It Couldn't Happen Here
August 29, 2010 8:16 PM   Subscribe

GBH was a seven-part British television drama written by Alan Bleasdale [previously1] [previously2] shown in the summer of 1991 on Channel 4. The protagonists were Michael Murray (played by Robert Lindsay), the Militant Labour leader of a city council in the North of England and Jim Nelson (played by Michael Palin), the headmaster of a school for disturbed children. The series was controversial partly because Murray appeared to be based on Derek Hatton, former Deputy Leader of Liverpool City Council - in an interview in the G.B.H. DVD Bleasdale recounts an accidental meeting with Hatton before the series, who indicates that he has caught wind of Bleasdale's intentions but does not mind as long as the actor playing him is "handsome".

Sez Wikipedia: GBH is set in the early 1990s, towards the end of the Thatcher years, when numerous attempts were made by local left-wing councils to get more autonomy (not least in Bleasdale's home city of Liverpool, see municipal socialism). The plot is the attempt by UK government secret services to discredit and bring down Murray's leadership. Ideologically this involves a left-wing theorist, Mervyn, who is manipulated by MI5 agent Lou. Meanwhile, another MI5 agent Peter has recruited a gang of thugs, posing as left-wing activists (and later policemen) as agents provocateurs. Each episode reveals more about the convoluted nature of the plot to discredit Murray.

It seems as though all of the original episodes have been uploaded to YouTube. Here are links to the first episode:

GBH Episode One part one
GBH Episode One part two
GBH Episode One part three
GBH Episode One part four
GBH Episode One part five
GBH Episode One part six
GBH Episode One part seven
GBH Episode One part eight
GBH Episode One part nine
GBH Episode One part ten
posted by KokuRyu (22 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
British television drama + city council in the North of England + Militant Labour + disturbed children + Thatcher

is it gritty?
posted by the noob at 9:23 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

is it gritty?

It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen
posted by KokuRyu at 9:32 PM on August 29, 2010

It is gritty, and it is funny -- and it has Michael Palin in his best role, where you see what a truely fine actor he is.
posted by jb at 9:39 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I watched this for the first time, since seeing in on TV. It is just utterly fantastic.
posted by quarsan at 9:40 PM on August 29, 2010

I saw this many years ago and loved it. Michael Palin was superb, as was Robert Lindsay. Fans of GBH might also like another black comedy with Lindsay and Diana Rigg, "Genghis Cohen".
posted by No Robots at 9:43 PM on August 29, 2010

I believe from all my used vinyl crate digging that Elvis Costello soundtracked this?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:27 PM on August 29, 2010

Absolutely. I believe some of the music appears on "Mighty Like a Rose", and you can by the Costello soundtrack to GBH on Amazon.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:01 PM on August 29, 2010

Ace! Also, great post. I shall check this out.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:26 AM on August 30, 2010

Well it's easier to watch than Boys from the Black Stuff anyway...
posted by runincircles at 2:02 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the UK I get: "This video contains content from Channel 4, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds."
posted by Lanark at 2:23 AM on August 30, 2010

I remember running into Bleasdale while they were shooting this. We were both catching a train to London, and I knew him very slightly because I'd been at college with his wife here in Liverpool, when most of the incidents that were satirized in the series actually happened, so we'd had a couple of drinks together.

At the time, I was also a local Labour Party member who was also repulsed by Militant and their bully tactics, so I knew what he was working on, and asked him how it was going. From the conversation we had, I'm pretty sure that the character Palin plays in the series is 95% Bleasdale himself. He was (still is, for that matter) an ex-schoolteacher, and for the vast majority of the left locally, he was viewed as a celebrated hero of the culture wars, particularly for Boys from the Black Stuff but he was being victimized by Militant for having the temerity to question things like the decision to send taxis to all the local schools, containing redundancy notices for the staff as a political strategy.

But the curious mix of hypochondria, paranoia and determination to do the right thing rather than the politically expiditious thing that you see in Palin's character -- my impression was that that was pure Alan Bleasdale.

I've been watching the re-runs on Yesterday over the last few weeks and I'm really struck by how well they stand the test of time.

See also: Scully.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:37 AM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Fuck that Lenin! Fuck that Marx!
Fuck the workers! Fuck the bosses!
Fuck the unions! Fuck the scabs!
Fuck the police! Fuck the courts!
Fuck the judges!
Fuck the bastard who robbed my bike!
Fuck them all, fuck them all,
The long and the short and the tall.
Fuck The Guardian! Fuck The Times!
Fuck The Mail! Fuck The Mirror!
Fuck The Beano!
Fuck The Sun! Fuck The Star!
Fuck the moon! Fuck today! Fuck tomorrow!
Fuck the women!
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, the women!
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, the women!
Give me what I want to hear!
Fuck you Nelson!
Fuck you Nelson!
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, Jim Nelson!
Who the fuck, who the fuck,
Who the fuck is this you mean?
Jimmy Nelson!
Sha-la-la-la la-la li!
Who the fucking ‘ell is he!
Fuck the rich! Fuck the poor!
Fuck them rotten and fuck them all!
Fuck the sick! Fuck the lame!
The old, the young, I know I’ll fuck again!
Come on! Come on! Fuck the world!
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, the world!
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, the world!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:42 AM on August 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

Lanark, I get the same.

For those in the UK - it's on 4OD, so completely legal etc.
posted by djgh at 2:45 AM on August 30, 2010

I watched the first episode on 40D a couple of months ago and really need to watch the rest. It was a very contemporary series so assumed you were aware of the Militant and their ways - foreign or younger viewers will need to have a read of the Wiki page on it (I'd link but I'm typing on a macbook in an Apple store and I don't really know how to use it properly) to get to grips with what's going on. I did. The episode I saw was brilliant, though I was distracted by Robert Lindsay's accent veering between Lancashire and Yorkshire.
posted by mippy at 3:37 AM on August 30, 2010

My husband and I watched this and most of the political stuff went over our heads, but as a character study of two very bizarre men it is mesmerizing. The amazing trick pulled off by the writer was turning the horrible Michael Murray into a sympathetic guy. The scene where Murray's mob surround the school and terrorize the children was shocking-- I can't imagine that happening at an American school without everyone being rounded up and taken off to jail.

I also agree that it showcases Palin's acting; it's a damn shame he doesn't do more dramatic roles.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:16 AM on August 30, 2010

I watched this when it originally aired and can vouch for it's amazingness. Lindsay at first channels Derek Hatton and then, through a gift for physical comedy that I never knew he had, gradually eviscerates him. Palin too is astonishing.
posted by Jofus at 6:46 AM on August 30, 2010

I too watched this when it aired. I just recently got my hands on it and had every intention of sharing it with friends.
posted by KS at 7:25 AM on August 30, 2010

Always wanted to watch this, thanks for the reminder, Kokuryu
posted by storybored at 8:11 AM on August 30, 2010

Bleasdale seems like a kinder (although not necessarily gentler) Ken Loach.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:25 AM on August 30, 2010

this face leaves in five minutes...........
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:20 PM on August 30, 2010

I am very much enjoying this, but I would also very much enjoy punching the guy who uploaded these in the throat for making such a dog's breakfast of it. "GBH Episode Two part one b"? "GBH Episode One b part seven"?

Regardless, much thanks for introducing me to it, KokuRyu!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:45 AM on August 31, 2010

Re-watching on Channel 4 right now. Almost as good as my memory of it first time around (I haven't seen it since then). There's some rather OTT hamming-up here and there and some of the child acting is pretty woeful, but for the most part it's fine stuff. Man, whatever happened to Lindsay Duncan? I know, I know... I'll go Google.
posted by Decani at 8:51 AM on August 31, 2010

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