Great British Holidays was Alan

Bleasdale‘s cheeky explanation of the acronym title for his GBH (Channel 4), but from the opening moments you know it's going to be no picnic. The drama series (and they can start engraving the BAFTA awards right now as far as I‘m concerned) opened with a doddery old headmaster stuttering his way through Eliot‘s Prufrock, interrupted by the entrance of newly-elected council leader Michael Murray (Robert Lindsay) arriving to execute his first act of vengeance, to humiliate the teacher who had done the same to him years before.

Melodramatic? Well, maybe, but Lindsay gets away with it splendidly. Murray is a brilliantly vain man, perfect for Lindsay‘s stagey physical style. In every frame he‘s preening, thrusting, twitching or grimacing, in every scene he‘s trying to push everyone else out ofshot. With body language like this, who needs Oracle subtitles?

The rentaquote mob were out in force for Bleasdale‘s last venture, The Monocled Mulineer, outraged at his temerity in not sticking entirely to the facts (whatever they are). They’ll be coming at him just as hard but from the other end of the political spectrum for GBH. Labour MP Tony Banks has already accused Bleasdale of ‘caricaturing local politics‘ and slandering Degsie Hatton. This is to miss the point spectacularly. Sure, Murray‘s council meetings are peopled by time-servers, bureaucratic windbags, henchmen and dogma-spouters. but that seems a reasonable approximation of politicians to me (sounds just like the Cabinet in fact). and after all this is drama not documentary. Murray

isn’t Hatton, and GBH would be infinitely less interesting if he were. Lindsay plays Murray as part pantomime villain, part playground

? bully, with an element of ? Potteresque complexity provided by the constant flashbacks to his

childhood, and an incessant curiosity about his late father. I might be in the minority here. but I managed to retain a sneaking liking for Murray,

although it‘s doubtful if I‘ll be able to sustain it over the nine hours that

1 remains of the series.


The cruellest thing Bleasdale does to his creation is not allowing him to get the jokes. Murray is out ofhis

depth with the Trotskyite ideologues who are manipulating him, missing

the references and bemused by the quotations. His wit is of the crude macho kind, that goes down well in the pub or on the picket line. He is no match in one-to-one verbal combat for the gentle mocking satire ofJim Nelson (Michael Palin).

Nelson is the passive Yin to Murray‘s Yang and takes Michael Palin‘s acting talents into uncharted territory. The weatherbeaten innocent Palin is simply perfect as the pathologically neurotic

, schoolteacher who stands up to

Murray. Every night he washes his

8 feet in case he dies in his sleep. ‘How 1 can I be so strong, and know I‘ll be

washing my feet in the sink again

' tonight?‘ he asks himself. Palin has ; often been lovable, but in GBH he : attains heroic status, rushing out

with a hockey stick to attack the

pickets who are intimidating the mentally-handicapped children of his school. He repulses Murray with wit and ridicule and more than a smidgeon ofold-fashioned decency. Murray has to resort to the taunt of the playground: ‘I‘ll get you, I know where you live.‘

‘Murray isn’t Hatton, and GBH would be infinitely less interesting it he were.’

GBH sees Bleasdale back where he belongs: on the small screen, with a cast to kill for, picking out the political minefields created by hardline ideology, and the personal ones inevitable with morality. Robert Young directs impeccably (the climactic scene of the first

I episode with pickets on the roof of

the school and the frightened children penned inside, was magnificent) but above all it is Bleasdale‘s dark humour that sets it apart. At one point Murray‘s brother (and chauffeur) cracks a grim joke. ‘That‘s not funny‘, says Murray. ‘Sometimes they‘re the best kind,’ replies brother, speaking for the

; writer. GBH has some ofthe

toughest and best jokes heard on TV since Blackstuff.

Jokes are an essential staple of Selling Hitler (Scottish) with the welcome proviso that the butts of the punchlines are the establishment journalists and publishers of Stern and the Sunday Times. Unfortunately Howard Schuman‘s

script. if the first episode is anything

to go by. lacks the necessary playfulness. The dialogue plods rather than sizzles, which is criminal

j considering the potential of the true story: a dramatist‘s dream. The

appearance of Alexei Sayle as forger Conny Kujau brightened things up marginally in the second half, and future episodes promise the treats of Alan Bennett as Hugh Trevor-Roper. and Barry Humphries as Rupert Murdoch, but the lines have to get sharper, or the series could prove to be as banal as most of the bogus diary entries. (Tom Lappin)


' Murray Abraham). and

The List guide to what’s on release at your rental store. and on the sell-through shelves. this fortnight. RENTAL

I The Miracle ( 15) Direct-to-video release for Neil Jordan‘s low-budget return to his hometown of Bray in Sligo. Ireland. The Miracle is a small-town rites of passage movie with a difference. looking at the relationship between lS-year-olds Jimmy and Rose. their active imaginations. and their parent troubles. Their ability to create imaginary worlds is matched by Jordan‘s

capacity for giving the film

a dreamlike quality. It's an atmospheric work. but suffers from its failure to get a grip on the storyline and make the characters involving. facets that Jordan‘s previous Mona Lisa managed perfectly. (Palace)

IMayWine(15)A raunchy comedy with a twist. May Wine takes the two's-company-three's-a- crowd concept into new territory with mother and daughter (Joanna (‘assidy and Twin Peaks star Lara Flynn Boyle heading for Paris and falling for the same guy ((iuy Marchand to be precise). a gynaecologist whose profession seems to entail meeting lots ofwomen. After the initial novelty wears off. things rapidly degenerate into shabby farce. with plenty of excuses for Lara to get most ofher kit off. and daddy turning up to cause embarrassment (to the viewer as much as the characters). Fairly poor. (Bucna Vista)

IAn Innocent Man ( 18) On leave from Three Men And a Baby. Tom Selleck is the innocent man ofthe title. wrongly banged up on a narcotics charge. Once inside he toughens

up considerably (with the help ofcellmate F.

begins to plot his revenge. It‘s a lightweight thriller. low on excitement or character development. Selleck is never really Convincing as the angry

victim of injustice. and the

credibility of the film is damaged

: accordingly-(Bucna ; Vista)

Also on release:

I Madhouse ( 15)(2(1:2()) I Web at Deceit( 15) ((‘l(‘)

I Blind Vengeance( 15) ((‘IC)

I Hired To Kill ( 18) ((flt‘) I Diamond Skulls ( 18) (MCEU Virgin)

I Backstreet Dreams( 18) (First Independent) ISide Out(15) (RCAColumbia)

I Eve Of Destruction ( 18) (Guild)

I Blue Heat ( 15) ( Met-20 Virgin)


when l were a lad. this were real children's

entertainment. llomely. if ;

slightly weird tales of country folk. Nostalgia time for twentysomethings. if somewhat lo-tech for

today's kids. (BBC £7.99)

I Ruby Wax - East Meets

Wax Ruby hits Russia with

her stage-show which doesn't seem to translate too well. What is fascinating is the sparks

that fly between Ruby and

her translator. a particularly intense and serious Slavic type. unused to translating Wax-style one-liners. (Polygram £9.99)

IThis is Spinal Tap( 15) Still hailed as the rock movie. Rob Reincr's spoofdocumentary unerringly pinpoints the ludicrous pretensions and egotisrn of Heavy Metal. with memorable lines like: ‘I call this one “Suck My Love-Pump” classic stuff. (Polygrarn £9.99) I The Last Picture Show (15) Peter Bogdanovitch's growing-up tough story is set in a small Texan town in the 50s. Jeff Daniels and Timothy Bottoms are the buddies learning about women the hard way. A powerful. if downbeat tale. its sequel Texasville (available on rental) failed to recapture the magic.(RCA/Columbia £10.99)

i l l i i l

I Lite 0' Python ( Palace) The documentary story of the Pythons from public school via ()xbridge to the parrot sketch and beyond. I Yello Live At The Roxy. Dieter Meier's eccentric Swiss electro band are captured in concert some time ago. (Polygram £9.99) I French And Saunders Live ()n-stage comedy of a rather nearer-the-knuckle variety than you get in the TV series. (Polygrani £9.99) I Ivanhoe ( P(i) ((‘astle £7.99) I Hopscotch (1’(3)((‘ust1e £7.99) I Alien Private Eye ( l8 ) (Polygram £9.99) I The Video Dead(18) (Polygram £9.99) I Graveyard Shitt(18) (Polygram £9.99) I Bedroom Eyes( 18) (Polygram £9.99)

ISugaTCuheSH’olygram |


I Loch Hess Story 0! The Myth (Polygram £9.99)

I A Man For all Seasons (U) ( RCA (‘olumbia £10.99)

I Hamlet ( 1:)

(RCA. Columbia £ lll.99) I Scoml’olygram) (£9.99)

I Blaster Bates (Polygram) (£9.99)

I Cops ( Polygram)

~1 . r a was I The Year My Voice Broke (Palace)

I Rush Week ( Polygram) (£9.99)

I Deathstalker2(18) (£9.99)


I Fatherland (Palace)

I Good Morning Babylon (Palace)

I Tougher Than Leather (Palace)

I Macaroni (Palace)

76The List l4—27June 1991