It’s been a whole decade since political comedy masterpiece The Thick of It was first broadcast, following those MPs unfortunately encumbered with the role of Minister for the fictional Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship (DOSAC).
Perhaps it doesn’t feel that long, as life has slowly begun to imitate art (election candidates writing promises on giant headstones, teachers signing oaths to the noble art of teaching, ministers caught with a standard ticket in first class on train journeys) but the quick-wit and insight into what happens at the very bottom of the political pecking order was channelled expertly by creator Armando Iannucci and his team of writers.
To mark the airing of the first episode ten years ago this month, we’ve picked our ten favourite characters and compiled them in a list that will no doubt have you watching the whole show all over again.
Let’s be honest, it’s definitely more entertaining than staying up all night to watch the election results tomorrow.
Warning: There will be strong language. Obviously.
10. Mr. Chop
In this case, an eight-foot pork chop is a representation of all the protesters and outraged members of the public that throw total chaos on the well-oiled political spin machine. From Hugh Abbott being asked if has ever mopped up piss, to the woman live-tweeting Malcolm punching Glenn, to a tabloid journalist in a giant meat suit looking for Nicola Murray to be sacked. The chaotic elements outside Tucker’s control make for hilarious moments. Not too dissimilar to real life.
9. Ollie Reeder
Arriving at the department as a naive but arrogant Oxbridge graduate, the transformation into a cowardly king of manipulation is one of the most interesting plot points of the whole show. Forget Heisenberg, Ollie Reeder’s evolution is subtle but powerful.
Beginning life as Hugh Abbot’s whipping boy and ideas man, Ollie eventually screws his way to the top and even (spoilers ahoy) sells Malcolm Tucker down the river in order to become the new Director of Communications. Extremely unlikeable, but still possessing some killer lines and possibly the best story arc of the series.
8. Ben Swain
The author of a book on how to get ahead in politics (titled It’s The Everything, Stupid ) despite never intentionally getting ahead himself, Ben Swain is a backbench MP, very sure of his own abilities, before being mercilessly torn apart by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight – a moment which unveils his nervous blink.
7. Jamie McDonald
Initially believed to be ‘the nice Scot’ on Ollie Reeder’s first day at Downing Street, Jamie turns out to be Malcolm Tucker without restraint. The Senior Press Officer thrives on foul-mouthed tirades and the bullying of various members of his own party (although he is considerably polite to members of the public and apparently trained as a priest). Jamie’s peak moment comes in the ‘Spinners & Losers’ specials, where he and Malcolm part ways in truly spectacular fashion.
6. Stewart Pearson
The opposition’s blue sky thinker who, by his own admission, is trying to ‘detoxify this party’ like an old house, but unfortunately finds a ‘solid bed of c***s’. Stewart’s humour lies in his ability to speak in total riddles, whilst pushing for a common sense check-list as a party slogan. The constant clashes with Peter Manyon make for hilarious scenes, and his mantras such as ‘knowledge is porridge’ are frustratingly catchy.
5. Peter Manyon
Formerly part of the Shadow cabinet before becoming the new minister, Manyon is part of the ‘old guard’ who the party are attempting to knit-pick into modernity. He ‘writes’ a blog despite being completely useless when it comes to technology and his attempts at bridging the gap to a new party image go as far as to say he thinks women ‘are a good thing’. Despite being from the upper echelons of society, Manyon comes across as the one person with any grip on reality in the midst of all the political spin.
4. Terri Coverley
An impartial civil servant in name and name only. When Terri isn’t dangerously close to policy-making, she can be spotted frantically shuffling around the corridors of power in a pair of running trainers. Cloverley was apparently head-hunted from Waitrose and there’s something of a bumbling supermarket approach to her duties in office.
3= Hugh Abbott
Hapless Hugh invariably becomes less of a caricature and more of an accurate portrayal of an MP who has been elected despite having no people skills whatsoever. Abbott’s place at the bottom of the ministerial pile makes for excruciating scenes when he’s accidentally placed in the public eye. There’s something of the imposter syndrome about Hugh’s political career, which is part of the character’s comedy and charm.
3= Nicola Murray
Hugh’s replacement in the reshuffle takes on an office with far more importance than her predecessor – which still amounts to very little. Nicola Murray initially appears to be far more public persona savvy but that crumbles quickly when she stands in front of sign spelling out ‘I am bent’, and tells a journalist about lost public documents on the way out of a meeting. Despite all this, Murray ends up as the leader of the opposition – perhaps showing how little options they had.
2. Glenn Cullen
One of the few mainstays of the show’s entire run – despite living in fear of becoming irrelevant from season two onwards. Glenn Cullen acts as an advisor to Hugh and Nicola, before jumping ship in Series 3 and accidentally becoming involved in the coalition. Glenn acts as a ministerial punching bag to many, but equally comes across a kindly old Granddad figure when things get tough. His few moments of bravery are usually met with unfortunate consequences – when he stands up to Malcolm in series three, he’s met with the riposte: “Am I being threatened by Harold f***ing Bishop?”
1. Malcolm Tucker
Who else? The Machiavellian spin doctor who turned profanity into an art-form. Malcolm is equal parts antagonist, anti-hero and protagonist throughout the entire four series and never fails to have you guffawing at the obscene. Peter Capaldi’s rakish appearance, bulging eyes and ability to channel aggression into poetry made him an unmissable character that the show evolved around. One of the scariest TV characters ever, armed only with a Blackberry.