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Laying It On Thick

By Edited Nov 15, 2013 0 0

The Thick of It is truly a triumph in political satire

The Thick of It is a political satire about the day to day workings of a modern British government.  The events in the show closely shadow the real life events of the British political system and in some cases even predict them with alarming accuracy.  It has currently broadcast three series with a fourth having just wrapped up on BBC Two.  

The Thick of It DVD Cover

Created by Armando Ianucci, of The Day Today and I’m Alan Partridge fame, The Thick of It takes the cinema verite style popularized by The Office and puts it to great use in the offices of the fictional Government Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship.  The series began in 2005 with Chris Langham as the dawdling head of the department and Hugh Abbot who is very out of touch with his electorate, and indeed, the world at large.  He’s helped by civil servants: Ollie Reeder (Chris Addison), Glenn Cullen (James Smith) and Terri Coverly (Joanna Scanlan).  Nicola Murray (Rebecca Front) takes over in a cabinet reshuffle at the beginning of series three, which sees Hugh put out to pasture, off-screen.  This change in character was due to Chris Langham’s jail time in 2007.  

The undoubted attraction of the show however, is the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, Malcolm Tucker.  Foul-mouthed, and thought by many to be constantly on the verge of an aneurism, due to his continuous shouting at everyone in the government departments.  In fact, however, the craggy-faced Tucker simply finds shouting therapeutic and quite enjoys it.  The Scotsman, Tucker, is played with conviction by Peter Capaldi, and the character is said by Capaldi to be based, not on Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s right-hand man, Alistair Campbell, as some may have guessed, but is instead based on Hollywood movie producers, most notably, Harvey Weinstein.

The Thick of It has been critically lauded for its gritty realism and true to life characters.  I particularly enjoyed the specials they produced, which coincided with Tony Blair’s well-known resignation, and Gordon Brown’s having stepped in to replace him.  In those episodes we are introduced to the shadow cabinet minister, Peter Mannion, and his minions.  Mannion has his own, very different Director of Communications breathing down his neck; Stewart Pearson, who is virtually laid-back when compared to Tucker.  Peter is seen by many in his party as a 1980s relic and it is revealed in series three that Terri fancies him.  I find myself actually liking Peter Mannion, even though it is pretty clear without it being said what political party he is with.

Series 4 saw the messy end of Malcolm Tucker’s career as Director of Communications for Dan Miller, in the shadow government, and up against charges of perjury in the Goolding Inquiry.  Like in many British comedies, there are no happy endings in this series and essentially everyone ends up getting burned, aside from those who really deserved it.

A spin off film, In the Loop, was produced in 2009, and featured the British and United States governments, as well as some memorable thoughts from Malcolm, like the fact that everyone in a position of power in Washington seems to be under thirty years old.  On the success of the show, Ianucci created Veep for the American market, which stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President of the United States, Selina Meyer.  So far that show has only run for one season on HBO, but as it was highly praised, a second season is currently in production.



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  1. Murray Wardrop "Peter Capaldi: "Thick of It Spin doctor, Malcolm Tucker was not based on Alistair Campbell"." The Telegraph. 31/01/2012. 30/10/2012 <Web >
  2. "The Thick of It." IMDB. 30/10/2012 <Web >
  3. "Veep." IMDB. 30/10/2012 <Web >

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