In the years to come, it is likely that Armando Ianucci’s show of British political satire shall be revered as one of the finest TV series to have ever been created. The Thick of It is a show that has consistently managed to deliver first-class writing & performances, as well as interpret reality with uncanny accuracy. The goings-on of our gaff prone coalition government provides the basis for the forth and probably final series and, as per usual, it’s bold, brutal and hilarious.
A lot has changed since we last saw Malcolm Tucker and his conservative equal Stewart Pearson, each preparing his party for the forth-coming general election. Of course, we know the result; no one won and so the country was blessed (or cursed, depending on your political standpoint) with a coalition government of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. This means that it is MP Peter Mannion who is now in charge of DoSAC (Department of Social Affairs & Citizenship), in partnership with new character Fergus who represents the Lib Dems (or “inbetweeners” as Mannion and co. call them). Meanwhile, bumbling former leader of DoSAC Nicola Murray has been promoted to leader of the opposition. But her advisor, Malcolm Tucker, is worried that Murray is pushing the party in to further decline and hatches a plan to overthrow Murray, instate Dan Miller as leader and get the party back on track.
The key to The Thick of It’s success is that it’s both scary and funny. By taking their storylines straight from real events, for example: The Leveson Inquiry, the writers are able to create a fictitious show that’s based firmly in reality. It means that while you’re laughing, you’re also thinking of how worrying it is that people like this run our country. During one episode in this series, Malcolm describes the government as ‘being more interested in popularity than morality’ and it’s phrases such as this that stick with you when thinking of our own government. We have a government constantly pushing forward new policies, but are the aims of these policies to help us or just to keep us happy?
The first episode of the series is when this thought came to mind, as Mannion launches a policy that is designed to appear to help the young, but doesn’t. Roger Allam’s superb performance as the blundering and bumbling Peter is comedy gold, Mannion representing the old-fashioned politician struggling to keep up with the new-age politics.
However, it’s during the series’ penultimate episode, an hour-long special focusing on the fictitious “Goolding Inquiry” that investigates the leaking of parliamentary documents, that the sheer talent of both the writers and the cast can be seen. It’s an episode full of tension as we see characters such as Malcolm, Stewart and Peter held to account for their actions. Seeing just how immoral and self-important all the characters are, even the ones you have grown to like (I’m thinking of Nicola here), is a sobering reminder of our own politicians and just how much the public can trust them. Peter Capaldi’s extraordinary final outburst is particularly relevant, displaying the actor’s unmatched ability to create a character that no matter how much you laugh you can’t help but loathe. Admittedly, this is the first series of The Thick of It that takes time to reach top gear. But even the early episodes, which are mainly scene setting, have more than enough material to keep you entertained.
If this is to be the last series of The Thick of It then it’s certainly a show I shall miss. Hilarious and horrifying in equal measure, it presents us with a government that feels more realistic than you want it to, thanks to the superb performances from the cast and quick wit of the writers.