The Thick of It: Seasons 1-4 DVD Review: More Than Just Creative Swearing

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If you are familiar with the works of Armando Ianucci, and you are American, it is likely from his HBO show Veep or the movie In The Loop. If you are aware of the latter, then you already know some of the characters from his TV show The Thick of It, which recently had seasons one through four, which likely comprises the entire series, released on DVD in the United States. From the box, you will see Peter Capaldi's pensive face gazing upon you, which makes sense, because his Malcolm Tucker is the most prominent character from the show and because, in a bit of kismet, Capaldi has recently been named the new Doctor on the fairly long-running show Doctor Who.

The Thick of It, as is Ianucci's wont, is a show set in the world of politics. It primarily focuses on one fictional department, the Secretary of State for that department, and their underlings. The characters are, by and large, awful, stupid, vulgar people. They spend a lot of time cleaning up their messes, and other people's messes, and trying to get ahead in the political realm. However, the show is not stagnant, as it tries, to a degree, to mirror what was happening in British politics at the time. Political parties aren't named or anything, but elections results and party turmoil work their way into the reality of the show. The Thick of It was able to cover a lot of ground too, because, as a British show, its schedule was very haphazard. The first two series, which were only three episodes each, aired in 2005, two longer specials happened in 2007, series three was in 2009, and the last series took place in 2012.

The show certainly has satirical elements, but they are mostly about the nature of politics, and media, in general. However, a lot of the time it is just a comedy set in the world of politics, which is rife for humor, of course. The tone can vary from farcical to pointed and biting, and when the show wants, it can bite down hard and not let go, but it never feels uneven or like there is a conflict with the voice of the series.

The main characters who last the whole run of the show are Tucker, Glenn Cullen, Ollie Reeder, and Terri Coverley. Cullen and Reeder represent different ends of the political career spectrum; Cullen is old and marginalized, while Reeder is young and ambitious, and also more of a jerk. Not that Glenn isn't a jerk. Pretty much everybody on this show is somebody you would not like to deal with in real life. To be fair, Terri is less of a noxious presence and more of a buffoon. That is pretty much the two archetypes this show deals with. Everybody is either a buffoon or a jerk, and plenty of people are both.

Of course, it is Tucker that really stood out to people because, in a show full of characters spewing vitriol, Malcolm spews it the most frequently and the most viciously. However, to the show's credit, it is usually funny, because the people he yells at are generally people who have screwed up inexcusably or who are as awful as he is. That being said, the show gives him a bit of depth so he isn't just some sort of bogieman, or some sort of magician. At first, it felt a bit jarring to see things go awry for Malcolm, but it eventually starts to feel like it fits.

One notable change for the show was when the Secretary of State went from Hugh Abbot to Nicola Murray. While Hugh fit more into the rogue's gallery of The Thick of It, Nicola was more of a naif, much less caustic and more well-meaning. As such, when she started to get grilled by the likes of Malcolm, sometimes it would be disheartening. Plus, Nicola lacked the excellent deadpan inanity of Hugh. However, if you find out the off-screen reason why a change had to be made, and it is thoroughly unpleasant, it becomes less of a negative, and eventually it becomes kind of interesting to have a character who feels different. It isn't all just one flavor.

When people talk about Ianucci's work, they often focus on the saturation of swearing. This is undoubtedly the case. The Thick of It is full of cursing and vulgarities, and true vulgarities, and sometimes they do veer into extreme territory. Be forewarned if you don't want to hear threats dished out through metaphors of extreme, frankly impossible sexual violence. That being said, the swearing is used cleverly, and that is because it is a part of the overall whole of sharp writing. The dialogue of this show is very good. A lot of the lines are very funny, true laugh generating stuff. It is highly verbal and frankly the show is mostly just a series of humorous conversations between conduits for dialogue. 

That being said, the show does make good use of its political setting as well. It may help you to brush up on British politics and the way their government works, particularly when they get into the world of shadow parliaments and such. It isn't necessary to find the show funny, but it helps in terms of understanding plot points. They do have humorous things happen in the show, but mostly the events are there to generate dialogue and to provide the occasional jab at the world of politics. Also, sometimes it leads to characters having to run frantically, which was almost always funny. Special kudos to the guy who played Fergus for his running style.

The Thick of It is a really good show. It is quite funny, and often very humorous. The dialogue is truly impressive and original and smart. Ianucci and friends aren't overly concerned with making political points, instead preferring to make sure things are funny and if some shrapnel of political satire hits, so be it. There are many characters, and while you may not understand their job some of the time, you should be able to keep the characters apart. The performances are strong, and Capaldi does stand out. It is mildly surprising he didn't have some sort of aneursym with all the angry shotuing he does. A shout out to James Smith, who played Glenn, as well, for another very good performance.

It you like political humor, then you definitely should watch The Thick of It. Frankly, even if you just like dark comedy, or comedy in general, it is worth watching. As long as you can handle the swearing, that is. The DVD set comes with special features and deleted scenes and all that good stuff. Even if you haven't watched the show before, it might be worth the purchase. If nothing else, you will probably pick up a few new insults to hurl at people when the time comes.

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