Thick: episode 6

The new series of Thick has been a grower, in the sense I started out thoroughly enjoying it and have enjoyed it more and more each episode.

Saturday’s episode was an absolute humdinger and watching it on Sunday afternoon I allowed to forget for an hour how I had bombed at the Great Birmingham run (of which more another day, dear reader……)

Even a total change in structure and a total absence of swearing and abuse didn’t matter.

It has been argued that it was a more sober, polemical episode than many others and the lacked usual laugh-quota. Whilst I agree the first part of this contention I can’t agree with the people who have argued that it wasn’t particularly funny. Stewart and Adam were hilarious, the sly asides of the panel were superb and I was laughing all the way through. I was also in stitches wondering what Malcolm was saying and doing off-screen to try and derail things and the dark hints thereof.

But I was also on the edge of my seat. Genuinely and literally.

Because this episode wasn’t just a great episode of a great comedy series. It was an outstanding, superbly acted piece of drama, with one actor in particular standing out: Peter Capaldi. He has taken one of the great characters of British TV and given him even more layers, which I scarcely thought possible. His reaction to being caught out was electrifying, and the tension between him and Baroness Sureka was extraordinarily realistic. You felt like you were genuinely watching the downfall of a real (how could someone with so well-drawn not be real?!), previously omnipotent man who had got an entire political class scared of their own shadows.

And to my eternal discredit I was rooting for him all the way through, despite what he had done. Even when he was lying, obfuscating and flailing about hopelessly as the magnitude of what he had done became apparent, he was still far less hateful than Ollie, Fergus and Phil. Ollie in particular.

I’m struggling to see how Malcolm can manoeuvre himself out of this now (in fact I’m very curious what form the final episode will take), so I suppose we can see his tirade at the end as his epitaph. Whilst utterly, thrillingly and myopically self-justifying as per usual, it said more about the state of British politics and the establishment than virtually any newspaper article I’ve read this year. Malcolm, or Malcolm-like figures at the heart of government and the party system, weren’t the cause of the moral decay of British politics, but were instead one of its more lurid symptoms.

Unfortunately in this ‘post-ideological’ age, when the only ideology is faithful obeisance to corporate interests, naked populism, and the inversion of language that is the ‘tough choices’ mantra (that is actually the height of cowardice), Tucker and more importantly the creed he represents are inevitable.

Malcolm Tucker is guilty, but so are a lot of other people.

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