Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The Thick Of It

I finished Armando Ianucci's brilliant political satire 'The Thick Of It' on Monday - I know, how cutting edge am I, it came out in 2005! - in expectation of the Sundance smash, 'In The Loop'. Having missed it on BBC4, the first thing that sprang to mind when approaching it was Chris Langham's imprisonment for possession of indecent images of children. Its odd, because watching it now, four years after it first screened, one struggles to rid this unsavory fact from one's mind. Langham's performance as the essentially well-meaning, but totally inept Minister, Hugh Abbot is really really good. You may ask yourself how Abbot managed to get so deep into the corridors of power, but you can't help but be complicit in his befuddlement at what exactly one is supposed to do once there. What strikes you however, is that this seems to be a bizarre case of art almost mirroring life. Hugh Abbot fits the demographic perfectly for a paedophile, and in a macabre twist, only evident if you are watching the show 4 years too late like myself, it seems that the part has been written retrospectively for Langham - ie. Ianucci knew about his predilection for little kids and has encrypted hidden messages into the show that point towards this unpleasant truth. The use of 'nonce' abounds, and was it just me, or was Abbot's concern for Glenn Cullen's special needs son (especially when coupled with his essentially uncomic spin - "Inclusion is not illusion") bordering on the insipid? Or what about when he writes to, a special needs child named after Glenn Close, calling her a cunt?

It's a shame really because Langham was superb. As was the rest of the cast. Peter Capaldi (why are there so many Glaswegian Iti's - Capaldi, Ianucci, Federico from Big Brother 4?) will of course get the most plaudits for his rambunctious performance as a thinly-veiled Lord Mandelson - although I thought he was truly amazing as Charles I in 'The Devil's Whore' - but I also thought Chris Addison was great as Ollie Reeder, Abbot's equally inept Junior Advisor.

The show does at times feel like 'The Office' meets 'Yes Minister', thanks to the use of shaky hand-held camera to give that fly on the wall feel, but I felt the acting more than made up for accusations of being derivative. I'm sure politics works nothing like it appears to work on this show, but the show is successful in at least making us believe that is a passable approximation to it, closer to the reality than one would hope for. Likewise, for a programme that the makers claim is 80% scripted and 20 % improvised, there sure are a lot of quotable lines. Unfortunately I can't think of a single one right now, so maybe that's bullshit.

However, my favourite thing about the show is something Ianucci mentions in an interview with Uncut:

UNCUT:' Could you tell me about your "swearing consultant"?'
IANUCCI: 'That's not his only job, but he's sort of become that. He's a guy called Ian Martin. It's become traditional that when we've sort of finalised the script, which he contributes to anyway, I send it to him in Lancaster and he sends it back and it's got all this baroque swearing in it. "Hurricane of piss" and all that - that's Ian, so he's become known as our swearing consultant.'

I tell you, I want that fucking job so fucking much...

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