This review contains spoilers.
You can’t help but side with Peter Mannion MP in this week’s policy jamming and playground episode of The Thick Of It. His sarcastic heckling and open-mouthed disbelief are the only sane response to the utter wankery of Stewart Pearson’s knowledge-truffling, ball-throwing “Mind Campf”, as anyone who’s spent even a single excruciating moment at a corporate away-day will know.
Despite there being a touch of fish-in-barrel-shooting from the Thought Camp scenes (events like it are more or less self-satirising), this week’s episode was another triumph. Roger Allam was a joy once again as dyspeptic dinosaur Mannion, but James Smith was just as good as Glen, “the last VHS in Oxfam”, and achieved a rare thing amongst the show’s snarky insults and clued-in lampoonery: pathos.
It began with Glen’s hopeful “I may be needed, I’ve been needed in the past”, reached its peak with his “We brought a man to his death” outburst, and signed off with his exhausted rhetorical question about why they’d all gone into politics. Having consigned himself to the “moral abattoir”, Glen – admittedly a man with his own faults – found himself alone amidst slick-suited careerists and heartless Slytherins.
This week, the suicide of housing campaigner Mr Tickell sent the cat and the shit flying into respective contact with the pigeons and fan. Things are not looking good for Mannion, and the stark ending to his public quarrel with Tickell must eclipse even Nicola Murray’s misguided support of last week’s ‘drowning sailors and starving children’ policies. The playground pap-snap couldn’t have come at a worse time either, its combination of seriousness and frivolity a small-scale version of George W. Bush sitting with a copy of The Pet Goat on his knee while the World Trade Centre collapsed.
DoSAC’s reactions to Tickell’s suicide ranged from blind panic to callous celebration, the worst offender being Will Smith’s Phil, who saw it as a tidy conclusion to the public embarrassment of the twat in the tent. Pearson’s glib instruction for Terri to pen him a “cry-mail”, and Fergus’ air-punch on being tasked with making the official statement put them in joint second place in the inhumanity league table.
Speaking of Fergus, the Inbetweeners’ fawning over “lady” economist Tara Strachan in the community bank B-plot was a watch-through-your-fingers scene, and for the sake of all women in politics, let’s hope that particular observation about the corridors of power wasn’t too spot-on.
Such is the pinpoint accuracy of The Thick Of It’s evisceration of our current political system, it’s hard not to come away from it feeling heavy-hearted. Were it not for the cheery “imaginary tits” line towards the end of this week’s episode, I might almost have wept through the credits.
Because unlike the fluffy blankets offered by the rest of the BBC’s comedy line-up, The Thick Of It isn’t an object of comfort; it’s a magic mirror reflecting and magnifying every cynical, disillusioned thought you’ve ever had about UK politics and the media. It’s feel-bad TV, but brilliant for it. Yes and ho.
Read Louisa’s review of last week’s episode, here.
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