Aaron Noonan mourns the ‘beautiful, sweary poetry’ of The Thick of It.
On the 27th of October BBC2 broadcasted the ﬁnal episode of what is surely one of the greatest comedies ever to come out of Great Britain, The Thick of It. The brain-child of Armando Iannucci, the political satire has steadily grown in viewership over its sporadic seven year broadcast history; it has never really made an impression with Irish viewers. It’s a shame, because to say people were missing out would be an understatement. I long contended that Ricky Gervais’s The Ofﬁce was the best British comedy of all time, but twenty-three swear-tastic episodes of The Thick of It later (plus a ﬁlm), it’s possible that The Ofﬁce has passed the mantle.
The show concerns the exploits of two departments of government, one in power, the other the opposition. It is a no-holds-barred narrative of the cut throat world that exists in modern day politics. While each side does everything in their power to undermine each other, with conﬂicting policies and embarrassing leaks, egos and personal gain cause much friction within each party as well.
For those of you that have never seen The Thick of It, it’s most important to note that it is the sweariest television show that ever was. It is beautiful, sweary poetry. One of the show’s credits actually goes to a Swearing Consultant, who adds some of the more colourful profanity to the scripts once they are ﬁnished. “Come the fuck in, or fuck the fuck off” is Malcolm Tucker’s greeting when somebody innocently knocks on his door. As spin doctor for the government and somewhat of a modern day Joseph Goebbels, he uses swear words more than he uses prepositions, constructing incredibly vivid imagery in order to belittle and undermine those who he feels are wrong. “He’s making Paul Remington a Cabinet Minister. Retard Remington. I mean the guy is an epic fuck-up. He’s so dense that light bends around him.” he quips in a series three episode, or “You’ve got all the charm of a rotting teddy bear by a graveside” in another. As it turns out, political correctness doesn’t exist in politics. The characters are absolutely vicious toward one another; swear words are probably used more than any other word in the English language over the course of this series, but to hilarious effect.
While the show is widely commended as being shamefully true to life for actual British politicians in terms of policies and the workings of government, its other deﬁning aspect is surely its creativity when it comes to combining the creative swearing with ludicrously awkward situations. A season four episode ﬁnds two members of cabinet being photographed, supposedly playing on a children’s slide shortly after they ﬁnd out a man who was evicted from his home under one of their policies has killed himself. The two are just trying to get signal on their mobile phones, but when the photo is tweeted by a member of the public, this absurd situation becomes a political nightmare and they must scramble to control the damage.
The jokes are as black as they come, the profanity is rife, and the situations the politicians ﬁnd themselves in bring a whole new level to the word awkward, particularly when things go public. As such, the show works as both a fantastic comedy and a commentary on politics itself. The many, many obvious faults that the characters of the series have serve to show the humanity of political life, and that politicians often don’t have all the facts. The Thick of It combines fantastic writing, some of the best acting you’ll see on television and some of the most quotable lines from any show. Whether you have a vested interest in politics or not does not matter, the genius of the show is not lost on those who pay no attention to current affairs. Best of all, the ﬁrst three series are available on Netﬂix right now.