Malcolm Tucker is back! Well, almost. To say I am excited about this new series is a huge understatement, as I’ve watched the first three series of The Thick of It so many times my conversational English is now almost entirely unsuitable for fucking minors.
But while I was initially delighted to hear that Armando Iannucci had announced series four of this excellent political satire, I suddenly felt that familiar nagging feeling of doubt creeping in and pushing aside my earlier exhilaration- could a fourth helping of this excellent comedy perhaps be one manifesto too far?
I sat there, one half of me wildly hyperventilating in anticipation, a quarter of me on the verge of a fear induced heart attack and the other quarter planning an over exaggerated way to portray this dichotomy. But then I took a glance at the slowly downward evolution of coalition politics in recent years and saw what Iannucci had obviously seen from the very start: comedy gold.
It’ll come as no surprise to most therefore that series four plums the depths of inter-coalition in-fighting with profane aplomb, yet surprisingly (for the first episode at least) it does so without any involvement from the ‘Labour’ side. But even in Malcolm Tucker’s absence thankfully the jokes come thick and fast, and the swearing also ticks over nicely. Imagine a How I Met Your Mother episode without Barney. Come to think of it, I’d rather not.
Disappointingly however after all my expectations, I found the first 10 minutes of the show slightly dull, full of obvious jokes and clichéd satire more suited to an ‘improvised’ panel show with David Mitchell than a densely written comedy drama. The presence of two new ‘Lib-Dem’ cohort was also mildly disorienting, and the meeting in which we are introduced to them is about as subtle as a fog horn to the face. Nevertheless, once everything gets down to business it isn’t long before things are going appropriately and hilariously wrong.
Tasked with launching a new ‘techie’ initiative, an incompetent Peter Mannion protests as only he can do before dutifully getting down to business and making an absolute mess of things. When his Junior Minister Fergus Williams begins mouthing off to the press, a sort of buddy-comedy hybrid is born, suiting the character of Mannion (who evidently still lives in the 1980’s) down to the ground.
Fergus comes across as the most prominent of the Secretary of State’s new antagonists, flitting around the place with as little consistency as Nick Clegg’s self-esteem. And while he occasionally goes a bit Tucker-lite for my liking, he reigns it in nicely with a streak of social awkwardness not shared by the fearsome and, let’s face it, amazingly charismatic Scot.
But it’s Peter Mannion MP who makes me laugh the most, and watching his face slowly implode as he launches a new political policy to an audience of unimpressed teenagers is a sight to behold. It’s actually the best cringeworthy scene I’ve seen since Steve Fleming was fizzing around the offices of DoSAC with nothing but some coffees, a distinct lack of self-awareness and his thousand yard glare to get by with.
To me Mannion not only steals the show in this episode, but may even steal the series at this rate. Tucker remains a giant among giants looking at the character roster but for once, maybe, Mannion might get his day in the sun*.
*Before Tucker takes a blow torch to his nether regions, that is.