Stuck in the loop? Political satire to escape the election bubble

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With an election looming, politics can feel exhausting to engage with. Daisy Lacey argues that Armando Iannucci’s BBC political satire is a timeless but alarmingly relevant ode to the bizarre times we live in.

By Daisy Lacey, MA Comparative Literatures and Cultures

'I’d love to stop and chat but right now I’d rather have Type Two Diabetes.'

This is one of my favourite of Malcolm Tucker insults that doesn’t use any profanities. Although there are other expletive-free insults, my ultimate favourites would not be printed.

For those of you who don’t know who I am referring to, I am talking about the fictional spin doctor Malcolm Tucker - a press correspondent in charge of ‘spinning’ the truth into a favourable view by the press and public. Tucker features in the hit TV series The Thick of It (2005-2012) and the feature length film In The Loop (2009), creations of a comedy hero of mine, Armando Iannucci.

The Thick Of It was a hilarious spin on the faffing obsessions that characterise modern politics | IMDb / BBC 

The show is Iannucci’s interpretation of the classic comedy Yes Minister (1986-1988), satirising the inner workings of the modern British Government and how the spin doctors act as masterminds to protect the best interests of the ministers.

His Alistair Campbell-esque sweary spin doctor character Malcolm Tucker could only be performed by the great Peter Capaldi. He is one of the greatest political characters invented, it is a shame the real deal doesn’t work in government. Capaldi's blistering swearing in his thick Scottish accent only served to enhance the beauty of the script.

Iannucci removes the use of a laughter track to make the audience question whether it is fact or fiction that is being shown

A rarity in both the show and the film is that the cast were encouraged to provide additional material to the script. This shows the class of the script writers: they don’t have the hubris to accept the original script as gospel, they are well aware that what looks great on paper doesn’t always transition well to the screen. Iannucci has stated in interviews that he would not only happily chop and change certain parts of the script, but he would also replace it with the suggestions from the cast.

Tom Hollander stars as an MP who slips up in a radio interview, causing frantic panic among the British Government | IMDB / BBC

Both the show and the film are also shot using the cinema vérité technique where the camera crew would follow the cast around as if it was an actual documentary. This type of filming works beautifully in the show and film as it makes the show much more realistic and convincing, as if you were getting a sneak peek inside number 10. As a satire too, Iannucci removes the use of a laughter track to make the audience question whether it is fact or fiction that is being shown.

As we have an election looming and we are in a state of limbo, rest assured that watching this may bring some light to our already laughable political situation

Aside from my hero Malcolm Tucker, the other characters are absolutely perfect. You have the busy-body pen-pushers, you have the highly opinionated policy makers, and the token grovelling slaves kissing the feet of the discombobulated ministers who are always putting their foot in it when getting into silly situations with the press.

The show and film are so well executed and I think it also bottles down to the research that has gone into the show and Iannucci is also very open about his political views and stances. I think that due to his engagement with politics, it makes him the perfect man to create the show.

As we have an election looming and we are in a state of limbo, rest assured that watching this may bring some light to our already laughable political situation. Furthermore, you find yourself wondering whether or not the show is factual and what we see on the news is fictional, you find yourself struggling to separate truth from lies, reality from fantasy, and this is why the show and film will forever be timeless.

I end this piece with yet another favourite insult of mine from the inimitable Malcolm Tucker (sadly, profanity free again).

“Your hands were all over the place! It was like a sweaty octopus trying to unhook a bra.”

Featured - IMDb / BBC


What's your favourite satire? Let us know!

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