The Thick Of It Box Set – Swearing Never Sounded So Good
Genre: TV Series
The premise of the thick of it is not new, nor is its fly on the wall filming heritage or even the unsympathetic main cast but that has not stopped the show from becoming a critical success and some of its insults finding their way into the lexicon of modern politics. The fourth season has [...]
The premise of the thick of it is not new, nor is its fly on the wall filming heritage or even the unsympathetic main cast but that has not stopped the show from becoming a critical success and some of its insults finding their way into the lexicon of modern politics. The fourth season has just returned to BBC2 and we’re talking this as an opportunity to look back at the box sets for the past three seasons and specials of the show. The Thick of it box set is available on DVD from www.amazon.co.uk and www.play.com and i’m sure it can be rented via various online streaming sites such as Netflix, Lovefilm, ETC.
Based inside the British government and the inner workings associated with it, the show shares its background with some classics of British comedy such as “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime minister” as well as “The Office” and “I’m Alan Partridge”. It close association with those shows comes from the fact that the show was devised by Armando Iannucci who conceived a modern political satire after “arguing the case” for Yes Minister in a 2004 Best British Sitcom poll for BBC2. Although his support for “Yes, Minister” ultimately failed in the end, his argument for it did encourage Roly Keating, the controller of BBC Four, to back Iannucci with his concept for a modern version of the show.
The first two seasons followed the misadventures of Hugh Abbot, played by Chris Langham, who heads up the Department of Social Affairs. He is ably supported, or hindered depending on your opinion, by senior special adviser Glen Cullen (James Smith), junior policy adviser Ollie Reeder (Chris Addison) and civil service press secretary Terri Coverley (Joanna Scanlan). They bungle their way through various political issues all the while thinking that at any moment they will have their West Wing dreams come through. But its blatantly apparent from the offset that although their party is in power at present, it has nothing to do with the efforts of the above. The first scene of episode one perfectly sets up the real power behind the curtain, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). Equal part Alastair Campbell, Harvey Weinstein, Ari Gold and rottweiler he is first introduced to the audience when we are witness him forcing the resignation of Cliff Lawton who we soon see replaced by Hugh Abbot. Although his actions are always machiavellian in nature you are never in any doubt that he has the parties best interests in mind at all times.
We are given a great insight into the running of modern governments where spin and popular opinion are more important than ever before. We witness first hand how out of touch most, if not all, politicians are in the show when Abbot is made watch a zeitgeist DVD much like the prime minister does so that they can appear to stay in touch with the man and woman on the street. Most of the first two seasons story lines seem like they could be plucked from modern Irish politics with Abbot coming across as archetypal under pressure, over worked and out of sync with whats going on around him politician. Much like his compatriot in the shadow cabinet, Abbot comes across as a politician for a different age and is not comfortable with the way modern politics has gone. We see this in episodes revolving around topics such as the use of focus groups, owning second homes, party reshuffles, government spending on special needs schools and mistimed emails.
The second season ends with the a government reshuffle which creates the new department of Social Affairs and Citizenship (DoSaC) which although small still manages to cause never ending issues for Malcolm. Between seasons two and three we have two Christmas specials taking place in the wake of Gordon Browns,and later Brian Cowen,ascension to the position of party leader and leader of the government.
The two specials are aptly called “The Rise of the Nutters” and “Spinners and Losers” and take place over the course of what appears to be one night, almost a night of the long knives style night, where the prime minister makes a decision sooner than Malcolm and the others had planned for. Abbot is visibly missing for both specials due to some issues which took place in Langham personal life which meant he is no longer seen in the series from season two on wards although he is frequently referenced throughout and his exit is rationalised at the beginning of season 3. His absence allow for the development and prominence of other characters such as Jamie McDonald, Malcolm’s second in command but even more aggressive, Julius Nicholson and Ben Swain. The opposition, and specifically the shadow sectary, is finally given a face in the guise of Peter Mannion (Roger Allam) who like Hugh is from a different political era and the current political policy of being touchy feely doesn’t sit well with him.
Once Hugh has been ushered off screen we are introduced to Nicola Murray (Rebecca Front) who is given Hugh’s ministerial post mainly because she is the only one willing to take the role. Unlike most of the other ministers introduced you do feel a slight empathy towards her character. You can almost foretell that her many foibles will lead to her getting on the sharp end of Malcolm’s tongue such as her fear of lifts,a husband whose firm gets government contracts and a daughter about to start at a private school.
Throughout the remainder of the season it is up to Malcolm to once more firefight the many issues that DoSaC cause him such as accidentally wiping the immigration figures, party conference mess up, school exclusion, being misquoted in the press, bad radio appearances and the apparent manipulation of crime figures. Season three also introduces, what appears to be, weaknesses in Malcolm’s ability to manipulate those around him and standing in the party. It is portrayed across the third season that it is inevitable that the current party in power are doomed to be ousted and one episode focuses on Mannion and his teams visit to what will be their new department.This visit allows for a change in character for Nicola, a slight glimpse into the developing side of Malcolm and some awkward sexual tension. The season ends with Malcolm once more chomping at the bit ready for battle and in one of the seasons best scenes we witness him inspiring the troops.
The standouts of season 3 for me were the juxtaposition between the two governmental spin doctors of Malcolm and Stewart Pearson (Vincent Franklin). While Stewart is forceful and manipulative, his style is very different to Tucker, and he struggles to exert control and influence over Mannion, who refuses to take him seriously. The development of Malcolm as a character moving away from just having him as the Malcolm of the first two seasons to one who, in a poignant scene, let’s the audience into his motivations and how much effort he has put into keeping himself and the government in the position they are in. Season three also ends with the introduction of probably one of the best named characters on TV in Cal “The Fucker” Richards, who it would appear is the oppositions answer to Malcolm.
Many of Malcolm’s and Jamie’s rants are hilarious due to their capacity to make you both laugh and be amazed at their ability to use the F word in some uniquely innovative ways. To achieve this the show employs Ian Martin as a “swearing consultant” with his main role to pen the complex and creative insults used in the show and this shows throughout the series. With the current government, both at home and in the UK, being led by coalition parties Iannucci has used this for the basis of the forth season. Certainly one of the best comedies on television at present and with rumors that Iannucci is planning this to be the final season I would definitely suggest that you catch it before it leaves our screens. For additional Malcolm make sure you source out “In The Loop” which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2010.