IT'S been three long years since it last sullied our screens, its nimble, creative swearing delivering a succession of unpleasant little jolts to the heirs of Mary Whitehouse, but The Thick of It is on its way back.
Much has happened in British politics since we last saw Armando Iannucci's satire. Consider: the defeat of Gordon Brown and disappearance of the last traces of New Labour, the election of David Cameron, the rise of the Coalition, the entirely unforeseeable bickering and divisions within the Coalition, banking scandals, court cases stemming from MPs' abuse of expenses, phone hacking, Rupert Murdoch's "most humble day of my life", the Leveson Inquiry, an ailing economy that stubbornly refuses to climb out of its sick-ward bed. Not to mention the PM leaving his daughter in a pub; a Budget that prompted a litany of U-turns; Tony Blair unexpectedly cropping up here and there, leading us to wonder whether a comeback is on the cards; and Treasury Minister Chloe Smith's Newsnight interview, when Jeremy Paxman went feral as he grilled her about George Osborne's retreat on fuel duty. (This, incidentally, echoed an episode of The Thick of It when a junior minister, catastrophically under-prepared, was steered into the Newsnight chair and immediately began to unravel under Paxo's scorn). Added to all of which, there's the possibility that Malcolm Tucker's kinsmen might secede from the Union in 2014.
Iannucci says the fourth series will venture into uncharted territory with a new Coalition Government, and with both Government and opposition "convulsed in an incident that questions every political convention imaginable, but in a funny way".
In the meantime, we've been watching his US political satire, Veep, on Sky Atlantic, in which the Vice-President and her aides, all ever-so-slightly out of their depth, negotiate the dark alleyways of Washington politics. It has had some great lines – a particularly self-satisfied aide is asked: "Is there anything you can't do?" and before he can open his mouth to reply, the Veep's female chief of staff interjects: "Foreplay. Direct sunlight." Veep is the dark underbelly of The West Wing. It's funny and sharp, but we miss The Thick Of It, with its salty dialogue, its crisp insults larded with four-letter words and its cast of mediocre political talents in thrall to their limitless ambitions. Welcome back.
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