Absolute Power, BBC2

by | Nov 10, 2003 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

A superbly scholarly satire about the pernicious planet of PR.

What to say if you didn’t like it

A conceited, esoteric facsimile of Yes Minister populated by monstrous mannequins.

What was good about it?

• The razor-sharp dialogue you could use to cut your children’s sandwiches with. “In all honesty…” began Charles Prentiss (Stephen Fry), “Please don’t say that,” interrupted the Home Secretary, “it only makes it more difficult to believe you.”

• When Cat devises a Big Brother themed advert to encourage people to accept ID cards, Martin McCabe (John Bird) retorts, “Jon Tickle? Is he a real person?”

• Prentiss-McCabe’s ingenious advert to scare the British public into acquiescing to ID cards. A stereotypically shifty Arab terrorist relished not having an ID card as it meant he could easily smuggle explosives aboard a plane, while a family of devious asylum seekers were delighted they didn’t have to carry ID as they could melt away anonymously into Britain and leech money from social services. “Excellent,” crowed a triumphant Charles, “Bring on the paedophile!”

• The character of Alison (Zoë Telford) has been fleshed out and given even more neuroses. She is also notable for lacking the imagination and inspiration of her workmates, which oddly makes her the most interesting role.

• The disturbing disparity in size between Stephen Fry and John Bird when they are sat together – they look like Baloo and Mowgli in the Jungle Book.

• Alan Hansen presenting the ID Card lottery, “I’m in. Are you?”

What was bad about it?

• The Tim Heman joke. OK, so he hasn’t won a Grand Slam title but he’s been in the top 10 for much of the past decade. Does nobody remember pre-1995 when Britain had nobody in the top 100 players?

• Dermot Murnaghan’s over-acting.

• The episode being switched from one the originally billed about Osama Bin Laden’s relative buying British Airways. To paraphrase Steve Coogan’s pool security guard from The Day Today, “On the 21st of July, no one died.”

• The utterly unnecessary anachronistic music hall drums and cymbals to denote a punchline.

• The middle-class anti-football snobbery which blighted the narrative. The Beckhams’ biography was called Thick And Thin, while on one of the otherwise inventive ideas boards used to break-up scenes, Wayne Rooney was discounted as a presenter of the ID card lottery for being “too thick”.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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