Last week I was IDed buying alcohol for the first time since I turned 18, a full seven years ago. I thought that was ridiculous. I’m 25, have grey hair, and have something that, if I were 15 years older, would be tenderly referred to as a middle-aged spread. So let’s take a moment to think about poor Chris Addison, the perpetual twentysomething Olly in The Thick Of It. As he was born in 1972, he is probably 37. That’s 20 years of reaching for your driving licence every time you go to buy a four pack of Strongbow – or, at 37, a bottle of Rioja.
You certainly wouldn’t know his real age if you’ve been watching him act the arrogant special adviser who has next to no idea what people are actually like, while he nonetheless writes the policy that will run their lives. Because if you give someone who is only, say, 25 a job like that, then they are going to act just like Olly does – like the country is one oversized parlour game for them to play with.
It’s been a strength of The Thick Of It that the scriptwriters don’t bring in what press officer John Duggan calls ‘normals’ to be noble creatures with regional accents just in order to make people like Olly look bad. This week saw Melanie Hill come in as the People’s Champion – or ‘applause monkey’ – Julie, who was pushing for tighter building regulations after her husband died in a cafe collapse. She may have a regional accent, but she also had her own agenda to push.
This week’s episode, following how Tucker and Olly and Glenn plot over who gets the political capital of using Julie at a party conference, is the best of the three episodes so far this series. Even without the contrast of Melanie, Olly comes off as an amoral idiot, especially compared to Glenn ‘Harold Bishop’ Cullen, who nobly tried to protect Melanie’s interest throughout the episode.
The building tension, likened by minister Nicola to “being trapped in a boy’s toilet”, ends with Glenn getting punched in the face for trying to do the right thing. The Thick Of It is normally a show you gently laugh at so you don’t miss the next killer line, but this is one of the rare occasions where you don’t have much choice but to guffaw at what is unfolding.
Elsewhere, Nicola also continued her personal collapse under the pressure of the job (“get me some ketamine, I want to separate my mind from my body”), while there was a surprising cast addition of Duggan, played by Miles Jupp, perhaps better known to all of us as Archie the Inventor from Cbeebies social drama Balamory. Or, as termed in Malcolm’s insult of the week, “Richard fucking Stilgoe, you jazzy bastard”.
All in all, this was another typically strong episode, and there are signs that my previous concern – that the satire on show was mildly dated – is just a sign that the eight-episode run is planning to fully plot the last two years of decline for the governing party.
Bring on the next five.
Read our review of episode 2 here.