It's hard to find a funnier political satirist than Armando Iannucci. The 48-year-old Scottish television writer has created two of television's funniest (and most damning) political satires, one on each side of the Atlantic Ocean.
The UK has The Thick of It, a series about a branch of British government's perpetual war with the press, with the explosively profane government spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) working hard to cover up the mistakes of this incompetent department. Stateside, there's Veep, which stars Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as gaffe-prone Vice President Selina Meyer, who is surrounded by an equally PR-challenged staff.
Veep premiered earlier this year on HBO to critical acclaim, and is also airing in the UK. Meanwhile, American viewers are getting into The Thick of It, which is now available on the streaming site Hulu. It's the first time the series has been available to Americans in its complete uncensored form.
Hulu was the perfect choice for the series, Iannucci told us, because it "preserve(s) the way the series was first made, with no restriction." The show had earlier aired on BBC America, which bleeped the language, "a key element" of the series, according to Iannucci. But Iannucci is also aware that the landscape of television is changing. "Most people watch television online," he acknowledges. "The idea of a network is losing its fixed importance." Hulu's "interesting and original" programming "already has an audience."
Iannucci also thinks that Americans will embrace The Thick of It, despite not being as politically cynical as the British. "There's a certain attitude toward the office [that Americans have]," he said. "Americans respect the office, but not the occupant, [while] in the UK, people do not have respect for the office -- they deliberately refuse pedestals." He admits that he was afraid that Veep would meet with resistance from the press as perceivedly "undermining" the office, but instead tapped into the frustrations of Americans who felt "disconnected, wondering why there were no decisions being made. There's a general disconnect [between the government and the people]." That's why he thinks Veep was so successful in the US: "Veep shows that the inner workings of government are much more fallible than you'd think," he said, a theme that's also quite prominent in The Thick of It.
Three seasons of The Thick of It are currently available on Hulu, with the fourth to premiere on Hulu the same day it premieres in the UK. Iannucci promises a "very different" new year for the show, with a "very different new government team," following the change of party at the end of the show's third season. The second episode will rejoin Malcolm and Nicola, who are now "leaders of the opposition." The usually fiery Malcolm is now "subservient and takes orders, but he won't let it last."
"Series 4 is structured around events that cause momentum that bring the government and the opposition together," Iannucci shared. It's a "continual" story featuring new, "frustrating" situations. They've just finished editing the series, which is slated to come to both BBC Two and Hulu in the fall.
As for Veep's second season, writing has just started. "We're going to explore Selina's relationship with the West Wing and the president," according to Iannucci. "She wants more access to the decision-making process."
He won't rule out a crossover between the two shows, but states that he hasn't put any thought toward the idea yet. The characters of The Thick of It previously explored the special relationship between the US and the UK government in the acclaimed film In the Loop, which starred Capaldi as Tucker while also featuring James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) and Tom Hollander.
We also had to ask Iannucci what he thought of the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, especially since his comedy series Time Trumpet had satirically skewered the event back in 2006. "Once Voldemort arrived, I wanted a Quidditch game to start happening," he said of the Danny Boyle-directed showcase. "I loved it, though. I also loved the outrage over the U.K.'s celebration of socialized healthcare," he says. Like Malcolm Tucker, he's always aware of the relationship between the government and the press -- and he finds it hilarious.
You can, too. Just watch The Thick of It, which is available now on Hulu. If you're still debating it, maybe this quote could convince you.
Veep season 2 will premiere on HBO next year.