Come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off

I very much enjoyed Armando Iannucci’s film In the Loop (buried after nattering on about The Hurt Locker), but the original series which spawned the film–The Thick of It–is even better.

In the interests of sweeping characterization of national identity, let me say that no one does the comedy of viciousness like the British. There are some great American satires, but such comedies here often counterpose the brute nasty with a sense of sentiment or meaning. Or just soften the blows in other ways — no one is totally ruthlessly mean, or if they are, then someone around them is a counterbalance, a Candide-like innocent protecting the audience from the caustic. But a great vicious British comedy (Waugh, Amis–father or son, Cleese’s Fawlty) mocks everyone and everything. There are no heroes.

Thick is about backroom politics (and front room engagement with the “fat, stupid” people and the “cunting” press), by not terribly-bright and utterly-narcissistic “public servants.” We primarily follow the Minister of Social Affairs Hugh Abbot (Chris Langham) and his staff, with occasional visits from the invective-spewing Scots righthand-man to the PM, Malcolm Tucker.

A word about Malcolm Tucker, as played by Peter Capaldi. I love him. I have always had a soft spot for portraits of enraged, aggressive mean people, and Tucker is a Tasmanian Devil in the body of a whippet. His relentless attack never wears thin; I could watch Tucker all day long, forever and ever, amen.

I’ve seen only series 1, but this is … well, brilliant. I mean, best-comedy-series contention brilliant. It is so astoundingly nasty in its jokes, so bluntly mean about so many issues, yet it maintains an air of blithe almost sweetness. Where Gervais & Merchant’s The Office traffics in a discomfort created by its characters, which we viewers share, Thick inspires us toward an amiable appreciation of the characters–they’re not a bad lot, or rather they’re quite bad but nonetheless kind of likable, perhaps because their ambitious selfishness is so generally ineffectual. Even as, for instance, they casually toss around vicious insults about developmental disability — after each insult they apologize to their colleague Glenn (who has a son with a developmental disability). And then they carry on.

10 thoughts on “Come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off”

  1. So I’m watching season 3 of this now (the earlier episodes seem harder to find online) and this is ridiculously good, but mostly for Peter Capaldi. The asst. sec’y of state (or whatever) and her staff don’t interest me much at all, though they all get good lines. Apparently there are a couple of “specials” (longer episodes run around Christmas) that are even better.

    Any Mighty Boosh fans here search out “Snuff Box?” Because while I appreciate “The Thick of It,” it’s Snuff Box that I try to foist on anyone who spends more than a couple hours with me.

  2. Also, Malcolm’s Guardian columns are coming out weekly:

    “What bliss it is to watch the Tories freak their nutbags.”
    “I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe. Attack lines on fire in the hand of a Clinton. I’ve watched worm polls dive near Notting Hill Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like piss down the pipehole. But it’s time for “change” to die. It’s time to pop open a party bag of adrenal glands and start munching.”

    Reminds me of Aaron Sorkin’s NYTimes dialogue between candidate Obama and former President Jeb Bartlett:

  3. I have season 3 coming, an actual dvd, because I hate downloaders, who I call thieves.

    Is Jamie–Capaldi’s furious Scots sidekick–in season 3? Because I’d agree that Malcolm is far and away the best part of the show if it wasn’t for Jamie’s profanity chops.

    John, please send me an email I can ignore.

  4. In what way is this World Cup related?

    Apparently, “balaclava” is cockney rhyming slang for sexual intercourse. Not that that makes any more sense. You have to luxuriate in Malcolm’s speech, not try to make sense of it.

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