The Weekend's Viewing: The Thick of It, Sat, BBC2
Homeland, Sun, Channel 4

 

An hour of The Thick of It and not an oath that didn't come fenced by quotation marks.

Stranger still, a good quarter of an hour of Malcolm Tucker and not an oath at all. The Bernini of the wounding obscenity, origin of some of the most thrillingly baroque execrations ever heard on television, was in unnervingly decorous form this week, curbing his speech to the formal requirements of the Goolding Inquiry, the governmental hearings into the culture of leaking that took up all of Saturday's extended episode. It was a daring departure from form – the cameras fixed and no corridor scurrying or whispered conversations – and it turned into something more fiercely accusatory than you might have expected. Every episode of The Thick of It rests on a contempt for the evasions and hypocrisy of party politics, of course, but the writers had a broader target here. In a final tirade before the inquiry panel, Malcolm turned their accusations back on them and denounced what he saw as a charade of Establishment indignation: "Everyone in this room has bent the rules," he said. "I am you and you are me."

But that detectable swerve into gravity came only towards the end of an episode that mostly relished the comic possibilities of the televised inquiry, a theatre of self-serving earnestness that we've most recently experienced through the Leveson hearings. I wasn't entirely convinced myself that any such hearing would interrogate three colleagues simultaneously, but a little bit of poetic licence doesn't hurt and pretty much everywhere else the script pinned down the absurdities of the process perfectly, as ministers and their functionaries did their best to ensure that none of the shit that had just hit the fan sprayed back on them. There was false contrition: "Others may attempt to wriggle off the hook of shame. I will not," said Phil solemnly. There were the tics of nervous self-incrimination: "I don't have a guilty conscience but I do have a guilty face," confessed Terri, shortly before going off on a rambling inconsequentiality about her brother's abused hamster. And there was that transparent switch from suave professionalism to exonerating cluelessness whenever the questions got dangerously specific.

Some of the witnesses stammered out their prevarications: "I do not recall to that," said Terri at one point. Others waved them in the panel's face: "Je ne remember pas," replied Malcolm scornfully, after he'd been presented with apparently incontrovertible proof of his guilt. And, curiously, the restrictions of the set-up pushed the cast into some of their best performances for weeks, not doing a familiar schtick any longer but suddenly off balance and under an entirely novel kind of pressure. It was both very funny and also the closest thing we've had to serious political drama on television for far too long.

Last week's big enigma in Homeland was why Carrie bothered to re-dye her hair blonde while she was still in the field in Beirut and, you might have thought, had a lot more pressing things to do. This week, the mystery was why Abu Nazir would insist on Brody jeopardising his cover by sending him to rescue the group's bomb-maker, whose cover had been blown. You have an agent with access to the highest levels of the American government, a man who has just saved you from a CIA assassination and is a national celebrity ("Hey. Ain't you that guy who was rescued from the Ay-rabs?"). And you send him to a place that will shortly be crawling with Federal agents on a mission that could be accomplished with one telephone call? From that point things got worse with comical rapidity until Brody's day ended with him hosing blood and mud off himself in a public car wash. I'm beginning to wonder whether this plot was devised at one of the real-world locations glimpsed in last night's episode – the George Bush Center for Intelligence.

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable