TV Review: Brilliant, Razor-Sharp ‘The Thick of It’ Returns to Hulu

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CHICAGO – Should this even be called a “TV Review”? Will we one day write “Hulu Reviews”? Or “Streaming Reviews”? Technically, “The Thick of It” is still a TV show as it premieres in the U.K. on the old-fashioned platform. It’s just in the United States that Armando Iannucci’s brilliant political comedy is premiering exclusively on Hulu and Hulu Plus. And it’s just as razor-sharp and incredibly clever as fans know it to be. The rest of you, those who may come to this because you liked “In the Loop” or HBO’s “Veep,” prepare yourself for one of the best comedies on, well, TV. Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

It’s going to take major shows like this one (and the exclusive return of “Arrested Development” to Netflix) to really change people’s expectations of Hulu as a destination for not just catch-up and repeats but originals. And make no mistake. “The Thick of It” is a major show. With deadly precision, Iannucci and his team paint a world of politics in which people don’t so much backstab as frontstab. Your enemy may work to get you fired but he’ll tell you straight he’s doing so and usually with a string of briliant profanity.

The Thick of It
The Thick of It
Photo credit: Hulu

Iannucci finds a way to take obscene language that would sound like overkill from the pen of any other writer and make it sound like poetry. Profanity is often used in comedy as the crutch of the stupid, either a stupid character or a stupid writer. Such is not the case here. On “The Thick of It,” a profanity-laden tirade is a work of art. Just hearing Malcolm Tucker (the amazing Peter Capaldi) profanely try to describe the plot of a well-known movie in episode two is worth a subscription to Hulu Plus for a year. I had to rewind it three times. I might make it my ringtone.

The Thick of It
The Thick of It
Photo credit: Hulu

The writing on “The Thick of It” is spectacular but it helps to have a talented cast to deliver it. Fans of the first three seasons of “The Thick of It” will be excited by a few familiar faces including Capaldi (although be warned that he doesn’t return until episode two), Nicola Murray as Rebecca Front, and Roger Allam as Peter Mannion, now Secretary of State for Social Affairs. I’d be lying if I said that I knew much about the actual politics being discussed here but the humor still travels well. Political gaffes are funny even without the context of knowing the nation’s politics.

And the gaffes here are spectacular. The first episode features an amazing scene in which a politician essentially realizes mid-speech that he’s asking kids to work for free on new technology and then digs his hole so much deeper and the second episode features, well, I wouldn’t spoil it but Malcolm has returned even more cynical and cutthroat than ever.

If I have a major concern it’s in how Hulu plans to present “The Thick of It.” It seems like the service has more commercials than ever and I watched a few of the early episodes in which they seemed awkwardly placed. Iannucci’s humor is so dependent on timing that putting a fast food commercial in the middle of it really dilutes the impact. I was lucky enough to view these episodes commercial-free and they’re spectacular in that form but could easily lose their rhythm with too much interruption. Let’s hope Hulu keeps it to a minimum.

Iannucci claims that this is the final season of “The Thick of It” but I wouldn’t be surprised if these characters and their world are re-visited a few years down the road, perhaps after he’s done with the almost-as-brilliant “Veep.” It may be the end of “TTOI” but it feels like a major beginning in how we watch TV.

“The Thick of It” stars Peter Capaldi, Nicola Murray and Roger Allam. It was created by Armando Iannucci and premieres stateside exclusively on Hulu and Hulu Plus on September 9, 2012, after which it runs for seven weeks. content director Brian Tallerico

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