The Thick of It
The Complete First Series

Starring: Chris Langham, Peter Capaldi, Chris Addison, Joanna Scanlan, James Smith and Polly Kemp
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 02 April 2007

The Secretary of State for Social Affairs is having a meeting with Number Ten's Chief Political Advisor. There have been press rumours that the Minister is to be sacked. The Minister is told that none of these stories have come from Number Ten. However, now they're out there, Number Ten would look weak not to sack him. So he's sacked. His replacement as Minister for Social Affairs takes office. And so starts
The Thick of It...

Depending on your point of view The Thick of It is either a cutting edge comedy series that breaks the boundaries of the genre, or a lazy attempt to cross Yes Minister with The Office. Sadly, I have to say that I lean more towards the later opinion. When The Office was first broadcast, it's fake documentary feel was seen as something new and different, sadly it means that it dates The Thick of It straight away.

Too much swearing does not a funny comedy series make, and this is part of the problem with this show. At times it looks as though the writers' didn't really know how to get themselves out of situations, and when this was the case a huge swearathon ensues - which always brings in a big laugh from the low brows.

When you sit down and take each episode apart there is really very little comedy in there. The majority of the gags are from the characters' total lack of respect for anything other than their job. There are no likeable characters here - they would all sell their own mother's to get ahead and it's really quite frightening when you analyse it.

Malcolm, apparently loosely based on Alistair Campbell is wonderfully played by Peter Capaldi. He scared the life out of me. Although, this could be partly down to the fact that I used to work for a Scottish publisher who was very similar, in looks and personality, to Malcolm.

Where this DVD comes into its own is the quality of the extras. Armando Iannucci provides audio commentary on all the episodes (apart from one where he is absent as he has gone for "a little bath") and is joined by various crew and cast members. Actually the one episode where he is absent is the weakest - there's something about Iannucci's chatter that compels you to listen. It was interesting to hear that the majority of the episodes were filmed in an old brewery which also provided the backdrop for scenes in the old 1969 Doctor Who Invasion episodes as well as the movie Batman Begins.

This DVD also sees the first photo gallery collection that finally does something different - with two out of the three galleries having cast and crew audio commentaries. Other extras include deleted scenes for all episodes and a 20 min featurette entitled From Script to Screen.

It was also a little disturbing to see Iannucci wearing brown loafers and casual clothes. I always imagine him in a suit (thanks to The Saturday / Friday Night Armistice) and seeing him here dressed like a guy who shops in Mark One was a little scary. Not that that has anything to do with this DVD at all.

The audio commentaries wisely never even come close to mentioning Langham's impending court case, but watching these episodes in hindsight raises the odd eyebrow. There is a scene where Langham blasts the actress in the focus group, saying: "You made up small children? That's sick!" Which takes on a whole new meaning.

While this show won't be to everyone's taste, those that saw the show on TV will get quite a lot out of the extras. While it sounds like I didn't enjoy this series very much, I actually did find it entertaining. It's just that a lot of it is (intentionally) very uncomfortable to watch.

Nick Smithson

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