Skip to main content

From Across the Pond: "The Thick of It"

I think I'm in love.

Okay, I'm not in love. But I am totally infatuated--besotted, if you will--with The Thick of It, the brilliant and wickedly funny British comedy that just started airing recently on BBC America. And after two episodes, I am completely smitten. It's best described as The Office on speed or The West Wing viewed through a psychedelic haze if President Bartlett were a lazy, incompetent puppet on strings who's just as baffled as everyone else as to how he managed to land in this office. It's shot in the same faux documentary style as The Office and the result is a rather painfully hilarious political satire.

The Thick of It takes the audience on a funhouse ride through the corridors of power (wow, that's a mixed metaphor), seen through the eyes of Minister of Social Affairs Hugh Abbot (Chris Langham), a sap who's completely dependent upon his often incompetent staffers. Hugh is brought in to fill the MP slot after the prime minister's draconian and abusive enforcer Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) forces his predecessor to resign following a scandal. Malcolm is a ruthlessly efficient spin doctor and the amount of influence that he wields (the ability to fire ministers, kill news stories, etc.) seems to make him infinitely more powerful than the Prime Minister himself, a rather sobering fact.

Hugh is a completely inept minister, but then so are the people he employs to keep him on track. His advisor Glenn (James Smith) believes himself to be a man of the people but he is so out of touch with reality that his advice is monumentally abysmal. Glenn is often at odds with Hugh's junior policy maker, Oliver (Chris Addison), a recent Cambridge graduate who looks like he's about ten years old. Oliver recently broke up with newspaper reporter Angela (Lucinda Raikes), a fact that Hugh and Glenn make use of to feed her (usually incorrect) stories. Then there's Terri (the hilarious Jo Scanlan), Hugh's press secretary. Terri's a former PR exec for a national supermarket chain, which should make her level-headed and knowledgeable in how to deal with the press. But everyone thinks Terri's rather useless and she often finds herself the scapegoat for whatever hare-brained scheme of Hugh's that has gone wrong. They are all at odds with whatever tirade Malcolm is on at the moment. And, well, Malcolm is rather scary: he seems to have the ability to materialize out of the shadows.

Created by Armando Iannucci and written by some of Britain's top television writers, The Thick of It is cracklingly smart. Much of the dialogue is semi-improvised as well, creating a hyper-realistic look at what goes on behind closed doors in the political arena. The effect is hilarious and also terrifying, particularly in these rather scary times we live in. If Hugh and his cohorts are any examples, I shudder to think of what goes on in private with real policy makers, given the way that they cobble together ridiculous and asinine policies in an attempt to deflect attention from what's actually going on. The spin is so fast that it seems impossible for Hugh not to get whiplash. And while the entire first and second seasons may only add up to six episodes (yes, you read that correctly, six episodes), they are so rewarding that you might forget that they were mere morsels, political petit fours meant to be savoured with every bite.

Ultimately, The Thick of It is intelligent and scathing comedy at its very best, a satire so sharp you could cut yourself on it. So approach with caution.

"The Thick of It" airs Friday evenings at 9 pm EST/10 pm PST on BBC America.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Ghost Whisperer (CBS); Dateline (NBC); What I Like About You/Twins (WB); Freaky Friday (ABC; 8-10 pm); Mona Lisa Smile (FOX; 8-10 pm); WWE Friday Night Smackdown (UPN)

9 pm: Close to Home (CBS); Las Vegas (NBC); Reba/Living with Fran (WB)

10 pm: NUMB3RS (CBS); Conviction (NBC); 20/20 (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

10 pm: The Thick of It on BBC America.

See above. The British political series that the Los Angeles Times dubbed "The West Wing meets The Office." On tonight's episode, Hugh gets jealous of the attention a junior minister is receiving for his input on Hugh's housing bill, but tries to shrug it off when he's invited to dine with the Prime Minister.


Anonymous said…
I'm usually not a big fan of shows about politics but "The Thick of It" has quickly become a new favorite of mine. The rapid fire dialogue is almost exhausting to keep up with but well worth the effort. "The Office" on speed is the perfect way to describe the experience and, like "The Office," I hope that it finds many fans both here and abroad.

Popular posts from this blog

Have a Burning Question for Team Darlton, Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, or Michael Emerson?

Lost fans: you don't have to make your way to the island via Ajira Airways in order to ask a question of the creative team or the series' stars. Televisionary is taking questions from fans to put to Lost 's executive producers/showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and stars Matthew Fox ("Jack Shephard"), Evangeline Lilly ("Kate Austen"), and Michael Emerson ("Benjamin Linus") for a series of on-camera interviews taking place this weekend. If you have a specific question for any of the above producers or actors from Lost , please leave it in the comments section below . I'll be accepting questions until midnight PT tonight and, while I can't promise I'll be able to ask any specific inquiry due to the brevity of these on-camera interviews, I am looking for some insightful and thought-provoking questions to add to the mix. So who knows: your burning question might get asked after all.

What's Done is Done: The Eternal Struggle Between Good and Evil on the Season Finale of "Lost"

Every story begins with thread. It's up to the storyteller to determine just how much they need to parcel out, what pattern they're making, and when to cut it short and tie it off. With last night's penultimate season finale of Lost ("The Incident, Parts One and Two"), written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, we began to see the pattern that Lindelof and Cuse have been designing towards the last five seasons of this serpentine series. And it was only fitting that the two-hour finale, which pushes us on the road to the final season of Lost , should begin with thread, a loom, and a tapestry. Would Jack follow through on his plan to detonate the island and therefore reset their lives aboard Oceanic Flight 815 ? Why did Locke want to kill Jacob? What caused The Incident? What was in the box and just what lies in the shadow of the statue? We got the answers to these in a two-hour season finale that didn't quite pack the same emotional wallop of previous season

Pilot Inspektor: CBS' "Smith"

I may just have to change my original "What I'll Be Watching This Fall" post, as I sat down and finally watched CBS' new crime drama Smith this weekend. (What? It's taken me a long time to make my way through the stack of pilot DVDs.) While it's on following Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars on Tuesday nights (10 pm ET/PT, to be exact), I'm going to be sure to leave enough room on my TiVo to make sure that I catch this compelling, amoral drama. While one can't help but be impressed by what might just be the most marquee-friendly cast in primetime--Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Jonny Lee Miller, Amy Smart, Simon Baker, and Franky G all star and Shohreh Aghdashloo has a recurring role--the pilot's premise alone earned major points in my book: it's a crime drama from the point of view of the criminals, who engage in high-stakes heists. But don't be alarmed; it's nothing like NBC's short-lived Heist . Instead, think of it as The Italian