Getting Through ‘The Thick Of It’
Arts, Column

Getting Through ‘The Thick Of It’

There’s nothing more to watch.

In actuality, there’s an unimaginable amount of TV shows that I have access to, but in the small cocoon of programs that actually catch my attention and that I put effort into getting through, the last show just flew the coop. This week, my roommates and I finished our binge through the BBC program, The Thick of It, and now we’re all very seriously depressed. Never has a TV show provided us with an endless barrage of one-line zingers that each left us cringing in pain from laughter. And the best part about The Thick of It is that bringing the show up with other people, no one else would have a clue what we were talking about. As far as we’re concerned, we’re the only four people on campus that are in on the joke. And that was really fun.

The Thick of It follows a band of scheming and/or incompetent British government officials in the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship and one comically unparalleled communications director, Malcolm Tucker. In each episode, the department finds itself in a messy public relations mishap that the head minister of the department and his or her lackeys must clean up, all while being berated endlessly by Tucker for the idiocy of their ways.

Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi, the latest Doctor on BBC’s Doctor Who, is really the keystone of the whole program. Hearing some of the most atrocious insults ever concocted, delivered in his thick and, in a really strange way, melodious Scottish accent is a treat that is incomparable to anything else on television. The two or three episodes that don’t feature Tucker feel empty and lackluster and it’s intriguing to see how flat the show feels when Capaldi’s not on screen. The pressure on the show’s writers to keep up the standard hilarity coming from Tucker must have been tremendous.

Another interesting facet of the show is its cast’s expansion throughout the show’s run. While The Thick of It feels like it runs flat without Capaldi, this point isn’t a slam on the other characters so much as a note of praise for Capaldi. There are really some fantastic characters to be found here. In season one, the audience is introduced to Minister Hugh Abbot and his three assistants, Oli, Glen, and Terri. For the sake of space, I’ll forego describing this lot, but the dynamics built between the three assistants are both hilarious and well developed, as these three, alongside Tucker, are the only permanent cast of the show.

Two seasons are spent following this crew and Tucker when suddenly, Abbot is ousted as minister and Nicola Murray comes into the picture. The shift was disappointing at first, as I’d grown to love Abbot, and I approached Murray with hesitation and skepticism. Murray, however, developed from this somewhat confident, competent nobody into a beautifully dull, hilarious, and insensible minister that filled Abbot’s shoes perfectly. Throughout the rest of the show’s run, the opposing party is introduced, quickly and holistically developed, and eventually wins an election, taking over the department. Few shows, in my opinion, take such a bold move shifting its cast around in such a manner, and it does it almost seamlessly.

The Thick of It also has some pretty poignant messages about British politics specifically and government inefficiency and incompetence in general. Just as it appears over here in the U.S., British politics is all built on a war between two parties, not necessarily on each party’s attempt at genuinely bettering the country. Government policies are introduced in the show as a means of obtaining the people’s favor for the next election, not as a pure attempt at social progress.

Tucker, as the communications director of his party, goes to great and most certainly illegal lengths to see that information is leaked or hidden in his party’s favor or at least to the opposition’s disadvantage. And that’s his only job: being sneaky and crafty. When accused of being what he actually is, Tucker delivers some really moving monologues about how the government system is structured as a publicity stunt and that any official who points their finger at him is a huge hypocrite. He argues that anyone who has climbed the ladder of British politics knows that the publicity game is the biggest aspect of that climb and that his position is only the mediator of that process.

If I’ve lost you in my rant on The Thick of It, it’s only because there’s so much to it, so much that I love about it, and only such a small space to talk about it. If you’re looking for a program to watch, The Thick of It is my first and only suggestion at the moment. At first it may appear inaccessible, being as British as it is, but The Thick of It’s uniqueness and hilarity will become very apparent very quickly.

Featured Image Courtesy of BBC Four

September 16, 2015
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