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House of Cards (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. Read my thoughts on the service here, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

You might very well think that… I couldn’t possibly comment.

House of Cards is an uncanny political drama. Based on the book written by Michael Dodds, the former “baby faced assassin” for Margaret Thatcher, one wonders just how much of this very dark thriller might actually be based on fact. Charting the rise of the Chief Whip of the Conservative Party, Francis Urquhart, it’s a disturbing exploration of the workings of the system as our villainous protagonist manages to efficiently (and sometimes brutally) remove any obstacles on his path to power. It’s often darkly hilarious, brutally sinister and strangely compelling – sometimes at the same time. While airing, it was granted a sense of relevance by the resignation of then-sitting Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but it remains a gripping example of British television drama even two decades after it originally aired.

Clocking in as a compelling lead actor...

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The Thick of It – Series III (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. I’ll have some thoughts on the service at the end of the month, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

No one forgot their first carpeting from Tucker – it was like a red hot poker.

– the BBC’s career retrospective on Malcolm Tucker

The first two seasons of The Thick of It proved to be quite the success for BBC4. Critics were raving about, the politicians it sought to ridicule were loving it. Creator Armando Iannucci even got to produce a movie with HBO using characters from the series (In The Loop) and plans were underway for a US adaptation. (In fairness, the adaptation was killed very quickly, which might be for the best given Iannucci’s opinion of it, but he’s currently working on Veep for HBO with Julie Louis Dreyfus.) So it seems fitting that the series came back to television in a big way. Fresh off two specials, with a new minister and a new slot on BBC2, the show was commissioned for eight glorious episodes. And it was great. The decision to re-focus the series on Malcolm Tucker, the Prime Minister’s advisor who thinks of himself”as a thin, white Mugabe.”

It's Party (Conference) time...

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The Thick of It: Rise of the Nutters (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. I’ll have some thoughts on the service at the end of the month, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

Are you f***ing kidding me? I mean, you’ve just watched me break my not-inconsiderable balls trying to get you the second spot on Newsnight. And succeeding! I can’t back down! No, no, you’re on, pal, right? And it better not be too boring, and it better not be too interesting either, ok? And it better not cost too much. It can’t be an old thing, obviously, and don’t make it too new. And whatever you do, please try not to embarrass yourself, right?

– Malcolm tells Swain his media strategy

I love the BBC’s Christmas specials. I mean, I know that other networks do Christmas-themed episodes of their shows, but the BBC does tend to go the extra mile. We get the opportunity to spend some time with a series that is on hiatus or even to provide an epilogue to a series that has ended. It generally affords considerably more leeway to a series to tell a different kind of story than they normally would. Here, in the hour-long Christmas special, Armando Iannucci’s political comedy gets a chance to drift its attention away from the fictional surroundings of the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship to explore the resignation of the sitting Prime Minister. Mirroring Tony Blair’s decision to step down at the same time, it lends the series a somewhat especially timely feeling, as well as allowing more focus to fall on the show’s main attraction, the brilliantly cynical and manipulative political advisor Malcolm Tucker, brought to life by Peter Capaldi.

Bully to that...

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