You expect The Thick Of It to provide a masterclass on how to pass the buck for things you’ve ballsed up in the workplace, but you don’t expect mild-mannered civil servant Robyn Murdoch to be this week’s teacher.
I blooming love Robyn. Since she was first dumped on the Department of Social Affairs she has acted as the anti-Tucker of the show. Nervous to the point of shaking, doe-eyed in the face of even the most simple decision, and nautical miles out of her depth, it’s hard to shake the feeling that if you worked in government you would probably be her.
Despite her considerable limitations, she still managed to stop herself getting the blame for a lost USB stick of new immigrant details, before managing to struggle with a hot drink order. This wasn’t the main plot of this week’s show, but it nicely encapsulates the way the programme is still damned funny, while feeling a year or so off the political pulse.
Take the loss of a USB stick of details. The most similar real world example of this was November 1 2008, exactly a year ago. This is becoming a slightly common feature of plots. Community Support Park Officers are laugh-out-loud funny because it was so plausible…a couple of years ago, but it doesn’t seem conceivable now. And, thinking about it, last week’s plot of a politician pondering how it would appear to the public to see their child go to a non-state school is a bit 2001.
Does this matter? Well, not really, in comedy terms because, as has been documented to death, the show is still perfectly constructed in new and innovative ways with every episode brutally well written and flawlessly acted. (It’s also worth noting that it is only because these facts are so solidly on the record that I’m picking flaws here.) But it sure takes the sting out of the satirical punch when the real-world politics have changed so quickly that what you’re watching doesn’t feel as current as the show use to.
Back to this week’s episode: new minister Nicola Murray made a mess of visiting the Guardian for an off-record chat (declaring an unspecified plan to deal with plastic toys to ensure “mass decarcinegenocide”), before accidentally letting slip to another journalist that a vital USB stick had been lost.
One of the astounding things about The Thick Of It is how quickly you get to know characters. This is only her second episode, and already we’ve watched a faux-perky Murray declare she is “actually quite a fun person”, before descending to have “a face like Dot Cotton licking piss off a nettle” as her department’s ineptitude is discovered by Malcolm, and then sitting in a car just twenty minutes in to the episode, looking like a broken woman. Or to be more specific, the absolute spit of Jacqui Smith after her husband was caught claiming porn on her expenses in March.
Where can Murray’s character be taken from here? Her predecessor, Hugh, was bumbling from start to finish, but Murray has taken a precipitous fall in such a short time that she can hardly hold out for the rest of this eight-episode run. Fingers crossed, we might see the return of the opposition, who appear to have been sent to an island with Scottish Jamie.
One last follow-on note from last week: the red button extra content from TV was finally put online…two days late (available here, with thanks to reader DigiMark for pointing it out). And do be sure to seek it out; it has Robyn in it.
Read our review of the season opener here.