One is a multi-million dollar American T.V. epic, and the other is a small-time British satire that’s recently caught everyone’s attention. One is a sentimental drama, the other a low-budget satirical comedy. In terms of production values and ethos, they couldn’t be further apart. But I’ve been watching a lot of both recently, and I’m going to break them down into their various components to see which offers the best fictional version of showbusiness for ugly people: politics.


The Thick of It: 5 out of 10

Hugh Abbot, played by Chris Langham (series 1)

Nicola Murray, played by Rebecca Front (series 2)

Politicians in TTOI are portrayed as cardboard cut-outs of human beings who are constantly manipulated by their advisers and spin doctors. Whilst Langham’s character was bumbling and out of touch, we felt that he at least had the capacity for competence, and occasionally showed wry humour. But Nicola Murray makes New Labour wenches Tessa Jowell and Jacqui Smith seem like Joan of Arc and Queen Boadicea. Either way, the politicians themselves aren’t the stars of the show.

Best moment: Hugh Abbot confronted at a meet-and-greet by a relentless old woman who asks if he’s ever had to clean up his own mother’s piss (starts a minute in to video).


The West Wing: 9 out of 10

President Jed Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen

After blitzing the first two series of The West Wing in a couple of weeks, I would occasionally open a newspaper and wonder who this black guy in a suit making speeches was. “What happened to President Bartlet?” I’d think to myself as Obama stood at a podium. Bartlet is the president that everyone would love to have; he is a Nobel Economics laureate with compassion, strong values and a completely ludicrous case of multiple sclerosis that he’s hidden from everyone, who never fails to have me rooting for him. And Martin Sheen’s performance is like a great version of a modern-day King Lear. God, I wish Bartlet were president right now.

Best moment: Bartlet completely floors a religious zealot. We can only dream of moments like this happening in real life.

Click next page to continue to face off.