The Series (4/5)
I do not want to suggest there was a conspiracy afoot with this unexpected release of the complete series of the Thick of It, but I'm going to anyway. I just so happened to get a press release from BBC's American branch regarding this release on July 23rd. The Thick of It is the biggest known commodity from actor Peter Capaldi in their canon, and it so happened to release just at the same time has he was announced as the new Doctor Who. Now rumors were going around for weeks before that Capaldi was the new Doctor. Coincidence, probably, but maybe not.
The Thick of It is a political satire created by The Day Today's Armando Iannucci who has taken Thick of It's sensibilities recently to HBO for the Julia Louis Dreyfus lead show Veep. The basic premise of the series follows the antics of a Government Minister's office as it deals with day to day political strife. The only real mainstay character throughout the 4 seasons, and specials is Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker, however, in direct contrast to the packaging and advertising he is not the star of the show. The Thick of It is more of an improvisational ensemble comedy that plays off real life political situations. The interesting thing about this technique is it allows for not a single character to feel overly important, and can easily be written off as situations change as they are apt to do over the shows 4 seasons.
To go along with the ensemble cast is a improvisational shooting style akin to something like the Office. The show appears to have been shot with digital cameras with natural lighting, and long extended takes. According to show creator Iannucci this technique allowed for greater improvisation amongst the actors, and created more spontaneous character moments. It also allowed cost to be kept down, because each episode could be shot in a more time efficient manner.
On the subject of this stylistic decision I will say, much like films like Open Water, The Blair Witch Project, Troll Hunter, Melancholia, and their ilk certain viewers (myself very much included) will find themselves suffering from motion sickness due to the shooting style of the show. In order to make it through all 4 series and specials, I had to take Dramamine half an hour before each viewing session.
I would stress even with that I do not want to dissuade any viewers from The Thick of it. The show is a truly sharp political satire. The tight writing, great comedic acting, and so many laugh out loud funny moments. It may also use explicit language in a funnier stronger way than any other program I can think of. Stylistic choices aside, The Thick of It belongs in the collection of any fan of classic British Comedy.
BBC Worldwide has presented the complete series of the Thick of It in a series of 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer preserving the show's original broadcast OAR. I would go so far as to suggest that the DVD's accurately reflect the original broadcast quality of the show, but this where reviewing a set like the Thick of It becomes tricky. My policy, and the policy of this site is to review content based on the standards for the material. If a film is show on 16mm, does the transfer reflect a good quality 16mm transfer, if it is shot on digital does it reflect the original look of the material as best as possible. The Thick of It Complete Series does indeed look well across all 7 discs in the set. Each episode looks like it was shot on digital video, with natural lighting in place of quality studio lighting and in that regard the video on this set is a success. That being said those expecting a beautiful looking transfer are probably watching the wrong show, simply because the nature of the production this is probably the best it is ever going to look.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 English track provided does precisely what it needs to. The dialogue is conveyed loud and clear, music is audible where applicable. I did not detect instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
The main extra provided are commentary tracks provided by Armando Iannucci on the episodes and in the photo galleries. There are also deleted scenes and outtakes, and a 10 minute behind the scenes featurette for Series 3. The set is rounded off by a production photo gallery.
Absolutely one of the funniest comedy shows of recent times. The Thick of It belongs in any British Comedy Fans Collection. The A/V replicates the digital-documentary shooting style of the show, but fair warning those susceptiable to motion sick might want to keep a bit of dramamine on hand, because the camera work does get quite a bit shaky. The extras are slim and limited to mostly commentaries and a short featurette. The series comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. The package itself RECOMMENDED.