‘The Thick of It’ – Series 4 Episode 1 Review

The eagerly anticipated return of Armando Iannucci’s political satirical comedy

Yes the creative swearing is back for seven episodes! The Thick of It has been away for four years and it’s all change for the government, now in Coalition; ring any bells?

We return to see Peter Mannion MP (Roger Allam) is now the new Secretary of State for The Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship (DoSAC), Nicola Murray MP (Rebecca Front) and spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) are now both consigned to the opposition trying to claw their way back to power. Completing the usual suspects are Glen Cullen (James Smith), Terri Coverley (Joanna Scanlan), Ollie Reeder (Chris Addison), Emma Messinger (Olivia Poulet) and Adam Kenyon (Ben Willbond). The new kids on the bloc are Mannion’s advisers, the new Director of Communications for Number 10 Stewart Pearson (Vincent Franklin) and his Coalition partner DOSAC’s Junior Minister Fergus Williams MP (Geoffrey Streatfield).

In episode one Peter Mannion is in hot water because he is basically digitally illiterate and out of touch, spin doctor Stewart Pearson wants him to launch the new digital youth policy ‘Silicon Playgrounds’ in place of the original creator and “down with the kids” Junior Minister Fergus Williams. Williams is soon demoted to devising the staff redundancies list, a list Terri Coverley is hoping she can be at the top of, if she does everything she can to jeopardise her position and be obstructive. She has a surprise when an unexpected cohort lends a hand in her mission.

Luckily the stellar ensemble of familiar faces are back doing what they do best, it wouldn’t be The Thick of It without some screaming meltdowns, policy U-turns, ministerial misdemeanours, back-stabbing and political feuds. A rather tepid first episode in truth, but it is wise to remember that a new scenario must be set up and the new players introduced before any real fireworks can commence. The camera work is busy and exhausting, but this is reflective of the rapid atmosphere and the adrenaline roused in these departments. Next week we see the wonderful Malcolm Tucker marking his territory, he is deliciously terrifying and you can only imagine the venom he has yet to spit out at his victims.

So, the usual tensions and the egos are running high at DoSAC and the government, there can only be chaos, hysteria, swearing and dissention in the ranks. At this point I think I’ll quote Bette Davis in All About Eve (1950) “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

For me, the only missing The Thick of It element since series two has been the psychopathic Scottish Senior Communications and Press Officer Jamie Macdonald (Paul Higgins), there has been no mention of him or his departure as yet. Malcolm and Jamie were the perfect combination of control and fear, and their comedic performances really lifted the dynamic. Maybe one day soon Jamie will charge out of the Operations Room to the music of Al Jolson and give someone a tirade of foul-mouthed abuse, we can only live in hope.

You can never fault Armando Iannucci and his team’s genius and their observations of the political machine running this country. The beauty of the The Thick of It lies in the fact that you don’t need to be an ardent political animal to appreciate the satire of our intricate government systems. The dialogue is clever, witty, the acting is first class and it’s funny as hell. Sadly it is rumoured that this will be the last series, but there is a glimmer of hope of a reprise with specials.

Well, every government runs out of steam some point.