So very typical of the late 70's and early 80's Britain and led to the phrase "Loony Left".
As the story progresses we learn that not all is quite what it seems. Michael Murray (Robert Linsay) is shown to be just as much of a pawn of the system, as the wretched Jim Nelson (Michael Palin) who he tries to take down in the first few episodes.
The acting is powerful, and way beyond what is expected of a TV drama. Look out for many of Bleasedale's favourite actors throughout the story.
Sadly this was one of the last real dramas produced and funded by UK Channel 4 before they were forced by the UK government to produce more 'popular' programming. A move that eventually forced C4 from becoming the major source of funding for British film, into nothing more than a proud sponsor.
I dont know what it was in the 90's but UK TV produced GBH, Our Friends in
the North and Prime Suspect.
My favourite was GBH, it is so substantially long that all characters receive the fleshing out they deserve, some episodes are hard hitting drama, others are on a smaller more personal level and others are out and out hilarious (one commentator mentions the daleks scene which was verging on slapstick in the midst of high drama and yet it worked perfectly).
Simple to follow yet complicated plot, great all round performances cemented by towering contributions from Robert Lynsey and Michael Palin, while the script wears its heart on its sleeve it does not become too sentimental, nor does it lecture.
Perfect television, and criminally unreleased on dvd, Channel 4 would make a packet if they repeated it then released a spec edition.
Putting aside Robert Lindsay's much deserved BAFTA for his portrayal of sleazy politician Michael Murray, this show is worth watching because Alan Bleasdale's script is simply phenomenal. Even when the plot actually on occasion does move where you think it will -- you'll still be surprised, amazed, amused, angered. In short, this must be something like the Elizabethan audiences felt when they first watched Hamlet. The script is densely layered, mounting complexities upon issues upon personalities. And for all that, one doesn't have to be a genius to understand it and be moved through a number of emotions and reactions before finally being hung out to dry. It's brilliant.
This is Alan Bleasdale at his very best - 'GBH' ranks up there with
other outstanding drama series such as 'The Singing Detective' and
'Edge of Darkness'. While GBH is a drama it's not all deadly serious -
as with real life, 'lighter' situations develop naturally from
circumstances that are anything but, yet the situations are so natural,
the script so flawless and the performances and the direction so
perfect that everything flows together beautifully.
GBH is a very analytical and well observed view of politics, power, and how it affects the people involved.
It's first class - I wish that more TV drama was as good as this!
GBH is a remarkable miniseries: superbly written, directed and acted. The
characterisations are especially outstanding, with some of the most
genuinely nasty bad guys I've ever seen; though many of the main
are multi-faceted, and evolve before your eyes as the series
In part it's a story about how The Left can be manipulated by the Far Right; in other ways it is a character study, particularly of Palin's character - even if occasionally the comedy sits just a little uneasily with the drama. Given the series' intensity though, it's faintly amazing that they were able to get with some scenes at all.
I do have a few criticisms of GBH. At times it can be painfully slow, with some scenes which are stretched out for minutes, to no real purpose. Also, the eccentric, obnoxious hotel owner is obviously inspired by Basil Fawlty, and his antics get just a little distracting.
I would give GBH about 8.5, but to quote a record review I remember reading (actually it was of an Elvis Costello album, and Costello provides background music to the series), "by the standards of mortal craftsmanship, this is a wondrous thing indeed."
Just an addendum to my review: someone commented on the important scene
which takes place during a Dr Who convention. 28 years previously, G.B.H.
executive producer Verity Lambert had been the legendary original producer
of Dr Who, who recruited William Hartnell as the first Doctor. There's no
way that scene was a coincidence :)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember watching this when it was first broadcast 24 years ago.
Despite buying the DVD a few years back, I never got around to a
re-viewing until recently, when I caught it on Channel 4's streaming
Some 'classic' television doesn't quite stand the test of time. (As anyone that's had the sad experience of watching The Professionals years after broadcast can attest!) I'm happy to report this production isn't one of those. It was every bit as clever, funny, insightful (of the political climate of the time), and dangerous as I remember.
****** MINOR SPOILERS BELOW ****** Much of the humour is subtle and situational, which combination nobody writes as well as Alan Bleasdale. E.g., there is a minor scene early on where the Jim Nelson character played by Michael Palin has trouble with sleepwalking, and wakes up in his wardrobe. His inner dialogue to capture the ridiculous of the situation and his views on life is "Oh God.......if only you existed, maybe you could help me." Some episodes later on, he has a confrontation with Michael Murray, portrayed by Robert Lindsay. His decyphering of Michael Murray's incoherent threats is equal parts laugh out loud and badass. All-in-all, a highly entertaining anti-hero, with as many flaws as he has virtues.****** END OF MINOR SPOILERS ******
I'm having a bit of a binge on old telly at present. Both series like this that I remember from first broadcast, and ones that were slightly before my time (like The Sandbaggers - another classic I can recommend.) G.B.H. is up there with the best of them.
G.B.H. had me hooked from the start. The story has a lot of depth - and
is never less than exciting. All the cast suit their roles perfectly.
The two central characters are played with great skill and passion by
Robert Lindsay & Michael Palin; I think both of them really enjoyed
playing their characters immensely.
The script is intelligent, thought-provoking, and also has a dark comical edge to it. I can't think of many dramas that have delivered such an entertaining roller coaster of emotions.
G.B.H. is a brilliant creation, that fully deserves its 'classic' status.
GBH is an excellent view of the would-be overlords of local government in
the UK, using everybody (whether within or without the overlord's grand
plan) to achieve the goal of power.
The situation is viewed through the eyes of the elected local government official who is played like a puppet by the would-be power-mongers of the day (pseudo-socialists trying to hijack every situation to make the tory government of the day look ridiculous) regardless of the casualties caused by their actions.
The elected official starts out as a hard character, whose weak spots are exposed by the puppeteers through a relentless barrage of political and psychological attacks, gradually exposing the child within the hard exterior - and ultimately concluding with the deposition of said character - who departs with most of (if not all) of the audience's sympathy.
This is a riot of a screenplay, placing first our hatred, and then our sympathy with main character - often with bizarre & humorous consequences.
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