So funny it hurts, so savage it's scary. That's the classic British way with comedy and satire, as fans of the original Office
In much the same vein, including shaky hand-held cameras to give a documentary-style sense of realism (with nausea as a possible side effect), BBC America delivers another painfully hilarious winner in The Thick of It (Fridays at 9 pm/ET), about a government minister so ineffectual and insecure he makes the Office manager look like Boss of the Year.
As the six-episode series opens, the minister for social affairs is being fired by the show's reptilian villain, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the prime minister's hatchet man. Filling this vague position with misguided optimism and bumbling social awkwardness comes poor Hugh Abbot (Chris Langham), a tool whom the press calls "disconnected to the point of autism."
Watching Hugh desperately brainstorm random policies he is ill-equipped to enact, braving the wrath of Malcolm and the scorn of the media, is harrowing, surreal and laugh-out-loud funny.
"I'm not quite sure what level of reality I'm supposed to be operating in," Hugh whines after being told to spin a policy one way, then another. ("I didn't say that we weren't doing it, which is as good as saying that we were," he explains during what is called "Flip Flop Friday.")
With The West Wing ending and Commander in Chief in creative disarray and ratings free fall, maybe playing politics for laughs is the next way to go.
A Fowl Play
Incessantly grim and simplistically alarmist, ABC's instamovie Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America (Tuesday, May 9 at 8 pm/ET) isn't as cheesy as it sounds, but is it necessary? Tracking a mutating strain of avian flu from China to America, with casualties in the millions before the downbeat nonending, this speculative docudrama is mechanical and forgettable, while delivering a sobering message that modern society could easily collapse in a pandemic.