Continuing our series of shows you need to see, it’s Armando Iannucci’s political comedy, The Thick of It.
Omnishambles, noun: ‘A situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations’ – in short, the British political system. It’s a word made famous by Malcolm Tucker, in the BBC’s The Thick of It, and with no hint of irony whatsoever adopted by leader of the Labour party Ed Miliband. This is probably not where creator Armando Iannucci imagined lines from his brilliant, nay, genius political satire, would end up.
The real force of The Thick of It is Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker. He’s a terrifying, sweary Scot, a velociraptor with a Blackberry
The Thick of It is a hilarious look at the world of spin and media representation in Westminster. It focuses on The Department for Social Affairs and Citizenship, and catalogues a clusterfuck of cockups by ministers, whilst their PR teams try and salvage the careers that lie in tatters. It is a beautifully scripted satire with a cast that works seamlessly together, with outstanding performances all-round, but the real face, and indeed force, is Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker. A terrifying, sweary Scot, Malcolm is a velociraptor with a Blackberry, and the Director of Communications for the UK government for the majority of the show’s run. Born from Tony Blair’s real-life former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, Tucker delivers some of the most foul mouthed yet eloquent tirades in recent memory.
This is a main draw of The Thick of It – not just swearing, nor brutally cutting insults delivered at breakneck speed, but the beauty with which these insults are crafted. Orwell said, “the whole business of swearing, especially English swearing, is mysterious. Of its very nature, swearing is as irrational as magic – indeed, it is a species of magic.” With The Thick of It’s dialogue, Iannucci has created magic. “You’re as much use as a marzipan dildo” is as inventive as it is offensive, and is exactly what makes some of the dialogue so hilarious – it takes cursing so far past distasteful that it’s turned into art. The back and forths between characters is quick and clever, but it’s a testament to the cast’s acting chops as much as it is to Iannucci and his team’s writing.
It’s also writing that is made, and indeed delivered, to be admired by those who have a valid opinion on TV, and comedy as a whole, which is reassuring. Call it snobbery, but airing the show on BBC Four and not BBC Three quickly clarifies that. No one who goes out of their way to watch Lee Nelson or Mrs Browns Boy’s is going to find amusement in “you used so many words, it sounded like a fucking Will Self lecture.” But, beyond that, The Thick of It is perhaps the best British sitcom since The Office, because of how it acts as a multidimensional attack on our political system.
This is perhaps the best British sitcom since The Office, because of how it acts as a multidimensional attack on our political system
The Thick of It highlights the way Britain is run by idiots, as well as the egotistical madmen that drive them. Add onto that the fact that characters have literally been based around former Number 10 spin doctors like Campbell and Andy Coulson, and we’re getting to Wolf of Wall Street levels of terrifying. An hour-long episode dedicated to the Goolding Inquiry mocks the Leveson Inquiry and further pokes fun at the relationship between politicians and the press. Not only that, but it highlights the bullying that goes on in Westminster, along with the blatant manipulation of both the truth and the media, all for political gains.
If these are the people running our country, then we’re right to be worried and dissatisfied with what they’re doing. It’s showing the British political system as the despicable old boys’ club that it is. You only have to watch PMQs to see what a joke the whole thing is – which makes The Thick of It so much more hilarious. Conversely, if there are people like Malcolm Tucker behind the scenes, the fate of our country becomes so much more worrying.
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All images: BBC