Revisiting: Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It
Jasper Clifford-Smith explains his love of the British political comedy:
The first time I heard the term ‘bag of cum’ used as an offensive description of someone was on The Thick Of It. These words came from the mouth of fictional spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) during Season 3 of Armando Iannucci’s extremely intelligent, fast-paced and sweary political satire.
The Thick Of It is based around the day-to-day fuckups of a fictional British government department called the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship (or DoSAC for short). The events that unfold in each episode are usually catastrophes brought on by the incompetence of someone in a relatively important position in a political department. In one episode, Secretary Of State, Hugh Abbot, is ambushed by a woman during a visit to factory. She keeps asking him if he has ever had to clean up his own mothers piss. This continues until his right hand man, the eternally defeated 50-something Glen Cullen, yells at her. All of this is caught on camera. Shitfight ensues.
TTOI is great because it shows that the people inside the political machine are, at the end of the day, only human. The funny thing about humans of course is that we are all prone to being incompetent and corruptible. A government is only as good as the people working for it and sometimes these people can be absent minded, ego driven, disorganized and prone to meltdowns.
Realizing this, Iannucci took the demise of New Labour and ran with it. The first three seasons of TTOI go from an intact government dealing with incompetence in relative privacy to a dying government falling to pieces with the whole nation looking on. It’s fantastic to watch. Obviously Labour is now in opposition so Season 4 will focus on the sheer disaster that is the Tory-Lib Dem coalition. This will mean Robert Palmer lookalike Peter Mannion (Roger Allam) will be in charge of DoSAC and new school, media savvy spin king Stewart Pearson (Vincent Franklin) will be in charge of communications.
The final episode of Season 3 introduced a second Tory spin-doctor into the show, the psychotic Cal Richards (Tom Hollander). I expect this character will make an appearance in Season 4. Cal Richards was in the show for all of two minutes but his impact was well and truly felt. Richards is known in Whitehall as The Fucker. His penchant for violent imagery and shouting at industrial volumes I assume is the reason why.
It will be interesting to see how the Lib Dems are portrayed in Season 4. Armando Iannucci has said he was once a massive fan of Liberal Democrats leader and UK Deputy PM Nick Clegg, but since they got into bed with the Tories he has become an extremely vocal critic of Clegg’s. I can’t imagine Iannucci being soft on anyone involved, especially the Lib Dems. The addition of a third party into this already fascinating show will create a whole new world of intrigue, conflicts and aggressively delivered swear words. How the dynamics of this Hiroshima style mess are played out is anyone’s guess but I imagine the Lib Dems will play a major role.
As you have probably gathered from reading this, the anticipation for TTOI Season 4 is killing me. I don’t like being distracted by stuff like this but I know when episode 1 drops I will watch it over and over and over again until episode 2 comes out and then I will watch them together until episode 3 etc. My friends and I will probably have weekly viewing parties as if we were fat American spinsters watching Downton Abbey. We will all wear suits and eat Indian takeaway and expensive biscuits. We wouldn’t do this for any other show but a new season of The Thick Of It is something to celebrate. If you haven’t seen it then get cracking on the first three seasons. Your vocabulary will never be the same again.