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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May 2005, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
BBC unveils new political comedy
Chris Langham, one of the stars of The Thick of It
Actor Chris Langham plays home affairs minister out of his depth
A new BBC TV comedy aims to throw open the doors of 10 Downing Street exposing just how political advisers and ministers operate in the 21st Century.

The Thick Of It creator Armando Iannucci has described his new series as Yes Minister meets the US TV chatshow spoof Larry Sanders, famed for its deadpan style - and its swearing.

Mr Iannucci spent time with Alastair Campbell and "got into trying to anticipate his way of thinking" but he says the character of Malcolm Tucker, Number 10's chief enforcer in the TV series, is not solely based on Tony Blair's former media chief.

"Tucker's an amalgam of the types you hear about. Not just the Campbells and the Mandelsons but the nameless people in Number 10 whose job is like Ofsted inspectors going round schools," he told BBC News.

"They go around the ministries telling them what to do and what's gone wrong."

Sidelined?

He adds that in the days of Yes Minister the story was very much about the relationship between the minister and his civil servant.

"Now it's about the minister and their political advisers brought in around them," Mr Iannucci says, adding civil servants nowadays are "slightly pushed to one side" with Number 10 driving things from the centre.

Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Fowlds
Yes Minister was very different - but it was 25 years ago

Yes Minister co-writer Antony Jay said he couldn't imagine Sir Humphrey Appleby, the permanent secretary played by the late Nigel Hawthorne, employing the kind of expletives used by Tucker.

"Mind you it's a quarter of a century ago. I am sure that one of the things that has changed is the level of language and the funny thing is that although there's a lot of very bad language in [In The Thick Of It] it actually isn't offensive," said Mr Jay.

"In fact it would be offensive if there wasn't - the whole culture that's being exposed there is riddled with expletives and obscenities. It's not there to shock, it's there to be true."

Inside track?

Mr Jay and co-writer Jonathan Lynn famously had plenty of "discreet lunches" with key figures in government to get a feel of what had actually happened on the inside of newsworthy events.

And it was clearly worth it because as former cabinet secretary Lord Butler remarked Yes Minister was "one of the best political textbooks about the British system".

Mr Iannucci too had a "series of discreet lunches" with people from all of the main political parties to get a feel of how government works now.

"That gave me the confidence to decide how to make the programme really," he said.

The Thick Of It is to be broadcast on BBC4 at 2230 BST on Thursday 19 May 2005.



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