Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
The Thick Of It
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2006 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
Now that The West Wing, Enterprise, and the best seasons of Good Eats have finished, and House has gone on summer hiatus, what shall Leonard and I watch? He doesn't care for The Daily Show as I do, and TiVo insists on recording gardening shows and pop science news as suggestions.
I've been watching The Thick of It on BBC America. The ads, which got me to start, say that it's The West Wing-meets-The Office. My bosses love The Office; I've seen about half an episode, and assume that someday I'll watch the whole British run and think it's amazing. The last West Wing, like the last Enterprise, built up suspense about a crucial text -- a speech, a letter -- and then never revealed it. Someday I'll watch all of Sorkin's Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and the ache of those non-Sorkin West Wings will fade. In the meantime, the makers of The Thick of It describe it as Larry Sanders-meets-Yes, Minister, which feels more accurate. Oh man, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister were awesome.
Anyway, I'm enjoying The Thick of It. It has clever dialogue and the tremendously handsome Oliver Reeder (Chris Addison with Harry Potter glasses on). Costar Chris Langham helped write many episodes of The Muppet Show (!) and had this to say about the partly-improv style:
I share with Peter a fear of improvisation, because I'm frightened of being caught out, of people seeing that I'm actually not very good at what I do. The thing about doing an improvised piece is that there's no time for technique. What's brilliant about Armando deciding to do it in this way is that we were sort of replicating what it must be like to actually be in government. One gets the impression that day-to-day life in a ministry is much more kick, bollock and scramble than it is five-year plan. So the terror of improvisation really fuels the reality of that energy. Politicians are driven by the fear of 'What do I say next?' That look of terror in my eyes is exactly the look of terror in the eyes of most politicians on most days.
The situations and the people in The Thick of It don't resound with originality, but the dialogue does. That's worth it, for me.