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11th September 2012 09:00:00
Posted by Nick Bryan

We Recommend: The Thick Of It

Review of The Thick Of It from the BBC, written by Armando Iannucci and starring Roger Allam, Will Smith, Peter Capaldi, Chris Addison, and Rebecca Front.
Well, maybe a more apt title would be Everyone Recommends: The Thick Of It.

Because Armando Iannucci’s caustic Parliamentary satire is an authentic smash hit, commanding not just comedy fans but seemingly anyone with an interest in British politics. It’s hard to imagine someone who might like it and isn’t already watching. So, obviously, it’s back for a fourth series tackling the new coalition era head on, which means backseating the lead characters from previous years. I checked out the first episode to see if that risk paid off.

So far... yes, they seem to have pulled it off. Although big names like Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker, Rebecca Front’s Nicola Murray and Chris Addison’s Ollie Reeder have been shoved aside by the new regime, the series has done such a good job of subtly building up the opposition players in previous years, this doesn’t feel like a total handbrake turn.

In particular, Roger Allam as Peter Mannion MP was brilliant in small doses, and does damn well anchoring a whole episode. For fans who loved and still miss Chris Langham’s Hugh Abbot from early series, Allam channels a little of that, only a grumpier, Conservativer version.

And Prime Ministerial intermediary Stewart, played by Vincent Franklin, is a fun change of energy from Tucker’s high-speed abuse – he even seems to care about his policies, rather than just using them as an excuse to bitchslap MPs. Wow. Although the later hints regarding his relationship with the PM – didn’t we do that with Tucker last series?

And some of the minor characters, like long-term Mannion advisor Emma or new “Lib Dem” PR chap Adam don’t get much action due to the sheer scale of the cast. Will Smith’s Phil still has good moments though, perhaps helped by the fact he wrote the episode.

Quibbles aside, this felt like a strong business-as-usual comeback for Thick Of It, even without Tucker and chums, which feels like part of Iannucci’s message: new coalition only means same mistakes with more squabbling.

Anyway. Next week, we return to the old gang in their new opposition roles. I’m intrigued to see how the writers will bring everything together in only seven episodes with all the balls they’ve got in the air, but this is a very good start. I’m now even more sad that this is meant to be the final year.

Get more info on The Thick Of It from the official BBC site, and catch up with the first episode of the new era on iPlayer.