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Series / G.B.H.

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G.B.H. is a drama by Alan Bleasdale that was first shown on British TV in 1991. It has elements both of British Conspiracy Thriller and psychological drama, as well as pure comedy and farce. The plot concerns Michael Murray (Robert Lindsay), the charismatic and far-left leader of an unspecified northern city council who, as a show of strength against the then Conservative government, calls a one-day strike of all council services, except that a Special Needs school is accidentally not picketed. The headmaster, Jim Nelson (Michael Palin) is then asked to apologise for turning up to work as usual. He refuses, causing him to be a target for Michael Murray's thuggish supporters. The rest of the series concerns the conflict between the two men as well as their own psychological battles; Michael Murray, in particular, is haunted by a traumatic incident from his childhood. Gradually, it is revealed that both men are merely pawns in a game designed by the British Establishment to discredit the Left.


Oh, and by the way, the title refers not to Grievous Bodily Harm, but The Great British Holiday (a good proportion of the series takes place at an awful holiday camp).

Contains the following tropes

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Michael Palin gives a speech in which he claims not to believe in well as claiming not to be a missionary (Palin wrote and starred in a film called The Missionary).
    • In a case of Producer Allusion, the famous Doctor Who convention scene is a reference to producer Verity Lambert, who was the first ever producer of that show.
  • Alliterative Name: Michael Murray.
  • Author Filibuster: Jim Nelson's speech in the final episode, which Alan Bleasdale admitted was a statement of his own philosophy.
  • Awful Wedded Life:
    • Mike and wife Maureen, as he's constantly unfaithful and never pays attention to her or the children. Most of her appearances are her calling him to yell at him.
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    • Jim and Laura's friends, Martin and Diane. They're always arguing, both unfaithful and she's pregnant with another man's child. However, they patch things up by the end.
  • Ax-Crazy: Eileen Critchley apparently had some severe mental problems at a very young age, but they weren't noticed, as everyone was paying more attention to Michael Murray. These later resulted in her hanging herself in college.
  • Berserk Button: Michael dislikes being called "Mickey" by his older brother, and starts to react angrily to people saying he's going bald once Jim Nelson remarks on it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: We learn that Mike really wasn't responsible for strangling Eileen Critchley, but he's arrested for inciting the rioting and conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm. Lou, Peter and Richard apparently get away with actually inciting the rioting - but it's implied Barbara will use the tape to bring them down. Jim gives a speech to the Labour meeting where he talks his way out of expulsion, and our last shot of the series is of his driving over a bridge, showing he's overcome his fears.
  • Character Tics: As his world crumbles around him, Murray starts to develop a Twitchy Eye, then his arm starts shooting up or out uncontrollably.
  • Children Are Cruel: Eileen Critchley, full stop.
  • Citywith No Name: We never hear the name of the city. It's often supposed to be Liverpool, and the bridge which Jim Nelson can't cross is indeed just south of Liverpool, but the city hall scenes were filmed in Manchester and the Nelsons live on the city outskirts on the edge of moorland, which doesn't match with Liverpool.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Mr. Weller is this trope played for drama. Thanks to Michael's torment of him, he's a barely contained bag of neuroses.
  • Cool Teacher: Jim is adored by the students at his school, and he goes to great lengths to teach them entertainingly.
  • Cowardly Lion: Jim Nelson is a total hypochondriac as well as having a phobia of bridges. However, when threatened by Murray's thugs, he becomes a total Badass.
  • Creepy Child: Eileen Critchley is both incredibly intense, disturbingly morbid, and seems to enjoy causing Michael Murray misery a bit too much.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jim Nelson whenever he has to talk to Michael Murray.
  • Do with Him as You Will: The young thugs who have been stirring racial tensions by beating up black people while dressed as policemen are betrayed by their controller who hands them over to a gang of black rioters. They are only beaten up and humiliated rather than killed, but he doesn't seem to care; he laughs hysterically as he watches them dragged from their van.
  • Driven to Suicide: Eileen Critchley, several years before the series began.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Mike is very fond of his mother, and seems to spend far more time with her than he does with say, his wife and children.
  • Exact Words: Jim Nelson is well aware of the city-wide strike, but ignores it because his union has defined strike-breaking as crossing a picket line, and Murray's goons forgot to picket his school.
  • The Faceless: Michael's wife Maureen, whose face we never see.
  • Freudian Excuse: Michael Murray attributes his behaviour to an incident in his childhood when he was tormented by a girl called Eileen Critchley.
  • I Have No Son!: Lillian pulls this on Michael in the penultimate episode: "You are no son of mine."
  • Initialism Title
  • Kids Driving Cars: there's a scene in which a family needs to drive to another city but their usual driver is unavailable, so their ten year old son offers to drive. On the way, a policeman considers pulling them over because he feels that something "just isn't right", but decides against it after his partner points out that the driver's driving is flawless. When they arrive at their destination, Michael Murray recognizes the car and expects that one of his enemies will be driving, but when he looks in the window and sees a ten year old driving, it triggers the worst yet attack of nervous tic in his arm.
  • The Mole: There are several people that Michael Murray is working with who are secretly conspiring to discredit and destroy him (and with him the Left), but the best example of this trope would probably be Barbara.
  • Mood Whiplash: A hilarious scene in which Michael Murray attempts to buy condoms in the middle of a Doctor Who convention is almost immediately followed by the savage beating of a black waiter.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Michael Murray is based on Derek Hatton, the notorious Deputy Leader and de facto boss of Liverpool City Council in the 1980s. During a chance meeting with Bleasdale while the series was in production, Hatton, who had heard about it, said that he didn't mind how he was portrayed as long as the actor was handsome.
    • Whilst not exactly celebrities, the series was shot in and around Manchester Town Hall. The production crew tagged a few locals as extras, so in some shots some genuine hard left Councillors are playing... hard left Councillors.
  • Pet the Dog: Michael Murray may be corrupt and a bit of a bully, but he is also decidedly anti-racist, being well-known among the Labour establishment for his ability to relate to black and Asian (aka from the Indian subcontinent) constituents.
  • Posthumous Character: Eileen Critchley.
  • Sanity Slippage: Jim and Mike both suffer a lot of this.
  • Smug Snake: The Conservative reporter who dogs Michael Murray throughout the series and ends up working with the conspiracy to discredit him.
  • Trojan Gauntlet: Mike Murray, eager to make love to the beautiful blonde waiting in his hotel room, tries to find a packet of condoms in the middle of a Doctor Who convention. Unfortunately the hotel's vending machine is empty thanks to a large influx of firemen the previous night. Mike has to borrow some from the hotel's owner who's in his office with several conventioneers, including one dressed as a Dalek.
    Mike: Where do you keep your Durex? I need to be armed!
    Hotel owner: Well I've got two in my wallet...
    Dalek: TWO?
    Hotel Owner: I don't work social hours, you know!
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Jim Nelson is deathly afraid of going over bridges.
    • Merely mentioning Eileen Critchley's name is enough to send Michael Murray into hysterics.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Michael Murray; to make things worse, his father died before he was born.


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