Did we like it?
A well-acted Whitehall farce that was either The Thick of It with sex, This Life with politics or Spooks without the lethal espionage.
What was good about it?
• An excellent cast. We expect thespian opulence from Colin Salmon and Raquel Cassidy (after Lead Balloon), but were somewhat surprised by the rich quality of the younger cast members – Andrew Buchan, Matt Smith, Shelley Conn and Andrea Risborough – especially as we’ve seen little or nothing of them before.
• All of which adds weigh to the recent conspiracy that the BBC has an actors factory, much like the clone army Attack of the Clones, which churns out a batch of performers replicated from the DNA of past icons of the stage and screen whenever a new youthful drama needs some fresh blood.
• Even though he was clumsily heralded as the ‘hero’ of the series through his admiration of the ANC and willingness to admit to his blunder that caused the collapse of Jo’s (Raquel Cassidy) new ministerial policy, Danny was very likeable as he ineptly tried to woo the doe-eyed Machiavelli-in-sheep’s-clothing Kirsty. Even his flaws were endearing, such as his witless efforts to slander Matt Baker by claiming that he got his position with slimy Tory shadow minister James Northcote through a blow job.
• The interpersonal relationships slowly form into a silken web of intrigue as Scott hooks up with the glamorous Ashika, who is down in the dumps after her boss James (Patrick Baladi) drops her after a warning about his philandering. This brings her into contact with Scott’s brother and her counterpart in the Labour government, Danny. But we also glimpsed glitter-grin journalist Sophie and the aforementioned Matt.
What was bad about it?
• While the acting is superb, all of the younger characters have been bathed in the celestial rays of human beauty for perhaps a little too long. Among the younger cast, only the reptilian Matt would struggle to get a gig as a model, and even his cheekbones would test the mountaineering skills of Chris Bonnington. This has the effect of all the beauty swirling about on screen coagulating into a milkshake straw of pulchritude, protruding from the screen and sucking you dry of the ability to care about the characters.
• All of which tarnishes the realism of the whole thing, as if Whitehall has badgered the BBC to inveigle more youngsters to become entrapped by the superficial gleam of politics in the same way Keeley Hawes’ Zoë has enticed many graduates to sign up for the secret services.
• Party Animals also suffers in comparison to The Thick of It’s insights into British politics. It lacks the lacerating cynicism of all involved as they clamber over one another like warthogs to suck on the teat of the PM or opposition leader and in comparison is Noddy Goes to Parliament.
• Scott Foster is one big, rasping ball of irritation. He has a perma-grin that seems to have been transplanted from one of the Bash Street Kids, he indulges in casual cocaine use making him automatically in the top 1% dullest and most worthless people in the British Isles, and, to celebrate a big new contract, he and his colleagues, Jake and Stephen, senselessly sip champagne even though they may not even like it (thankfully, Jake was later justly executed for this crime by the hand of fate moving a speeding car into his drunken path to mow him down – be warned future National Lottery winners). Although, in Scott’s favour, these traits still make him more likeable than 95% of all other political lobbyists, 100% of all property developers and 110% of all mobile phone entrepreneurs.
• Just before his death, Jake had actually got himself a transfer from the semi-realistic political drama to the cutthroat world of soap operas. After Scott was promoted ahead of him, Jake, in the indelible tradition of Phil Mitchell et al, got drunk to drown his sorrows and stumbled down to the pub to meet Scott (and his doom), thus enabling the script to veer off the straight road of common sense into a water-filled ditch of reactionary confrontation.