All Politics Is Toxic

Reviewing the series finale of "The Thick of It" (spoiler above), Brendan James underscores the unsentimentality of British TV shows compared to their American counterparts:

The series finale on Sunday was in fact a brutal affair, with every wretched minister, back-biting adviser and thickheaded secretary suffering the full consequences of their idiocy, duplicity, and cruelty — except for the really awful ones, who got off scot-free! Even the format was unsentimental. There was no extended, hour-long run time; the conclusion of seven years, four seasons and an Academy Award–nominated film was wrapped up in half an hour, business as usual. All the usual avenues for last-minute TV moralizing were blocked; anyone who attempted an onscreen monologue was heckled in real time by the other characters ("If you’re gonna go, go. Spare us the Peter Finch bullshit").

His larger point:

But the bleakness of Iannucci’s final act in Westminster was precisely the show’s last artistic success. The finale spelled out an essential truth about the world it so successfully (and sometimes prophetically) satirized: In politics, there really are no happy endings. One comes into contact with too many toxic agents, too many compromises with conscience. As the near-psychopathic senior press officer Jamie McDonald once barked in the show’s outstanding "Spinners and Losers" Christmas special: "This isn’t ‘EastEnders.’ This is politics. There’s no clean hands." The best one can do is make it out of there with some humanity intact.