The Thick of It Series 3
I can’t think of another show that takes more care over language than The Thick of It. A dialogue heavy show, it is brutally, brilliantly gangbanged into shape through multiple drafts, read-throughs and cast improv and if a syllable is one degree off rotation it is vaporised and rebuilt from scratch atom by atom. It’s probably why writers like the show so much and why you frequently get the urge to pause it and applaud after one of its murderous insults – insults that do more damage than a surgeon who dips his knife in shit.
"In his place is Nicola Murray, inexperienced and out of her depth. Her marriage is flailing around like Danielle Lloyd exiting a nightclub and her son’s about to be expelled from school."
Series 3 begins with a new dawn at the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship. Hugh Abbot is no longer with us because the public believe Chris Langham is a baby rapist1. In his place is Nicola Murray (Rebecca Front) – inexperienced and out of her depth in the piranha pool. Her marriage is flailing around like Danielle Lloyd exiting a nightclub and her son’s about to be expelled from school. Glenn and Ollie are still doing their double act which, as you can imagine, is a massive help to her.
Murray is stuck in a conceptual cul-de-sac while trying to explain her big idea: fourth sector pathfinders. Pathfinders are people who get themselves out of poverty and inspire the community to do the same. No one really knows what this means and it commits the government to nothing but platitude. It’s the perfect modern policy.
"Pearson, a brilliantly drawn rucksack sporting rat fuck played terrifically by Vincent Franklin, is one of the lesser known joys of the show."
In episode five Nicola goes head-to-head with her Tory shadow Peter Mannion on the Richard Bacon show and it’s glorious. The pair take turns in mangling the party line, prompting both Tucker and Tory spin doctor Stewart Pearson to come to shore up their defences. Pearson, a brilliantly drawn rucksack sporting rat fuck played terrifically by Vincent Franklin, is one of the lesser known joys of the show. Brought in by the Tories from the world of brand management he’s an unexpectedly good foil for Tucker. He wants the Tories to appeal to "One Show man and Holby City woman". There’s something heroic, almost epic about his shitheadedness. It’s barely human.
And showing he’s sometimes human, Tucker reveals a chink of vulnerability in episode six after Terri (Joanna Scanlan who has the knack of appearing in some very good comedy) gently points out that many of the things that have gone wrong that day have been his fault ("I think you’re wrong, Malcolm — you’re like a sultana in a salad"). He takes her to "have a word" and instead of the skewering we expect he opens up about the pressure he’s under "I used to be the fucking pharaoh" he tells her " But now I am fucking floundering in a fucking Nile of shit."
"What we’re watching is a show at full throttle, at the peak of its powers and out for blood. Its about idiots in extremis and how reasonably smart people can be dumb as Easter Island statues when under briefed, underqualified and under pressure."
This scene has been criticised elsewhere ("we like our Malcolm bulletproof" type objections), but Aerial Telly liked this. He likes his characters to have layers. Tough guys like Tucker are allowed to be vulnerable as long as you don’t totally lob their balls off like Buffy the Vampire Slayer did to Spike. Malcolm Tucker walk around castrato? Fuck out of here.
Naw, dog. What we’re watching is a show at full throttle, at the peak of its powers and out for blood. Its about idiots in extremis and how reasonably smart people can be dumb as Easter Island statues when under briefed, underqualified and under pressure. It’s as acute as Yes Minister was on squirrelly self-preservation when the political tide changes. Praise comes no higher.
The best thing about it: Ollie. Without him, the show loses its soul.
The worst thing about it: Chris Langham is something of a loss.
The verdict on The Thick of It Series 3: : Implausibly good right now.
Marks out of 10: 9
1 If they were looking for precedent to justify employing the nonce they could have cited Jeffrey Jones who appeared in three seasons of Deadwood after his child pornography conviction.
Imagined: Wednesday, December 02, 2009