After a five year hiatus, in which The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci directed two spin-offs in the shape of feature film In The Loop and hit US series Veep, the British version is now back for a fourth series. However, times have changed.
The previously tyrannical Director of Communications, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) is now stuck in almost an existential funk as part of the Oppostion, and the foul-mouthed rants for which the show is famous, a thing of the past. Instead there is a new coalition Government in power, a combination of established, ‘old guard’ ministers, and inexperienced, younger ones affectionately known as ‘The Inbetweeners’. So, while there is less Tucker, the show’s satire is still just as redolent as it always has been.
This episode centres on the Government side of things and the ‘thought camp’, affectionately known as ‘mind kampf’ by senior minister Peter Mannion (Roger Allam), organised by the progressive, technophile spin-doctor for No.10, Stewart Pearson (Vincent Franklin). While some members of the department are busy throwing a ball around a circle, suggesting enterprising policies such as ‘free apples’, back at base camp chaos ensues after puerile junior minister Fergus Williams (Geoffrey Streatfeild) signs away £2 billion of public money and a NHS campaigner, constantly lambasted by Mannion, commits suicide. After Pearson’s ‘thought bubble’ is burst when news of this reaches the camp, Mannion’s woes escalate as he is captured on camera on top of a children’s slide trying to get signal for his phone.
It may sound like a classic episode, and indeed the writing is too good and the satire too sharp for it not to be worth watching. The relationship between the tired, weather-beaten Mannion, perfectly played by Allam, and the spiritual, eco-friendly Pearson, is very funny to watch, while the juvenile government underlings fawning over an attractive female economist is amusing, as well as seeming uncomfortably realistic. The series has started as one that the viewer can sit and enjoy and laugh at, however older fans of will definitely feel a void in need of filling. In previous series, Tucker stormed his way through the pernicious mire of government politics, spouting verbal detritus at anyone who got in his way, but somehow always keeping the audience on his side. This Machiavellian figure has been replaced with a demure, melancholy Tucker who has, so far, been featured in every other episode.
Undoubtedly The Thick Of It is still one of the best shows on British television at the moment and is still full of classic lines, such as when Mannion answers Pearson’s question, ‘When is a party not a party?’ with, ‘when it’s at your house’. However the real question for this series is whether the Tucker of old will return, and how the show will cope without its trail-blazing anti-hero if he doesn’t.
You can catch up with the series here.
Image from B.B.C. website.