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The Best Political TV Shows

How about this for artistic integrity? Screenwriter Paul Abbott (Shameless, Touching Evil, Cracker) was commissioned by the BBC to write a follow-up series to celebrated 2003 political thriller State of Play, but didn’t do it because, he says, he just couldn’t make the sequel idea work. If only the creators of so many disappointing TV follow-ups would have been that honest. (Cough. Broad. Church.)

This six-part thriller is a contained story about a top level Westminster conspiracy that kicks off with the murders of a teenager and a political researcher. What connects them, and what it all has to do with a member of parliament (David Morrissey) is for journalist (John Simm) to uncover. A gripping story with an excellent cast (also including Bill Nighy, Kelly Macdonald, and James McAvoy), State of Play maintained its tension all the way to the bitter end. It was a turning point for many of those involved, not least director David Yates who moved on to Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts fame, and BBC drama head Jane Tranter, who went on to revive Doctor Who with Russell T. Davies, with whom she’s currently doing it all over again. – LM

The Thick of It

Available on: BritBox (US), Sky, ITVX, BritBox (UK)

Without The Thick of It, there’d be no Veep – a sobering thought for comedy fans – but this 2005-2012 BBC political satire is much more than just a starter kit for the US version. Created by Armando Iannucci, it’s a pure-gold piss-take of the people in charge. Following a government minister and their aides behind the scenes, this faux-doc style comedy skewers hypocrisy, venality, incompetence and criminality in public office before, you know, that stuff made regular appearances on the nightly news. 

Chief of The Thick of It’s achievements of course is the creation of spin doctor Malcolm Tucker as played by Peter Capaldi. A one-man rage bucket with an approach to swearing so inventive he should rightly have been awarded a one-off Nobel Prize for ways to call someone a tosser, Tucker is legendary. With a gang of the UK’s best comedy writers including Succession’s Jesse Armstrong and Georgia Pritchett, and a cast including Rebecca Front, Roger Allam, Chris Addison and more, it’s basically unbeatable. – LM


Available on: Max (U.S.), Sky and Now (U.K.)

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