6The Thick of It
The Thick of It reminds us of one simple yet vital truth. Just because it’s the government doesn’t mean it’s any less subject to idiotic cock-ups, petty personal rivalries and farcical misunderstandings than any other office. The show takes us inside the fictional department of Social Affairs as it lurches from one self-generated crisis to another, with enough swearing to make a whole army of dockers blush.
It was written with the help of a civil servant turned journalist so as well as being very funny, it’s also the closest we’ll ever get to actually seeing just how badly the UK is run. This sense of authenticity is helped by the fly-on-the-wall mockumentary approach, with the cast being given enough improvisation space to let the dialogue breathe and adapt in a way that feels natural. The regular cast includes an out-of-his-depth minister and his coterie of advisors and support staff, all being herded by the mesmerising Malcolm Tucker. Played by future Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, it’s Tucker that truly makes the show, a head of communications whose Machiavellian charm hides a seething, simmering volcano that could go off at any second. He’s based on Tony Blair’s head of spin Alistair Campbell, although it’s unlikely that Campbell could match Tucker’s florid fountains of vulgarity (The Thick of It is surely the only show in history to have a swearing consultant).
Lines like “as useless as a marzipan dildo” have already become infamous to the show’s devotees but there’s more to The Thick of It than swearing. There’s a beautiful choreography to the endless rounds of backtracking and contradiction, all designed to give the impression that the government is functioning perfectly normally while it actually relies on lies, deceit and ideas knocked up in five minutes in the back of a taxi. Given what our lords and masters are currently doing, it’s as timely a watch as ever.