15/09/2012 19:09 BST | Updated 15/09/2012 19:11 BST

TV REVIEW: The Thick Of It Finds Malcolm Tucker Working In Opposition... To His Boss

“No missed calls, I used to have missed calls piling up like f***ing pizza leaflets”

Three years away from our screens, and thus was it immediately clear that Malcolm Tucker’s professional life was not the tack and jibe of his heady years at the helm of government.

Malcolm Tucker is having to adjust to a new role of limited influence, and it doesn't suit him

Instead, Malcolm (Peter Capaldi) was forced to watch, open-mouthed, while his boss Nicola Murray (Rebecca Front) – now Leader of the Opposition – learned to walk suitably sedately for Remembrance Sunday.

Was she ready for Prime Minister’s Questions? “Oh yes, the start up question, the follow up question, the withering put-down. I’m prepped,” she assured him, before she got on with team strategy – or ‘Jizz FM’ as a slick-haired adviser Oliver Reeder (Chris Addison) called it.

Mr Tucker was dangerously calm and quiet in the middle of this lot of pointless toadying – clearly bored, resigned, despairing of the “abandoned barn of a brain” of his leader, and recruiting Oliver to help her fall on her sword… “nothing personal”.

Soon, just as the Cabinet’s Peter Mannion was left floundering with students’ apps last week, there was a bookend school-based embarrassment this week for Nicola, confounded by her team’s ineptitude in general, and by Malcolm’s tinkering in particular.

Nicola Murray was facing it from all sides, and from within

It was all as dense and heavily-loaded with swift put-downs as usual but, in comparison to the energy of the previous week’s Coalition government, there was a weariness to this lot in opposition, which was reflected in the lack of energy of the comedy. It felt as though Armando Iannucci was saving his pithy powder for the off-stage team we saw last week, or at least having more fun with them.

This existential deflatedness did have a silver lining, however, in setting up Malcolm Tucker for a surreal greasy-spoon cafe monologue.

Not content to prove he’s still a poet with his imperative that their futile leader must “dislodged gently, like a tick from a cat’s ear”, he outdid himself with a demonstration of his power for analogy and grip on modern culture, summoning Oliver Reeder to join him in revolution thus…

What’s that film you love? The one about the space hairdresser and the cowboy. He’s got a tin foil pal and a pedal bin. His father’s a robot and he’s f***ing f***ed his sister… they’re made of Lego. They’re all made of f***ing Lego!”

Star Wars?” asked Reeder, incredulously.

“That’s the one.”

Photo gallery The Thick Of It Returns See Gallery