Top five TV picks of the week: Foul mouths back in power

Rebecca Front (centre) and Peter Capaldi (front right) square off in The Thick of It. Photo / Supplied
Rebecca Front (centre) and Peter Capaldi (front right) square off in The Thick of It. Photo / Supplied

Pick of the week: The Thick of It

After making a vault from small screen to movie with In the Loop, and its creator Armando Iannucci having taken his industrial-grade style of political satire to Washington in Veep, it's time for his acclaimed The Thick of It to return after three years for its fourth and final season.

The show has been acclaimed as the greatest skewering of the Westminster system since the much gentler Yes, Minister. And as with British politics in the past three years, much has changed.

Tomorrow night's opening episode focuses on the new coalition incumbents at the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship. Which means the show's greatest creation, the expletive machine that is former government head of communications Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) isn't to be seen until later in the seven-episode season.

He's now working for the Opposition and specifically for Nicola Murray (Rebecca Front) who has somehow become party leader in a post-election shuffle, despite her time as a lame duck Cabinet minster.

Despite being beaten, the foul-mouthed spin-doctor and Murray are plotting a return to power.

"I was only too delighted that the show is covering the Opposition," says Front. "This is a bonus for me, I thought we might not be in it at all."

Front says the reason the show works is the "claustrophobic" nature of politics. "Westminster really is a village. It's completely up itself and self-referential. That really works in comedy terms because these people are solely obsessed by the thinking: 'How will this play and how will I look? Will the other guy look worse than me?"'

Despite the venal view of politics, those working in Westminster have told Front it is actually "a fairly gentle portrayal. That's when you think: 'My God, these people are really up against it. No wonder they're behaving like idiots."'

Even before her character had a name, she experienced one of Tucker's famous verbal volleys.

"Armando asked us to improvise. Peter, this nice gentle man, stood up and suddenly turned into Malcolm. It was terrifying."

Yet being "Tuckered", as the cast calls it, is a particular pleasure for Front. "Peter is one of the best actors I've ever worked with, he's extraordinary. There's a real pleasure in having a scene where you're being screamed at by somebody who's a fantastic actor."

The series bounces between the three parties. The storylines follow the friction between coalition partners - specifically the ever-exasperated new Secretary of State (Roger Allam) and his junior minister - as well as a Leveson-style inquiry, where Tucker is put under the grill and doesn't particularly enjoy the experience.

When: 9pm, Fridays
Where: UKTV
What: Political satire at its [expletive] best

Drama pick: Nurse Jackie

Edie Falco is back in her award-winning role as hard-boiled, smart-talking nurse Jackie Peyton, still struggling to balance the demands of a thankless job with those of her family. Her marriage has crumbled and in season four Jackie finally decides to confront her pill-popping addictions, tells her colleagues she's going to Disneyland, and checks herself into rehab. She doesn't really relate to the other patients, but strikes up a bond with green-haired teenager Charlie. He's a straight shooter and calls her out on her behaviour.

Meanwhile a corporation named Quantum Bay is taking over the hospital, which sees the arrival of a new physician, Mike Cruz, who's keen to reinvigorate the nursing staff.

When: Monday, 9.30pm
Where: TV3
What: The nurse becomes the patient

Talk show pick: The Graham Norton Show

It has only been running since 2007, but The Graham Norton Show has somehow racked up 12 seasons in that time, making Norton one of the most well-known talkshow hosts in the Western world. The cheeky, camp, Dublin-born comedian returns with a new series this week, with the usual array of famous and funny people along to warm his couches.

Guests this week include Arnold Schwarzenegger (who reveals how to get a Terminator body and explains how he never took a salary as Governor), queen of awkward comedy Miranda Hart, and legendary joker Ronnie Corbett. And the following week it's a Bond special when Norton gets in three Skyfall stars - Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Javier Bardem.

When: Friday, 8.30pm
Where: TV3
What: His new series

Sitcom pick: I Hate My Teenage Daughter

This new sitcom teases out that difficult mother-daughter balance between respect and friendship with laughs and heart.

Jaime Pressly (My Name Is Earl) and Katie Finneran star as Annie Watson and Nikki Miller - best friends who lean on each other amidst the difficult task of raising two teenage daughters and dealing with their ex-husbands. Having felt like misfits most of their lives, Annie and Nikki want their daughters' lives to be infinitely cooler than theirs, so they try to give the girls everything they ask for. But they've ended up raising two spoiled beauties who do things like lock a wheelchair-bound boy in the girls' bathroom at school, and intimidate their own mothers with their coolness.

When: Sunday, 6.30pm
Where: TV2
What: Like, whatever Mom

Crime pick: The Suspects

It seems our appetite for stories about the Aussie underworld remains insatiable. We've had multiple series of the true crime-drama Underbelly but in this new show, presented by Kiwi actor (and Underbelly star) Roy Billing, and dating from 2010, each episode looks at three cases and presents the investigation from a police perspective.

Told in a whodunnit style, the crimes are unravelled via police interviews and surveillance tapes, and the show also uses dramatised re-enactments and news reports.

The cases range from murders to kidnappings to robberies, but the key to hooking the audience is letting them play detective alongside the real ones.

When: Monday, 8.30pm
Where: One
What: Arresting performances

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 22 Dec 2014 08:44:47 Processing Time: 600ms