Hulu Takes Hands-off Approach to U.K. Cult Hit 'The Thick of It'

Armando Iannucci Headshot - P 2012
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Armando Iannucci Headshot - P 2012

The political satire's writers say the U.S. co-production partner never balked at the show's trademark profanity.

LONDON – U.S. viewers powering up Hulu to watch the fourth season of Armando Iannucci's foul-mouthed political U.K. comedy The Thick of It are being promised the full lexicon of insults.

Producer Adam Tandy and two of the show's writers, Roger Drew and Sean Gray, insisted in interviews with The Hollywood Reporter that there had been no thoughts of toning down the script to appease sensitive American ears.

Tandy said Hulu has come aboard the show's fourth series as a co-producer with the BBC "after the show was finalized" and so there had been zero interference on the curse-laden British political satire.

The show, which casts a satirical eye over the inner workings of the British government, has established itself on the U.K. side of the pond as a cult favorite using curse-heavy dialogue to comedic effect and making household names of characters such as Malcolm Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi.

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A quick check on YouTube reveals a slew of montage footage of Tucker's more infamous curses.

Drew and Gray were two of the show's six strong core writing team – cast member Will Smith is billed as an actor and writer – having working on Veep, Iannucci's HBO U.S. political show set in Washington.

Drew said he and Gray were not aware of Hulu's production involvement from a creative perspective and set about creating places for the F-bombs and even the "c-word" with aplomb.

"In reality, we're both quite filthy," Gray said. "But we didn't swear that much in production."

But should there be any doubt on the volume and level of cursing in what marks a return to British screens for the sweary show after a three-year absence, ensemble cast member Ben Willbond leaves no doubt.

"It's too sweary and too nasty for my mother," Willbond confessed. "She won't watch it."

Smith treats his involvement as an actor and writer on the show "separately" during its eight-week shoot.

And he says his billing as an actor and writer has never come up with his fellow ensemble cast members as a problem.

That may be largely due to the fact that the ensemble cast, boasting a who's who of British character TV stars and stage veterans including Rebecca Front, Joanna Scanlan, Roger Allam, James Smith and newcomer to the show Rebecca Gethings, are all encouraged to ad lib heavily during scenes.

As to the swearing for his family members, Smith initially worried when he first signed up to the cast in the first series eight years ago.

"My grandmother is a vicar here so I wasn't sure she'd be very pleased," Smith said. "But she said, 'don't worry, I drove an ambulance during the [second world] war,' so I suppose that puts it in context.

Gethings, whose previous roles include an outing in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's Extras, enjoys the ad lib environment, having been asked during her audition to do just that for the show.

"Not all the characters swear in the same way," Gethings noted with a smile.

Hulu sealed a deal with the BBC to co-produce the fourth season and, as of the end of July, became the exclusive U.S. destination for viewers looking for the first three seasons as well as the series’ two specials that had been released between seasons.

Hulu will air the fourth season day-and-date with the U.K. broadcast on BBC, set for early September 2012.

That run is ahead of the show's return to BBC America, where the last outing was bleeped, early next year.

It marks a return to screens after a three-year hiatus.

"The single biggest challenge in putting together this series has been getting everyone [the cast] in the same place at the same time," Tandy said.

Sensitive ears will be pleased the waiting is nearly over.