Eight episodes of The Thick Of It have absolutely whipped by in the last two months. From the dazzling highs (Rebecca Front’s Jacqui Smith-esque ministerial collapse, the ever-reliable Ollie, Glen and Terri infighting, Miles Jupp in a one-episode turn as a press officer) to the, if not lows, then comparable dips (Malcolm’s baffling heart to heart with Terri), everything has once again ended in flux as to what will happen next.
Indeed, this episode felt more like a transitory passage to the next series, and the dialogue wasn’t always sharp enough to get it by. As always, a caveat the size of Wales needs to be placed on claims that The Thick Of It isn’t operating at full strength; it still leaves it several degrees stronger than pretty much everything represented at the British Comedy Awards that were being screened at the same time. But still, an eight-episode run does seem to have fully stretched the show.
This week started with Malcolm pondering his options on what to do with life after government, walking around in standard issue middle-aged Matalan clothing with a PC World plastic bag, and being – confused horrors of horrors – nice to people. Considering how well it seemed to suit him, it was little surprise when he ended up sneaking back in to help the prime minister shore up his increasingly weakened position. (Although, let’s be honest, we would all watch Malcolm doing his TV suggestion of Civilization with more quim.)
With his return, the battle lines were drawn between not just government and opposition, but inside the warring factions of government itself (prompting the line of the week: “You’ll keep the party in opposition ’til Daniel Radcliffe is advertising walk-in baths in the fucking People’s Friend.”), before the PM called a snap election to safeguard his position as leader of his party.
And what state has it been left in for the next series? Tom Hollander, the main politician in In The Loop, has been introduced by the Opposition as the Fucker to lead his troops to near-certain election victory, while Malcolm returned from the political dead to try and rouse a defence of the tired government.
Here are my personal highlights of the series. Hopefully, with talk of an early spring election, we won’t have to even wait that long for more.
Most alarmingly familiar idea: I report on public sector affairs as my day job, and the ‘fourth sector’ of ’empowered individuals’ seemed so alarmingly familiar that when it first appeared I had to go and check whether or not it was already someone’s policy. One suspects that it’s only a matter of time before it will be.
Berating of the series: The most seriously contested category, the episode that tracked the Opposition’s visit to DoSac and the inevitable cat fighting was easily picked with the best dialogue, with Malcolm’s savaging of ‘Shitehead Revisited’ Phil Smith the jaw-droppingly hilarious apex.
Star of the series: I was harsh on Rebecca Front in my first review of the series, prompting a substantial defence of her in the comments including from, um, a user named ‘rebeccafront’. Well, fair play, she has been note-perfect in going from backbench no-mark to besieged minister, and finally on to trying to escape from the sinking ship of government, all in a very short timeframe. In a series that could all too easily topple into raw cynicism with no sympathetic characters to care about, she’s provided a convincing heart to the series that leaves a tough act for any prospective minister to follow, and showed that the programme can manage without Chris Langham. Consider this as me chowing down a substantial plate of humble pie.
Episode of the series: The party conference, complete with the ‘applause monkey’ widow, and Malcolm finally punching one of his staff, was so good I watched it three times after broadcast. Truly amazing stuff.
Biggest change for next series, please: Saturday night has been a not-entirely-helpful slot to be screening The Thick Of It, condemning a lot of people (to be more specific, me, right now) to try and track fast-paced television through fuggy hangovers on Sunday. Fingers crossed for more sober scheduling from BBC Two next time around.
Read our review of episode 7 here.