While MP Hugh Abbot is away, the team find themselves babysitting Minister Ben Swain (Edwards), one of the “nutters” who supports the rival Prime-Minister-in-waiting. Following a series of unfortunate events, the PM is then forced to resign six months early, leaving spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (Capaldi) and the opposition scrambling for a successor to back…
Though Armando Iannucci’s sublime political satire suffered a potentially fatal blow when its BAFTA-winning lead Chris Langham was arrested under controversial circumstances, the two hour-long specials filmed without him are, arguably, the show’s best yet. Every inch as smart, scarily plausible and magnificently written as the two previous mini-series’ (if not more so), Rise Of The Nutters and Spinners And Losers neatly explain away Langham’s absence (having his hapless minister Hugh Abbot out of the country on business) while introducing the opposition. Happily, expanding the playing canvas is a great solution which really pays off, from the antics at the Daily Mail (where the put-upon night news editor is forced to change his front page every hour) to the antagonistic relationships provided by the shadow party. Led by Roger Allam’s brilliantly world-weary shadow minister Peter Mannion (who’s opposed to the ‘trendy’ no-tie policy), there’s an opposite number for Malcolm (Vincent Franklin’s new-school spin doctor) and a terrific nemesis for Olly (Will Smith’s geeky suck-up Phil).
Still though, The Thick Of It unquestionably belongs to Peter Capaldi’s ferocious enforcer, Malcolm Tucker. Whether he’s chewing out potential candidates (“You’re so back-bench you’ve actually fuckin’ fallen off.”), disputing who’s ‘in the loop’ (“There’s nothing that you know, that I don’t know. I’m Doctor Fuckin’ No.”) to prepping for a Jeremy Paxman interview (“What are you going to do when he pulls that big rubbery horse-face of mock incredulity at you?”), the quotes are endless. Of course, Iannucci gifts plenty of his rapid-fire zingers to the rest of the flawless ensemble too. From Paul Higgins’ similarly ferocious Scot Jamie to Chris Addison’s unscrupulous Olly (AKA “Christopher Robin” or “the man from the Mr Muscle ad”); from James Smith’s beleaguered Glenn to Joanna Scanlan’s prudish Terri. Brilliant from start to finish, even the deleted scenes are golden.
Despite losing its lead and changing up the central dynamic, these two hour-long specials are, arguably, the best we’ve seen from The Thick Of It yet.