Armando Iannucci is quite possibly, Britains funniest man. Having created, written and directed some of the greatest shows on TV, not just in the UK, but in the entire history of the medium, he is a legend. He is responsible for 'The Day Today' (along with the genius of Chris Morris) and the possibly greatest single character ever created, 'Alan Partridge'. Those two shows have influenced almost every single comedy show on British TV since and the fact that he is still doing it right up to this day with 'The Thick Of It', shows his place in comedy history is assured. Yes, as ridiculously exaggerated as this fawning over is, just watch one (if not all) of these shows, and try and tell me different. As a political satirist as seen in 'The Day Today' and 'The Thick Of It', he is second to none. 'The Day Today' is over 16 years old, and yet is still incredibly relevant and original. Political satire by its definition should be current and should aim to puncture the pulse of politics right now if it wants to make an impression. In 1994, 'The Day Today' did this sure, but the fact you can still see it relating back to current news to this very day, shows its legacy. A hilarious lampoon of news programmes, its intention was to show how silly they look by attempting to heighten its own news articles to an almost ridiculous level of sensationalism in order to reflect it back to those original shows; are they that different? Its utter absurdity and surreal vignettes assured its place in classic comedy and it gave birth to the careers of some great British talent. Alan Partridge is known more widely as the career defining moment for both Iannucci and co-writer/creator, Steve Coogan. His influence is widely known and does not need to be trumpeted here, but for anyone who has not before familiarized themselves with Ianucci's work, stop reading and watch all of it now. Yes, thats right, all of it, it really is that essential. It also will bring you up to date for 'The Thick Of It' and how it may possibly, surpass Iannuccis prior achievements.
I am ashamed to say, I did not catch the original airing of the show in 2005, but rather its transition to the big screen last year in the shape of 'In The Loop'. As a fan of not only Iannucci, but head writer Jesse Armstrong (one half of the writing team from Peep Show), I had heard overwhelmingly positive reviews for it. I had heard it was based on a Television Show, but as it did not tie into the plot of that ('In The Loop' is completely stand alone) I eagerly checked it out. The film did not disappoint. It was easily one of the best films of last year and was rewarded for its efforts with an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay last March. For the film, Iannucci widened his scope to include not only British Politicians, but Americans too. And surprise, surprise, we find that the Americans are as prone to disaster as the British are. The film is a completely fictionalized account of the run up to the US invasion of Iraq although, and this may sound odd, but plot isn't that important. It is there and always driving the action yes, but it is not what you take from the film. What you take from the film is the raw attention to detail and stunning observations on the minutiae of political life. As it has been said before elsewhere, this is complete opposite to the glamour and romanticism of politics that 'The West Wing' offered. Those in charge of running the Country are small but pithy people who would stab their best friend in the back as to further their own political careers. The film is, as you may not have noticed by anything I have stated thus far, one of the funniest films you may ever see. Its broad and all encompassing dialogue is some of the most fluidly written you may ever hear and rolls along at such a vitriolic pace, you barely have time to regather the air in your lungs, let alone take all of its shock/grandiose poetry in at once. It initially jars the senses as the film begins as it means to go on; in complete and utter confusion and mayhem, but once you get a hold on it, it becomes quite a pleasure for your ears to hear something so fine tuned and effortlessly drawn from its cast, more of which I will get to momentarily. The film is a instant classic and one that should be watched straight away if not done so already.
The origins of the film lie in the bind Iannucci found himself in when lead actor of the show, Chris Langham was arrested for possessing child pornography in 2007. Quite shocking considering the top class comedy work Langham had been delivering for years. Here it seemed he was finally getting the success he was long overdue as the bungling and almost completely incompetant MP, Hugh Abbot. He was fantastic in his part however with his arrest, Iannucci found himself in trouble with where to take the show. Abbot's abrupt absence in the two Christmas Specials was explained, yet it was obvious a comic foil was necessary to continue in order for the show to work. Knowing he had a good thing, Iannucci decided to keep each character and transport then to a feature length version and name them all differently, except choosing to replace Langham with Tom Hollander as the inept MP. It is a testament to both mens performances and high class of writing involved, that this is not at once jarring. So the film is the perfect gateway into the show, despite it being made right in the middle of its (so far) three season run. With the film acting as the gateway, you are primed and ready for the series.
'The Thick Of It' could easily be better than the film and that is saying something. I have declined from mentioning characters up to this point as that is what propels everything, far more so than the plot. Its wryly observed, fly on the wall look is a colorful, cacophony of useless and very selfish twits. No one is very likable. All of them you love. It makes no apologies for its lack of emotionality. Everything in this world is cold and hard and if you can't stand it, then get out of it. So in no particular order we have Olly, played by Chris Addison, a 'morally bankrupt' special adviser to the MP. He is very shallow and shows no hesitation in manipulating people for what he wants. Glenn played by James Smith, a Senior Adviser to the Minister. He is usually quite good at his job, but his age is the brunt of many jokes from others and is not taken as seriously as he possibly should be. From the most recent season, Chris Langhams absence was explained in a reshuffle and is now replaced by the very inexperienced Nicola Murray played by the excellent Rebecca Front, previous callaborator with Iannucci on the 'The Day Today'. As she is completely new to her job, her constant strain to keep up with everything is one of the things that land her in hot water throughout the season, although she wisely does not try and be a 'Hugh Abbot Mk 2' for season 3. And then we have Malcolm Tucker. A simply stunning Peter Capaldi, he is the shows undeniable drawing point for many. He is the dreaded Director of Communications for the Government. He is essentially a spin doctor for the Prime Minister and serves as his man on the field. He is a ready made classic creation and Capaldi gives him everything he's got. With every filthy obscenity and threat spat out of his mouth, I defy you to not burst your rib cage laughing. No one is safe from his tyrannical reign and everyone lies terrified in his shadow. He is one of the funniest characters ever created on Television.
The cast are amongst the best around. All of the show is written excellently, yet were it not for the entire cast and supporting players, it would not be what it is. Indeed, the cast even get a writing credit, due to their improvisations on set, which surely must almost be as crucial to its off the cuff spontaneity, as its carefully planned writing is. It is all filmed as very realistically. Cameras shake and struggle to catch up with the mayhem going on all around the hapless characters. Its pseudo-documentary style is completely in keeping to its unrestrained and impulsive themes and characters. You simply are moving along the whole time, with nary a second to take it all in, let alone catch your breath for laughing. This is 'classic line, after classic line' and the great cast give it everything they have got. Any show so fouled mouthed as to feature a 'swearing supervisor' must be given the applause it deserves. The rhythm and efficiancy with which each character delivers said expletive is among the most original (and shocking) language used anywhere in the history of the medium.
So yes, I am slightly too enthusiastic and appreciative about this series, but it really should be seen by all.It may be a political satire, but its characters and situations are so ruthlessly hilarious and endearing that despite the ugliness of most of their words and actions, we can't help but fall in love with them all. It is a show that exist with a rare few far above its source material in satire and comedy, and so elegantly performed and written it will surely be remembered for many years to come as another classic hit for Iannucci. Despite its satire trappings, it carries basic human nature and wry observations on humans that should see it in almost 20 years from now, much like 'The Day Today' being as relevant as ever. No matter what the future holds for us, politicians will always be the same shits they always were.
'The Thick Of It' Verdict: 91%
'In The Loop' Verdict: 85%
Iannucci takes the best of both 'The Day Today' and 'Alan Partridge' and delivers another hilarious subversive and foul mouthed observation of politicians. Malcolm Tucker is a hero for the ages and I could fill a whole other blog on the shows many genius and side splittingly hilarious and clever one liners. If you haven't done so already, I urge you to go out and catch up on it before Season 4 begins later in the year.
'The Thick Of It' Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUxNWrUU1C4
'In The Loop' Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQrqMkCuHqA