In The Thick of It is British Television (and Politics) at its Very Best!

Posted on October 2, 2010

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Not unexpectedly, when I traveled to London this past week to give a lecture on the economic impact of supply chain globalization, as well as broadcast several of the key sessions from eWorld 2010, I made a point of picking-up a few mementos of the trip. The usual things actually, including stuffed pillows with cute bears donning bobby hats in front of the Union Jack, assorted candies and other such sundry items for the kids and, a Double Decker bus salt and pepper shakers for the Mrs . . . I know romance courses through my veins.

But unlike past trips to other exotic locales, on this trip I also picked up a little something for me in the form of a true appreciation for British politics . . . both real-life and on the tele as the local denizens call it.

In fact, I think it would be safe to say that I saw British politics in an entirely new light.

First there was the Cain and Abel real-life melodrama of the Miliband brothers’ battle for the Labor Party leadership, in which younger brother Ed all but killed big brother David’s long-standing aspirations of one day moving into the PM’s position and the cozy confines of 10 Downing Street. One British reporter opted for the Esau and Jacob biblical analogy, but the long serving David would have actually had to have had the Cojones to have pursued the top spot in the first place for it to have been considered a birthright. Ed of course did find his, which is why he is now leader, and David is relegated to the realm of being a has-been backbencher. Pretty great stuff to be certain, now if only Obama or Harper had a brother . . . but I digress.

As an eager tourist shopping through a Moroccan bazaar for an elusive treasure, my great British discovery came at approximately 35,000 feet somewhere over the Atlantic, about an hour and half into the flight home. Still suffering a little bit from the time zone change, I found that while I wanted to watch something on my conveniently placed entertainment touch-screen I wasn’t up for making the required mental commitment to a full length feature. In short I needed an entertainment snack of sorts, so I turned to the TV sitcom schedule.

After exhausting the American-made selections of Modern Family (while great in his present role, Ed O’Neill will always be to me the irascibly dimwitted Ed Bundy), and The Big Bang Theory, my remaining selections were limited to a Russell Peters infomercial about the Canadian comic’s new book, and an obviously British show titled “In the Thick of It” which featured a somewhat snarly looking actor with a condescending scowl that would frighten Simon Cowell.

As it turned out, said scowl belonged to a character by the name of Malcolm Tucker, whose title of Director of Communications for the reigning government belies the fact that he is for all intents and purposes the Party’s enforcer or muscle.

Possessing the correctness and sensitivity of an Andrew Dice Clay, the vocabulary of a Lenny Bruce and the compassion and mercy of a Ghengis Kahn, Tucker’s acerbic barbs and relentless rantings reduce those who are normally capable to mussitating boobs who are forced to do all they can to just scramble and adapt to the “Communication” Director’s genteel directions.

While the language is at times “colorful” (re profane) . . . something of which I have never been a fan, within the context of his character and the circumstances under which he erupts there is a ring of truth in Tucker’s delivery that if not justifiable certainly legitimizes the show’s premise.

In the end, In The Thick of It represents that rare combination of smart writing, great story lines and phenomenal acting. This is “must see” television at its finest regardless of which side of the pond you may reside.

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Posted in: Commentary