The Thick of It

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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 handheld cameras. Intended to be as realistic as possible, the show employs several Whitehall insiders and every aspect is meticulously researched, from the office decor 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 Versus 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 vague and confusing wide-ranging and varied remit, it handles the boring stuff none of the other departments can be arsed with everything from housing to crime statistics.

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 centred on the Prime Minister's enforcer Director of Communications Malcolm Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi, and 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 and final series aired in 2012.

A spin-off movie, In the Loop, was released in 2009. 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...

Tropes used in The Thick of It include:

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."

    • Olly 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.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Julius "Screaming Lord Crutch" Nicholson.
  • Analogy Backfire: Episode 7 of series 3 is full of them:
    • Malcolm's "I am the heart of government" line backfires when the journalists he delivers it to twist it, wrongly implicating him in a scandal by branding him "The Heart of Darkness".
    • The episode also contains many theatre-related metaphors: for example, Malcolm asking Steve Fleming "Did you get heckled off?" This backfires when Steve tells him "The show's over, it's curtains".
    • Earlier that episode, there's Steve claiming he and Malcolm are the Gallagher brothers of politics.

Malcolm: How does that work? Does that mean I'm the semi-talented songwriter and you're the fucking loutish prick? That's a lovely analogy.

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!!

  • Ax Crazy: Jamie, the aggressive, foul-mouthed Scottish press officer who is even worse than Malcolm (but without any of the intelligence or wit):

Olly Reeder: "When I met you this morning I thought you were the nice Scot"-

  • 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.

Olly 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.
  • Berserk Button: "He loves Al Jolson."
    • Opposition spin doctor Stewart Pearson really doesn't like being locked in small rooms.
    • Nicola Murray has a similar phobia: "I just don't do lifts..." Rebecca Front is a Real Life claustrophobe.
  • The Big Board: Opposition aide Phil uses one for his Klingon Horoscope 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."

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-centered, and ultimately more concerned with simply keeping their jobs than with doing the right thing.
  • Blessed Are the Cheesemakers: "EAT THE FUCKIN' CHEESE."
  • Brains and Brawn: Malcolm and Jamie are an Evil Duo who fit this trope.
  • 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 unthreatening comedy Scotsman. Then he meets him...
    • Malcolm does a brief imitation of John Duggan's English accent, and it is genuinely disturbing.
  • British Brevity: The first two seasons had only three episodes each.
  • British Newspapers: Malcolm's raison d'etre is to get them to print what he wants, when he wants. Angela Heaney, "the twatbubble from the Standard", is usually pretty compliant (but becomes less so when she moves to the Daily Mail).
  • But I Play One on TV: Rebecca Front is baffled at how playing a fictional minister has brought her a flood of requests to appear on news shows as a political pundit. Similarly, Peter Capaldi was asked to interview Alastair Campbell in the style of Malcolm Tucker but had to refuse on the grounds that Malcolm is a fictional character and that he'd need backup from eight writers.
  • 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 jerk, or people who think he's a jerk.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Nicola: "Thank our fucky stars for that" ** tumbleweeds blow past**
    • Olly 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.
    • Robyn to Glenn: "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..."

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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."

  • 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.
  • Cliff Hanger: "The Prime Minister has resigned! The Prime Minister has just resigned!"
  • 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!"

  • Coincidental Broadcast: When the Prime Minister resigns, Malcolm, Jamie, Ben and Olly are immediately able to watch a news item about it. In fairness, the Prime Minister resigning would be pretty big news, and would certainly take over the rolling news channels almost immediately.
    • 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:

"I said to Armando, 'Why do you always get me to run about?' And he says, 'Because you’ve just got a funny run'" -- Peter Capaldi
"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" -- Chris Addison
"They're like bullies, basically" -- Will Smith, who plays Opposition aide Phil.

  • Competence Zone: The upper limit seems to have been set at fifty. Glenn is in his fifties and his incompetence is often linked to his age. Likewise for Peter Mannion: "We're not sending him to DoSAC to fatten him up, we're putting him out to pasture". When the usually competent Malcolm hits the big 5-0 he too begins a descent into incompetence before being given the sack.
  • Compliment Backfire: "You're like a female John Major." Ouch.
  • 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 method of issuing threats ("Do we go after him with... a bum-dildo of vengeance?"). By the end of the series she becomes power-hungry to the point of considering a leadership bid, and swears so much that even Steve Fleming is shocked ("You're quite the potty-mouth, aren't you?").
  • Country Matters: Terri's Irrevocable Message, Malcolm's birthday cake... the show is full of F-bombs and the writers aren't shy of C-bombs either.
  • 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!"

  • 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."

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."

  • 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?"

Malcolm Tucker (answering phone): "Hello, Phillip Schofield, I fuck lobsters for money."

  • 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.
  • Disorganized Outline Speech: "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."
  • The Dog Bites Back: In "Spinners and Losers", when it looks like Ben Swaim has a slight chance of becoming the next Prime Minister, Olly -- who has been positioning himself as Swaim'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 find some cheese. And in any case, events soon prove that Olly really should have made sure Swaim had more than what turned out to be a very slight chance of becoming PM.
  • The Ditz: Robyn. "I've leaked nothing! Other than accidentally, obviously."

Olly 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 new press officer John Duggan.
    • After Hugh asks "What's a circle jerk?" Olly gets most of the way through explaining what a circle jerk is before realising this was a bad idea.
  • 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.
  • Double Take: Malcolm does an especially priceless one when he discovers Hugh eating biscuits in the pantry.
    • Olly 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...
  • 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 anymore. 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.
  • 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..."

Peter Mannion: I'm sensing a change of management style here, from touchy-feely to smashy-testes.

Olly 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 closeup of his eyes as they scanned the headline MALCOLM TUCKER RESIGNS.
  • Fat Idiot: Ben Swain. "Talking to you is like talking to a fucking whoopee cushion."
  • Flanderization: Throughout the first two series and the Specials, Terri is a reasonably motivated and competent civil servant. By the third series she becomes 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.
  • Foe Yay: This abounds, largely because of Malcolm's tactic of unnerving male characters by flirting with them:

Jamie: "You couldn't organise a bumrape in a barracks."
Malcolm Tucker: "Au contraire..."

    • "You know Julius, if I wasn't a heterosexual man, I would kiss you."
    • That onion bhaji didn't solely represent the 'problems' caused by Nicholson's upcoming report. Julius becomes positively lascivious when Malcolm is about.
    • ...and in turn Malcolm tends to get physical with him: "Put your hand on mine! Try and open the door..."
    • The sexual tension between Emma and Phil is even Lampshaded by Peter Mannion.
  • Food Fight: Although it is a tad one-sided...
    • "Have some fuckin' chow mein!"
  • Funny Background Event: Olly wandering into shot during Terri's public apology over the e-mail fracas.
    • Malcolm's wall-bouncing arrival to Hugh's interview with Angela Heaney, and the ever-so-slightly muted Atomic Cluster F-Bomb bollocking that he assaults Hugh with, while in the foreground Terri calmly asks Angela if she wants any coffee or 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.
    • 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".
    • The Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship itself of course: "I've got no fuckin' idea what that means either but it spells 'SAC'!"

"I'm in Thailand. In a sex spa. About to get a fuckin' facial."

  • Girly Run: Alpha male Malcolm has one. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen Local Hero.
  • Granola Girl: Stewart Pearson is a rare 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 to work and is probably far too right-on 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 plan to outlaw plastic toys.
  • Groin Attack: When Phil Smith tells Olly Emma has dumped him before Emma can break the news herself, Phil receives a hot cup of coffee in the groin:

Phil Smith: "It's a dark suit and it's only lukewarm, I STILL WIN!"

Malcolm Tucker: (to Cliff Lawton) You have had a good innings! You have been here for eighteen months!

  • Hot Scoop: Hot journalists Angela Heaney (One of Olly's ex-girlfriends) and Marianne Swift, who are always looking for a way to screw Malcolm and DoSaC.
  • Humiliation Conga: Olly has to dance one in the second special, breaking up with his girlfriend (and in the process admitting he only stayed with her because Malcolm told him to) then being ordered to make up with her so he can use her to leak a policy (which she sees through right away), then being reduced to the status of "cheese monitor" and mocked for it by Emma and his Arch Enemy Phil.
  • 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."
      • ...not to mention his "apology" for Jamie's "Happy New Queer": "I do apologise for my friend's behaviour. Did you have a nice Poofmas?"
    • 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 Olly's girlfriend "a complete bitch".
  • I Am Spartacus: "It was me. I leaked it." Poor Glenn.
  • I Am The Fucking Trope: "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!"
    • "This man is the press!"

Olly Reeder: "Are you out of the loop?"
Malcolm Tucker: "Fuck you Andy Pandy, I am the loop..."

  • I Call Him "Mister Happy": "Remember you and Mrs Mannion on your doorstep, her never going to touch Little Peter again?"
  • Ice Cream Koan: "Knowledge is porridge". Stewart Pearson speaks entirely in meaningless PR buzzwords.

Peter Mannion: "Christ, that doesn't even fucking rhyme..."

Hugh Abbott: "Just tell me, truthfully: Did you send that email?"
Terri Coverley: "No I didn't... and you know I didn't..."

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!"

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!"

  • Kavorka Man: Olly Reeder has managed to seduce both journalist Angela Heaney and Opposition aide Emma Messinger. Nobody knows how.
  • Kicked Upstairs: "Julius Nicholson. Blue Sky Thinker, ex business guru, dog rapist".
  • Last-Second Word Swap: "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... 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:
      • "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."
  • 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.
  • Life Imitates Art: Scarily often in UK politics.
  • 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.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Malcolm Tucker, whose in-universe reputation precedes him. The Prime Minister's Director Of Communications is aggressive, foul-mouthed, unscrupulous and manipulative, but the most frightening thing about him is his charm. He constantly abuses it to get away with All Of The Above. Xanatos Speed Chess is his job, and the second special is a long game of it which he wins, naturally.

Olly Reeder: He's impressive, Malcolm, in an evil way.
Hugh Abbott: That was quite Tuckeresque, really very Malciavellian"

  • Married to the Job: 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.
    • 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."
      • At the end of Season 3 Episode 7 as Malcolm is returning to his home after 'resigning', there is a small child looking out of the downstairs window.
  • MacGuffin: "He is not gettin' anywhere near ma fuckin' pantry..."
    • The incident kerfuffle over the missing immigration data is basically an excuse to show how un-media savvy Nicola is.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Inevitable really, but Malcolm Tucker/Peter Capaldi is still a pretty extreme example.
  • 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.
  • Metaphorgotten: Nicola's "self-eating cake" speech.
  • The Movie: In the Loop
  • Morality Pet: Malcolm's PA, Sam.
  • 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.
  • 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!"

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.
  • 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 and journalists but are polite to cleaners and secretaries.
  • The Nicknamer: Malcolm has insulting nicknames for everyone, but makes a particular point of not using Olly's real name. "Stem Cell", "Joe 90", "Twatweasel"... but never "Olly".
    • Malcolm is the most habitual nicknamer, but most of the characters are nicknamers to some extent.
    • Nicola seems destined to be stuck with the nickname "Glummy Mummy".
    • 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 PeterMandelson (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 resemble their Real Life counterparts.
    • Dan Miller is pretty clearly based on David Miliband
  • No Party Given: We have the government and the opposition. Neither is ever identified by name or policy as being Labour or Conservative. But it's easy to guess who's who.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted: a great deal of the political process seems to go on in toilets.
    • And taking a dump is Hugh's special treat.
      • 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."
  • Not So Different: Malcolm and Stewart's face-off ends with them coming to this conclusion.
  • Oh Crap: The look in Malcolm's eyes after Steve Fleming asks him "Can I have a quick word? Just five minutes..."
  • Older Than They Look: Olly is described as looking "about nine" by his girlfriend Emma Messinger, and Malcolm constantly makes jokes about his youthful appearance. Chris Addison, the actor who plays Olly, is actually in his late thirties.
    • This carried over to one of Chris Addison's apearances 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!"
    • --> Malcolm Tucker: "Are you on solids? I thought you were still on the tit."
  • Only One Name: Jamie.
    • Although he was given a surname - MacDonald - for In the Loop.
  • Only Sane Man: Peter Mannion is the Opposition's. The Government don't seem to have one.
  • Opposites Attract: Although in this case, it's more "Opposites Go Out To Dig Dirt On Each Other's Parties And Nick Policy Ideas."
  • Oxbridge: Olly is a graduate of either Oxford or Cambridge. We never find out which one as Jamie only ever refers to his university as "Poxbridge"
  • Pet the Dog: 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.
    • Malcolm also has a pet the dog scene with Glenn At the end of Spinners and Losers, Malcolm is rather nice to Glenn after he's had his mini-breakdown - he tries to make him feel important and included, and backs him up against Olly.
  • 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 once demanded that Malcolm tell him "what the F-word is going on", he has to be pushed very far before he'll swear. This usually requires actual physical violence (as demonstrated on a couple of occasions), though Malcolm's Evil Plans can also set him off:

"You are a naughty bastard..."

Olly Reeder: "This inability to talk without using The Lord of the Rings metaphors is one of the very many reasons we could never be friends."

  • Psychotic Smirk: Malcolm gets in quite a few, with several in the final episode of series 3.
  • Put on a Bus: Hugh Abbot's trip to Australia. Terri pulling the sign off his door in the first episode of series 3 may constitute a Bus Crash.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Hugh Abbot left the department because his actor Chris Langham went to prison; see below in Role-Ending Misdemeanor.
  • 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.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: More like Scripted From The Headlines; the show is intended to reflect the current UK political climate.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: In 2005 Chris Langham was charged with downloading child pornography. Rather than make a full second series without him, the producers made two hour-long specials for which they put him on a bus, leaving the door open for him to return if he was found not guilty. He was found guilty at his 2007 trial and served 15 weeks in prison, and his character Hugh Abbott disappeared from the show never to return.
  • Rousing Speech: 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,'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?

Malcolm Tucker: Where do you learn to speak like that? Is there a special school that only you and Brian Sewell go to?

  • Shipper on Deck: Olly tries to do this with Peter Mannion and Terri Coverley. It sucks, hard.
  • Shout-Out: "The Lair Of The White Worm" is one of Hugh's nicknames for Malcolm's 8.30 briefings. It is also the name of a film Peter Capaldi appeared in long before The Thick of It.

Olly: (trying to rewrite an entire speech in an hour) "It's The West Wing!"
Nicola: "You're not Josh, Olly, just write the fucking speech."
Olly: (muttering) "I fucking am Josh..."

      • Their shout-out is off, as Sam and Toby, not Josh, are The West Wing speechwriters.
    • A Deleted Scene from the Specials reveals Peter Mannion's wife's dowdy appearance has been mocked on Have I Got News for You. (Though not in any of the episodes that featured Rebecca Front, Chris Addison, or Miles Jupp.)
    • Malcolm Tucker: "I just keep getting these terrible images flashing in my head, you know, of you being stabbed repeatedly in the face, or of you in a coma, on a life support machine, dreaming of being a gay policeman in the 1970s..."
  • Shrouded in Myth: Cal Richards. "The Fucker, he comin'. He comin' to your town."
  • 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. 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.
  • 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:

"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." - Malcolm Tucker
"...and a Ted Baker suit. We were going to go for Vivienne Westwood or Paul Smith but it was just too expensive" - Stewart Pearson

  • Small Name, Big Ego: 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 Olly's opinion of himself and his abilities and everyone else's opinion of him and his abilities.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: Terri tries and fails to invoke this trope. Unfortunately for her Peter Mannion, the target of her really inept flirting, 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 Malcolm won't steal his job...
    • Steve Fleming, Malcolm's rival with about a millionth of the charm. He would dearly love to overthrow Malcolm but can't help bragging about his various schemes, and his indiscretion is often his downfall.
  • Somebody Else's Problem: NoMFuP.
  • Spanner in the Works: "Do you know what it's like to clean up your own mother's piss?"
  • Spiritual Successor: To Yes Minister.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Terri.

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: Olly Reeder with his many attempts to enter the "political fuckoffosphere".
    • 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.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: "Emma, the men are talking."
  • 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..."
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Malcolm is the only character who seems competent at his job. His hapless colleagues never seem to learn that they ignore his advice at their peril, and often leave him to mop up the ensuing hurricanes of piss.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Nicola replacing Hugh. Her only points of difference are that she's a woman, and that Glenn's not her best mate. Entirely justified, as the premise of the show is that all politicians are the same.

Malcolm Tucker: "You've made me very, very happy."
Olly Reeder: "Yeah, you look it."

  • Those Two Guys: Glenn and Ollie fulfill this role as secondary aide characters, often appearing together and playing off each other, with an older/younger contrast.
  • Title-Only Opening
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Malcolm's sweary rants don't work on Nicola... because she actually rather enjoys being on the receiving end of them.
  • 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.
  • 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..."
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Steve Fleming. Oh yes.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Jamie. How someone this close to being feral was even allowed into Number 10 is never explained, but it appears he finally got the sack before series 3.
    • As members of Her Majesty's Civil Service, Terri and Robyn are 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.

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!

  • 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!

  • 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!"
    • Malcolm sails dangerously close to one in series 3 but being a Magnificent Bastard, he manages to avert it.
  • Violent Glaswegian: "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.

"Malcolm... if you could just come to the toilet with me..."

"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:

"Malcolm doesn't take holidays, he has to keep moving or he dies - he's like a shark or Bob Dylan" - Glenn Cullen
"Lying on your back getting fed nutrients through a tube? That's my idea of a fuckin' holiday" - Malcolm Tucker

  • 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 Olly with his girlfriend at her flat, but only because she works for the Opposition.
  • World of Snark
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Malcolm claims he wouldn't hit a woman. Of course, this doesn't stop him from punching Glenn
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Peter Mannion does an emphatically noble 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 Olly 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 Olly may be capable of feeling any:

Hugh Abbott: "You just took a shit with your clothes on Olly - Glenn's boy, Peter, he went to a special needs school."
Olly Reeder: "Oh... [[[Beat]]] Glenn's had sex?"

"Have you got all your stuff ready for your official Lording ceremony? Have you got your mink thong and your ermine colostomy bag?" - Malcolm Tucker

  • YouTube Poop: Nicola finds herself starring in one in episode 3.1.

Nicola Murray: Oh great, someone's just sent me a YouTube clip, which is me in front of the "I AM BENT" sign randomly intercut with bits from Family Guy. It's not even funny! Why do people fucking do that on YouTube?