ITV Hit 'Mr. Bates vs The Post Office' is Perfect PBS Fare

Toby Jones as Alan Bates outside the Post Office in 'Mr. Bates vs The Post Office'

Toby Jones as Alan Bates outside the Post Office in 'Mr. Bates vs The Post Office'

ITV

For those who pay attention to British culture and politics, the series Mr. Bates vs The Post Office has been practically unavoidable since New Year's Day 2024. The four-part drama, based on the real-life court case of the same name, stars Toby Jones (The Long Shadow) as the titular Alan Bates, who brought the lawsuit against his employer after he (and many of his co-workers) were wrongly accused of mail fraud due to an IT snafu in the late aughts. The ratings for the series have been astronomical, with ITV landing 3.2 million viewers for the premiere, beating the BBC's debut of The Tourist Season 2, and rising from there.

The outcry from the general public against the government's bureaucratic mismanagement and abuse of employees has been loud and sustained enough that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had to come out with a statement condemning what happened back during the 2009 incident. Further, the current Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, is now trying to figure out the fastest way to exonerate the hundreds of sub-post managers and sub-postmistresses who were wrongfully convicted back then and if there are steps to be taken to punish the post office a decade later.

So what is this show that's caused the entire country to rise up as one to defend the rights of the lowly sub-postal worker? Known as the "British Post Office scandal," the incidents first began in 1999 when the U.K. postal system began to switch to digital systems, using the Horizon Accounting system to track the monies brought in. However, the IT system was faulty from the start, and rather than blame the technology, the British government accused, arrested, persecuted, and convicted over 700 postal workers of fraud and theft. This continued through 2015 when the glitch was finally recognized, and in 2019, the convictions were ruled to be a miscarriage of justice.

Here's the series synopsis:

The drama tells the story of one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in British legal history. Hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters and postmistresses were wrongly accused of theft, fraud, and false accounting due to a defective IT system. Many of the wronged workers were prosecuted, some of whom were imprisoned for crimes they never committed, and their lives were irreparably ruined by the scandal. Following the landmark Court of Appeal decision to overturn their criminal convictions, dozens of former sub-postmasters and postmistresses have been exonerated on all counts as they battled to finally clear their names. They fought for over ten years, finally proving their innocence and sealing a resounding victory, but all involved believe the fight is not over yet, not by a long way.

Jones leads a cast of British A-listers, including Monica Dolan (The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe), Julie Hesmondhalgh (The Trouble With Maggie Cole), Alex Jennings (The Crown), Ian Hart (The Responder), Lia Williams (The Capture), Will Mellor (Line of Duty), Clare Calbraith (Grace), Shaun Dooley (Gentleman Jack), Amit Shah (Happy Valley), Lesley Nicol (Downton Abbey), Adam James (Vigil), and Katherine Kelly (Mr. Selfridge).

Gwyneth Hughes (Tom Jones) wrote all four episodes, with James Strong (Broadchurch) directing and Chris Clough (World On Fire) producing. Hughes and Strong executive produced with Joe Williams, Natasha Bondy, and Ben Gale on behalf of Little Gem and Patrick Spence for ITV Studios. 

Considering the team behind the camera and the actors in front of it are all PBS regulars, and the subject matter is educational and riveting, the series seems a perfect fit for public television. However, as of right now, Mr. Bates vs The Post Office does not have an American distributor and may end up on BritBox instead. Either way, when it does arrive, it looks like it will be a must-watch.


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Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

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