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If you like a David and Goliath story, this is one with 555 Davids, and the British post office in the role of the villainous giant.

Mr. Bates vs. the Post Office is based on a true story, not yet ended, of a horrible miscarriage of justice, in which hundreds of local subpostmasters, who operate retail branches in the cities and towns of Britain, were blamed when a new computer point of sale system caused large amounts of money to go missing from their books.

Instead of investigating the cause, the Post Office held the postmasters responsible, pursuing repayment of the losses, forfeiture of their livelihoods, savings, houses, and reputations, and even prison sentences—all without evidence of culpability beyond the paper losses shown in the computer system.

Something wasn’t right, and Mr. Bates knew it.

Toby Jones, as the heroic everyman Alan Bates, is a magnificently stubborn and clear-headed man, willing to sacrifice a comfortable life instead of capitulating.

His first scene, in which a postal official tries to bully him into signing a form certifying the computer’s accounting of his losses—is brilliant. You feel the suffocating might of the government against the little guy; Bates’s testy refusal to acquiesce in something he knows can’t be right is downright thrilling.

Mr. Bates is not alone in his plight; other stories of unjust accusations and tragic consequences pull at every heartstring. Mr. Bates doggedly pursues the facts for years, hitting the wall of bureaucratic denial over and over without bowing.

He uses gentle persuasion and boatloads of patience to rally heartbroken postmasters, a member of parliament, and a major plaintiff’s law firm around the seemingly hopeless cause of justice for the battered postmasters.

Watching the story unspool over 4 episodes is riveting.

Mr. Bates vs. the Post Office is on Masterpiece, so you may find it on your local PBS station or streaming on PBS Passport.

(My local station is also carrying the documentary version of the story, aptly named The Real Story of Mr. Bates vs. the Post Office.  Of course I watched that too—another hour of knitting! It was great to see the faces of the real people in the story.)


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  • Can’t recommend this highly enough! The story has been rumbling around for years here in the UK but it took Mr Bates and this TV drama to make things happen in a meaningful way. What’s so good is that it’s not over-dramatised. Might watch it again!

  • Thank you for that very honest and true pre’cis of this heart rending true story.
    I live in the UK and am applaud at what has happened.

  • Great series, hard to comprehend the injustice that persisted for years against these lovely people! Riveting and a very moving story, so well acted.

  • We watched it about a month ago, and yes , it is fantastic! I loved the story, the acting, and the beautiful English countryside. Perfect for knitting!
    If you’re a Toby Jones fan, I highly recommend Detectorists, a very quirky comedy about human metal “ treasure” detectors in the north of England. Delightful!

  • This show is amazing but so maddening! And sadly, it is still going on! And do find the documentary to see the “real” people. The casting was tremendous.
    Later viewers are fortunate so that you can watch it all at once! Hubby and I had to wait and watch it the “old fashioned” way from week to week!!
    But be prepared to be so angry for how these people are treated!
    And not a spoiler, but where IS the money!????

  • Just a note of appreciation for the wonderful photos … gorgeous palettes of Agni Y and Pinto Bean. Absolutely scrumptious!

  • And the sweaters are quite amazing.

  • Thanks for this recommendation. Just watched the first episode before church! Can’t wait to knit to the rest of the series

  • The official inquiry is ongoing and can be viewed live or on youtube. It is strangely compelling. And confirms the accuracy if the aforementioned shows.

  • This is an astonishing series, so we’ll cast and acted. Please watch it! And think about it.

  • I watched this, and it was very good, but also scary, that something like this could happen to so many innocent people!

  • I’ve watched both the PBS true story and the series multiple times while knitting away. Our family has US postal connections and the Postmaster in our family experienced many of the challenges Mr Bates and the subpostmasters in Britain faced with computerization and service issues here in the US during the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

  • This was a wonderful program and quite heartbreaking when you learn of what suffering the victims endured….

  • It is an on-going saga, sadly.
    Apparently the production created great awareness of the injustice in the UK.

    Alan Bates is a hero. A good man.

    Great show all around – including the documentary.

  • Thank you for sharing this smovie. I love the BBC showsbecause they employ great actors who don’t look like Hollywood’s version of people but instead look like the regular human beings – all shapes sizes and ethnicities. Amazing actors and sets and stories.

  • I’m with Jodi (above)—I was angry too at how the people were treated. It reminded me of so much of how corporate America treats people.
    As a side note, I think they said in one of the episodes that the money had probably been held in a holding account of some kind and ultimately absorbed into operating funds (that is, became part of earnings).

    • The money errors due to Horizon never existed – it’s like if you have £10 but write in a notebook you have £15 – you haven’t lost £5, it just never existed. What did happen was that the postmasters were then made to pay the £5 back out of their own money – remortgage their houses, borrow from the bank etc – and *that* money got absorbed by the post office as profits (and it was a lot more than a fiver). But the initial ‘mistake’ wasn’t real money – it wasn’t the money that was wrong, but the computer record of the money that was wrong – and the bosses couldn’t accept that the computer had made a mistake.
      Sorry if that wasn’t what you meant to ask!
      Watched it back in January and it made me cry then, and I re-watched and cried again.

  • We loved this when we watched a few weeks ago. It’s great.

  • Loved this series. My dad (95) recorded this for us to watch together and we did it in one sitting. Highly recommend.

  • I have been looking forward to this. I also recommend “The Bank of Dave” which is a dramatization and fictionalized version of a true story about a businessman in the north of England who took on the agency that regulates banking in the UK. It is more of a feel-good David vs Goliath story. It’s still streaming on Netflix.

  • This real story torn at my heart strings….and to think it was a true story is a horrible thought. Life is so fragile; the day to day chain of events to carry out our agenda is difficult….(at times). Truly this film should be viewed by many. lots of lessons of life.

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