A descent into lunacy is rarely as fun as it is in G.B.H., the BAFTA Award-winning British miniseries that pits Robert Lindsay against Michael Palin, who in turn become their own worst enemies. The satiric drama from Alan Bleasdale skewers the way the Labour Party turned on itself to its own hurt during the Thatcher years, but political intrigue often takes a backseat to the batty characters at the story’s forefront. The lines of protagonist/antagonist that seem so clear-cut at the beginning of the series are constantly shifting, and the result is a consistently entertaining and often hilarious madcap ride.
Lindsay stars as Michael Murray, the up-and-coming Labour leader of a local council. He’s charismatic, charming, and thoroughly narcissistic. He finds himself butting heads with the mild-mannered Jim Nelson (Palin), a headmaster of a special needs school, when Nelson refuses to comply with a strike to protest against the government.
The two are set up instantly as diametric opposites. Murray runs roughshod over everything in his path that doesn’t align with his agenda, organizing protests at Nelson’s school to intimidate him and the disturbed children who attend it. Nelson, meanwhile, remains calm and turns the other cheek.
However, it doesn’t take long for both characters’ worlds to be transformed, with personal crises assaulting them from every side. Whatever initial impressions were given, it becomes clear that neither is in control.
Murray is haunted by an incident from his childhood — one that is slowly pieced together through flashbacks — and becomes paranoid that the girl who tortured him as a child may be coming back to cause him more trouble. Unfortunately, he is largely unaware of the far more serious threat of government officials and certain Labour figures looking to bring his leadership down.
Nelson sees his hypochondria flare up, along with a number of strange physical tics, including frequent nude sleepwalking and an inability to drive over bridges. After a dismissal from his job, he is set adrift without a paddle into his sea of psychoses.