The Thick Of It series 3 episode 6 review

The Thick Of It's third series hits a bit of a bump, as there's just a little bit too much niceness on show...

Malcolm Tucker is supposed to be the epitome of callous spin who will execute whatever terrible political action is needed to make the government look good. He does it with more innovative swearing than the whole British Navy, he does it at a speed that makes your head spin, and he does it better than anyone else who has been brought in to the show. We want to see his veins throbbing, his eyes bulging, him circling his pathetic political opponent and journalist prey like a flying wraith.

What we don’t want to see is Malcolm Tucker have a heart. You see, underneath his flaming piss-driven anger, there shouldn’t be a man just trying to do his job. There should be more piss, and more flames, and definitely more anger.

This week saw him open up to a clearly-terrified Terri about the difficulties of trying to manage the political flotsam and jetsam who have been left to fill the ministerial posts after a decade in office. I watched the whole thing through my fingers – at first to see if Terri would get smacked the way Glenn did earlier this series, but ultimately because it was just so silly to watch.

Who is Malcolm supposed to be now? He was initially a clear take-off of Alistair Campbell, but Campbell left his job. The rest of the show has moved with the political times. Tucker is clearly too valuable to let leave. But this doesn’t feel like a good direction to be taking the character. 

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This was the weakest episode of this series by a bit of a stretch, tracking a strangely implausible effort by the BBC to mistakenly portray minor minister Nicola Murray as a stalking horse to the prime minister. After becoming more miserable week on week, Murray seems to have bottomed out in the blank stare stakes, although in her race to the bottom, all her staff have given up even pretending to have any respect for her (notably Ollie comparing her make-up to face paint). 

So with Murray distracted, fellow minnow minister Ben Swain had to present the self-eating cake idea of the fourth sector to a bored-looking press room. This was also fairly plodding stuff, leavened only by the open contempt in which Swain is held by his old staff (“You haven’t had this much fun since you went to Cadbury World.”).

In contrast to the eye-searingly bad idea of Hug-A-Tucker, watching Glenn tell fellow special adviser Ollie that he was in the running to be a candidate for a safe parliamentary seat was perhaps the first sincerely nice action among the DoSAC staff ever seen in the show (“It’s like being told your Dad’s gay or something. But I am strangely, really proud of you.”), even if his dream wasn’t to stay alive for long.

Hopefully, that will be the last of characters being nice to each other. If I wanted to watch boring people say pleasant but dull things to each other, I’d watch Gavin And Stacey.

There’s only two episodes left; fingers crossed, that’s just enough time for Tucker to quietly bump an incompetent staffer off and get back his status as Bastard In Chief.

Read our review of episode 5 here.

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