The second episode from the first season of The Thick Of It begins with Glenn telling Hugh (the Secretary of State for Social Affairs) that he looks like shit. Hugh explains that he can’t get a decent night of sleep; he works, he eats and he showers. Occasionally he takes a dump, which he calls his treat. His only time for himself. Nice.
He goes into his office where Malcolm Tucker, the Government's Crisis Manager, calls Terri about an article in the paper.
TERRI: Hello, Malcolm. (Malcolm shouting on the phone) No, no he hasn’t. No, he is isn’t he, he’s a prick.Malcolm tells Hugh about an article in the newspaper by Simon Hewitt, it's all about how inadequate Hugh is for his job he's been recently appointed to, and that he is "the political equivalent of the house wine at a suburban Indian restaurant." Much to Hugh's surprise Malcolm is going to defend him!
GLENN: Who’s a prick?
HUGH: Am I a prick?
TERRI: (to Malcolm) Yeah, rip the ballsack off.
GLENN: Who’s ballsack?
HUGH: Who’s ballsack? Who’s balls?
Hugh is trying to figure out how to respond to the article when Terri chimes in as the voice of reason - “We don’t exchange insults with Simon, asspipes titty twat.” For a show with more than its fair share of swearing, that's pretty lame. Even Ollie, the Junior Policy Advisor, can’t believe that's the best swearing she can come up with. Fortunately Glenn is there to save the day:
“This is a bucket of shit. If someone throws shit at us, we throw shit back at them - we start a shit fight. We throw so much shit at them that they can’t pick up shit, they can’t throw shit, they can’t do shit.”Hugh and Ollie both agree that is top swearing. And I agree too, although there is one moment in this episode that is slightly better.
Hugh suggests that they come up with a new policy idea to show that he is connected with the people of Britain. Terri chimes in again, and makes it clear that she doesn't think they should just develop an off-the-cuff policy just to get back at Hewitt. Hugh looks slightly annoyed at this - We next see them in a different room minus Terri, Glenn explains that he’s booked 14 meeting rooms so that she’ll never find them and they can finally get some work done!
Malcolm arranges for a meeting with a journalist (Ollie's ex, Angela Heaney) to give their response to Simon Hewitt’s piece. He wants to put across just how "Clued up" Hugh is, but it soon becomes clear that Hugh is anything but clued up! He has no idea about Eastenders, or pop culture in general so Malcolm's going to send him the PM's zeitgeist tape, to bring him up to speed.
Hugh, Ollie and Glenn come up with two new policy ideas, which contradict each other involving tuition for kids. Ollie suggests that they give more money to arts programs for the bad kids to keep them out of trouble, and Glenn suggests that they cut the bad kids from any arts programs as a form of punishment. Ollie throws it to a focus group and is very impressed with one of the panel, and wants her to tell Hugh and Glenn her thoughts.
So Ollie, Glenn and Hugh meet with Mary from the focus group, who loved the idea. She tells them that extra money for the arts would be a great relief for single moms like her. Now just to report back to Malcolm...
MALCOLM: How did it play with the focus groups?When the papers come out they find out that their new policy is universally hated. But it's late so they all leave to figure it out in the morning, with Malcolm reminding Hugh to watch the zeitgeist tape. Malcolm clearly never sleeps because in the middle of the night he gets a call from Hewitt, explaining he's writing another story on the focus groups the Government uses, and how Hugh can't do anything without them.
HUGH: She loves it.
OLLIE: They love it, they absolutely love it. You’ve got 94% strong stroke on the approve ratings, it’s enormous.
MALCOLM: Why did you say she?
HUGH: I don’t know, you call a boat she?
Hugh never got the chance to watch that tape, so the next morning, prior to his interview with Angela, Malcolm sits him down in front of the TV and makes him watch it. Hugh spots Mary from the focus group. She's an
“We’re organizing focus groups to listen to the opinions of ordinary people, except their not ordinary people they’re fucking actors so they’re not technically people at all!”Hugh goes and hides in a cupboard hoping to avoid Malcolm. Never going to happen...
MALCOLM: You said she.They call Angela to push the interview forward and Malcolm tells him to change his shirt and his tie, so he looks more 'afternoon television', to which Hugh replies, with one of my favorite lines of the episode, “What do you want me to wear, a fucking Hawaiian shirt?”
MALCOLM: Come out of the cupboard, Hugh.
MALCOLM: Hugh we have to sort this out. When I asked you about the focus group you said she, loved it.
HUGH: We gave her a one-on-one.
HUGH: She’s middle England.
MALCOLM: So middle England is big fucking field with one woman standing in it.
HUGH: Do you think Hewitt will find out?
MALCOLM: OF COURSE HE FUCKING WILL SHE’S HIS MOLE!
Malcolm is convinced that Mary is a mole, feeding information to Hewitt, so they bring her in, and in conversation with Hugh we get my non-sweary quote of the episode.
“You invented the kids? You made up small children? Jesus Christ! That’s sick. You invented children, small children who don’t exist.”Quickly followed by Malcolm (who else?) delivering the sweary quote of the episode:
“No, no, no, no, it’s not going to be okay. And I’ll tell you why? Because you’re fair game, so I hope you knickers are clean. Because every seat sniffing little shitbag that’s ever filed a bi-line is going to be questioning you ‘cause now it’s in the fucking public interest isn’t it? And they’re going to hit you with any shit they can find and you’re going to be spread out there in front of them like a trollop in the stocks. But we can help you, we can hold those dogs back. We can get you a nice journalist, yeah? We can get you to a nice, young journalist, Angela Heaney. And maybe you, and I don’t know what shit they made you sign, but whatever it was it was bullshit. Maybe if you say that you were misquoted and that Simon Hewitt’s a prick, if you just said that, the journalist you told your story to. You spoke to Simon Hewitt. You fucking spoke to Simon Hewitt he’s a fat guy with a tiny little dick the size of a Bookies Biro.”
But to Malcolm's horror, Mary has no idea who Simon Hewitt is, meaning that they have essentially leaked the story themselves without ever needing to. Plus she's now got a story to sell, about how she was dragged out of bed and told what to say to the press.
Another late night in the office ends with Hugh asking Glenn to phone his wife so he can sleep for a few hours on one of the couches.
Andrew Jero lives in Iowa and has a very strong love of both Red Dwarf and Doctor Who. He enjoys acting and writing plays, television scripts, and short stories. Follow Andrew on Twitter.