I don’t know how I’ve managed to miss the previous series of The Thick of It, but I’ve employed someone to kick me up the backside for it. Just twice a day – it’s a part time position – but enough to remind me that TV critics need to be more on the ball.
However, having now watched the opener of the new series on Saturday night, the DVDs of episodes gone will be on my Christmas list.
And perhaps it’s not the worst thing in the world that I came at it with ‘new’ eyes because of course that way, I can’t mourn the passing of some of the characters but can celebrate the introduction of Nicola Murray – giftedly played by Rebecca Front.
Nicola has become the new Secretary of State for the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship which might sound uber important but is in fact, not, as the acerbic and intensely funny Malcolm Tucker pointed out when he said, “You are now built, and owned, by the state” before adding, “This is series 10 of the Big Breakfast, and do you know what you are? You’re the f*****g dinner lady they’ve asked to come and do the show.”
Peter Capaldi plays Tucker with a panache that is rare indeed, especially in comedy when all it takes to ruin a fantastically funny line is an eyebrow arched at an inappropriate moment, but Capaldi never fails and Armando Iannucci must be thanking the gods of comedy that he’s got the role.
In fact, none of the cast fail; Joanna Scanlon as Terri is wonderful, as she always is in any comedic role. Ollie, who deploys rapid-fire yet seemingly effortless verbal soliloquies is played by Chris Addison who’s another treat. And the character of Glenn, understatedly played by James Smith, is Ollie’s banter partner. Together, they all work to create an intelligent, luminous comedy in which the mordant wit is non-stop.
The writing, and the parlaying to screen of that writing, equated to my not losing the smile from my face for even a second of the woefully short thirty minutes of the show. And ordinarily, a comedy that has to resort to endless use of swear words only does so because it’s hoping for an audience of sympathetic toilet humorists, but with The Thick of It, the constant profanity doesn’t detract in any way from the intelligence of the script. Rather it complements it, analogous perhaps to a dollop of syrup on ice cream; a guilty pleasure.
But the thing that perhaps impressed me most was that within about ten minutes of watching this show for the first time, I had no feeling of being the new kid; I felt like I’d known the characters all my life and had been privy to their stories always. So anyone who’s never watched it before – and is therefore reluctant to start in case you don’t know what’s going on or has gone before – fear not because you won’t feel you’re outside this comedic circle at all.
If you missed it on Saturday, you can catch it on BBC’s iPlayer here, and if sharp writing and utterly enrapturing comedy are your thing, you’ll be, as Malcolm said, all over it like “a pigeon on a chip.”