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Series / The Thick of It

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Welcome to Whitehall. Please leave your principles at the door.

"I'm a man of principle: I like to know whether I'm lying to save the skin of a tosser or a moron."
Malcolm Tucker

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.

There is a lot 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.

This show has Loads and Loads of Characters: you can read more about them and how they fit into the British Political System over at the show's Character Sheet.

Very popular in Whitehall, which can only be a bad thing for the UK...

This show provides examples of:

  • 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...
  • Actor Allusion:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Angrish:
    "Auf Wiedersehen Pet, the party's over, goodbye yellow brick road!"

  • 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 himself on his good days, occasionally drifting into Villain Protagonist territory.
  • 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:
  • 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".
  • 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 wasn't insulting the co-workers he's speaking to.
    • He does treat his assistant, Sam, well. He's even protective of her when he's sacked at the end of series three.
  • 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.
  • Badass Longcoat: Unusual in a gritty political satire but there is one... it's Malcolm's, of course.
  • 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: Malcolm says this more or less to Ollie in the last episode, when he tells Malcolm that he would like his job after he gets himself arrested for perjury.
  • Berserk Button:
    • "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.
    Steve Fleming: Listen, sweetheart-
    Nicola Murray: Do not FUCKING call me sweetheart!
  • 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.
    • Cal "The Fucker" Richards, Malcolm's counterpart in the opposition, is the real Big Bad, even if he only appears in one scene.
  • 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 his/her 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: Well, Peter valiantly tries, but unfortunately the motivational speaker in question is Stewart, and the git seems to be made of rubber.
  • 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.
  • British Brevity: The first two series had only three episodes each.
  • 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...
  • Butt-Monkey: Poor Glenn. "I feel like I'm in a therapy group being run by my own rapist."
    • 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: NoMFuP.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Nicola: "Thank our fucky stars for that" (tumbleweeds blow past)
    • 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:
    Robyn Murdoch: Don't do jokes, Glenn. You're not a funny man, you're not that type...
    • Peter Mannion is accused of this during the radio debate:
      Peter Mannion: ...who should come rolling along the corridor but Malcolm Tucker, the man who was once referred to as 'The Gorbals Goebbels'?
      Stewart Pearson: Oh, don't do a joke, Peter, don't do a joke...
  • 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.
  • 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. 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) plays 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 first two series involve the bumbling Hugh Abbot's attempts to keep his political career afloat. Starting with the specials the focus shifts to Malcolm Tucker, and series three portrays his bailing-with-a-thimble fight to keep the government in power. The ripped-from-the-headlines nature of the scripts combined with Tucker's character development (which somehow made him more impressive) resulted in series three taking a distinct turn for the dramatic. The third series was also the first time an entire series had been commissioned, which gave the writers a more definite frame in which they could toy with story arcs.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cliffhanger:
    "The Prime Minister has resigned! The Prime Minister has just resigned!"


    And from episode 4.06, "I'm finished anyway. You didn't finish me."
  • 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 you’ve 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.
  • 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.
  • Country Matters:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Most characters in The Thick of It are deadpan snarkers 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: The series begins with the incumbent Minister for Social Affairs, Cliff Lawton, whinging and moaning on what seems like another shitty day in the office. Less than 5 minutes later, he's been sacked and replaced with Hugh Abbott, the actual protagonist who occupies the Ministry for the next two series.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: 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."
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • Jamie to Malcolm. In the second special he is a Dragon with an Agenda, which may account for his sacking. The deleted scenes reveal that Malcolm sometimes has him followed. Keep your friends close...
    • 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.
  • 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!"
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Malcolm to Cliff Lawton: "Well, it's 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • Most characters are fully aware that Malcolm is a complete and utter bastard. Despite this, very few are immune to his charms.
    • 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.
  • Flanderization:
    • 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.
  • 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 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: 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.
    Ollie Reeder: Well, Steve Fleming likes the idea-
    Malcolm Tucker: Never mind what Mummy says, just do what Daddy says, right?
  • Gay Bravado: Malcolm. Relentlessly:
    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: Malcolm makes possibly the worst one 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: Alpha male Malcolm has one. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen Local Hero. So does Fergus.
  • 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.
  • Götterdämmerung: S04E07, Malcolm and Stewart Pearson lose their jobs, signalling the end of 'the age of spin', at least with regards their management styles.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Handshake Substitute: Adam and Fergus and their brofist hand bumping. It looks absolutely ridiculous.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Sub Committee:
  • 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.
  • He's Back: Back from being sacked, Malcolm strides down the stairs, barking orders and mobilising Number 10. Followed by Sam bringing in a fresh suit and beaming with pride at his pre-election pep-talk to the staffers.
  • 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: For all his terrifying efficiency, Malcolm's schemes and gambits have a way of backfiring on him. He is practically invincible for the first two series and specials, but clearly begins to lose his touch from series 3 onwards.
  • Humiliation Conga:
    • Ollie has to dance one in the second special, 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?"
  • Ice-Cream Koan: "Time is a leash on the dog of ideas." "Knowledge is porridge". Stewart Pearson speaks almost entirely in meaningless PR buzzwords.
    Peter Mannion: Christ, that doesn't even fucking rhyme...
  • 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!
    • Also, Hugh's bluffing game is tested during his Sweary Woman of Whitehall cock-up:
    Hugh Abbott: Just tell me, truthfully. Did you send that email?
    Terri Coverley: No I didn't... and you know I didn't...
  • Improv
  • I Like My X Like I Like My Y: Home Secretary Mary Drake: "I like mine (tea) weak and white, like my men"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Insult Backfire: It is practically impossible to insult Malcolm.
    Malcolm Tucker:: Don't you ever, EVER, call me a bully. I'm so much worse than that."

    Nick Hanway: Fuck you very much you unscrupulous bastard.
    Malcolm Tucker: Scruples? What are they? Those low-fat Kettle Chips?
  • 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."
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!:
    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!
    • From the movie: After being roundly insulted, threatened, and accused of being an american politician's bitch literally and figuratively, the part Malcolm takes exception to? Being called english.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Jerkass:
    • Instead of listing down the many, many moments Malcolm himself goes round insulting his co-workers, try counting the number of times where he have 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 face heel 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?"
  • Jittercam
  • 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.
  • 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:
      Wake up and smell the cock!

      Go and make a contribution to Amnesty International! Go and buy a goat the whole village can fuck!
    • 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. "He's more like a thin white Mugabe" and he probably Forgets to Eat.
  • 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.
  • Limited Wardrobe: In Series 3 and The Movie, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 episode eight 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 been crying for two weeks".
  • 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.
  • 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 Live It Down: Paula Radcliffe's unfortunate case of runner's diarrhoea is this In-Universe.invoked
    Terri: That is very unfair, it only happened once.
    Ollie: Once is all you need! Imagine if Bruce Forsyth, beginning of Strictly Come Dancing, [grunts] "There we go!" You'd never hear the end of that!
  • 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...
  • 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.
Somewhat subverted in the actual episode - Malcolm is only polite to the cleaning lady in order to stop her going to the press.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Malcolm Tucker: Come on, I need you there. I need a man, and you're a man! Come on.
    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."
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • 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:
    Julius Nicholson: I can't believe he didn't tell me the fucking date! That is fucking rude, isn't it?
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 lays a truly vicious one on Nicola after getting her fired in Series 4, where he lets her know just how much contempt he has for her personally and how much he hated having to prop her up. Unusually for Malcolm, he didn't actually shout, which made the pure venom all the more pronounced.
    • S4 E7 has various prominent characters resign/get fired from their jobs, giving them the opportunity to really lay into everyone they hate:
    • Glenn's speech before the Goolding Inquiry is one against Ollie:
      Glenn Cullen: A leak of this magnitude would require an essential component that Oliver Reeder lacks: a spine.
  • 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.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: More like Scripted From The Headlines; the show is intended to reflect the current UK political climate.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Posh and over-polite Julius Nicholson:
    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?
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The panicking over Dan Miller's possible intention to launch a rival leadership bid against Tom Davis in "Rise of the Nutters" turns out to be this: Dan had agreed to support Tom pretty much from the start and, unlike all the other characters who had spent the entire night running around plotting, scheming or otherwise trying to find out what was going on, had a good night's sleep.
  • Shipper on Deck: Ollie tries to do this with Peter Mannion and Terri Coverley. It sucks, hard.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shrouded in Myth: Cal Richards. "The Fucker, he comin'. He comin' to your town."
  • Silver Fox: Malcolm and Adam. Given that Adam says he entered politics for "the pussy", he presumably works it.
  • 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"
  • 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.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: Terri tries and fails to invoke this trope. Unfortunately for her the target of her really inept flirting, the hapless Peter Mannion, completely fails to notice.
  • 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: Averted. Hugh admits he doesn't have any black friends, which is something of a PR problem when he is Mistaken for Racist.
    • 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.
  • Spanner in the Works: "Do you know what it's like to clean up your own mother's piss?"
  • Spiritual Antithesis: The West Wing's Evil British Twin.
  • 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.
    • By the time Spinners And Losers rolls around Jamie has become this to Malcolm, blaming him for the events of the first special.
    • 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!
  • 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.
  • Taken 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!: 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, 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:
    Jamie: You're the shittest James Bond ever! You're David fucking Niven!
    • In a series where everybody is a terrible person on some level, it's hard not to see a little Writer on Board when Glenn (aslightly better person than most) calls former Daily Mail editor Adam "the single most loathsome person I've ever met".
  • 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.
    Malcolm Tucker: You've made me very, very happy.
    Ollie Reeder: Yeah, you look it.
  • 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
  • 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 addressing his staff: "I need your attention for thirty of your Earth seconds!"
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Steve Fleming very briefly deposes Malcolm Tucker as director of communications, and does a great job of terrifying and alienating DoSaC in his takeover speech.
    • Also, The Fucker's brief and unpleasant reign over at the opposition, slotting in above the hippy Stewart Pearson.
  • 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. He needs to be as his job essentially involves keeping the party in power by any means necessary.
  • 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:
    • Malcolm and Nicola. Actually, Malcolm and everyone. In every scene.
    • 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: "Nice Nutter" Nick Hanway, Steve Fleming... most of Malcolm's enemies in fact.
  • 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."
  • The Villain Makes the Plot: 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.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • "I'M NOT FUCKING WORRIED, MATE! Fuck him-fuck-him-fuck-him-FUCK HIM!"
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • V-Sign:
    • Malcolm has a little message for the journalists who follow him home after his sacking.
    • He has another for Ollie when he fails to answer his phone: "That's for you, Cack Efron."
  • 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.
  • 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: Stewart's never ending stream of PR fluff and political correctness came from an earnest effort to try and remove the sexist, racist and homophobic elements of his party.
  • 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:
    • Series 3, Episode 7. The last few scenes drop a Drama Bomb.
    • Series 4, Episode 6. With a Wham Line just before the closing credits, to boot.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Jamie just sort of vanishes after the specials. After siding against Malcolm in the leadership contest, though, one imagines he no longer has a job.
  • Whitehall
  • 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.
  • Workaholic:
    • 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.
  • 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 a civilian'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 & 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 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?"
  • 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.
  • 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 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".)
  • 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.

"Fuckity bye!"

Example of: