Thursday, July 06, 2006

GBH: ten hours of gripping drama

In the absence of there being much TV drama worth watching on TV [certainly at a time that's convenient to us], we tend to watch TV drama on DVD. That way you can watch an entire season of serial dramas like Lost or 24 without sitting through endless ad breaks [yes, Channel 4, I'm looking accusingly at you] or waiting for five and half months to finish the story. The DVd player has most recently been spinning Alan Bleasdale's wonderful early 90s story G.B.H., starring Robert Lindsay and Michael Palin. I suspect the same, award-winning drama might struggle to get easily commissioned these days, but TV has changed dramatically since G.B.H. first aired.

So has British politics, which makes much of the plot machinations appear to be a period piece in some ways. On one level G.B.H. deals with the rise of far left agitators like Militant and its Liverpool figurehead Derek Hatton. But that's window dressing for Bleasdale's true theme, the dangers of extremism within any political philosophy. That's just as significant now as it was then, perhaps more so. Putting aside the politics, the heart of G.B.H. is its two central characters - Michael Murray and Jim Nelson [played by Lindsay and Palin, respectively]. Both are flawed men, pushed the brink of utter breakdown by events beyond their control. Lindsay and Palin give stunning performances, but all the cast is excellent.

The DVD boxed set of G.B.H. is great value, especially if you order it online where the 10 hours of gripping drama can be obtained for £14 - a bargain compared to buying tripe like Van Helsing or The Matrix Reloaded. The set also includes two commentary tracks [with Lindsay and Palin on one of these], and an all too brief interview with Bleasdale about the show's creation and genesis. The writer talks about spending a week in an office with executive producer Verity Lambert, as they made cuts to the script - 230 pages of cuts! Bleasdale was ready to murder Lambert by the end, but freely says he never missed any of lost material from the broadcast episodes, barring a single, 45-second scene. Illuminating interview, great story.

1 comment:

Lee said...

I saw this back in the 90s when I was a callow teen. I loved it then, but suspect that much of it may have been lost on me. I picked up the DVD at the weekend, and it's next on my pile. I've got to finish with Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven director's cut first, which is so much better than the theatical version.