Thursday, January 04, 2007

Quote of the day

"I think it's useful to seem responsible. It means I get an office at the BBC, when really they shouldn't trust me further than they can kick me".

Armando Iannucci, in conversation with Mark Lawson on BBC Four last night.

Sandwiched between the Alan Partridge Christmas special 'Knowing Me Knowing Yule' (which Iannucci co-wrote and produced) and the Christmas special of his political satire 'The Thick Of It', the hour-long interview was packed full of fascinating stuff - not least the details of his first meeting with Chris Morris, in which they met at BBC Television Centre and then drove round and round it for a couple of hours chatting because there were no parking spaces. The beginnings of a beautiful friendship indeed. For someone who, like Morris, seems to get a thrill out of being provocative, in many ways Iannucci came across as quite a conservative person, as well as an unashamed comedy enthusiast (less surprisingly).

Perhaps most revealing was Iannucci's evident unease at Partridge's infamous 1996 interview with Tony Blair in front of a youthful audience, one which was (as he said) entirely "on-message". Ten years later, and he was spoofing Blair's assassination in 'Time Trumpet', as part of The Terrorism Awards presented by Peter Snow and Philippa Forrester...

And what of 'The Thick Of It', the second series of which follows later this year? Well, there was an obvious need to keep Hugh Abbot, the bumbling minister played by Chris Langham, out of things, but what was good to see was that the programme didn't collapse without its centre.

Instead, Olly Reeder (Chris Addison) and Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi, in superb vein-popping form) took the lead, with the latter's near-breakdown particularly effective, and we were also introduced to the Shadow Minister Peter Mannion (Roger Allam) and his team, pretty much a mirror image, for whom the biggest issue of the day was nothing to do with social affairs or citizenship but whether or not Mannion should be seen wearing a tie in public.

If I had one reservation - and I never thought I'd say this - it would be that much of the humour (more than in the first series) relied upon the vulgarities exchanged between the characters. The dialogue could I think have been sharper and more witty had the emphasis not so often been on simple verbal crudity as a comic device. It perhaps had more of Jesse 'Peep Show' Armstrong about it than Iannucci himself, so it'll be interesting to see how the second series pans out.

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