Crash course: Small-screen politics

  • @Holly_bops


Yes Minister


A staple of 80s TV. Margaret Thatcher was said to be a fan of this sitcom about Whitehall manoeuvering a hapless politician

The New Statesman


At the perfect political moment, Rik Mayall's satirical Alan B'Stard was a callous, ultra-right wing Tory backbencher

House of Cards

1990 & 2013

Francis Urquhart's sinister No 10 ambitions made gripping TV. Kevin Spacey starred in this year's US remake



With Michael Palin and Robert Lindsay, this controversial drama took on local politics and the hard left in Thatcher's Britain

The Politician's Wife


A wife exacts public revenge after her cabinet minister husband's affair is revealed

The West Wing


Martin Sheen played Democratic president Jed Bartlet, the fictional antidote to the Bush years

The Thick of It


Profanity-laden swipe at British politics where spin trumps policy – and Malcolm Tucker trumps all



A tense drama about Denmark's first female prime minister. Who knew coalition government could be so entertaining?



Armando Iannucci's The Thick Of It team produced a similar satire about a vice president in a high-stakes job with no real power

With a third series already ordered, the second season of Veep – starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a bumbling vice president – comes to an end in the US this month. It hits our screens in the autumn

Profile: The other man

Everyone knows Armando Iannucci – but while he's seen as the brains behind the best political satire of the day, a regular collaborator, Simon Blackwell, deserves recognition, too. He helped pen The Thick Of It, and the big-screen version, In the Loop. On Veep, Blackwell is a co-executive producer and a writer.

He may not be a familiar face; living in the Cotswolds, the 47-year-old isn't in the full media glare. But Blackwell's CV speaks for itself: he wrote for Peep Show and came up with the slang-spouting Second World War pilots in The Armstrong and Miller Show.

Though he only got into comedy in his late thirties, he's well versed in poking fun at politicians. He worked on Bremner, Bird and Fortune and The 11 O'Clock Show, and was chief writer on Have I Got News For You.

Having long worked on Iannucci's infamously sweary shows, he also knows a few things about using profanity to maximum effect. Don't swear just to shock, he says: "If Phillip Schofield said 'Good fucking morning you massive bunch of shits', I wouldn't like it."

By Holly Williams

How to: Get to the top

Just how do you elbow past your party colleagues and become leader? Ambitious young politicians could take some tips from TV...

Having "no firm opinions" helped Yes, Prime Minister's Jim Hacker to the top, while The Thick Of It's Nicola Murray led a party effectively run by her spin doctor. Sit back, let the puppet-masters reign – the job's yours.

Ruthlessness is a must. Follow the lead of House of Cards' Francis Urquhart (or US counterpart Frank Underwood) and use blackmail, sex, tabloid set-ups and even (spoiler alert!) murder to reach the summit.

Feeling lofty? Try inspiring voters with soaring rhetoric. In The West Wing, President Bartlet – and successor Matt Santos – won over the electorate with rousing speeches that mixed poetry, politics and sentimentality.

By Liam O'Brien