The Thick of it
"I love doing things the right way,
all that ethical stuff, but, you know, it's very difficult."
Thank the Lord for the
wonderful Chris Langham.
BBC 3's "The Thick Of It" is at heart a Yes Minister of the Blair
generation, both hilarious and cutting without any feeling of the set up scenes
of a sitcom. Apparently the show is partially improvised which must be how you
get this uncooked reality touch - if so this was a master stroke - it probably
also accounts for the rabbit caught in headlights looks so many of the
There is also a deep informality and familiarity with the
characters in show which is a real testament to their ability as performers. But
probably the element to first strike the viewer is the swearing. Now of course I
enjoy swearing anyway, it reminds me of home, but in terms of a stripping away
of artificial boundaries between the political classes and the rest of us it
really, really works. Not least because no one would believe that John Prescott
uses the same kind of court language that Jim Hacker did all those years ago.
Peter Capaldi plays Alistair Campbell superbly - sorry, no, not
Campbell, Malcolm Tucker, the government enforcer, and as such is given some
brilliantly cruel lines to bark. For example, the line "I'm going to have to mop
up a hurricane of piss" had me in stitches and seems like just the sort of thing
Campbell might say when trying to suppress a damaging news story.
There are also tiny moments that seem to sum up, for me at least,
what government ministers are really like. When Chris Langham mumbles as an
aside "I'm not sure what level of reality I'm meant to be operating on" seems to
encapsulate New Labourism very nicely without attempting to batter you over the
head. Which incidentally is one of the other powerful devises of the programme -
it's not propagandistic or dogmatic. You don't see blatant corruption, evil or
Machiavellian tendencies - only the dog tiredness of people well out of their
There are direct parallels with Yes Minister of course. For
instance when Langham begins a rant about his own department of Social Affairs
you could imagine Hacker saying something very similar. "Minister for social
affairs, I mean, what is that? It's hello I'm the minister for you know...
stuff." Followed by a classically weak smile.
Coming from Jesse Armstrong (writer of peep show) and
Armando Iannucci whose been involved in everything
you'd expect quality - and with this we certainly get it.
Spot on - do try to catch this if you can.
Times can be found at