Weâve spent three excruciatingly painful (if you are as obsessed with it and as over-dramatic as I am) years waiting for it but itâs finally here. Have I Got News For You is all well and good but when it comes to political satire lord knows the British public likes a bloodbath.
Back on the 7th May 2010 we learned we would be having a coalition government. For us this was news of some significance. For the genius writing team behind The Thick Of It it was an open cheque to tear the government apart. They must have sat there watching BBC News rubbing their hands together, not merely as a symbolic gesture of excitement but also to warm them up to wring the neck of what by 2012 would be a roundly discredited government with all the cohesion and social respectability of a lingerie clad Nick Clegg being pulled apart by rabid horses – #heavyhandedsatire.
So this Saturday, when the first episode airs on BBC2 you may be expecting a hugely cynical take on Conservative/Liberal Democrat in-fighting. And youâd be right. So it may come as a surprise to know that at last night’s BAFTA Q&A writers Will Smith, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche talked of their empathy for the tricky positions politicians sometimes find themselves in (although we arenât talking Mark Oaten here).
This is exemplified by everyoneâs favourite 1980âs hangover Peter Mannion MP whoâs âdevil may care but probably doesnâtâ attitude turns a spotlight on the absurd PR culture that will subsequently surround the ‘victors’ of this week’s cabinet reshuffle. He (despite his political affiliations, demeanour, education, upbringing, job, life and money) is the everyman of the series if you will. Heâs the guy that just wants to do his best amongst a sea of obstacles and doesnât see why he canât drink half a bottle of Tesco champagne with his wife on their 30th wedding anniversary. Sounds fair enough to me.
The first episode of the fourth series is dominated by coalition politics and Mannionâs world-weary bon-mots. Tucker and his gaggle of âLabourâ work-horses donât even get a look in. Itâs testament to the growth seen since the Malcolm Tucker ruled first series that the characters have grown to accommodate an episodic structure in which one week with are with the coalition, the next with Tucker. But thatâs not all. Last night’s panel floundered when talking about whether the two sides would again clash (as in the brilliant Five Live radio meet in Series 3). Producer Adam Tandy soon came to the rescue hinting that later in the series âthere would be a backstory that sucks in all the charactersâ?. Intriguing. Iâm hoping itâs that Tucker had an affair with Stewart Pearson’s wife. Or even better, husband.
One sensitive thing the panel were very enthusiastic in talking about however was their creative process. Whilst comedy hero and series creator Armando Iannucci has taken a bit of a back seat passing directorial duties onto others he still oversees the entire process from conception to the edit. Not one of their answers seems to miss him out of any part of well, anything.
As far as more spoilers go, they werenât forthcoming with Will Smith policing proceedings with much more efficiency than his fictional counterpart Phil Smith could muster. All we could get out of them was the revelation that Roger Allam (who plays Peter Mannion and also stars in Game of Thrones) apparently doesnât understand or like Game of Thrones to such an extent that he managed to get a bit of a rant into the series under the guise of his fictional Conservative counterpart. It would seem that itâs Mannion by name, Mannion by nature and if Malcolm Tucker isn’t careful he could well steal the series.