I was drawn into this story and could not pause between episodes, which may make me as loony as the crazies depicted in this series. GBH is the story of urban England political confrontation, how it draws and drains the sane and bewildered. A dialogue line sums it up best: "All of us are capable of being crazy at one time or other." A GBH understatement.
Michael Murray (Robert Lindsay) is a newly successful Labour Party council leader with a mysterious past that haunts him. He lords his power over particular people of his childhood. Mr. Weller, childhood headmaster, is targeted. Murray used psychological means of attack, & thugs when needed. A city-wide strike, Murray led, has one flaw, Jim Nelson (Michael Palin-"Monty Python"), headmaster to a school for special-needs kids. Pickets were not placed at that school through an error. Murray takes it personally and adds Nelson to his "get-him" list. Nelson doesn't need this, since he's already dealing with hypochondria and a host of neurotic phobias.
There is some past dastardly deed, unknown in the beginning to viewers, that causes Murray much strife and sets up a psychological plot that actually has viewers shaking their head in disgust one moment, laughing another, and cheering for the weird-o's in other places. Got to give the writer credit there.
Beautiful Lindsay Duncan ("The Rector's Wife") cast as Barbara Douglas (an alias), comes to the rescue, or on attack, well, both. Who is she anyway, and what mind-churning event created her drive? Murray's mom (Julie Walters-"Mamma Mia!" & "Calendar Girls") also gets into the sometimes weird/sometimes funny acting. There are thugs, agents, reporters, police, politicians galore and all seem to have just skipped out on their daily "group therapy" session. Great portrayals--I assume it is acting. Dysfunctionality runs as rampant as social disease in a brothel. They are all involved in this unnamed northern England town political scene as barmy & lunatic as realistic political scenes. Who needs world terrorists when we have democratic leftists?
Oh, and that list of fruity half-bakes is just the beginning. So what is it about this 7-episode, 10-hour British political miniseries that makes viewers delirious enough to keep watching? Is it the ample nudity, blood-letting, suspense, graphic violence, inappropriate humanity, drunken depravity, political back-stabbing, sexual deviance, or the ludicrous relationships? That's all there, abundantly. Obviously not for children. Then, just as you are about to regurgitate from the low-life attitudes...well, a segment gets so ridiculously funny that you know this writer is trying to tell us something. Oh yes, prior to the end (if you really ever do find an end or get over this) you'll discover some sane marriage romance involved. Who'd a thought that all this could be put into one series?
Alan Bleasdale's plan was to encourage people to be descent and reasonable to others. How? By showing the reverse to it's absurd fullness. He wrote based upon the mid-80s political life in Liverpool, and he states in the BONUS interview that he suffered from many of the conditions Nelson had in the film. Took guts to admit that. His own credo, manifesto, is presented during the Labor Club meeting speech of Nelson's.
So do I recommend GBH? Yes. No/Yes, No/Yes at times, but in the end, yes. It's an entertaining plot mix related to corruption, harassment, sex (women always the stronger), psycho, satire. Psychology majors will have a "hay day" with this set. After viewing all of this psycho/political suspense thriller, GBH, you too will be asking, "Has anyone seen my Valium?"
Disc 4 offers special features including the writer's interview (helping one make sense of the story without the help of a shrink), SUBTITLES, Elvis Costello bio, filmographies. Episode 1 also has a commentary option. GBH comes from the original working title of this TV drama originally began as a book, "Great British Holiday".