Satirical British Government Procedural produced by Adam Tandy and directed by Armando Iannucci. Debuted in 2005. It is styled as a fly-on-the-wall view of the inner workings of British politics, with natural-sounding, partly improvised dialogue and the use of shaky hand-held cameras. Intended to be as realistic as possible, the writing team employs several Whitehall insiders and every aspect is meticulously researched, from the office décor to the levels of swearing.
The show is essentially a 21st Century update of Yes, Minister, reflecting the changes the British political system has been through in the decades between the two shows, in particular the culture of spin ushered in by New Labour's Slave to PR government. While the earlier show commented on the power of unelected civil servants, the later show portrays the government's spin doctors and the media as the most powerful influences. The show also has a distinct anti-West Wing sensibility, sitting at the opposite end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: don't expect sharply-dressed idealists doing their best to serve their voters, this show is all about venal politicians, incompetent civil servants and bad suits.
The show is set in and around the fictitious Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship, the least glamorous and most troublesome of all the Cabinet offices. Created as a "Super Department" with a wide-ranging and varied (read: vague and confusing) remit, it handles everything from housing to crime statistics (read: the boring stuff none of the other departments can be arsed with).
The plot focuses for the most part on the Prime Minister's Director of Communications (read: enforcer) Malcolm Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi, whose job consists of yelling at people in the vain hope that it might stop them from fucking up too badly. The first two series, each comprising three episodes, star Chris Langham as the hapless Minister for Social Affairs, Hugh Abbott MP. They were followed by two hour-long specials: "Rise of the Nutters" and "Spinners and Losers", which deal with the issue of the Prime Minister's impending resignation. The third series introduced Nicola Murray MP, played by Rebecca Front, as Hugh Abbott's replacement following a Cabinet reshuffle. The fourth series started in September 2012, in which the new DoSAC minister is the world-weary Peter Mannion MP, while the party Malcolm is loyal to is now in opposition.
An alternate-universe spin-off movie, In the Loop, was released in 2009, featuring many from the Thick Of It ensemble, but cast in different roles (except for Malcolm, Jamie and Sam, and briefly Angela Heaney) as they desperately try not to get involved in a war in the Middle East after a Minister's gaffe. An American version, titled Veep (being set in the office of the Vice President) aired on HBO in spring 2012.
Very popular in Whitehall, which can only be a bad thing for the UK...
This show provides examples of:
- 0% Approval Rating:
- Played for Laughs when Malcolm receives in one episode a birthday cake with the words "Happy Birthday C*nt" written on the icing. His reaction?This could be from anyone.
- As powerless as she was during her time as head of DoSAC, Nicola at least had the support of her staff. After becoming Leader of the Opposition, Nicola ended up earning the disrespect and mockery of almost everyone she encountered on a day-to-day basis: members of public openly deride her attempts at securing power; journalists hound her at every turn, accompanied by the dreaded "Chop"; her assistants openly insult her; the rest of the shadow cabinet laugh at her ideas... even Steve Fleming went out of his way to publicly state that she was un-electable.
- Played for Laughs when Malcolm receives in one episode a birthday cake with the words "Happy Birthday C*nt" written on the icing. His reaction?
- 2 + Torture = 5: In the first episode, Malcolm tries to "persuade" journalists that minister Hugh Abbott did make an important announcement at an earlier press conference (though he did no such thing) - it's just that journalists missed it.
- Abhorrent Admirer:
- John Duggan makes seedy overtures to Helen Hatley only minutes after meeting her.
- Terri Coverley has a crush on Peter Mannion, even openly referring to him as Peter Man-yum.Peter Mannion: She just made eyes at me...god, I wish I could make redundancy at her...
- Absentee Actor: Malcolm Tucker doesn't appear in the first and third episodes of the fourth season, despite him practically being the main character at that point.
- Actor Allusion:
- Malcolm's office is referred to as "The Lair of the White Worm" in Series 1. Bram Stoker's lesser known horror novel, The Lair of the White Worm, received a loose modern-day adaptation in 1988 and starred—yep, you guessed it—Peter Capaldi.
- In one episode, Glenn can be seen drinking a can of orange Tango. James Smith once appeared in an advert for that very drink.
- Terri is referred to as "Nurse Ratched" by Fergus and Adam at one point. Joanna Scanlan played a Nurse Ratched Expy in an episode of Spaced which contained a Whole Plot Reference to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
- "He looks like a Lego policeman"- Ollie on spin doctor Steve Fleming, played by David Haig of The Thin Blue Line.
- Actually Pretty Funny:
- Malcolm insults everyone constantly but gets away with it by being audacious, charming, ...and funny:Malcolm Tucker: You should try the chicken salad! If I'm lucky you'll get salmonella.
Julius Nicholson: Now that is amusing, Malcolm; that is very funny.
- Ollie has to admit that leaving a pair of flip-flops on Angela Heaney's desk is Actually Pretty Funny...the porn picture with the caption "Angela Swallows Anything" less so.
- Malcolm insults everyone constantly but gets away with it by being audacious, charming, ...and funny:
- Adminisphere: The British government is basically depicted as this to the rest of the country, being a mostly out-of-touch cloister of career politicos and technocratic policy wonks both scathingly contemptuous towards and simultaneously a bit frightened of actually dealing with the general public they're supposed to be representing.
- Alas, Poor Villain:
- Malcolm himself being forced out of a job by someone even more villainous than himself.
- Stewart Pearson gets a moment like this in the third season finale, when Cal "The Fucker" Richards tells him he's been fired as a joke. Sure, Stewart is an unlikeable, power-tripping master of meaningless PC hypocrisy, but he looks so...broken.
- Ambiguously Gay: Julius "Screaming Lord Crutch" Nicholson.
- Analogy Backfire: Analogies often backfire and most spectacularly in the Drama Bomb episode where Malcolm gets fired. The script features a running theme of theatre-related metaphors:Marianne Swift: Malcolm, we get it, you're still the star of the show.
Malcolm Tucker: Warm them up, tell them Olivier's on his way but in the meantime here's An Audience With Peter fuckin' Bowles...what happened, did you get heckled off?
Steve Fleming: The show's over, it's curtains...
- Angrish:"Auf Wiedersehen Pet, the party's over, goodbye yellow brick road!"
"FUCKIN' OLLIE! HE'S A FUCKIN' KNITTED SCARF!"
- And the Adventure Continues: Despite the changes wrought by the Goolding Inquiry (which include Malcolm's arrest and resignation, Nicola's career lying in ruins, Glenn walking out and Stuart being sacked) life goes on as usual for DoSAC - there's a fresh scandal to try and take care of and everyone quickly descends into the usual bickering and insults. Peter's final line (and the series epitaph) of "What a shit day!" pretty much sums up the series as a whole.
- Anti-Hero: Malcolm Tucker started off as the Arch-Enemy of Hugh Abbott, then was made the main character, when the writers realised an amoral spin doctor is a far more entertaining character than a worn-out middle-aged politician.
- Armor-Piercing Question: "Do you ever get lonely, Malcolm?"
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Have you been at Number 10 recently? It's like the break-up of The Beatles, during the fall of The Roman Empire. While fucking...Jordan's splitting up with that bloke."
- Ascended Extra: Adam Kenyon makes a one-off appearance in Spinners and Losers as the sweary, frustrated editor of The Mail. He reappears in Series 4, no longer at The Mail but as a special adviser to Fergus Williams, and one of the show's main characters.
- Ask a Stupid Question...: Jamie does this deliberately in an attempt to wind Malcolm up. It works:Jamie: Have you seen this?
Malcolm Tucker: No, I haven't seen that. I'm the senior press guy for the government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I don't look at the newspapers. That's fuckin' news to me!
- Atomic F-Bomb:
- Hugh's bollocking from Malcolm outside the goldfish bowl probably counts as an Atomic Cluster F Bomb.Malcolm Tucker: "Why the fuck didn't you talk to me you STUPID CUNT!! How the fuck am I supposed to do my job if I don't know what THE FUCK IS GOING ON!? You're a FUCKING PRICK!!"
- To add to the effect, the door of the theoretically (but not) soundproof glass room is opened just as Malcolm shouts the word "prick".
- Hugh's bollocking from Malcolm outside the goldfish bowl probably counts as an Atomic Cluster F Bomb.
- Ax-Crazy: Jamie, the aggressive, foul-mouthed Scottish press officer who is even worse than Malcolm:Ollie Reeder: "When I met you this morning I thought you were the nice Scot."
- Bad Boss: Good luck trying to find a moment in the show where Malcolm himself is in a good mood, and isn't insulting the co-workers he's speaking to. Except that he does treat his assistant, Sam, well. He's even protective of her when he's sacked at the end of series three.
- Badass Adorable: Jamie. With his short stature, curly hair, boyish smile and gigantic blue eyes he doesn't look like the sort of man who threatens to push iPods up his enemies' penises:
- Badass in a Nice Suit:
- When we see Malcolm in casual clothes he seems strangely vulnerable and emasculated, if frightening in a whole other way. He reverts to his usual imposing self the minute he gets back into his suits.Ollie Reeder: It's like he's been to the vet and had his knackers done.
- And after he marches down the stairs again, barking orders, Sam walks into his office holding his suit, freshly dry-cleaned. It gets a close-up.
- When we see Malcolm in casual clothes he seems strangely vulnerable and emasculated, if frightening in a whole other way. He reverts to his usual imposing self the minute he gets back into his suits.
- Badass Longcoat: Malcolm wears a flowing black coat, most notably when vowing to his Number 10 colleagues "YOU WILL SEE ME AGAIN" and then walking out of Number 10 as it billows after him.
- Baddie Flattery: One of Malcolm's favourite tactics. It usually works too.
- Bastard Understudy: Malcolm's Psycho for Hire, Jamie. He was carefully chosen by Malcolm for being too feral to ever pose a real threat to his job.
- Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: In a deleted scene Malcolm reveals that he sends junior press officers to the toilets to spy on people, obtaining what he calls "Urinal Intelligence" while harnessing "the power of The Third Eye".
- Beach Episode: The party conference episode in series three. Being The Thick of It, and being set in Eastbourne, this episode is just as unglamorous as the rest. We see Terri in her cagoule, but no-one in their swimsuits, which is probably for the best. Although we do get to see Malcolm in black tie, for no apparent reason.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: A recurring theme is that, while MPs are scrambling over each other for cabinet posts, holding high political office is terrible. You're under constant scrutiny from hack journalists who will leap on any little mistake or past shame; you're essentially required to publically live like a pauper, which will wreck your family life; party enforcers like Malcolm Tucker hang over you like the Sword of Damocles; and you can be chucked back into the backbench wilderness at a moment's notice.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Peter Mannion, overhearing Emma and Phil bickering, once asks them: "What is this? sexual tension?" Their (apparently sincere) response is less than enthusiastic:Phil: Fuck off, I'd rather pay for it.
Emma: I'd rather fucking eat my own shit.
- Berserk Button:
Steve Fleming: Listen, sweetheart-
- "He loves Al Jolson."
- Opposition spin doctor Stewart Pearson really doesn't like being locked in small rooms.
- Glenn does not care for people mocking someone who has just committed suicide.
- Nicola gets unusually snappy whenever people use patronising, endearing nicknames on her, like Nicky or Sweetheart.
Nicola Murray: Do not FUCKING call me sweetheart!
- Bestiality Is Depraved: Mentioned when Malcolm gives Olly a bollocking for questioning one of his more unscrupulous schemes: "Don't start with the moral objections, you fuckin' Blue Peter badge-wearing ponce! Go and make a contribution to fuckin' Amnesty International! Go and buy a goat that a whole village can fuck!"
- Later on, Phil compares Olly to "the man who fucked the monkey that gave us AIDS", in the sense that he has created a runaway problem and is now moaning about its scale.
- Better the Devil You Know:
- Invoked word-for-word by Stewart Pearson, when Cal "The Fucker" Richards descends on the Opposition.
- Implied when Malcolm Tucker is forced out by Steve Fleming.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Steve Fleming MP, who takes up a prominent cabinet communications role in series 3, and briefly succeeds in getting his arch-nemesis Malcolm Tucker humiliatingly sacked from the government. However, Steve's time in power is brief. Chessmaster Malcolm Out-Gambits him, despite being unemployed; he succeeds in making Steve the fall guy for a series of cock-ups and forces him to resign.
- The Big Board: Opposition aide Phil uses one for his DoSAC Implementation Matrix.
- Big Eater:
- Julius Nicholson: "You fools! These are good biscuits and they cost four pounds."
- Nicholson has a constant food motif. When he isn't munching biscuits, buying sandwiches or eating takeaways, he's feeding the ducks. He even tries to go through Malcolm's stomach when he wants Malcolm to come back after his sacking. However, he will not eat the pissy biscuit, or THE FUCKIN' CHEEEEEEESE...Malcolm Tucker: Sam! No pissy biscuits!
- Ben Swain is another big eater, with his "Magic Drawer" full of chocolate:Nicola Murray: You haven't had this much fun since you went to Cadbury World.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: It's a paper-thin disguise in Steve Fleming's case.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: Series 3 managed to fit in numerous digs at the BBC. Some were subtle, others not so subtle:Phil Smith: You've seen Misery?
Peter Mannion: I'm in the fucking BBC, aren't I?
- Black and Grey Morality: Hardly any character is without their flaws, and are all depicted to be varying degrees of cowardly, grubbing, backstabbing, manipulative, self-centred and ultimately more concerned with simply keeping their jobs than with doing the right thing.
- Black Comedy: A grimly accurate portrayal of the self-serving political system and incredibly, impossibly funny. Even the suicide jokes. The series is notorious for its one liners, often chock-a-block with words unrepeatable pre-watershed.
- Blatant Lies: The first episode had them deciding to announce a policy, believing they had permission. When it turned out they didn't, they had to call all the journalists they'd already told about it and claim it had been leaked by a disgruntled civil servant. After they managed to not announce the policy during a press conference, the Prime Minister then decided to support the policy. They then had to convince the journalists that they had announced it at the press conference (and that the journalists just didn't notice) and that the story about the policy being leaked by a disgruntled civil servant, was in fact leaked by a disgruntled civil servant...
- Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Emma Messinger, except replace "Republican" with "Tory" (well, probably Tory): She's posh, she's blonde, she's ambitious and she's a conservative. Doesn't keep her from sleeping with (probable) Labour man Olly Reeder.
- Bottle Episode: Series 3 Episode 6 takes place almost entirely in the DoSAC offices, which Malcolm has placed on "lockdown" with nobody allowed to leave. The only exception is a short scene out the front of those same offices.
- Brains and Brawn: Malcolm and Jamie are an Evil Duo who fit this trope. This is actually an extremely intelligent decsion by Malcolm, by having a strong ally that is less intelligent, he protects himself from his ally turning on him and doing any damage.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Malcolm demonstrates his low opinion of Julius:Malcolm: Julius Nicholson, right? Blue sky thinker? Ex business guru? Dog rapist?
- Break the Motivational Speaker: Stewart, a PR manager and adviser for one of the political parties, speaks in an infuriating combination of PR slogans and buzzwords that are actually meaningless Ice Cream Koans overlaid with a false Granola Girl-style cheerfulness and enthusiasm. Peter, a minister who detests the entire culture of spin but nonetheless has to deal with Stewart regularly, constantly snarks at him and relishes every opportunity to undermine or humiliate him.
- Breakout Character: For the show's first two seasons, Hugh Abbott was clearly the main character and focus. After his departure at the end of Season 2, several previously secondary characters saw their roles significantly increased to fill the gap. Malcolm Tucker became more and more prominent as the show went on.
- Brief Accent Imitation:
- Characters occasionally do bad imitations of Malcolm's Glaswegian accent. Never to his face, of course.
- Phil does this to express his opinion of Malcolm as an non-threatening comedy Scotsman. Then he meets him...
- Malcolm does a brief imitation of John Duggan's English accent, and it is genuinely disturbing.
- Ollie briefly does three different regional accents, all saying, "I hate you!", when describing Nicola's cross-country meet-the-people tour.
- Bring Me My Brown Pants: Malcolm Tucker invokes this at one point when summoning Nicola to his office.Might be an idea to wear brown trousers and a shirt the colour of blood.
- British Brevity: The first two series had only three episodes each.
- British Teeth: Peter Capaldi once referred to the series as "The West Wing with bad teeth and swearing."
- Buffy Speak: The infamous "Quiet Bat People".
- Bullying a Dragon: In Episode 4 of Season 4, Malcolm needs Ben Swain to resign in order for him to depose Nicola, and has (with no intention of screwing him over,) offered him the Foreign Office in return. Ben then starts playing both sides against each other, demanding they raise their offers, and relishing the fact that (for once,) he holds all the cards. And, indeed, he does hold the cards, right up until he's committed too far to back out, and Malcolm shows him exactly why he really should have accepted the original offer...
- Glen Cullen is a pretty extreme example of this trope. He's regarded as an aging, irrelevant joke despite all his attempts to claim his 'experience' (read: age) has given him connections, sex-starved to the point where even his friends don't hesitate to point out "the last time you saw snatch was Basic Instinct" and scapegoated numerous times for the screw-ups of other people in the department. By the second series, it's become enough to give him a pitiable but quite hilarious mental breakdown.
- In "Spinners And Losers", the less sympathetic Ollie Reeder gets bullied left and right by Malcolm, sucking up to the various Smug Snakes, forced into embarrassing himself trying to rekindle a relationship he just broke off and then reduced to the status of cheese monitor while his ex-girlfriend and Arch-Enemy laugh at him.
- Peter Mannion as well, particularly by series three. It's quite obvious the man is well-meaning, but he's constantly surrounded by people who want to make him look like a tosser, or people who think he's a tosser.
- Phil has gone from being Emma's enemy in the Specials and Series 3, to being universally detested by everyone at DoSAC. Terri seems to be speaking for everyone when she says "That boy is a simpleton. Two hundred years ago, they wouldn't have let him milk a cow." However, he's so arrogant and obnoxious that it's hard to feel sorry for him.
- Ben Swain's first appearance has him unexpectedly ending up in an interview with Jeremy Paxman, which was accurately described as "like watching a lion raping a sheep, but in a bad way." Later on, Malcolm forces him into another one with the same man and leaves him with nothing to talk about. Then he spends a happy half-hour being told he might be the next Prime Minister, only to be left "standing in the House, alone, with your big, flaccid dick hanging out with a Vote-for-Me sticker on the end." And then there's the events of Season 4, Episode 4, though to be fair that was his own fault.
- Nicola was never the most competent minister, but in series four, when she's become Leader of the Opposition, each episode seems to just be one long Humiliation Conga for her.
- Bystander Syndrome: Malcolm Tucker calls this trope NoMFuP: "Not My Fucking Problem".
- Cannot Tell a Joke: Nicola: "Thank our fucky stars for that" (tumbleweeds blow past)
Robyn Murdoch: Don't do jokes, Glenn. You're not a funny man, you're not that type...
- Ollie too, mostly in the first couple of seasons. He occasionally manages a bit of genuinely funny deadpan snarking but mostly he just desperately prolongs other people's jokes.
- Glenn isn't the wittiest bloke, and he gets a smackdown from Robyn:
- Peter Mannion is accused of this during the radio debate:
- Captain Obvious: Done quite frequently when making official comments to avoid misinterpretation, such as when Stewart says he hopes there will be no more Mr. Tickels, then follows up by explaining he means that in terms of preventing other people from ending up in Tickel's situation, not in terms of wiping out the Tickel family line.
- Casanova Wannabe: Glen and his pitiful attempts at flirting with Robyn.Glen Cullen: "If anyone shouts at you, they'll have to answer to me. I'll box his ears!"Hugh Abbot: "Box his ears? If that was flirting, that was absolutely crap. Box his ears? How long is it since you've had sex?"
- Cassandra Did It: The Inquiry pinned all the blame on Malcolm for Tickel's suicide in Season 4, but it could have been avoided if anyone had paid attention to his advice and warnings. Earlier, he had urged Nicola to "embrace our friend Mr. Tickle" and criticize the Government's mistreatment of him, but she refused to even mention it publicly until Tickel was already dead and Malcolm had her cornered). He leaked Tickel's medical records to show that the Government was persecuting someone vulnerable and courting disaster, but the Government wouldn't back down from their policy and the Opposition never called them out for it. So even if he deserved some blame, Malcolm was the only one who'd been right about Tickel and didn't deserve to be the Inquiry's scapegoat.
- Casting Gag: Armando Iannucci admitted he cast Tom Hollander as Cal "The Fucker" Richards partly as an in-joke for fans who'd seen him playing Simon Foster in In the Loop.
- Cat Fight: In a deleted scene from the specials, Robyn and Terri have a squabble...while Jamie chants "fight, fight, fight" and starts pushing their jackets off their shoulders.
- Centipede's Dilemma: Nicola is unable to remember which foot to start with when walking to the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. She ends up totally frozen, as her staff watch on television in horror.
- Celebrity Paradox
- Have I Got News for You exists in the ThickVerse. Peter Capaldi, Rebecca Front, Chris Addison, and Miles Jupp have all appeared on HIGNFY. (None of them cracked unkind jokes about Peter Mannion's wife, however.)
- Phil is a keen Game of Thrones fan, asking Adam if he's seen Season Two, and referring to himself as "the King's Hand". Roger Allam (Peter Mannion) played Illyrio Mopatis in that series. One wonders if Phil has noticed the resemblance.
- Nicola refers to Doctor Who at one point in Series Three. One can only imagine Nicola's reaction to watching Series Eight of DW and seeing Malcolm walk out of the TARDIS calling himself the Doctor.
- Cell Phones Are Useless: There's almost no mobile coverage at the country hotel where Stewart's ghastly "Thought Camp" is being held. In a Funny Moment, Stewart and Peter are forced to stand at the top of the children's slide in order to get reception. Needless to say, there's someone with a Twitter account, a camera phone, and (one assumes) a grudge to bear, in the vicinity.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The series went through this, partly because of changes in the Real Life political climate it reflects, and partly because of its own fractured production history. As the UK went into recession, news of the M Ps' expenses scandal broke, and New Labour began losing their grip on power, the storylines in the show's third series became less comedic and more dramatic. The third series was also the first complete series commissioned by the BBC (the other episodes had been pilot episodes, short runs or hour-long specials) and gave the writers their first chance to toy with story arcs, resulting in the the third series being much less episodic than the first.
- Character Development: A lot of characters are becoming gradually more and more politically savvy, the most noticeable being Ollie in Series 4. Bear in mind that this simply means they're not idiots anymore.
- Character Tics: A really cringeworthy one with "blinky dork" Ben Swain. Jamie calls his nervous blinking "epilepsy of the eyes."
- Chekhov's Gunman:
- Steve Fleming mostly wars against Malcolm at the end of Series 3, but Nicola's attitude towards him ends badly for her in Series 4. Fleming makes the front page of the Guardian in episode 4 with claims that Nicola is unelectable, which causes Malcolm to realise that the time is right for her political demise. By the end of the episode, she's gone.
- Tara Strachan, the economist Adam and Fergus talk to in episode 3 of Series 4. There's a couple of blink-and-you'll-miss-it shots of her with a concerned look on her face as she takes a phonecall and looks into the office in which the group are reacting to the news of Tickel's death. She quickly ends the call when they come out, which doesn't come up again until the enquiry. It turns out she was reporting the inappropriate response (including elation from Phil), which bites the group hard when they're called on it.
- Chewing the Scenery:
- The role of Malcolm Tucker involves plenty of Death Glares and Eye Takes, not to mention countless bollockings and all of that Baroque swearing. Peter Capaldi says he finds the role "cathartic", and who can blame him?
- He also says he finds the role exhausting: it requires him to act so damn hard his temple veins start throbbing. This is occasionally lampshaded, as is his stressed-out and sleep-deprived appearance in the show. The latter is apparently not entirely down to acting, and this seems to be confirmed by the fact that he looks about ten years younger in Torchwood: Children of Earth. Between Series 1 and Series 3 of The Thick of It he also managed to go completely grey, which may or may not be a coincidence.
- In Ianucci's own words (about In the Loop):"We just had to give Malcolm as much as possible to say, he gets [through] his words so quickly. We have to keep feeding the monster."
- Child Hater: Peter, who says "I hate school children. They're volatile and stupid and they haven't got the vote. Might as well be talking to fucking geese."
- Christmas Episode: Averted: Although the Specials show some of the characteristics of a Christmas Episode, they take place shortly after Christmas and the Christmas decoration gradually disappears from the office, leaving only one sad little bit of tinsel by the time the second Special begins.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Everyone. In every episode.
- Malcolm in particular seems to spend at least half his time sabotaging people from HIS party.
- Claustrophobia: Nicola Murray (like actress Rebecca Front) is claustrophobic. Judging by his reaction to being locked in Peter Mannion's bathroom as the result of a prank in the Opposition special, Stewart Pearson may also be.
- Cliffhanger:"The Prime Minister has resigned! The Prime Minister has just resigned!"
"YOU WILL SEE ME AGAIN! YOU WILL FUCKIN' SEE ME AGAIN!"
And from episode 4.06, "I'm finished anyway. You didn't finish me."
- Cluster Bleep-Bomb: The series aired on BBC America with the swearing bleeped out. The result was described by one of the writers as having "sounded like a lorry reversing into a heart monitor."
- Cluster F-Bomb:
- Tucker's Law is the strongest example of so very, very many.
- "Come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off..." Only Malcolm could find a way to fit an extra "fuck" into "fuck off".
- Listing all of the examples would take forever: this is probably the sweariest sitcom ever made. The unusually high level of swearing is even lampshaded in one episode:DoSAC Staffer: Could you stop swearing, please?
Malcolm Tucker: I'm really sorry, you won't hear any more swearing from us, you MASSIVE... GAY SHITE! FUCK OFF!
- And again in In the Loop:Malcolm Tucker: (into phone) Fucking hung up, haven't you? You fucking hoity-toity fucking...
American Tourist: Hey, buddy? Enough with the curse words, all right?
Malcolm Tucker: (beat) Kiss my sweaty balls, you fat fuck!
- Cock Fight: Fergus and Adam vying for the attentions of a hot economist in S04E03.
- Coincidental Broadcast: When the Prime Minister resigns, Malcolm, Jamie, Ben and Ollie are immediately able to watch a news item about it. The Prime Minister resigning would be pretty big news, and would certainly take over the rolling news channels almost immediately. And such offices would usually have at least one TV constantly switched to rolling news (probably either BBC News or BBC Parliament), if only for the look of the thing (and it's as reliable a news feed as any for most things), but simultaneously Played for Laughs by another group dashing around desperately looking for a television, and then arguing about how to plug it in.
- Comedic Sociopathy: The writers seriously love to mock the actors' physical characteristics. The scripts lay into everything from Alex MacQueen's lack of hair to Justin Edwards' nervous blink:Peter Capaldi: "I said to Armando, 'Why do you always get me to run about?' And he says, 'Because youve just got a funny run'"
Chris Addison: One of the things that the Thick Of It writers are very good at is taking our own physical defects and flinging them right back at us.
Will Smith: (who plays Opposition aide Phil) They're like bullies, basically.
- Compliment Backfire: "You're like a female John Major." Ouch.
- Continuity Snarl: While the series maintains unusually high amounts of continuity for a Brit Com, details of Malcolm Tucker's home life are somewhat inconsistent. "Spinners and Losers" reveals he has a niece, but Series 3 shows him spending his birthday alone in his office. The Series Finale, in addition, has him state he has no children, which is potentially contradicted that same episode, when a young boy is seen looking out of the window of his home.
- Cool Old Guy: Completely averted—the older you are, the naffer everyone thinks you are. Poor Glenn.
- Corrupt the Cutie:
- Nicola arrives at DoSAC as a wide-eyed, naive MP who only reluctantly agreed to become a Cabinet minister. After being introduced to Malcolm, she attempts to emulate him, swearing more in front of him ("You are so wanking with the wrong crowd!") and trying to imitate his signature method of issuing threats ("Do we go after him with... a bum-dildo of vengeance?"). By the end of the series she becomes power-hungry to the point of considering a leadership bid, and swears so much that even Steve Fleming is shocked ("You're quite the potty-mouth, aren't you?").Nicola Murray: You're about as on the ball today as a dead fucking seal!
Malcolm Tucker: Hey, that's one of my lines!
- Ollie Reeder, to the point of ultimately taking Malcolm's place by the end of Series 4.
- Nicola arrives at DoSAC as a wide-eyed, naive MP who only reluctantly agreed to become a Cabinet minister. After being introduced to Malcolm, she attempts to emulate him, swearing more in front of him ("You are so wanking with the wrong crowd!") and trying to imitate his signature method of issuing threats ("Do we go after him with... a bum-dildo of vengeance?"). By the end of the series she becomes power-hungry to the point of considering a leadership bid, and swears so much that even Steve Fleming is shocked ("You're quite the potty-mouth, aren't you?").
- Country Matters: The series is full of Cluster F Bombs, and the writers aren't afraid of Country Matters either.
Malcolm: Tucker's Law: If some cunt can fuck something up, that cunt will pick the worst possible time to fucking fuck it up because that cunt's a cunt! I've got that embroidered on a tea towel at home.
- In one episode an eight-year-old girl is accidentally sent an email reading "Christ alive! What a cunt !!!" and Hilarity Ensues. In another episode spin doctor Malcolm Tucker receives a birthday cake iced with "Happy Birthday C*nt". And in a deleted scene:
- Crazy-Prepared: Parodied by Jamie: "I do keep a balaclava and gaffer tape in my car".
- Cringe Comedy:
- "Blinky" Ben Swain's Newsnight interview: "Like watching a lion rape a sheep, but in a bad way."
- Nicola's Guardian meeting from series 3 may be the show's most cringe-inducing moment to date, although the radio interview with Mannion and Richard Bacon comes close.Malcolm Tucker: Fuck me! This is like a clown running across a minefield!
- Peter Mannion's "I call app Britain" speech at the school in episode 1 of season 4.
- Crossing the Burnt Bridge: A mild case: Hugh has decided that resigning would be better for his long-term political career, and on his way to make the announcement, he says a few unpleasant things about his department and the staff. Predictably, his resignation is no longer necessary and he comes back, but nobody really bears any grudge because (a) while he was honest, he didn't say anything too hurtful or spiteful, and (b) most of them hate each other anyway and they all know it, and consequently everyone has a lot of experience with swallowing their dislike and working together to brace themselves for the next stage in the eternal Humiliation Conga which makes up their lives.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: "You breathe a word of this to anyone, you mincing fucking CUNT and I will tear your fuckin' skin off, I will wear it to your mother's birthday party and I will rub your nuts up and down her leg whilst whistling Bohemian fuckin' Rhapsody, right? Now get out of my fucking sight..." Malcolm is particularly good at dishing out this kind of threat...
- ...and so is Jamie. This trope is pretty much Jamie's job description:Jamie: You take the piss out of Jolson again and I will remove your iPod from its tiny nano-sheath and push it up your cock. Then I'll plug some speakers up your arse and put it on to shuffle with my fucking fist. And every time I hear something that I don't like- which will be every time that something comes on- I will skip to the next track by crushing your balls.
- Lampshaded in Series 3:Malcolm Tucker: I just wanted to say to you by way of introductory remarks that I'm extremely miffed about today's events, and in my quest to try to make you understand the level of my unhappiness I'm likely to use an awful lot of what we would call violent sexual imagery—and I just wanted to check that neither of you would be terribly offended by that.
- ...and so is Jamie. This trope is pretty much Jamie's job description:
- Cute and Psycho: The third series us to Steve Fleming, MP, who is a spectacularly unstable version of this trope; that cheerful grin, the slightly creepy compliments and the "call me Uncle Steve" attitude you see when you first meet him? Get him even slightly agitated and his Ax-Crazy side will come to the fore. The scary part comes when he desperately tries to suppress his insanity, swinging from Stepford Smiler to Unstoppable Rage and back again so violently you wonder he doesn't give himself whiplash.
- Dating Catwoman: Emma and Olly. Well. He's working for the Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Citizenship, she's working for the shadow Dosac secretary. But then their bosses know about their relationship and his at least actively encourages it -just so Olly can leak policies to Emma, or know of hers. It also works the other way round. However, it's not clear that they actually even like each other...
- A Day in the Limelight: The Number 10 press office gets this in series two, episode one. It's also technically Malcolm's, as this was before he became a one-man Spotlight-Stealing Squad.
- Dead Man Walking: Malcolm in "The Rise of the Nutters", to a politician who self-destructed on television:[Ben enters a party] Oh, here he is. Dead man walking.
- Deadpan Snarker: Most characters to some extent:
- Glenn Cullen. "The new administration? Listen to The First Lady!"
- Peter Mannion snarks for the Opposition:Stewart Pearson: Ah, Peter! Glad we could hook up! I just wanted to take a few turns with you on the ideas carousel...
Peter Mannion:' Oh, you mean you wanted to have a chat?
- Nicola Murray stands out in her introduction, when she bites back at Malcolm's probing into her personal life.
- Death Glare: "Have I got my bollocking face on? No no, this is my bollocking face."
- Decoy Protagonist: Non-death example: The series begins with a minister entering his office, greeting his staff, and getting ready for a meeting with Malcolm. Then, in the meeting, Malcolm suddenly forces him to resign. Quick cut, and Hugh Abbott appears. Basically, rather than Anyone Can Die, this is Anyone Can Be Sacked.
- Department of Redundancy Department:
"Tom is going to get a pint glass in his eye, and a pool cue up his arse, and... another pool cue in his other fuckin' eye!"
- In one of his arguments with Phil, Ollie remarks: "I hope your blog gets done for libel and you get knobbed in prison by men."
- And in "Spinners and Losers":Nick: Tom's not sure about you.Malcolm: Yeah, well Tom is enormously mental in the head, as we've been discussing.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Malcolm in his futile attempts to adjust to life outside politics:(answering phone) "Hello, Phillip Schofield, I fuck lobsters for money."
- Didn't See That Coming: A regular occurrence, due to every character's Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and resultant Gambit Pileups. Of note:
- The end of Spinners and Losers.
- Malcolm failing to predict the Goolding Enquiry.
- Dirty Coward: The characters have a tendency to brag about the latest heroic scheme they're plotting or the stand they're planning to take, before chickening out of it at the last minute:Hugh Abbott: I'm going to go in to the PM and tell him straight up: this bill is a load of old bollocks!
Glenn Cullen: No, you're not.
Hugh Abbott: No, I'm not, but it'd be great if I did, wouldn't it?
- For all his flaws, the only character who isn't a coward or a hypocrite is Malcolm: he's never afraid of facing his enemies or getting his hands dirty.
- Even this is subverted in Series 4, when Malcolm begins plotting a coup behind Nicola's back and assuring her of his loyalty. Although that's explained more as him being interested in the future of the party and it having a viable leader who can win the next election rather than someone who blathers about quiet bat-people; in essence, he's loyal to the party over any one particular person leading it.
- Disorganized Outline Speech:Malcolm Tucker: And it better not be too boring, and it better not be too interesting either, okay? And it better not cost too much. It can't be an old thing, obviously, and don't make it too new.
Ben Swain: Oh, for fuck's sake...
- Dissimile: "I'm going to need you to make like a tree and go fuck yourselves" from Malcolm.
- The Ditz:
- Robyn. "I've leaked nothing! Other than accidentally, obviously."
- John Duggan manages to make Robyn look like a Hypercompetent Sidekick in comparison:Ollie Reader: I'm not being horrible but are you actually autistic?
John Duggan: No, I'm not... but you'd be surprised how many people ask me that.
- The Dog Bites Back:
- In "Spinners and Losers", when it looks like Ben Swain has a slight chance of becoming the next Prime Minister, Ollie—who has been positioning himself as Swain's right-hand man—decides it's time to start throwing his weight around with Malcolm. It lasts about a minute before Malcolm shoots him down and bluntly orders him to go and buy some cheese. And in any case, events soon prove that Ollie really should have made sure Swain had more than what turned out to be a very slight chance of becoming PM.
- Through Series 4, Helen remains loyal to Nicola despite an increasing torrent of abuse in her direction. After Nicola's firing, Helen uses her loyalty to trick Nicola into an utterly humiliating video interview with the hack in a pork chop costume who has been harassing her most of the series.
- A subtle example in episode 3 of Series 4. The receptionist of the hotel in which Stewart is holding his thought camp responds to his obnoxiousness by being obsfucating when it comes to returning his phone shortly afterwards. She also directs him to the children's slide (leading to embarassing photos on Twitter), claiming that it's the best place to get reception - Emma being able to take a call elsewhere suggests it wasn't his only option.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Malcolm telling Nicola not to take a job in America sounds suspiciously like he is begging her not to leave him. But it's all for the good of the party, obviously, nothing personal.
- Don't Explain the Joke:
- Someone desperately needs to explain this concept to press officer John Duggan.
- After Hugh asks "What's a circle jerk?" Ollie gets most of the way through explaining before realizing this was a bad idea.
- Door Dumb: Fergus manages to push a revolving door the wrong way, but to be fair he is desperately trying to escape the press. Glenn rescues him, but naturally gets no thanks for it.
- Downer Ending:
- Malcolm revealing that the birthday he'd just spent alone in his office eating a cake iced with the words "Happy Birthday C*nt" was in fact his fiftieth.
- The entire series— Malcolm is about to be sent to prison for perjury, Nicola is stuck in a humiliating backbench position, Ollie's become the new Malcolm and sold his soul to Dan Miller, Glenn quits in a blaze of glory, Stewart's been sacked, and the rest of both parties just have to keep slogging through the political shit.
- Double Take:
- Malcolm does an especially priceless one when he discovers Hugh eating biscuits in the pantry.
- Ollie does another during Nicola's Fourth Sector launch, when he notices Malcolm Death Glaring at him through a glass wall.
- The Dragon:
- While his boss was more of an Anti-Hero than a full on villain, Jamie functions as a rather competent Dragon for Malcolm. That said, he did have some ambitions of his own, which may account for his absence in the third series.
- In Season 4, much to his own surprise, Ollie becomes Malcolm's new sidekick.
- Driven to Suicide: Tickel, the nurse who was forced out of his home by government policies, kills himself in Episode 3 of Season 4.
- Dude, Not Funny!:
- Steve Fleming's ill-advised Josef Fritzl joke goes down like a lead balloon. When Ollie is making the "eeeesh" face at you, you know you've gone too far.
- Similarly, Adam shushing Phil's bad taste remarks after the news of Mr Tickel's suicide. Adam wasn't above mocking Mr Tickel when he was alive, but clearly considers Phil's behaviour to be a bit beyond the pale.
- Ollie isn't above these either. There's the time where mocks special needs children... in front of Glenn, who has a special needs child. And keeps going after Hugh calls him out. When he mocks Glenn over Malcolm punching him in Season Three, saying Glenn being "not technically a woman." Malcolm shoots Ollie a Death Glare and tells him to zip it.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Malcolm has fought so hard for the party. If The Missing DoSAC Files are to be believed, however, no one has an ounce of respect for him after the election. The e-mail exchange regarding the titular missing files is also indicative that people aren't taking Malcolm very seriously any more. The replies are snarky almost down to the last man. It's still hard to picture the characters saying any of those things to his face, however... and Ollie seems appropriately scared piss-less.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- Glenn loudly calls Terri a cunt in the first episode. It seems incredibly jarring compared to his fuddy-duddy demeanour in later episodes and series.
- Ollie and Glenn smoke outside while pondering their potential resignations at the end of series one. They're never shown to be smokers otherwise.
- In the first two seasons Terri is a quietly competent employee who simply can't be arsed to care about party politics (and the whole department fell apart when Robyn had to cover for her). From season 3 onward she's just a complete idiot.
- Enraged by Idiocy: Part of Malcolm's daily routine involves berating everyone else for their incompetence.
- Ermine Cape Effect: Played with by Julius Nicholson when he is made Lord Nicholson of Arnage. He laments that he won't be allowed to wear his ceremonial robes—including an actual ermine cape—on the Tube or the bus, "but I would, it would be great larks!"
- Especially Zoidberg:Terri Coverley: Do they all hate it? The Times?Malcolm Tucker: Especially The Times.
- Establishing Character Moment:
- Malcolm Tucker with the first line he speaks in the series ("As useless as a marzipan dildo."), and his first action: first reassuring Cliff Lawton that the Prime Minister doesn't want him to resign after a less-than-stellar run... and then comes "That's what makes it so difficult..."
- Cal Richards is introduced with a Kick the Dog moment—"jokingly" telling Stewart Pearson he's been sacked—which immediately tells the viewer what a cruel sense of humour he has.Peter Mannion:"I'm sensing a change of management style here, from touchy-feely to smashy-testes.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: The published script book includes a section entitled "Malcolm's Sent Items". Among the threats of sexual violence sent to DoSAC staff there is one very polite email addressed to "Isobel Tucker" and beginning "Dear Mam..."
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Opposition communications director Cal Richards, colloquially and scarily referred to as simply "The Fucker".
- Evil Counterpart: While calling anyone on this show more evil than anyone else is a matter of semantics at best, Season 3 Episode 8 shows The Fucker is basically Malcolm's.
- Evil Duo: Malcolm and Jamie have unique ways of controlling their enemies. Malcolm uses his frightening degree of charm to manipulate them. Jamie threatens to push iPods up their penises.
- Except when they're beneath Malcolm's dignity to manipulate, in which case he just shouts a lot. With rather colorful turns of phrase. Jamie is Malcolm without the people skills.
- Exact Words: In the first episode, Hugh Abbot's first day as Secretary of State for Social Affairs gets off to a bad start when he goes to launch his new policy, under the impression that he has received the Prime Minister's enthusiastic approval. On his way to the launch, Malcolm rings him up and angrily tells him what the P.M. actually meant.Malcolm: What did the Prime Minister actually say to you?Hugh: He actually said, "This is exactly the kind of thing we should be doing."Malcolm: What did he actually say?Hugh: He said, "This is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing."Malcolm: Should be doing. "Should" does not mean "yes".
- Expecting Someone Taller: Ollie had been expecting someone taller than Steve Fleming.Ollie Reeder: For a man who brought us back into power, he's not very imposing is he? He's like a Lego policeman.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Malcolm's hair is white in the final season. This was Capaldi's own hair, but was left in as it reflected how the character had experienced a mental breakdown before then - it serves to remind the audience that even though he's functional now, the experience has left him permanently scarred.
- Eye Take: Malcolm gets several per episode, but his most epic was probably a close-up of his eyes as they scanned the headline MALCOLM TUCKER RESIGNS.
- FaceHeel Turn: In Season Four, Ollie culminating in how he helps destroy Nicola's career, betrays his friend Glenn, and betrays Malcolm by leaking news of his arrest to the media. Although given that Ollie was always a bit of a duplicitous, sleazy jerk, the shift from "Face" to "Heel" isn't incredibly far.
- Fan Disservice: The (thankfully) deleted scene in which Glenn pulls. Although Ollie and Nicola's running commentary while spying on Glenn and the woman is pure gold and deserves to be enjoyed.
- Fat Idiot: The Right Honourable Ben Swain MP, with his magic drawer full of chocolate and his MEGA blink.Nicola Murray: Oh god, talking to you is like talking to a fucking whoopee cushion.
- Faux Affably Evil:
- Malcolm Tucker is perfectly capable of being very polite when it suits him. It usually suits him as the setup for a string of abuse so painful you may find it psychologically impossible to move for several minutes afterward.
- On the rare occasions he tries charm rather than screaming, Jamie's even worse, since he's unable to effectively conceal his seething, abusive nature.
- Ollie can appear quite charming and good-natured - but he'll have no trouble cheerfully betraying you in a bid for power.
- Faux Documentary: The series is shot like this and supposed to be this, but is made impossible because there's no way that any of the characters would allow it to be made - the politicians attempting to control the media forms a huge backbone of the theme, and the 'documentary' constantly displays them to be the ineffectual, foul-mouthed hypocrites that they are not allowed to be.
- Throughout the first two series and the Specials, Terri is a reasonably motivated and competent civil servant. By the third series she becomes noticeably stupider, lazier and more useless, to the the point where even the Opposition refer to her as "the useless one". She also becomes one hell of a lot bitchier. However, it's revealed in the fourth season that she's actually trying to get out with a redundancy package.
- Same goes for Phil. In his first appearances during the first special (and the Opposition Extra that runs concurrent with the second special), he's an inexperienced and easily-jangled but fairly savvy worker with a desire to pony up to Peter Mannion and an obsession with the 80s. However, during the third series, he starts behaving very unprofessionally in his attempts to mess with Ollie, and in the finale, he's judged useless enough to be delegated to coffee duties. By the fourth series, he's little more than a useless, immature "8-year-old trapped in the body of a 12-year-old," about whom every interaction ends with either a punchline about how much he loves sci-fi and fantasy or something about him sucking up to Peter; admittedly, the worst of his uselessness is partly due to the fact that he's no longer teamed up with Emma.
- Glenn Cullen's age is played up more as the series progresses. He goes from being the more overtly harsh advisor to Hugh, to being an out-of-touch old man in later seasons.
- Flipping the Bird: Done beautifully (if surreptitiously) by Glenn: Julius asks him to hold up his fingers to count something and while he's talking, Glenn slowly lowers his fingers except for the middle one and keeps flipping the bird to Julius's face for a while.
- Flowery Insults: The series is living proof that this trope and Cluster F-Bomb are perfectly capable of living together and having lots of inventively sweary babies.
- Food Fight: Julius Nicholson gets helplessly pelted with food by the Caledonian Mafia. Probably slightly more one-sided than the trope suggests.Malcolm Tucker: Have some fuckin' chow mein!
- Forgets to Eat:
- Being a total workaholic, Malcolm seems to do this.
- Adam in "Spinners and Losers". Angela tells him to eat something because "your blood sugar's low, it makes you very irritable."
- Forgotten Anniversary: Well, Peter's wife Tina thinks he's forgotten. Actually, he says he left a card on the kitchen table; it's in his pocket.
- Freudian Threat: Comes up when Malcolm is castigating hapless press aide John Duggan.Duggan: Malcolm, you're really scaring me now.Tucker: I'm scaring you? I'm so sorry I'm fucking scaring you. I mustn't scare you, must I? I won't scare you, okay? I'm just gonna explain to you what I'm gonna fuckin' do to you. I'm gonna take your fuckin' bollocks, I'm gonna rip them off, I'm gonna paint eyeballs on 'em. And I'm gonna stitch them onto a fuckin' soap and use THAT as our new mouthpiece.
- Freudian Trio: Malcolm is the Ego, Ollie is the Id, Glenn is the Superego.
- Funny Background Event:
- Ollie cluelessly wandering into shot during Terri's public apology over the e-mail fracas.
- Hugh's interview with Angela Heaney, interrupted by a furious Malcolm, who takes him outside to assault him with a barely-muted, Atomic Cluster F-Bomb bollocking. Meanwhile in the foreground, Angela and Terri calmly discuss tea and biscuits.
- Jamie is the king of this trope. In S1E4 he's often seen in the background tag-teaming victims with Malcolm, shoving people around (even women), and at one point becomes literally hopping mad. In the first special he entertains us by fellating his pen behind Julius Nicholson's back.
- Emma's brother Affers really is a very slow fucker-offer.
- Fun with Acronyms:
- "He says he wants you at Number 10 ASAFP". As this order came from Malcolm the F probably didn't stand for "feasibly" as Glenn innocently suggests.
- The Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship itself of course: "I've got no fuckin' idea what that means either but it spells 'SAC'."
- NOMFuP: "N-O-M-F-P. Not My Fucking Problem. I quite like that. Did you like that? I'll use that quite a lot today."
- Gambit Pileup:
Ollie Reeder: Well, Steve Fleming likes the idea-Malcolm Tucker: Never mind what Mummy says, just do what Daddy says, right?
- "Spinners and Losers" provided a glorious example. In the chaos following the Prime Minister's resignation, everyone spies opportunities to better their position and all hell breaks loose: MPs launch leadership bids, spin doctors launch smear campaigns to derail those bids, aides suck up to the potential new leaders, everyone strives to keep their dastardly plots from everyone else and numerous spanners get thrown into the works. Rising tensions lead to paranoia, Angrish and even a Food Fight... before they discover that for all but one man, their plotting was for nothing.
- The latter half of Series 3 shows Malcolm butting heads with rival communications man Steve Fleming. Both men attempt to stamp their own authority and agendas onto DoSAC, and both plunge the department into embarrassment and chaos, as they make badly-planned, spontaneous, ad-hoc decisions in reaction to one another.
- Gay Bravado: Malcolm Tucker loves this, and uses it with practically every other male character, often combined with No Sense of Personal Space.Jamie: "I'm not leaving it to you, eh? You couldn't organise a bumrape in a barracks."Malcolm Tucker: "Au contraire..."Malcolm Tucker: I'm in Thailand. In a sex spa. About to get a fuckin' facial.
Malcolm Tucker: (to Ben Swain, about Dan Miller) "We're lovers. Deal with it.
- Geeky Analogy: Attempted by Malcolm Tucker. Trying to convince resident ''Star Wars fan Ollie Reeder to support his plan to get rid of Opposition Leader Nicola Murray, he uses perhaps the worst analogy in history.Malcolm Tucker: What's that film that you love? The one about the fucking hairdresser. The space hairdresser and the cowboy. The guy's... he's got a tinfoil pal and a pedal bin. His father's a robot and he's fuckin' fucked his sister. Lego! They're all made of fucking Lego.
Ollie: "...Star Wars?"
- Girly Run: Malcolm Tucker is an aggressive, foul-mouthed, violent alpha male... who runs like a girl.
- Giver of Lame Names: Nicola describing reliable members of the community as "Quiet Bat People". It makes Ollie's suggestion of "Wombles" sound sensible.
- Go-Karting with Bowser:
- In The Missing DoSAC Files, it's revealed that Malcolm occasionally plays tennis with Cal Richards, the Opposition's emergency PR man, and that he's on good terms with Richards' family. Malcolm considers himself and Richards to be "the only sane ones left".
- Deadly enemies Peter and Stewart have a friendly bonding moment, watching Fergus give a press conference, and talking about how much they hate him.
- Good Cop Ba Cop: Averted. Malcolm and Jamie have been referred to as a Bad Cop/Bad Cop double-act.Ollie to Jamie: When I met you this morning, I thought you were the nice Scot!
- Referenced by Nicola Murray in a later scene: while being "gang-bollocked" by Malcolm and Steve Fleming, she calls them "Good Cock/Bad Cock" respectively.
- Götterdämmerung: S04E07, Malcolm and Stewart Pearson lose their jobs, signalling the end of 'the age of spin', at least with regards their management styles.
- Government Agency of Fiction: The Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship (DoSAC), created on account of the Prime Minister's preference for "joined-up government" (a sly reference to some of the weirder departments cooked up by Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson).
- Granola Girl:
- Stewart Pearson is a male example. He drinks herbal tea, cycles everywhere in full reflective jacket and safety helmet instead of taking official cars, made Peter Mannion install a wind turbine on his roof, refuses to wear suits or business attire and is probably far too left-wing for the right-wing party he works for:Peter Mannion: Oh great, what did Mr Political-Correctness-Gone-Boring have to say?
- Nicola Murray has shades of this with her dependence on Rescue Remedy and her dubious plan to outlaw plastic toys.
- Stewart Pearson is a male example. He drinks herbal tea, cycles everywhere in full reflective jacket and safety helmet instead of taking official cars, made Peter Mannion install a wind turbine on his roof, refuses to wear suits or business attire and is probably far too left-wing for the right-wing party he works for:
- Groin Attack: When Phil gleefully tells Ollie Emma has dumped him before Emma can break the news herself, Ollie assaults him with a cup of hot coffee to the groin.Phil Smith: It's a dark suit and it's only lukewarm, I STILL WIN!
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Malcolm and Jamie are both possessors of very, very short fuses for anger. Jamie might have the edge, however; generally, Malcolm's anger is usually focussed and prompted by other people's incompetence and stupidity, whereas Jamie just seems perpetually on the edge of snapping into loud, violent anger even at merely hypothetical provocations.
- Handshake Substitute: Adam and Fergus and their brofist hand bumping. It looks absolutely ridiculous.
- Hates Being Nicknamed: Inverted with Steve Fleming, when Julius Nicholson refers to him as "Stephen", Fleming yells back "Steve!"
- Hauled Before A Senate Sub Committee:
- Hugh and the Select Committee: "I categorically did not knowingly not tell the truth. Even though unknowingly I might not have done."
- The Goolding Inquiry into the "culture of blame" hauls the entire cast in for investigation.
- He's Back: In series 3 , Malcolm Tucker is sacked. We then see him slumped on his sofa looking depressed in between his futile attempts to find a fulfilling career outside politics. When he eventually returns to work in casual clothes and looking like he's spent most of his time off crying it is genuinely disturbing. Happily he's soon charged with managing the party's election campaign, and the minute he gets back into a suit he reverts to his usual intimidating self. Sam's happy face says it all.
Cliff: To put it simply, I'm back!Jamie: Oh fuck off, Cliff!
- Also subverted when former minister Cliff Lawton wants to stage a political comeback.
- Hero of Another Story:
- If Julie Price from S3E4 were in a Ken Loach film, she'd be the hero and main character. Unfortunately for her, she's a character in a Armando Iannucci comedy, and is therefore doomed to be a minor character.
- Claire Ballentyne MP, who appears to have wandered in from some sort of UK version of The West Wing, where politicians are clever, caring and responsible. Until it turns out she's unelectable as leader because of her ongoing online gambling addiction, anyway.
- Hey, That's My Line!: Whilst lacking a specific catchphrase,Malcolm Tucker is known for his frequent use of extremely coarse language when criticizing his colleagues, to the point when MP Nicola Murray uses a similarly colorful phrase on him, he responds appropriately:Nicola: You're about as on the ball today as a dead seal.Malcolm: Hey, that's one of my fucking lines!
- High Turnover Rate: The Minister for Social Affairs (and Citizenship). Terri remarks that she has served under five different ministers, or, as she puts it, "a box-set". She said this in the very first episode, and she has now served under eight. The show chronicles the careers of four of these ministers - Cliff Lawton, Hugh Abbott, Nicola Murray and Peter Mannion.Malcolm Tucker: (to Cliff Lawton) You have had a good innings! You have been here, for eighteen months!
- Hoistby His Own Petard: A double version occurs in the final season. Malcolm manipulates Nicola Murray, the Party's incompetent leader, into calling for an enquiry into the death of a mentally ill nurse who killed himself after becoming homeless due to a policy the Opposition introduced when they took power. After calling for the enquiry, Murray remembers that she herself supported the policy when the Party was in power, and resigns in disgrace, with Malcolm telling her that the enquiry will probably result in her suffering serious consequences, which he sees as fitting punishment for her dragging the Party down for two years. However, the PM expands the scope of the enquiry to cover the culture of leaking in Westminster. By the time Nicola is called, she is so far beneath their notice they don't even listen to her testimony, while the enquiry discovers that Malcolm leaked the nurse's private medical records to the media, and he is eventually arrested.
- "How Did You Know?" "I Didn't.": Hugh Abbott accidentally sends an e-mail saying "Christ! What a cunt!" to a little girl using Terri's PC. Terri calls him out on this, claiming that she saw him use the PC. Hugh promptly admits that he did send the e-mail, before Terri says that she was bluffing and she didn't see them. Hugh then says that he knew she didn't know, and was only admitting because it was the right thing to do.
- Humble Pie: Mentioned by name: after Nicola has "laid [her] first great, big egg of solid fuck", Malcolm explains that there actually is a way to limit the fallout from her incredibly stupid mistake, but it would involve her "eating an entire concrete mixer full of humble pie". While Nicola clearly didn't enjoy having to give an interview to the smug journalist who was causing the trouble, this particular humiliation was pretty mild compared to the things the characters normally end up doing on this show.
- Humiliation Conga:
- Ollie has to dance one in "Spinners and Losers", breaking up with his girlfriend and in the process, hilariously admitting he only stayed with her because Malcolm forced him to. He is then forced to make up with her so he can use her to leak a policy (which she sees through right away), before being reduced to the status of "cheese monitor" and mocked for it by Emma and his Arch-Enemy Phil.
- Series 4, Episode 5. Nobody is safe from the monumental screwup.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Malcolm Tucker is this to the ENTIRE Labour Party. He's the only character in the series who is competent.
- Hypocrite: Hugh is one over Flatgate, Nicola is one over... well, everything really.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Ben Swain: "I have been interviewed on television before..."
- Malcolm aggressively orders Robyn to ensure the next day's media coverage will make him look "FUCKIN' BENIGN".
- In the party conference episode Malcolm suggests that two people look anorexic, while he's looking thinner than ever.
- Malcolm on the phone to a journalist: ''That's an incredibly homophobic headline, you massive poof."
- Julius Nicholson on the crime stats enquiry: "I had to come down upon Steve Fleming like a ton of bricks, totally unfairly, just to protect my unimpeachable reputation for fairness!"
- One of Malcolm's Evil Plans leads to Steve Fleming being photographed discussing the crime stats enquiry with Julius Nicholson. One newspaper runs the photograph with the headline "Give us the bald facts", causing uber-bitch Terri to remark: "Oooh, it's very rude, that. I was always taught not to make personal remarks".
- Terri also calls Emma "a complete bitch" and reckons Phil "might be simple"...
- Adam mocks Phil for being Proud to Be a Geek, but refers Phil and Peter as "Malfoy and his Dad", and to the Government party as Slytherin. (Begging the question, does Adam see himself as a Gryffindor, Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff?)
- I Am Spartacus: "It was me. I leaked it." Poor Glenn.
- I Am The Fucking Trope: Malcolm has a thing for making these wild proclamations.I am at the heart of government—I am the heart of government! I am the fucking aorta, and the fucking ventricles!
I am the fucking matrix!
Ollie Reeder: Are you out of the loop?
Malcolm Tucker: Fuck you Andy Pandy, I am the loop...
- I Call Him "Mr. Happy": "Remember you and Mrs. Mannion on your doorstep, her never going to touch Little Peter again?"
- I Have Just One Thing to Say: Various characters are forced to resign throughout the series, and usually exit with a standard The Reason You Suck" Speech (deserved or otherwise) or a "fuck you" of some kind to their former allies/enemies, but Malcolm Tucker himself goes with one of these. After his lawyer informs the baying press-pack that his client won't be making a statement, Malcolm then says "No, I want to say something," and looks like he's gearing himself up for one of his trademark rants - but he says, "It doesn't matter," in a tone of voice that is more exhausted than anything else, and walks off without another word.
Peter Mannion: Christ, that doesn't even fucking rhyme...
- Possibly played with, because in some ways, that is actually the most devastating condemnation of his line of work and the people in it in the series; it perfectly shows the sheer disgust, weariness and contempt he feels for everything, coupled with demonstrating that he knows nothing he would say would make a difference, and he cares so little that he's not even going to try any more, or even bother thinking up a final insult.
- I Know You Know I Know: Malcolm and Nick Hanway during a tense game of Xanatos Speed Chess:Malcolm Tucker: Do you know?Nick Hanway: Yeah, we just found out. So, you know who it is?Malcolm Tucker: Well, of course I know. I mean, there's nothing that you know, that I don't know! I'm Dr. fucking Know!
Hugh Abbott: Just tell me, truthfully. Did you send that email?Terri Coverley: No I didn't... and you know I didn't...
- Also, Hugh's bluffing game is tested during his Sweary Woman of Whitehall cock-up:
- I Like My X Like I Like My Y: Home Secretary Mary Drake states when threatening to subsume DOSAC and put them in charge of the tea run that "I like mine (tea) weak and white, like my men" then again, she was there in her 'angry capacity'.
- I'm Standing Right Here: "Watch my lips: Cal Richards is not here- Cal!"Hugh Abbot: Christ, Malcolm, how do you appear out of nowhere in a building made entirely of glass?
Malcolm Tucker: I'm a shapeshifter.
- I Take Offense to That Last One!: Any discussion with Malcolm Tucker is usually filled with insults, but even he has his limits:Oliver Reeder: Malcolm! You're bullying me, and I dunno why you're bullying me...Malcolm Tucker: How dare you! How dare you! Don't you ever, ever call me a bully! I'm so much worse than that.
Malcolm Tucker: First, you've got no credentials you're so backbench you've actually fuckin' fallen off... secondly, I'm going to tell the Mirror about all the drinking... and thirdly, I'm going to tell the Mail about the affair... and fourthly, you've got a tiny head...Geoff Holhurst: No I haven't!
- More of an Insult Backfire that one... a better example would be Malcolm's attempt to derail Geoff Holhurst's leadership bid:
- Ice-Cream Koan: "Time is a leash on the dog of ideas." "Knowledge is porridge". Stewart Pearson speaks almost entirely in meaningless PR buzzwords.
- Improv: The series was composed from several takes: in the first, the script was followed exactly, and later the actors would improvise around the original script. The final scene is pieced together from the funniest elements of both (which is why the camerawork sometimes looks jumpier than the usual Jitter Cam).
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Abbot congratulating Ollie on his (nonexistent) "MA Lchievellian" tactics.
- Informed Deformity: Geoff Holhurt's tiny head.
- Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: An outtake from the party conference episode shows Malcolm dashing away from a Daily Telegraph live podcast. Naturally, it gets put on their website with the headline "Tucker Spurns Our Man On The Ground". Ollie and Nicola gleefully take the piss whilst watching it.
- Insult Backfire: Most insults aimed at Malcolm backfire as he is already fully aware of his bastardry. The tables are turned however when he finds himself in a meeting at The BBC, trying to offend two TV producers with inappropriate comments. One tells him "that's exactly the sort of banter we're looking for!": Unused to such butt-kissing, he responds by looking absolutely terrified.
- Irrevocable Message: In one episode, Hugh takes a guess at Glenn's personal email address and sends him some humorous vulgarity of the sort used between mates. This leads to someone being forced to issue a public apology: "I promise that I will never call an eight-year-old girl a cunt again."
- Iron Lady: One-Scene Wonder Mary "Ironblouse" Drake, of the Home Office."I am here in an angry capacity."
- Invisible President: The Prime Minister in Series 3, Tom Davis, is never seen or heard. His predecessor didn't even have a name. Tom Davis' replacement, who is the leader of the other party, is referred to only as JB.
- It Amused Me: Part of Ben Swain's "Holy Trinity of Why," as explained to Nicola:"I'm bored, it's funny and I hate you."
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Mr Tickel's name is apparently pronounced TicKELL, as those who are inclined to feel sorry for him keep reminding us.
- It Tastes Like Feet: Malcolm describes the coffee he makes for his house guests as "so thick and black, it'll be like fucking drinking plimsolls".
- Jade-Colored Glasses: Hugh wore them, Malcolm tries to get Nicola to try a pair on, acting as the Tall, Silver and Snarky foil to her Wide-eyed Idealist:Nicola Murray: That's what this is all about for you isn't it? Fighting and fucking power! Does it never occur to you that your poisonous, male obsession with conflict is making people despise politics?
Malcolm Tucker: Spare me your fuckin' psycho-fanny!
- Instead of listing down the many, many moments Malcolm himself goes round insulting his co-workers, try counting the number of times where he has a conservation without insulting the person he's speaking to, we'll wait and see.
- Nutter Nick Hanway is a bit of an unlikeable cock — happy to steal Ollie's (actually Malcolm's) ideas and take credit, and gleeful in the possibility that he might replace Malcolm in the next reshuffle.
- Ollie Reeder progressively becomes more and more of a jerk over the course of the series. In Season Four it enters FaceHeel Turn territory.
- Season Four introduces Fergus and Adam. Glenn considers Adam the most loathsome person he has ever met.
- Jamie Macdonald, Malcolm's psychotic sidekick.
- Ben Swain can also be a jerk, particularly when he's jealous.
- Dan Miller.
- It would probably be quicker to list the characters who appear in the series and aren't colossal dicks to the people around them in some way, shape or form.
- Jerkass Has a Point: "Is that the two billion pounds we keep in the biscuit tin?"
- Jitter Cam: Especially in the first season.
- Just Following Orders:
- Hugh Abbot is about to introduce a new bill about special needs schooling, and gets uncomfortable around an aide who opposes it because he thinks the bill will fail his own child.Hugh Abbot: Glenn, the special needs bill. With your particular interest, I... I can't do this.
Glenn Cullen: You know my views, you know inclusion is an illusion, it doesn't work.
Hugh: But you don't mind if I go ahead with it.
Glenn: Of course not, look — you're only following orders.
Hugh: Oh thanks. So you won't make me feel bad, except by comparing me to a concentration camp guard.
Glenn: No, that's right.
- It continues in Series 3 with incompetent new press officer John Duggan:John Duggan: I'm Just Following Orders! Like a Nazi guard, only less gassy! [sheepish pause] You're not Jewish are you?
- Hugh Abbot is about to introduce a new bill about special needs schooling, and gets uncomfortable around an aide who opposes it because he thinks the bill will fail his own child.
- Kavorka Man: Olly Reeder is a weaselly, pale, bespectacled prick who looks like a twelve year old...and over the course of the series beds Angela Heaney, Emma Messinger from the Opposition, and is also depicted as something of a womanizer. This is really very good going in a series that seldom bothers to look at anyone's private lives (because most of them don't have private lives). This does just apply to the character rather than Chris Addison, the actor who plays him. Chris Addison is quite handsome and something of a Bishounen.
- Kicked Upstairs: Julius Nicholson tries to get involved in the government's public relations activities, treading on the toes of the press officers whose job it is and who actually know what they're doing. He antagonises everyone with his mad policy ideas, to the point where they start to believe he is actually unhinged and dangerous. He is promoted to the position of "Blue-Sky Thinker" to the Prime Minister... a meaningless job title given to him to make him think he has some actual power and to keep him quiet."I'm spending half of my time now dealing with that rubbish that Nicholson's putting out there... If he does stick his baldy head 'round your door and comes up with some stupid idea about "Policemen's helmets should be yellow" or "Let's set up a department to count the Moon," just treat him like someone with Alzheimer's disease, you know? Just say "yes, that's lovely, that's good, we must talk about that later," okay?" Malcolm Tucker
- Lame Comeback: Phil is notably deficient in wit compared to other special advisers like Ollie or Adam.Adam: When you get your hair done, what is it you ask for? The Disney Prince?
Phil: Yeah, well what do you ask for? Wanker?
- Laser-Guided Karma:
- Glenn slams a door in Ollie's face, only to have to same done to him by Malcolm moments later.
- In series four, Fergus intervenes to block Terri being made redundant, in large part to wind up Peter due to her Stalker with a Crush tendencies towards him. This bites Fergus in the arse several episodes later when Terri's bungling leads to a highly embarrassing leak that implicates him personally in the mess surrounding Tickel.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Ollie does a great one while talking about how to kill Julius Nicholson.Hugh Abbott: Can't we just kill him, shoot him?Ollie Reeder: What about we just fire him at a wall from a cannon, just a wall, two feet away?Glenn Cullen: I know, we force feed him with a mixture of garlic and Dettol in cup-a-soup.Hugh Abbott: What about the old red-hot poker up the arse, Edward II?Ollie Reeder: I'd like to nail him to a tree through the head and watch lice slowly crawl over his body, eating off all the flesh in a slow and painful death-*Julius Nicholson unexpectedly walks in*Ollie Reeder: ...But, that rather bitter anomaly aside, most of the responses to the Warwick Report press cuttings were pretty positive.
- Malcolm is somewhat less concerned about offending people, and prefers to swap a final word for something more offensive:
- Similarly subverted when Nicola complains about John Duggan's ineptitude: "All he's doing is depriving a village somewhere of a twat".
- From Series 4, Episode 2:Malcolm: "What do you think this is? Tinker Tailor Soldier Cunt?"
- Laughing Mad: Steve Fleming has an annoying habit of breaking into laughter whenever he loses his temper, which happens frequently. It fools no-one.
- Lean and Mean: Malcolm keeps his weight down by running everywhere, being permanently stressed out, and living on a diet consisting mainly of coffee. Olly Reader likens him to "a thin white Mugabe".
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- In Series 3 we get to see inside Malcolm's house, and find out his DVD collection includes... The Thick of It.
- Malcolm's take on the state of the election, with typical Tucker flair, in The Guardian.
- Nicola becomes head of her party during the time skip between seasons 3 and 4 with no explanation. In the third episode of the season Stewart Emma share a joke about not remembering how that happened.
- Leaning on the Furniture:
- Olly tries this in Malcolm's Number 10 office. It does not go down well: "Feet off the furniture, you Oxbridge twat. You're not on a punt now."
- Jamie does this habitually but gets away with it because most people are terrified of him.
- Limited Wardrobe: In Series 3, all of Malcolm's suits are light grey, and sometimes he'll even pair a grey suit with a grey tie. When we see him in casual clothes we discover that practically every other item of clothing he owns is also grey. This could have been a deliberate attempt to match his wardrobe to his hair colour but the grey is also very fitting for a press officer who likes to hide in the background, never becoming the story.
- Locked Out of the Loop: In "The Rise Of The Nutters" and "Spinners and Losers", Malcolm Tucker is constantly kept out of the loop despite being the Prime Minister's spin doctor.
- MacGuffin: Nicola's flagship "Fourth Sector Pathfinders" policy initiative. Nobody, both in-universe and out, ever finds out what the hell it means or stands for, other than some mealy-mouthed analogies about cake slicing. A Running Gag is Nicola constantly getting interrupted by phone calls or Terri whenever she attempts to explain.
- "He is not gettin' anywhere near ma fuckin' pantry..."
- The kerfuffle over the missing immigration data is basically an excuse to show how un-media savvy Nicola is.
- Madness Mantra: Glenn has a pretty epic meltdown.I AM IRRELEVANT! I AM IRRELEVANT! I AM IRRELEVANT! FUCKING HUGH JUST WANTS TO SPEAK TO TINKY WINKY?!! WELL FUCK TINKY WINKY, FUCK! YOU! TINKY! WINKY!!! AUF WIEDERSEHEN, PET, THE PARTY'S OVER, GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD, WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT HITLER?! HE HAD A MOUSTACHE AND HE LIVED OVER THERE?!! FUCK US ALL!!!!
- Steve Fleming MP's last appearance in the series involves him charging down a corridor having resigned the Cabinet and ranting "Fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him!" about Malcolm, who has just heavily intimated that he's figured out a way to screw Steve's plans to screw over the Prime Minister.
- The Main Characters Do Everything: In the same way as Yes, Minister, the series invented a similar department that could meddle in many different areas: the Department Of Social Affairs (or Department Of Social Affairs & Citizenship later on). It is hand waved in the show by the fact that even the department's own members don't seem to know what their primary job is. Beyond that it is clear that they mostly get the jobs that the rest of the government doesn't want.
- Malicious Misnaming: A reasonable chunk of both parties call Mr Tickel (pronounced 'ti-KELL') "Mr Tickle". This comes back to bite them when the emails in which they call them this get leaked.
- Married to the Job: Nearly everyone.
- Very little about Malcolm's personal life is revealed. This is deliberate: a sub-plot about Malcolm's partner leaving him for journalist Simon Hewitt was cut, and on the DVD commentaries the cast and writers agree that no-one really needs (or wants) to know about his life outside work. He probably doesn't have one. This is confirmed by Malcolm himself in the last episode of the series, in a haunting yet amazing speech to Ollie.
- Malcolm wears a wedding ring for most of the run of the series; it's gone by the time he gives evidence to the Goolding Inquiry at the end of Series 4, although it's never referred to. Peter Capaldi does not like to take off his own wedding ring, whatever role he's playing.
- At the end of Series 3 Episode 7 as Malcolm is returning to his home after 'resigning', there is a small child looking out of the downstairs window. In the last episode of series 4 Malcolm's speech to Ollie includes the words "no kids" so the child at the window evidently wasn't his.
- Some scenes in Malcolm's office in the same series show that he has what is obviously a small child's artwork taped to the wall. Considering that he refers to himself as having "no children" during his rant to Ollie in the final episode of Series 4, this one's a bit of a puzzler—either he was being metaphorical (since he never sees his kids due to the pressures of his job) or the child in Series 3 is actually a niece/nephew or other relative. (He does mention a young niece he's apparently quite close to in an earlier episode.)
- A piece of wildly implausible but fun-to-believe fanon holds the Malcolm Tucker's previous life was as Sid Jenkins' pyschotic-but-loving-in-his-own-special-way father. Presumably Hell spat him back out.
- Malcolm's opposite number, Stewart Pearson, also has issues with work-life balance: "I'm an extraordinarily precise man, that's why my wife left me."
- Nicola Murray's unseen husband seems to get annoyed about her absence from the home. Her children—especially her daughter Ella—are frequently pawns in the power struggle between her and Malcolm, but we never actually meet any of them.
- Similarly Peter Mannion's unseen wife is annoyed about his work schedule.
- In Phil's mortifying Heroic BSoD in S04E05, he admits he has nothing else in his life but work.
- John Duggan claims the reason his marriage broke up was because his ex-wife was not in politics. "She was a Muggle." It's doubtful Nicola and Helen believe him.
- Very little about Malcolm's personal life is revealed. This is deliberate: a sub-plot about Malcolm's partner leaving him for journalist Simon Hewitt was cut, and on the DVD commentaries the cast and writers agree that no-one really needs (or wants) to know about his life outside work. He probably doesn't have one. This is confirmed by Malcolm himself in the last episode of the series, in a haunting yet amazing speech to Ollie.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!":
- At the end of Series 4 Episode 5, everyone on both sides is horrified at the announcement of a full enquiry into the whole culture of leaking.
- In a lesser example, Hugh and his colleagues freak out after Hugh discovers that their focus-group-of-one (upon whose advice a disastrous policy was approved) was actually an actor.
- Mean Boss: Malcolm Tucker - foul-mouthed, foul-tempered, brilliantly gifted at his job, and absolutely merciless with the politicians he manages, who compare him to Goebbels.
- Meaningful Background Event: Malcolm's PA, Sam, can be seen among the extras in the background throughout the entire Goolding Inquiry. This may be an indication of how closely Malcolm is monitoring the inquiry itself.
- Men Don't Cry:
- Played straight with Malcolm. Throughout series three there are several points where he is almost, but not quite, driven to tears. In one episode, an Eye Take reveals his red-rimmed eyes, and we can assume he saved his crying for an off-camera moment.
- When asked about that episode, Armando Iannucci said Peter Capaldi played Malcolm "like someone who's been crying for two weeks".
- Metaphorgotten: "If you're gonna make an omelette, you're going to have to have some frank and honest discussion with the eggs".
- Mistaken Nationality: One of the insulting posts to Peter's blog is "I don't trust you, you Cypriot crook." Prompting the rather obviously upper middle class Peter to say "Cypriot??"
- Metaphorgotten: Nicola's "self-eating cake" speech.
- The Movie: In the Loop.
- Morality Pet: Malcolm's PA, Sam.
- Motive Rant: Season 4, Episode 7 has Ollie growing a pair and pointing out that Malcolm's methods and attitude are outdated. Malcolm responds by really laying bare what his job has done to him, and how "Malcolm" hardly even exists any more, there is only the job which has sucked him dry.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The events of the party conference episode in series three play out like a Spy Drama, even though it's just Malcolm and Nicola squabbling over who gets to introduce a conference guest.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Malcolm after punching Glenn. Rather than try to joke or bully his way clear, Malcolm seeks Glenn out and profusely apologizes, culminating in a small but effective Pet the Dog moment.
- Nasal Trauma: During one of the few genuinely violent confrontations in the show, Malcolm Tucker impulsively punches Glen Cullen in the nose. Though it's not actually broken, it does bleed pretty spectacularly and ends up getting Malcolm in hot water with the media.
- The Napoleon:
- Cal Richards.
- Jamie is accused of being "a pint-pot Judas" by Malcolm. Jamie retorts with the wholly unconvincing claim that he is actually five-foot-ten.
- Necessarily Evil: Malcolm occasionally reminds people that he's working to ensure the Party stays in power, and that the alternative to following his orders would be the Opposition getting in. He tends to do this when he's particularly exasperated, and even then his efforts are usually unappreciated.
- Never Hurt an Innocent: In a non-violent example, Malcolm Tucker states that he never targets "real people", although his actions at one point inadvertently cause Mr. Tickell to commit suicide.
- Never My Fault: Everyone. All the time. The only exceptions being Glenn in season 4 and Peter Mannion.
- New Era Speech:
- Malcolm delivers a Rousing Speech to his assembled minions as the general election is called. Over at Opposition HQ Cal Richards also delivers a speech, but his is a tad less rousing, and a lot less articulate:Malcolm Tucker: Some people, they just fuckin' love to hate. Some people fuckin' walk around the fuckin' Garden of Eden fuckin' moaning about the lack of fuckin' mobile recption! These are the kind of fucks who watched Mandela walk to freedom and said 'Is Diagnosis: Murder not on the other side'?
Cal Richards: It will... be... FUCKED!
- After Malcolm's sacking, Steve Fleming delivers what might be the creepiest New Era Speech ever by comparing everyone present to the Fritzl children emerging from the cellar.Steve Fleming: Right now, you're all emerging from the cellar...pleased that the beatings have stopped...scared of what the future might hold...
- Malcolm delivers a Rousing Speech to his assembled minions as the general election is called. Over at Opposition HQ Cal Richards also delivers a speech, but his is a tad less rousing, and a lot less articulate:
- Newscaster Cameo: Rise of the Nutters uses spliced Stock Footage of Jeremy Paxman and Newsnight for Ben Swain's interview, and in series three Richard Bacon guest-stars as himself hosting a debate between department ministers on Radio 5 Live.
- Nice to the Waiter: Played with.
- The MPs and their aides suck up to more powerful government figures, media types and anyone else they consider useful, while walking all over the junior staff and civil servants who do all their actual work. By contrast Malcolm and Jamie have nothing but contempt for MPs, civil servants, journalists and rival spin doctors, but are polite to cleaners and secretaries.
- One scene that illustrated Jamie's tendency towards this was a deleted scene from the special "Spinners and Losers", when he helps a cleaning lady out in a heated argument with Ben Swain:Malcolm: I think things have got a little bit...Cleaning Lady: I have never had anyone speak to me in my life like this before.Cleaning Lady: It's enough to give me a heart attack. I'm going to have to sit down. *sits down* And I want a glass of wine! I want a glass of red wine!Ben Swain: What the fuck?! I'm not going to...Jamie: Get her a fucking glass of wine!Cleaning Lady: *pointing to Ben* This man again! This man is going to give me a heart attack!Ben Swain: God, just shut the fuck up!Malcolm: Hey, hey!Cleaning Lady: I will kill him.Jamie: Can we get something for you?Cleaning Lady: I will kill him. You're going to have to call the police; I'm going to kill him.Jamie: I will kill him. Don't you worry. You don't have to get your hands dirty. I will fucking kill him.
- Unlike Stewart, who, in S04E03, actually goes to the effort of insulting a receptionist who'd only interrupted Stewart's frivolous "Yes-And-Ho" game to deliver an urgent message.
- More contrast emerges in the very next episode, in which Malcolm is seen chatting amiably with one of the nurses at the hospital—before bursting in on Ollie and returning to his usual domineering routine.
- In Season 4, Episode 6, Malcolm says that he wouldn't do anything to "real people", those who aren't in politics. He was lying, of course: he did leak Tickell's medical records and telephone number to the press and, like everybody else, used his death for his own ends. Although to Malcolm's mind Tickell lost his "real person" immunity by campaigning against the government.
- This wasn't quite a lie when it came to Tickel, though. Malcolm, remember, was in Opposition at the time Tickel was protesting the Government's policies. Therefore their interests were aligned. Malcolm's target in leaking Tickel's medical records WAS the government, not Tickel... Malcolm wanted to make the Government look bad, and the leak showed that they had been "picking on a man with a history of depression."
- The Nicknamer: Malcolm has insulting nicknames for everyone, but makes a particular point of not using Ollie's real name. "Stem Cell", "Joe 90", "Twatweasel"... but rarely "Ollie".
- Malcolm is the most habitual nicknamer, but most of the characters are nicknamers to some extent.
- Nicola got stuck with being called "Glummy Mummy" by Malcolm in Series 3.
- Phil with his outdated 80's hairstyle and shitty personality is the brunt of a lot of nicknames, with varied negative comparisons to James May, Hugh Grant, Rupert Brooke and Captain Mark Phillips from almost everybody.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Many of the characters are thinly-veiled references to Real Life political figures:
- Stewart Pearson appears to be a caricature of Steve Hilton, an advertising exec-turned Tory spin doctor and a serial abuser of meaningless PR buzzwords.
- His colleague Cal "The Fucker" Richards may have been based on Tory Director of Communications Andy Coulson, a former News of the World editor known for his aggressive style and allegations of bullying behaviour.
- Julius Nicholson (now Lord Nicholson) bears similarities to Peter Mandelson (now Lord Mandelson) and also to John Birt, the "Blue Skies Thinker" to Tony Blair whose meaningless utterances were ridiculed as "Birtspeak".
- Steve Fleming's personality and mannerisms are thought to have been based on Mandelson's to an even greater degree.
- Malcolm Tucker is based on a number of New Labour spin doctors. Alastair Campbell is the one most often cited, but he is also partly based on Peter Mandelson and possibly on Damian "Mad Dog" McBride. The last of these has led to some amusing Life Imitates Art moments: in one episode it emerges that the Opposition's nickname for Malcolm is Hamish MacDeath: the Conservatives gave McBride the nickname "McPoison". McBride was also forced to resign after his plans to set up a blog slandering David Cameron were leaked, some time after the show featured Malcolm Tucker getting into trouble for posting slanderous comments on Peter Mannion's blog.
- Even from the little we hear of them, we can gather that the two invisible party leaders of series 1- 3 resemble their Real Life counterparts.
- Dan Miller is pretty clearly based on David Miliband
- Baroness Sureka seems to have been inspired by Baroness Scotland
- No Party Given: We have the government and the opposition. Neither is ever identified by name or policy as being Labour or Conservative. But, well, you'd have to be an idiot to not realise the main characters are Labour and the Opposition are Tories. The fourth series also introduces the other party in the coalition, who are pretty obviously based on the Liberal Democrats but never identified as such. Also as described above, the characters mostly have real-life counterparts which correspond with the parties they represent in the show.
- The first explicit hints start emerging during the specials, as Ollie's Opposition girlfriend is referred to as a right-winger and Peter praises the '80s for being a time when his party was in power.
- If not before then, in Season 4's Coalition government is clearly Conservative/Lib Dem, not just because that's what's happening IRL but because of the sorts of blunders the parties make- Nicola is naive and idealistic, wants to ban toys and spends far too much time worrying about sounding prejudiced in any way, which was just what the Labour government seemed to do. Peter Mannion, though altogether trying his best, comes off vaguely prejudiced because he's out of touch, and hates youth, or at least doesn't know how to address them.Mannion: I'm modern! I say 'black' instead of 'colored', I think women are a good thing, I have no problem with gays, most of them are very well turned out, especially the men. Why is it this last year I'm being made to feel as if I'm always two steps behind, like I can't program a video or convert everything back to old money? Because that's not me!
Phil: You've still got a video?
- Stewart Pearson also notes how he has worked for ten years to "detoxify" the party by removing racists, homophobes and sexists, a very real concern for a Conservative Party that has been desperately trying to shed its image as a party for casual bigots and only barely succeeding by somewhat ineffectually keeping a lid on its own back bench. Stewart then goes on to say that the whole project was doomed to fail from the start since the whole thing is rotten from the ground up.
- The fact that Northerner Ollie resents his (ex-)girlfriend Emma's apparent class privilege—even flat-out calling her a "rich bitch" when they break up—and that they deride each other for being stereotypical members of their respective parties makes it pretty clear that he's with Labour, she's Conservative.
- The series also plays with the various clashing ideologies within the parties, again without quite naming them; Peter, for example, is very clearly an old-school "One Nation"-style conservative who's forced to co-exist within a party dominated by neo-liberal Thatcherite types.
- And of course, part of the point of the series is that for all the ideological differences that can be named between the parties, ultimately the problem is that they're all ultimately staffed and run by self-interested, power-hungry and cowardly hypocrites who usually end up prioritising what's best for them over what's best for the country, meaning that for all practical purposes the differences between them don't end up mattering all that much.
- No Sense of Personal Space:
- Space invader extraordinaire Malcolm Tucker. Whether it's engaging in conspiratorial conversations in the narrow corridors of power (or the gent's lavatories), using intimidation to get what he wants or simply flirting with his colleagues, the "Thin White Mugabe" gets in close. Cornering seems to be the favored tactic.
- A similar example is Jamie, who gets just as close (sometimes manhandling people) and is even more likely to shout obscenities right in your face.
- A very different example is Malcolm's nemesis Steve Fleming. Like Malcolm, Fleming gets much too close to people and has no aversion to touching them. Unlike Malcolm, Fleming is actually trying to be friendly, but fails miserably and comes across as a creepy slimy perv (especially with Nicola).
- No Social Skills: Olly, himself book-smart but not streetwise, asks hapless press officer John Duggan "I'm not being horrible, but are you actually autistic?". Further along the autism spectrum is unseen Prime Minister Tom Davis, whose social skills are so lacking that the press officers doubt that they should let him out in public.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The missing immigration figures in S03E02 is not backed up, apart from a memory stick at the bottom of Ollie's second best bag.
- No Theme Tune: The series doesn't have a theme tune...or any music, really. The show flashes a title card on screen and gets on its way.
- Nobody Poops: Averted: a great deal of the political process seems to go on in toilets.
- Taking a dump is Hugh's special treat. That's what his life has come to.
- Jamie does this a lot: "It's, eh, smoking and a fast metabolism."
- Malcolm claims to have done this in The White House.
- Noodle Incident:
- Emma in the Opposition Special: "They're going to elect a man who can count his friends on the fingers of my father's right hand."
- Malcolm on Nicola: "She's a nice lady. Especially when she's drunk." Considering this came from the same episode where he joked about her photocopying her arse, one wonders exactly what has been going on in office parties...
- The scandal involving Baroness Sureka is obliquely referred to by Glenn offering his sympathies for her during the enquiry, Robyn recognising her from the papers (much to her embarrassment) and indicated by her absence during one of the inquisitions.
- Not Helping Your Case: After Peter and his colleagues return from Stewart's thought camp only to be informed that Adam and Fergus have set up a community bank for £2 billion in their absence, Adam tells them not to worry because it will be funded by taxes.Peter: Great, the triple. I'm a nurse killer, a banker, and now I'm raising FUCKING TAXES!
- Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Shadow Cabinet meeting of S04E02.
- Not So Different: Malcolm and Stewart's face-off ends with them coming to this conclusion.
- Not Worth Killing: Non-fatal variant - when Ollie informs his Malcolm that Glenn is here to see him, Malcolm rounds on Ollie, delivering him a metaphor about how when the Queen's butler sees a cockroach in the kitchen, he steps on it and she never knows. When Malcolm does eventually go and speak to Glenn, he treats him with weary contempt rather than his characteristic foul-mouthed ranting, suggesting he finds him beneath even a bollocking.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Malcolm Tucker stops swearing and speaks in a measured, reasonable tone, tremble. When Malcolm Tucker admits that things aren't going so well for him...run.
- Obsolete Mentor: "I may be needed. I've been needed in the past." Poor Glenn, no-one's wanted his opinion or advice on anything since Series 2. It's now so long ago that Hugh being deeply interested in his opinion practically counts as Early Installment Weirdness.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Terri, who is a "blockage".
- Of Course I Smoke:
- Terrihas a cigarette with hapless Opposition MP Peter Mannion, in order to flirt with him. (He doesn't notice either the flirting or that she is rather obviously not a smoker.)
- One quick scene from "The Rise of the Nutters" shows Malcolm Tucker, of all people, having a cough attack over a cigar. The waiter seems amused.
- Official Couple: Ollie and Emma. Of course, this being The Thick of It, their relationship is ruthlessly exploited by the other characters as soon as it's acknowledged, to the point where by the end they're quite openly admitting that they would have broken up long before "if it had been up to them".
- Offscreen Karma: At the end of Spinners and Losers, Malcolm hints at a meeting with Tom, where he gleefully gets to pin all of the blame for the episode's drama squarely on Nick Hanway.Malcolm Tucker: I've been summoned to the breakfast meeting to talk to Tom about This Morning. Some details about Clare Ballentine, maybe...Geoff Holhurst...young Benjamin here...Nick Hanway: Fuck you very much, you unscrupulous bastard.Malcolm Tucker: Scruples? Scruples, what are they? Is that those low-fat kettle chips?
- Oh, Crap!:
- Hugh's look of horror in the very first episode when, on the way to publicly announce a policy that he thinks he has the Prime Minister's complete approval for (and with the nation's media waiting for him), Malcolm angrily phones him to tell him that "should" does not, in fact, mean "yes".
- The look in Malcolm's eyes after Steve Fleming asks him "Can I have a quick word? Just five minutes..."
- And again in 4.06 when the Goolding Inquiry reveals that Malcolm had a file with Mr. Tickell's phone number, NHS details and the unlisted number of his ex-wife, which was then leaked to the media in the photo that headlined the 'Quiet Batpeople' fiasco. It's the first time ever in the series that Malcolm is completely at a loss for words.
- Older Than They Look:
- Ollie is described as looking "about nine" in a newspaper photo by his girlfriend Emma Messinger, and Malcolm constantly makes jokes about his youthful appearance. Chris Addison, the actor who plays Ollie, was actually in his late thirties when filming the series.Malcolm: Are you on solids? I thought you were still on the tit.
- This carried over to one of Chris Addison's appearances on Have I Got News for You, when Tom Baker referred to him as "the boy": "I'm thirty-six! I'm thirty-six, Tom Baker!"
- Same goes for Phil; Will Smith (no, not that Will Smith), who plays him, was born the same year as Chris Addison.
- Ollie is described as looking "about nine" in a newspaper photo by his girlfriend Emma Messinger, and Malcolm constantly makes jokes about his youthful appearance. Chris Addison, the actor who plays Ollie, was actually in his late thirties when filming the series.
- Once Done, Never Forgotten: Paula Radcliffe's unfortunate case of runner's diarrhoea is this.Terri: That is very unfair, it only happened once.
- Only One Name: Jamie.
- Although he was given a surname - MacDonald - for In the Loop.
- Julius calls him "James" in Rise of the Nutters, so apparently Jamie is his nickname.
- Another example is Malcolm's PA, Sam. Her surname is given as "Cassidy" in The Missing DoSAC Files, but it's debatable how far this is canon. (The same book gives Terri a different middle name than the one stated in the show, for example.)
- Only Sane Man: Peter Mannion is the Opposition's. The Government doesn't seem to have one; Glen would be the likeliest candidate, but it's far from clear-cut in his case.
- Opposites Attract: Although in this case, it's more "Opposites Go Out To Dig Dirt On Each Other's Parties And Nick Policy Ideas."
- Our Presidents Are Different: The series has two invisible P Ms, at least one of whom is also Unmodified (Tom Davis is pretty obviously Gordon Brown). The other one went almost totally unmentioned, but given the circumstances, is also more or less Unmodified (for Tony Blair).
- There was yet another invisible PM in series 4 (which it took place after a general election and change of government) - probably a more or less Unmodified version of David Cameron.
- Overused Running Gag: Defied. The reason "Tucker's Law" was cut is because the writers feared the temptation to turn it into one of these.
- Painting the Medium: The Goolding Inquiry is entirely shot at a faster frame rate than the rest of the series, similar to a televised news report.
- Passing Notes in Class: "PLEASE COULD YOU TAKE THIS NOTE, RAM IT UP HIS HAIRY INBOX, AND PIN IT TO HIS FUCKING PROSTATE."
- Paparazzi: A significant antagonizing force. For instance, one manages to get a photo of a sheet on which the Opposition were brainstorming policy names, resulting in the dreadful end product of a Wiki Walk ("quiet Bat-people") being broadcasted out of context across all of the papers. Another one corners Nicola attempting to get a shot of her next to a protester in a pork chop costume. Another one gets a shot of Stuart and Peter standing on children's play equipment at a party conference, attempting to get signals on their phones, but instead looking like they're playing like kids on the day a significant disaster happened. These all happen in one season.
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: In addition to the usual stream of creative insult combinations, the single word "omnishambles", which has since been used repeatedly in Real Life.
- Pet the Dog:
- Malcolm proudly claims during the enquiry that he never attacks "civilians" i.e ordinary people who are outside the political sphere. Even Jaime seems to abide by Malcolm's code, as he is instantly polite and apologetic to a cleaner that he bumps into, seconds after chewing out DoSAC.
- Any scene with Malcolm and his assistant, Sam. In particular, Malcolm running to her defense when she's crying. In the book they sign emails to each other as M x and S x.
- There's a nice one at the end of Spinners and Losers, after Glenn has a dramatic nervous breakdown over his uselessness and obsolescence. Malcolm invites Glenn to come interrogate Dan Miller with him, despite not really needing him. Ollie and Terri encourage him too, and Robyn offers Glenn a chocolate bar for blood sugar. Such scenes become almost non-existent as the series progresses.
- Ollie very warmly tells Glenn that he feels proud of him when the latter tells Ollie he plans on standing for Parliament. The moment is one of total sincerity, notwithstanding that Ollies quick to mock when the plan falls through due Glenns association with Nicola.
- Ollie Reeder: He's coming with us. He's a human being, remember? Not the irrelephant man!
- The Peter Principle: Endemic, but Nicola's elevation to Party Leader may be the standout case. Poor Nicola.
- The Plan: The way Malcolm ruthlessly takes his job back is definitely one.
- Portmanteau Couple Name: In-universe example: Robyn is rather distressed by the existence of the term "Glebyn."
- Power Is Sexy: Parodied in-universe when Ollie and his then-girlfriend have some flirty banter about how he's gotten promoted and how the additional power makes him attractive. However, since Ollie is neither particularly powerful nor attractive, and both of them are fully aware of that, they are both clearly just joking. It's actually one of the few times where a genuinely light-hearted joke is made that both sides find funny, in comparison to the cock-ups and humiliations that are the usual source of humour.
- Precision F-Strike:
Julius Nicholson: I can't believe he didn't tell me the fucking date! That is fucking rude, isn't it?
- Played straight with Julius Nicholson. An infuriatingly polite, formal and chipper man who often self-censors himself (e.g. once demanding that Malcolm tell him "what the F-word is going on"), he has to be pushed very far before he'll swear. His first F-Strike occurs during the Prime Minister's sudden, unannounced resignation and it comes across as unusually harsh and bitter:
- Inverted with Malcolm Tucker. When Malcolm stops swearing, it's a sign that he's extremely angry.
- Prematurely Grey-Haired: Malcolm suffered a mental breakdown at the end of the third series. He returns for the fourth one back together, but with a head of steel grey hair. This happened naturally to Capaldi over time, but serendipitously evoked this trope.
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Oxbridge-educated posh boy Olly sometimes tries to put on a humourous Jafakean accent. The effect is ludicrous:"Ah'm from Lincolnshire, wiv all da windmills and da potatoes and da shit..."
- The Problem with Pen Island: Nicola falls victim to a variation when out campaigning for by-election candidate Liam Bentley: when standing in the middle of his poster on TV, the stray letters appeared to spell "I AM BENT".
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Opposition MP Peter Mannion's top aide Phil Smith: "You're such a bumlicker, Phil!"
- Proud to Be a Geek: Phil Smith.Ollie Reeder: This inability to talk without using The Lord of the Rings metaphors is one of the very many reasons we could never be friends.
- Psychotic Smirk: Malcolm gets in quite a few, with several in the final episode of Series 3.
- Put on a Bus: Hugh Abbott goes on holiday to Australia off-screen in between series 2 and the specials. He spends a lot of time on the other end of the phone to Glenn in the specials, but ultimately never returns.
- Terri removing Hugh's nameplate from his office door in the first episode of series 3 may constitute a Bus Crash. "Hugh's out!" early in the episode is the most that is ever spoken of it.
- Rant-Inducing Slight:
Well, that's great. That's fucking great, that's another fucking thing right there: not only have you got a fucking bent husband and a fucking daughter that gets taken to school on a fucking sedan chair, you're also fucking MENTAL! Jesus Christ, see you, you're the fucking omnishambles, that's what you are! You're like that coffee machine, you know- "From Bean To Cup, You Fuck Up!"
- Malcolm Tucker has been getting progressively irritated with Nicola Murray, but most of his rants have sailed just below the "Unstoppable Rage" line. Then Nicola declines to enter a lift with him on the grounds of claustrophobia.
- In Nicola's second episode, Malcolm lets her have it again after a very trying day ends with Nicola accidentally blabbing the details of the latest DoSAC scandal to an on-the-record journalist. For good measure, it was because of Nicola's claustrophobia.FUCK'S SAKE! JESUS... Christ! Well now we've got another... fucking... adjective to add to fuckin' smug and glum, haven't we? Fuckin' RETARDED! Jesus! Do you ever think it would be germane to check who you're talking to? It's a fuckin newspaper office! Not a fuckin' sanatorium for the fuckin' DEAF! Are you so dense? Am I gonna have to run around, slappin' badges on people with a big tick on some and a big cross on others so you know when to shut your gob and when to open it? Jesus Christ... oh but that'd probably confuse you as well, wouldn't it, that'd be to confusin'- you see the cross and go "Oh fuck, X marks the spot! Better tell this person all about the Prime Minister's fuckin' catastrophic erectile dysfunction!" Oh but not to worry, not to worry, you've sent fuckin' Olly over there to deal with it! FUCKIN' OLLY! HE'S A FUCKIN'- HE'S A FUCKIN' KNITTED SCARF, THAT TWAT, HE'S A FUCKIN' BALACLAVA!
- And again in the fifth episode: during the escalting BBC radio fiasco, Malcolm has been trying to deal with the issue with his usual level of sanity- even enjoying a brief moment of triumph when it's revealed that the Opposition has been recieving donations from a sweatshop... only for the whole thing to come crashing down thanks to Stewart Pearson, the radio producers, and a text from "Tim in Ruislip" informing the listeners that his own party recieves donations from the sweatshop too.Malcolm: (deathly calm) That's your fucking career over, right? Okay, you're fucking dead. And those three little words, "Tim in Ruislip", are the fucking nails in your coffin, dear. (Mimes hammering) Tim. In. Ruislip. Tim in fuckin' Ruislip. And as for Tim in fucking... FUCKING fucking fucking Ruislip- he's fucking dead as well, that fucking texting coward! Give me his number. What's his fucking number? Give me the fucking number of Tim in Ruislip! If you don't give me his fucking number, do you know what I'm gonna have to do? I'm gonna have to fucking go to fucking Ruislip and fucking snap the thumb and forefinger off of every single person I see who I think resembles the kind of wanker that would be walking around in this day and fucking age with a name like fucking Tim! How do you think that sounds, huh?
Stewart: Quite, quite mad.
- Real Life Writes the Plot:
- Hugh Abbot left the department because his actor Chris Langham went to prison; see below in Role-Ending Misdemeanor.
- Nicola Murray is claustrophobic and gets nauseous at the thought of using a lift, which leaves her colleagues perturbed and slightly amused. Actor Rebecca Front is a Real Life claustrophobe.
- Real Men Cook: Malcolm can cook ghee. Ollie can't manage lamb shanks. Make of this what you will...
- Real Men Wear Pink: At work Malcolm seems assured enough of his own sexuality to be entirely comfortable flirting with men, while the scenes in Malcolm's house show him to have pride in his cooking skills and an eye for interior design. He also got rather alarmed at the thought of journalists damaging his hedge. However he gains the most pink points for coming out with the wonderfully fey "DON'T TOUCH THAT SCARF, THAT'S PAUL SMITH!". During a fight. He is also played by a Real Life Real Man Who Wears Pink.
- Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: The series emphasises that it isn't The West Wing with all the stumbling, repetition, hesitation, waffling, dragging out speech, people talking over and interrupting each other mentioned in the description. Some of the more driven and/or sociopathic characters such as Malcolm Tucker avert it to some degree, though.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Word of God claims that Whitehall insiders say there's not enough swearing to be realistic.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
Malcolm: Jesus H Fucking Corbett. Do you honestly think — do you honestly believe that, as a minister, you can get away with that? You are saying that all your local state schools, all the schools that this government has drastically improved are knife-addled rapesheds and that's not a big story? For fuck's sake! Sort it, or abort it.
- Nicola Murray's first day starts going downhill when she finds herself on the receiving end of one of these speeches from Malcolm Tucker — specifically, when he learns that she's supporting the improvement of state schools while sending her daughter to a private school.
Nicola: Let's get this clear: my family is off limits! All right? This job is not gonna get anywhere near my husband or my kids — it just doesn't —
Malcolm: Of course it fucking does; as per the wee barcode and the serial number under your right armpit, you are now built and owned by the state, and you are under the spotlight twenty-four hours a day, darling. You know what you are? You're a fucking human dartboard, and Eric fucking Bristow's on the oche, flingin' a million darts made of human shit right at you: can you take that? CAN YOU?
Nicola: Okay, look, you — the all-swearing eye — you didn't even know how many kids I had, you had to ask me! So who on earth in the press is going to even know or care?
Malcolm: Do you remember The Big Breakfast? Do you remember that program? You remember how Chris Evans started that, you know how that was a big success? And then they had that guy, Johnny Vaughan, you remember him? Everybody loved him — fuck knows why, but they loved him. Do you know what this is, here? This here is series ten of The Big Breakfast, and you're the fucking dinner lady that they have asked to come and present the show. The reason I didn't know about you and your children is 'cause you were so low down on the list of candidates for this job, I didn't even have the chance to look into you. (Beat) So low. Waaaaaaaaaay way way way way way way way... low. You are now being scrutinized for what you wear and what you say: for your hair, your shoes, your fucking earrings, your fucking cleavage, and your dress — which, by the way, is way too loud.
Nicola: Too loud?
Malcolm: Yeah, I'm getting fuckin' tinnitus, here. (Beat) Look, your crooked husband I can make go away... but your crooked husband, combined with you being worried about your underaged daughter coming home up the duff from some truanting bastard, I cannot. She goes to the comp.
- An episode later, Nicola fucks up: her department has lost seven months worth of files, nobody has any idea where the backup went, Nicola has succeeded in making herself look like a Soap Box Sadie Granola Girl in a conference with the press, and ultimately ended up revealing the scandal about the lost files to an on-the-record journalist. And naturally, Malcolm lets her have it:Malcolm: I just wanted to say to you, by way of introductory remarks, that I'm extremely miffed about today's events, and in my quest to try to make you understand the level of my unhappiness, I'm likely to use an awful lot of what we would call violent sexual imagery, and I just wanted to check that neither of you would be terribly offended by that.
Nicola: I could actually do without the theatrics, I think, Malcolm —
Malcolm: Enough. E-fucking-nough. You need to learn to shut your fucking cave. Right? Today, you have laid your first big fat egg of solid fuck. You took the data loss media strategy, and you ate it with a lump of E coli, and then you sprayed it out of your arse at three hundred miles per hour.
Nicola: I simply made a mistake —
Malcolm: You got "on the record" and "off the record" fuckin' mixed up! What would have happened if, like, George Martin had done that? We'd have no fucking Beatles, that's what. Now, I don't give a fuck about that, I've had to fuckin' sit next to Paul McCartney at fuckin' Checkers.
Nicola: The data loss wasn't my fault.
Malcolm: Fine, yeah, but I tell you what, it came out fuckin' pretty fast once you were in there, didn't it? Which makes me wonder, should I just go and talk to the boss? Should I go and tell him "I don't think she's up to the job"?
Nicola: You said yourself that if the PM sacks me after a week, it looks like he's fucked up!
Malcolm: Yeah, but that was before, when your biggest problem was a fucking shit pun in a newspaper and a face like Dot Cotton lickin' piss off a nettle!
Nicola: Okay, I messed up! Right? I messed up! But I will, from now on, listen to every bit of advice you give me: I'll go on Question Time wearing a push-up bra and a fez, I'll do the Hustings on stilts if that is what you tell me the strategy is, because you know about that stuff, Malcolm, I know that. It's just I've got things I want to do, alright.
Malcolm: 'Course you do, mate. Montessori fuckin' Rockinghorses or something. The Mail have the motherload on this, so that means that there is a way through this for us, but it entails you, M'dear, eating a complete concrete mixer full of humble pie.
- In a later episode, one of the more seriously dramatic ones, someone who is totally unconnected to politics (and is indeed very sympathetic and admirable) has just had his career ruined thanks to Nicola. Notably, even Malcolm feels bad about this, and is trying (not particularly successfully) to be genuinely gentle and nice about it. While Nicola's trying not to break down with guilt, Malcolm tells her that this PR clusterfuck is a war with the Opposition, so she's going to have to fight. She responds with a short, but very accurate, rant about how all this trouble (plus virtually every other thing that's gone wrong in the series,) is the result of people like Malcolm being obsessed with fighting and power, and that this attitude is the reason people despise politics so much. Unfortunately, Malcolm isn't even vaguely impressed; after telling her to "Spare me your psycho-fanny" and telling her a series of lies about how the opposition are mocking her misfortune, he makes her an offer that makes her fling her priciples to the wind and turn the aforementioned PR clusterfuck into a war with the opposition.
- In Series 4, Nicola has ended up becoming Leader of the Opposition between seasons. However, when it turns out that she's about the weakest possible leader the party could have been saddled with, Malcolm orchestrates a scheme to force her out of the job. And as a final insult to injury, when Nicola tries to suck up to the new Opposition Leader, Malcom delivers one last magnificent speech explaining just how little standing she has.Malcolm: You are not a grandee, you are a fucking "blandee". No-one knew what the fuck you stood for. Political fucking mist! No substance, no weight. You've got all the charm of a rotting teddy bear by a graveside. And by the way, women fucking hate you! I can show you the polling: they think you come across as a jittery mother at a wedding. The best thing you ever did in your flat-lining non-leadership was call for an inquiry, because it will fuck the government and it will fuck you. Now, please, just fuck off back to your home, you headless frump, and prepare for your column in Grazia.
Nicola: Okay... you... well... you just need to know that you have absolutely... fucking done it now, Malcolm, because you are about to find out what it feels like to have me pissing into your tent!
Malcolm: Well, you know what? Your piss will never fuckin' make it into my tent, because by some unforseen Nicola Murray-shaped fiasco — like every fuckin' Nicola-Murray-shaped fiasco I've had to deal with for the last two years — you'll end up blowing your own fuckin' stream into your own fuckin' face! There's your golden handshake!
- Glenn's quitting scene in the final episode comes complete with an epic one that calls out everyone in the Do SAC department:Glenn Cullen: Come on out everyone! Tally-ho! COME ON, BRING OUT YOUR FUCKING DEAD! Right, everybody listen, I've got an announcement to make! [...] Morally, this department is in the gutter! [...] You, Fergus, when you asked me to join you, all you had was your principles, but over the last two years, you've bent like a human fucking palm tree, swaying to the guff of these six-toed, born-to-rule, pony-fuckers! [...] Oh! Adam, you're waiting for your turn! Oh no! I remember, it's your turn right now! You are simply the most loathsome human being I have ever met! You were so well suited at The Mail, it's a shame you came over here! Do you know what, I hate you both! Tweedle-twat and Tweedle-prick! You contribute absolutely nothing to the world so THANK FUCKING GOD YOU HAVE NO POWER! [...] And Peter, it's been dreadful. I hope your cock falls off. Phil, do you know what you are? You're like an eight-year-old trapped in a twelve-year-old's body! [...] And Emma — Emma, I'm sorry, you're just a standard issue, insipid posh bitch. That's it! Terri? I don't think I've ever met someone so proud and yet quite so useless. But I do have to thank you, because I have managed to stay in shape, purely though the energy I spend in pitying you every day! Fuck you all up the wrong 'un! Ta-ta! Bye-bye!
- Refuge in Audacity: During an inquiry into politicians illegally leaking information to the media, Malcolm is called as a witness and uses the opportunity to blatantly leak information to the investigators and the press to score political points.
- Rich Bitch: Emma Messingert. In fact, when Glenn Cullen decides to resign and delivers his extremely bitter "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the entire department, he specifically singles Emma out as a "standard-issue insipid posh bitch."
- Right Hand Vs Left Hand: The series features endless disasters that could have been avoided if the various participants were willing to coordinate properly, (though admittedly things progress/degenerate so fast in their world that they often simply don't have time for anything but off-the-cuff responses,) but Season 4 has more than the previous ones because half of its time is spent with the coalition government. This latter case is made even worse than usual cases of this trope by the fact that the two ministers hate each other, follow violently opposing party principles, are constantly trying to score political points for their own party (usually at the expense of the other,) and the person who is meant to be liaising between them is a particularly unhelpful Obstructive Bureaucrat.
- Ripped from the Headlines: Regularly inverted. The series has become infamous for predicting real life political policies and gaffes. However, played straight in Series 4 with the Goolding Inquiry, which is largely based off of the recent Leveson Inquiry which came as a result of the Phone Hacking Scandal.
- Rousing Speech:
- Jamie gives this one to Cliff Lawton:Jamie McDonald: You are not a stalking horse! You are the real thing! And we are going to RAM you up Tom's arse so hard that he has to shit out of his lying mouth!
Cliff Lawton: (beat) It's not a very nice image really, but, um, very motivating.
- In the same episode, it's a source of some frustration to Jamie that Cliff's own attempts at such a speech to announce that He's Back and standing for the leadership of the party just end up becoming endless moaning and whining about how Malcolm Tucker fired him from DoSAC.
- Malcolm and The Fucker both deliver Patton-style pep talk speeches to their underlings at the climax of season three. Malcolm's is met with rousing applause and celebration, while The Fucker's ends in silence and gloom. Compare them yourself:Malcolm Tucker: I know what people say to you right. They say: "We hate you. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. Everybody hates you." So fucking what? Some people, they just fucking love to hate. Some people, they'd fucking walk around the fucking Garden of Eden, fucking moaning about the lack of fucking mobile reception! These are the kind of fucks who watched Mandela, fucking Nelson Mandela, walk to freedom... and said "is Diagnosis: Murder not on the other side?" So we fucking forget about them. JB, Cal Richards, and their hordes of fucking robots - they're coming over the hill. And all you have to do now is bend down, pick up any fucking weapon—AND TWAT THE FUCKERY OUT OF THEM! LET'S GET OUT THERE, AND LET'S FUCKING KILL THEM! LET'S SET FIRE TO TEARS! LET'S GO!
Cal "The Fucker" Richards: This government's run this country into the ground—this used to be a green, and pleasant land, now... it's the colour of the fucking BBC weather map. It looks like anaemic dogshit. This government is maimed, but it can't be shamed—IT. WILL. BE. FUCKED! Okay, let's get going...what do I call for an outside line? Is it nine, because that's what it is everywhere else?
- Jamie gives this one to Cliff Lawton:
- Sad Clown: Malcolm started simply as highly-strung and terrifyingly funny, but his characterization eventually developed into this as the series progressed. It soon becomes apparent that jokes come out of him constantly in all situations, he doesn't care whether or not they make people laugh, and it's entirely a cover for a yawning pit of stress and existential horror.
- Sadist Show: The show focuses on dirty cowards and a near Villain Protagonist. The characters who aren't self-serving and malicious are hideously incompetent, and they all inhabit a realm where idealism goes to die. Oh, and it's about politics. But we repeat ourselves.
- Scandalgate: Flatgate, despite Terri pointing out that Notting Hill-Gate would be a lot cleverer.
- Serial Escalation: How much darker can satire get? How much harder can Malcolm's veins throb? How much more baroque can the swearing get? How much more shit can we pile on every single character?
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness:
Julius Nicholson: Well, I will speak to whomsoever I need to speak to, holiday or no holiday.Malcolm Tucker: Where do you learn to speak like that? Is there a special school that only you and Brian Sewell go to?
- Posh and over-polite Julius Nicholson:
- Stewart Pearson is a political media strategist, who seems to have absolutely no communication skills, and whose speech consists entirely of buzzwords and nonsense. In the penultimate episode, it's revealed that he isn't doing this on purpose, he really thinks he's speaking in plain English, and using simple words and clear phrases requires real physical effort on his part.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Played for Laughs in "The Rise of the Nutters". The Prime Minister had announced his resignation at the end of the previous episode and an expected successor was being prepared to be nominated in his place...only for rumours that another politician was planning to run for the leadership himself and has apparently gone into hiding, which created a whole tornado of counter-rumours, other possible leadership contenders, and general chaos as the characters try to maneuver themselves into positions of power, manipulate events to their personal advantage, or just generally try to figure out what the hell is going on. Finally, at the end of a sleepless night of chaos for all the characters, the politician who's rumoured leadership bid caused all the trouble has finally been tracked down... only to reveal that he privately assured the expected successor that he had his full support and isn't planning a leadership bid at all, rendering all the flapping about utterly pointless. And to add insult to injury, he'd spent the night asleep in bed at his home, and could have been found there at any time had anyone actually checked.
- Ship Sinking: As a political satire, the series isn't exactly famous for exploring personal relationships, yet the tensions between Nicola Murray and Malcolm Tucker in Series 3 led to shipping by many fans. In series 4, however, Nicola Murray goes from a minister to Opposition Leader, where she is awful. The ship-sinking happens when Malcolm's irritation with Nicola messing up (yet still ultimately appreciating her work as a minister) is replaced with utter contempt and hatred for her incompetence dooming the entire party, and culminates in him orchestrating her political downfall. It is VERY clear that the love/hate relationship between the two is now just hate.
- Shipper on Deck: Ollie tries to do this with Peter Mannion and Terri Coverley. It sucks, hard.
- During a live radio debate the studio receives a text from "Tina from Weymouth".
- A Shout-Out to The West Wing acknowledges the two shows' polar opposite depictions of politics:Ollie: (trying to rewrite an entire speech in an hour) It's The West Wing!
Nicola: You're not Josh, Ollie, just write the fucking speech.
Ollie: (muttering) I fucking am Josh...
- Their shout-out is off, as Sam and Toby, not Josh, are The West Wing speechwriters.
- A deleted scene from the Specials reveals Peter Mannion's wife's dowdy appearance has been mocked on Have I Got News for You. Presumably not in any of the episodes that featured Rebecca Front, Chris Addison, or Miles Jupp.
- In the second episode of series one, Malcolm is testing the appartment's zeitgeist and asks "Who's the only gay in the village!?"Malcolm Tucker: I just keep getting these terrible images flashing in my head, you know, of you being stabbed repeatedly in the face, or of you in a coma, on a life support machine, dreaming of being a gay policeman in the 1970s...
- Malcolm again: "Bodie, Doyle, you go round the back!" Malcolm seems to be a fan of shows set in The '70s.
- One of Stewart Pearson's confuses Peter Mannion:Stewart Pearson: Are you an Ameri''can'', or an Ameri''can't'', Peter?
Peter Mannion: ...What does that mean? That doesn't mean anything, it's not even a word!
- The party Fergus belongs to is referred to as The Inbetweeners.
- During The radio debacle in 3.5 Peter goes on a 4th wall bending rant about being in "I seem to have wandered into some 1970s Ray Cooney Farce is the vicar going to come around with Robin Askwith?" These Farces were hugely influential on UK comedy notably Fawlty Towers and by some extension The Thick of It itself.
- Shown Their Work: The series displays a very extensive and realistic documentation of the inner workings of the offices of Whitehall, and has many fictional counterparts for real politicians. Politicians themselves have commented on the realism, noting that the only thing unrealistic about it is the show's infamous amount of profanity. In real life, it's worse.
- Shrouded in Myth: Cal Richards. "The Fucker, he comin'. He comin' to your town."
- Silver Fox: Adam. Apparently he's aware of it, too; he says he entered politics "for the pussy." Malcolm Tucker in the later seasons counts too. Neither is very nice, but that doesn't seem to faze their following.
- Sir Swearsalot: Malcolm Tucker is robustly famous/infamous for being a man whose favorite word started with a capital "F" and cropped up in nearly every sentence he spoke.note His second-favorite word starts with a "C", so much so that when Peter Capaldi did a PSA for Macmillan in-character, he said he was talking "about the big C, and not my usual big C!"
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis:
- Peter and Stewart
- Phil and Ollie in the Specials and Series 3, though as of Series 4, Adam seems to be Phil's new worst enemy. (Presumably it's handier for Phil, having his enemy in the office.) Also, when Adam was a journalist, he once decreed to Ollie that he was "going to spend the rest of my life dedicated to persecuting you in the most poisonous vendetta ever known in the British media!" It's like a Love Triangle for people who hate each other. Which would be a Hate Triangle, presumably.
- Oddly enough, Malcolm doesn't appear to have one, as basically everyone is his enemy. However, he reserves a particular hatred for Steve Fleming, and Fleming for him.
- Slave to PR: The department, and pretty much the entire Government and Opposition.
- Sleazy Politician: A pretty huge aversion when you think about it. Hugh Abbot is an aversion in the manner of Yes, Minister as a Hacker-like self-serving coward. Nicola is also not at all sleazy. Incompetent and self-serving, but not sleazy. Peter Mannion isn't even particularly incompetent, although he makes up for that by being a bit backwards; nevertheless, the exact opposite of sleazy. Stewart and Malcolm are the sleaziest of the lot, with Stewart refusing to honour the idea that families are off-limits and Malcolm's constant near-villainous antics, but they are appointed Communications Directors and Press Secretaries, not, technically, politicians.
- This is hinted at in Peter Mannion's backstory, in which he had an affair with his housemaid which ended up producing a son. Though it is downplayed, in that this aspect of Peter's life is clearly long in the past by the time he appears on the series. Coupled with, well, compared to what what some of his contemporaries were getting up to it's downright tame.
- Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: Played with in the contrast between the unglamorous offices of DoSAC and the modern glass-and-chrome design of Opposition HQ. With all of the characters being slaves to PR, there is also much debate about how shiny the MPs are allowed to look in public, under the guidance of the parties' spin doctors:Malcolm Tucker: "People don't like their politicians to be comfortable. They don't like you having expenses, they don't like you being paid, they'd rather you lived in a fucking cave."Stewart Pearson "...and a Ted Baker suit. We were going to go for Vivienne Westwood or Paul Smith but it was just too expensive"
- Slip into Something More Comfortable: Parodied by Malcolm Tucker: "I'd rather slip into something a bit more comfortable like a fuckin' coma..."
- Small Name, Big Ego: Abounds, as this is a show about politics:
- A particularly egregious example is John Duggan who says:John Duggan: "I am the busiest man in politics. One of the three main reasons my marriage broke up."
- Ben Swain, who has written a book about "getting ahead in politics" titled "It's The Everything, Stupid". One wonders what on earth he would know on the subject.
- Terri views herself as detached, professional and the only sane woman in the department, and also feels qualified to offer everyone around her relationship advice at the drop of a hat. She is viewed by everyone else as thoroughly annoying and useless but too much trouble to fire.Terri Coverly: I'm just going to take my media hat off...
Nicola Murray: I honestly never thought you had one.
- There is also something of a gulf between Ollie's opinion of himself and his abilities and everyone else's opinion of him and his abilities.
- Averted by Malcolm, who actually is as important and clever as he thinks he is.
- Cliff Lawton doesn't get a lot of screen time, but it's no doubt an Establishing Character Moment when in the middle of being sacked by Malcolm, he tries to insist Malcolm call him "Minister".Malcolm: Get used to Cliff.
- A particularly egregious example is John Duggan who says:
- Smoking Is Glamorous: Terri tries to invoke this when flirting with Peter Mannion. Unfortunately for her, she's so inept, he doesn't notice. This is not surprising as Terri is inept at everything.
- Smug Snake: Julius Nicholson. "I'm the new Che Guevara. I just need a new moustache and some laser correction eye treatment."
- Nick Hanway is a bit too convinced that he's headed for the upper echelons of government, and spends most of Spinners and Losers gleefully taking credit for Malcolm's ideas. It proves to be his downfall.
- Steve Fleming, Malcolm's elected arch-nemesis, but with about a millionth of the charm.
- Some of My Best Friends Are X:
- Subverted briefly with Ben Swain at the end of "Spinners And Losers"; he says "one of my best friends is an Asian" but also knows, as does Ollie, that saying that makes him sound like a racist. Made worse by the fact that the offended person wasn't Asian.
- When Peter Mannion is told to go after "fat cats" he complains that some of his best friends are money-grabbing wankers.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Over the three series Malcolm's enemies have become progressively more powerful, and his conflicts with them have become more interesting as a result. In the first series Malcolm only had to contend with incompetent politicians and civil servants. By the third he had gained a genuinely powerful Arch-Enemy.
- Spanner in the Works: "Do you know what it's like to clean up your own mother's piss?"
- Spell My Name with an "S": Early episodes credit Chris Addison as playing "Olly Reeder", which is later changed to "Oliver Reeder", while The Missing DoSAC Files has him sign himself as Ollie.
- Toyed with in the first episode of Series 3, where he offers that he's 'Oliver' or 'Ollie' as Nicola prefers; when she leans toward 'Oliver', he then insists on 'Ollie' anyway.
- Spiritual Antithesis: The series can perhaps best be described as "The West Wing's evil British twin". Both shows have essentially the same premise, as they're both political Dramedies detailing the day-to-day struggles of the frequently overlooked staffers in the ranks of government, but they're as far apart from one another on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism as it's possible to be. The West Wing is a famously optimistic portrayal of American politics focusing on smart, idealistic young staffers trying to reconcile their principles with political realities; The Thick of It is a cynical portrayal of British politics focusing on morally bankrupt people who will do absolutely anything to get ahead. The West Wing gives us an idealized American President in Josiah "Jed" Bartlet, a fearless intellectual who stands by his ideals at any cost; The Thick of It never even shows us the British Prime Minister, but makes it clear that he's an unreliable Slave to PR with no real power in the grand scheme of government.
- Interestingly, The West Wing almost used the same technique in its portrayal of the President: he originally wasn't supposed to be shown at all, then Aaron Sorkin decided that he should be a recurring character (with about three to four appearances per season), then he was made the show's protagonist after Martin Sheen unexpectedly stole the show in the pilot episode. If the writers of The West Wing had gone ahead with their original plan, the two shows would be even more similar.
- Spiritual Successor: To Yes, Minister.
- Spot of Tea:
- Glenn seems spend half his time in Series 4 offering to make tea for people. It doesn't get him any love or respect. Indeed, people use it as an excuse to sidle out of the room when he's not looking. Poor Glenn.
- Making tea seems to be Robyn's entire purpose in life, even though her job title is Senior Press Officer. We find out in S4E6 she is extremely miffed about this.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Malcolm from the Specials onwards. Justified to a large extent in that he was one of the two original main characters, and since the other one suddenly exited the series off-screen with nothing but a Handwave (see Role-Ending Misdemeanor on the main page) focus was naturally shifted to him, even if the show was technically re-tooled as more of an ensemble piece following Hugh's departure.
- Stalker with a Crush: Terri to Peter.Peter Mannion: Christ, she's actually a bit creepy, it looks as if she's going to launch herself at us at any second.
- The Starscream:
- Ollie Reeder with his many attempts to enter the "political fuckoffosphere". Actually works, as by the end of the series, he's become this to Malcolm.
- Defied with Jamie: Malcolm specifically chose a Bastard Understudy too batshit to pull off a successful betrayal. Eventually he does make a rather pathetic attempt, which fails horribly.
- Dan Miller MP is this trope. While the "brushed-aluminium cyberprick" never openly admits it, everyone knows he has designs on being the Party leader.
- In Series 4, Malcolm himself also becomes this, as he teams up with Dan Miller against Nicola Murray, now Leader of the Opposition, despite outwardly still supporting her.
- In the third episode of Series 4, Fergus and Adam actively try to undermine Peter Mannion in the wake of Mr. Tickel's suicide.
- Stay in the Kitchen: "Emma, the men are talking." (Unfortunately for Phil, Stewart actually prefers Emma.)
- Stealth Insult:
- "I'm not talking above you. Neither am I talking down to you." Perhaps Malcolm's only foray into Gentleman Snarker territory.
- Another foray: "I know that these are hard times for print journalists, yeah? I mean, I read that on the internet..."
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: Surprisingly little, considering how much time the characters do spend shouting, but Malcolm Tucker does provide an amusing Bait-and-Switch when asked by a nameless extra to stop cursing so much:
- Employee: [Interrupting a shouting match between Malcolm and the DoSAC Minister's office] Excuse me, could you stop swearing?
Malcolm: Oh, I'm terribly sorry. You won't hear any more swearing from us, you MASSIVE! GAY! SHITE! FUCK OFF!
They're running about your fucking flat, I fucking told you about that. Why the fuck did you not tell me about it YOU STUPID CUNT! How am I supposed to do my job if I don't know WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?! YOU'RE A FUCKING PRICK! AN ABSOLUTE CUNT, DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?
- Arguably one of the most spectacular is the dressing-down of Hugh Abbot outside the goldfish bowl. Because there's a journalist in said conference room, Malcolm is trying to speak as quietly as possible so nothing ends up on the record, but he can't quite stop his anger at Hugh from boiling over; as such, half the conversation is conducted in deathly-quiet murmuring rendered almost inaudible by the conference room windows, and the other half, well...
- Surrounded by Idiots: Malcolm is the only character who seems competent at his job. His hapless colleagues never seem to learn that they ignore his advice at their peril, and often leave him to mop up the ensuing hurricanes of piss.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Nicola Murray replacing Hugh Abbot. Her only points of difference with her predecessor are that she's a woman, and that she's not best friends with her main ministerial advisor. This is entirely justified, as the premise of the show is that all politicians are the same.
- The Svengali: Malcolm Tucker fits the trope perfectly, although instead of mentoring a specific person like this, he obsessively controls his entire Party. His Villainous Breakdown in Series 4 even involves him screaming at someone objecting to his plan, because he is doing it all for the Party, and no-one should dare ever question what he would do for the Party.
- Took a Level in Badass: Season 4 has several characters suddenly become much more competent. Emma has risen from being Phil's equal to a level where she can openly bark at Stewart and Peter, and, much to his own surprise, Ollie becomes Malcolm's new dragon, and actually snarks back and argues with him.
- Take That!:
Jamie: You're the shittest James Bond ever! You're David fucking Niven!
- The season 3 episode in which Nicola and Peter are interviewed by Richard Bacon contains references to two other Five Live broadcasters, Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode. The reference to Kermode is only an off-hand, blink-and-you'll-miss-it comment about his supposedly "massive" hands by Ollie, but it seems to have taken on a memetic life of its own around Kermode.
- The show takes fairly regular potshots at Top Gear (UK), especially Phil being disparagingly compared to James May and Malcolm saying Richard Hammond needs a punch in the face. In another episode, Malcolm says that he hates Steve Fleming "as much as James May presumably hates himself."
- Jamie excoriates Ollie after he not only fails to find out opposition secrets from Emma, but actually spills government secrets to her:
- Team Dad: Malcolm Tucker is Her Majesty's Government's Team Dad. The scariest, most abusive one imaginable."Never mind what Mummy says, just do what Daddy says"
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Virtually every character seems to think they're the lone isle of sanity in a sea of idiots, blowhards and knobheads. This is especially evident with the coalition in Series 4, where it's common knowledge that the two parties hate each other despite their attempts to present a united front:Adam: "Do you think we could just pretend to behave like compassionate professions in control? Just for once?"
- 10-Minute Retirement: Malcolm gets a call from Julius Nicholson at the 0:8:20 mark of S3E08. And then, at 0:9:31, "Would you be prepared to come back?", making this trope almost literal from the audience's perspective.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: Played for Laughs.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Fergus and Adam.
- Those Two Guys: Glenn and Ollie fulfill this role as secondary aides to the central protagonist (initially Hugh, later Nicola). They almost always appear together and banter off one another, with an older/younger contrast.
- In season four, they are almost directly replaced by Fergus Williams MP and his special advisor Adam Kenyon, who are rarely seen apart from each other. Glenn and Ollie do reunite in the hospital in Episode 4, however.
- Title-Only Opening
- Tough Room: While the series does use Actually Pretty Funny quite a lot, too—it's set in a very aggressive environment where being funnier than everyone around you is both a survival strategy and proof of dominance—it's worth pointing out that even characters treated by everyone else as stupid (like Manchild Phil) or annoying (Beleaguered Bureaucrat Terri) are all far, far funnier, wittier and quicker than anyone could possibly be in real life. This comes under Acceptable Breaks from Reality in that these characterizations are expressed instead by the quality of their observations, rather than not having them make them (for instance, the other Coalition politicians disgustedly remark that all of Phil's clever references and comparisons are to fiction, usually fantasy fiction (The Lord of the Rings), fiction aimed at children (Doctor Who), or both (Harry Potter). It's also played within that even though Malcolm is acknowledged in-universe as an incredibly funny person, most other characters are far too terrified of him to dare laugh at anything he does most of the time.
- There's one scene where the name of Ollie's favourite film temporarily slips Malcolm's mind and so he describes it as "the one about the fucking hairdresser, the space hairdresser and the cowboy. He's got a tinfoil pal and a pedal bin. His father's a robot and he's fuckin' fucked his sister. LEGO, they're all made of fucking LEGO." Even after Ollie figures out what the film is (Star Wars), he reacts with bewilderment and mild annoyance instead of the hysterical laughter this would more likely cause.
- Truth in Television:
- The two specials tied in with Tony Blair's resignation.
- The swearing is apparently authentic: there are several Whitehall insiders among the crew, including writer Jesse Armstrong and adviser Martin Sixsmith. Armando Iannucci is often approached by Whitehall staffers who tell him the reality is even worse than they imagine.
- A Whitehaller approached Rebecca Front after S4E02 and told her "Shad Cab? Exactly like that."
- Tuckerization: On the series one DVD commentary the character names are discussed, and it emerges that several of them came from writer Jesse Armstrong's five-a-side football team. These Tuckerizations include... Malcolm Tucker.
- Turn in Your Badge: "Actually I'm gonna need that, that's an official Blackberry..."
- Two of Your Earth Minutes: Stewart asks his colleagues for "thirty of your Earth seconds" before making an announcement. Though strictly speaking Stewart's not an alien, just an obnoxious PR hack.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm:
- Steve Fleming. At first his colleagues are happy to see the back of Malcolm Tucker but when they realize how creepy, charmless and bad-tempered his replacement is they decide they want their jerk to come back from his 10-Minute Retirement.
- Cal "The Fucker" Richards, who replaces Stewart Pearson as Opposition campaign manager in the Season Three finale. His openly psychotic demeanor terrifies everyone, even the usually unflappable Peter Mannion. Fortunately Cal's only around for one episode, but things can't have been pleasant.
- Ultimate Job Security:
- Jamie. How someone this close to being feral was even allowed into Number 10 is never explained.
- As a member of Her Majesty's Civil Service, Terri is practically unsackable. This is Truth in Television: civil servants aren't impossible to sack, but nearly so; troublesome, ineffective or surplus civil servants tend to be Kicked Upstairs or persuaded to take voluntary redundancy. This is taken to extremes in the first episode of the fourth series, where she deliberately tries to get herself fires and still manages to keep her job.Glenn Cullen: You've got a contract! You're on the last chopper out of Saigon, I'm having it up the arse with Ho Chi Minh!
- Robyn is pretty useless but her job security will be assured for as long as Glenn is in charge of sacking people.
- Undying Loyalty: Sam to Malcolm. She stays on as his PA for at least the eight-year run of the show, during which every other professional relationship and alliance portrayed within the series is destroyed completely at least once. This includes her crossing over into opposition with him after his party loses the election and, well, just generally putting up with Malcolm for all that time...
- And seemingly Malcolm back to Sam, as well, based on how he reacted to her crying after his sacking.
- The Unfettered: Malcolm keeps his Party in power by any means necessary: blackmail, physical threats, and violence are all in his arsenal. Total lack of scruples is a job requirement, with his more idealistic opposite number, Stewart Pearson, playing just as dirty as him.
- Unfortunate Names: "Elvis... sorry, Cliff!" Poor Cliff Lawton's parents probably didn't envisage their son going into politics.
- Mr. Tickel, sometimes pronounced "Tickle". Mr. Men jokes ensue.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension:
- There's a lot between Malcolm Tucker and Niccola Murray. Her poor relationship with her husband is alluded to frequently, whereas he sees her a lot to deal with the latest PR disaster, and shifts between giving her truly Olympian bollockings for some of them and showing an uncharacteristic level of sympathy for others.
- Emma and Phil also, with their childish verbal slanging matches they have against each other in almost every episode. The sexual tension is lampshaded by several different characters. Glenn even refers to them as "Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips".
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Everyone. The two primary ministers, Hugh Abbott in Series 1 and Nicola Murray in Series 3, actually tend to be more sympathetic due to them being basically good people broken over time by the political machine.
- Unwanted Assistance: In retrospect, Malcolm's idea of turning Duggan's scrotum into a muppet and using it as the party mouthpiece would have worked a whole lot better than allowing Duggan to continue helping them, if only because the muppet might be able to function more effectively.
- Unwitting Pawn: Nick Hanway. The spin doctor is convinced that the appointment of a new Prime Minister will also require a new chief spin doctor, but he seriously underestimates Malcolm Tucker...
- Vast Bureaucracy
- Vetinari Job Security: Malcolm has worked very hard to put himself in this position, though his grip on things is slipping in series three. However, when he's fired, we get glimpses of a government without Malcolm: Steve Fleming is creeping around being a creepy creep and scaring everyone, a handful of cabinet ministers revolt and Dan Miller's cabal apparently see it as an opportunity to launch a leadership bid. Needless to say, Malcolm is quickly called back.Malcolm: I am the heart. I am the ventricles!
- Villain Has a Point: "There's no happiness without order" is a Nazi quote, but according to Phil, it "nonetheless stands the test of time."
- Villainous Breakdown:
- "I'M NOT FUCKING WORRIED, MATE! Fuck him-fuck-him-fuck-him-FUCK HIM!"
- "I AM GOING TO JOIN DAN MILLER'S TEAM, AND WE ARE GOING TO TAKE YOU DOWN! WE ARE GOING TO TAKE YOU DOWN TO FUNKY TOWN! FUNKY TOWN CENTRE, HERE YOU COME! CHOO-FUCKING-CHOO!"
- Episode 3 of Series 4 sees Stewart howl in fury, smash a phone and collapse onto the floor when he finds out about the final disaster in what has been a really bad day.
- Episode 4.06 sees Malcolm undergoing one right in the middle of the Inquiry, starting with a rant on how everyone leaks not just in the government but all over the country, then bitterly declaring that everything about the culture of spin and leaking has been 'laid on his doorstep' because of who he is and 'you can't arrest a country'...and saying he's 'finished anyway' before quietly getting up and leaving.
- Villainous BSoD: Malcolm is finally driven to one in series 3: "I USED TO BE THE FUCKIN' PHARAOH!"
- Violent Glaswegian:
- Malcolm and Jamie epitomise this trope. Malcolm gets called the "Gorbals Goebbels", suggesting he came from a rough part of Glasgow. Jamie is actually from Motherwell.
- "Just because you two were raised by Scotch wolves." This show proves that threats sound more menacing in Glaswegian. Ironically, Paul Higgins (who plays Jamie) hates this trope.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Ollie and Glenn developed shades of this as of Series 3. Seems to have been genuine in at least one direction; Glenn's excoriation of Ollie's character to the Inquiry after he's stabbed Glenn in the back reveals a sense of utter betrayal.
- Volatile Second Tier Position:
- The Minister for the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship. Gathering together all the miscellaneous tasks that no other department wants to deal with, DoSaC's rather nebulous status means that it gets the least funding and its minister wields almost zero influence - or as one put it, "as much real power as those twats who sit either side of Alan Sugar." Add to that a reputation for screwing up absolutely everything it touches, and by series 3, nobody wants to assume leadership of DoSaC in case it ends up doing the same to their careers, to the point that only the most cowardly, naive or obscure ministers can be pressured into it... a fact that doesn't exactly help their popular image. Worse still, career damage is as inevitable as feared: of all the heads of the department encountered on the show, only one ever managed ascended to higher office, namely Leader of the Opposition - and that was only due to a technicality. Finally, DoSaC's gaffe-prone nature has resulted in a comparatively High Turnover Rate among its ministers: Cliff Lawton's eighteen-month tenure was considered "a good innings" by department standards!
- Generally speaking, being The Dragon to a minister is a very tricky proposition. Sure, there's the chance of using your boss as a springboard into "the political fuckoffosphere," but that level of closeness comes with a worrying array of hazards. Among other things, if you've hitched your horse too closely to a specific minister, your career might end up permanently stalled if they're forced off the job - as is the case with Glenn Clullen; they might end up taking you down with them into disrepute or failure - as was the case with Ollie during "Spinners And Losers"; you can even be used as a scapegoat in order to take the heat off the minister.
- Volleying Insults: Surprisingly, the series doesn't have as many as you'd think. Arguments frequently occur, but they're usually about something that needs to be dealt with quickly and so seldom become simple insult contests. Also, the fact that most of the arguments involve Malcolm Tucker, who can steamroller most opposition fairly easily, means that the shouting matches don't drag on for as long as a fight between equals would.
- Walk and Talk: Possibly the only thing it does have in common with The West Wing.
- Wangst: In-universe: in "Spinners and Losers", it's a source of some frustration to Jamie that all of Cliff Lawton's attempts at writing a comeback speech seem to degenerate into whining about how Malcolm Tucker got him sacked.Jamie: Nobody gives a shit if you got shafted by Malcolm.Cliff Lawton: I will never, ever forgive him for what he did to me...Jamie: Jesus, this isn't EastEnders, this is politics! We're all in the same plague pit Cliff, there's no clean hands!
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Beneath the buzzwords and self-righteousness, Stewart is genuinely a social liberal who believes in gender equality, environmentalism and inclusiveness. He really does want to modernise the party and make it kinder and less regressive. Unfortunately he seems to underestimate the size of the task, praising the unseen Premier as "genuinely progressive" despite other characters hinting he is anything but. It's likely he is being manipulated by his employers, who say they want to make the party less conservative, but are actually just indulging in a public relations exercise to seem less conservative. Whatever the case, long before his extremely bitter final speech though, he realizes it's a lost cause.
- We Want Our Jerk Back:
- Glenn on Malcolm's sacking: "Is this good? I mean, it feels good, but are you sure it's good?". The situation sends Nicola into a state of Antagonist in Mourning.
- In one episode we see Malcolm wearing a snuggly fleece, smiling at the DoSAC staff and making tea for everyone. Somehow the new "Nice Malcolm" is even more frightening than "YesterMalcolm".
- Peter Mannion openly hates Stewart Pearson, but even he's not sure about The Fucker replacing him - or as Stewart tells him: "Better the Devil You Know, eh?"
- We Will Use WikiWords in the Future: Not if Ollie has anything to do with it, though. "Don't say ShadCab... it's like saying SpagBol."
- Wham Episode:
- Episode 7, series 3 starts off like any other episode before it turns into several people outright attacking Malcolm and culminates in him getting sacked in the last couple of scenes.
- Series 4, Episode 6. With a Wham Line just before the closing credits, to boot.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Jamie, after playing a fairly prominent role in the post season 2 specials, vanishes without explanation for seasons 3 and 4. Given the he was last seen siding against Malcolm in the leadership contest, though, it seems safe to assume that he probably doesn't have a job any more.
- Will They or Won't They?: Malcolm and Nicola. They never will. And it is wonderful."Malcolm... if you could just come to the toilet with me..."
- Windbag Politician: Nicola's speeches are legendarily terrible.
- With Friends Like These...: "Inclusion is not an illusion..." Again, poor Glenn.
- Much is made of Hugh never really seeing his family. This is Truth in Television, as many politicians spend most of their time at Whitehall and don't spend a lot of time with their families:"Lots of love via Glenn, and nighty-night."
- Series 3 sees Malcolm take his first holiday in ten years. He spends it in his house with a bunch of journalists:Glenn Cullen: Malcolm doesn't take holidays, he has to keep moving or he dies—he's like a shark or Bob Dylan.
Malcolm Tucker: Lying on your back getting fed nutrients through a tube? That's my idea of a fuckin' holiday.
- Much is made of Hugh never really seeing his family. This is Truth in Television, as many politicians spend most of their time at Whitehall and don't spend a lot of time with their families:
- Work Com: Virtually the entire show occurs within the confines of Whitehall. We never see Hugh's wife and kids, or see Malcolm and Jamie at the pub, for example. We do get to see Ollie with his girlfriend at her flat, but only because she works for the Opposition.
- World of Snark
- Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Malcolm Tucker explicitly invokes this trope when asked, during the Goolding Inquiry whether he was involved in the leak of Mr. Tickel's illegally acquired medical records which ultimately led to the man's suicide. Tucker compares political power struggles to a combat environment, and vehemently denies any involvement with the leak, stating that while he's totally okay with the backstabbing and leaking that goes on behind the scenes, he would never do anything like that to someone who is not actively involved in politics. He is, of course, lying through his teeth.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Malcolm claims he wouldn't hit a woman. Of course, this doesn't stop him from punching Glenn.
- Wrong Insult Offence:Ollie Reader: Malcolm, you're bullying me...
Malcolm Tucker: How dare you! How dare you! Don't you ever, ever call me a bully... I'm so much worse than that."
- The X of Y: Rise of the Nutters.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Malcolm starts off "Spinners and Losers" in the cold and completely out of the loop, when his boss the Prime Minister resigns. After an ongoing succession of white lies, innocuous power plays and complicated gambits, the episode ends with Malcolm being welcomed to Tom's inner leadership team, and utterly destroying his rival Nick Hanway's career in the process.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: Emma wonders why people leaving hate mail on Peter's blog spell "hate" as "h8". "If you're going to leave a message, at least spell it correctly."
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Butt-Monkey Peter Mannion does an emphatically decent thing by refusing to use Nicola's daughter's school troubles to his side's advantage. As he maintains to Stewart that they'll conduct themselves honourably, Malcolm is over at Number 10 convincing Nicola that there's no such thing as honour, which culminates in Nicola calling Mannion to tell him that nothing in his personal life is off-limits. Cue gloating from Stewart. Poor Peter.
- Glenn's intention to stand for election, scoped and dropped by Nicola's latest PR disaster.
- You Are What You Hate: Ollie Reeder eventually usurps his hated, bullying "mentor" Malcolm Tucker and takes his job.
- You Did Everything You Could: Abused by Malcolm. He tells Glenn and Olly "you tried, you really tried" when they fail to steer Nicola Murray out of an embarrassing photo opportunity... which Malcolm had deliberately steered her into as part of his latest scheme. His reassuring words were just a means of covering it up.
- You Know I'm Black, Right?: When Ollie suggests "making special needs kids clean up graffiti" as a policy idea, Hugh tries to make him feel some remorse, wrongly assuming that a complete prick like Ollie may be capable of feeling any:Hugh Abbott: "You just took a shit with your clothes on Ollie—Glenn's boy, Peter, he went to a special needs school."Ollie Reeder: "Oh... (beat) Glenn's had sex?"
- You Need to Get Laid: Hugh and Ollie gang up on Glenn—"The last time you saw a snatch was..." "Basic Instinct!"
- Emma thinks this about Phil: "I'll put a sex grid on the fridge...so that you can have dates and stuff and I'll put an A4 piece of paper for me up, and maybe you could have half a Post-It note?"
- In a moment of panic, Phil himself admits to Mannion that his personal life is nonexistent and that he hasn't been laid in over 5 years.
- Adam tells Emma she needs to "get a boyfriend." (She tells him to "come out".)
- Your Cheating Heart:
- Peter Mannion has obviously never heard the end of the Tory sleaze affair he had twelve years previously, which resulted in the birth of a child.
- "That married producer on The Daily Politics" and Helen.
- Younger Than They Look: Actor Alex MacQueen is in his mid-thirties (and is actually younger than Chris Addison), but his character, Julius Nicholson, looks much older, thanks to his massive shiny head. Old enough to play a life peer, at least:Malcolm Tucker: "Have you got all your stuff ready for your official Lording ceremony? Have you got your mink thong and your ermine colostomy bag?"
- You Shall Not Pass!: Phil utters this exact phrase when trying to keep Adam from talking to Peter. Naturally, Adam ignores him.