What's On

4/21/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

The Thick of It

BBC America Friday, May 12 (9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT)

The black comedy comes fast and furious in The Thick of It, the new BBC America offering that follows a bumbling U.K. government minister and his advisers and aides. Billed as “Spin City meets the Larry Sanders Show,” it's actually more of a cross between The West Wing and The Office, merging the former's accessible-to-the-masses wonkery with the latter's slice-of-life editing style and cringe-worthy humor.

A British Comedy Award winner from Armando Iannucci (I'm Alan Partridge), the show focuses on Chris Langham as the hapless Hugh Abbott, an aloof, pop-culture-challenged secretary of state for social affairs. Langham's performance as the addled nincompoop is deadpan funny, and he's complemented by an excellent supporting cast: Glenn Cullen (James Smith), the trusted lieutenant who's finger isn't as on the pulse of the public as he'd like to think; Oliver Reeder (Chris Addison), the junior member of the staff and king of the one-liner that falls flat; and office scapegoat Terri Coverley (Joanna Scanlon), who's often left out of the loop.

All four live in abject fear of Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) — the prime minister's top political adviser and policy coordinator — an often-profane Scotsman who gets his way with bullying rants. He is the breakout star; the David Brent of this office.

Watching the politicos weasel their way out of awkward situations typically generated by their own incompetence is only half the fun of The Thick of It. Its crisply written, sarcastic dialogue, as much as, the plotlines that makes for the show's painful hilarity. —Michael Demenchuk

This Job's A Trip

Travel Channel Thursday, April 27 (8 p.m. ET)

Travel Channel's new series This Job's a Trip is less travelogue and more reality show aimed at viewers who have tired of their jobs. The premise: Each week, two people get to try out their dream job by spending a “vacation” with an expert in fields such as cattle wrangling, dolphin training and, in the season premiere, white water rafting.

Think of it as career counseling on the set of Survivor. Not surprisingly, the series is produced in conjunction with VocationVacations, a company that arranges these sort of outings — something that may leave a faint infomercial aftertaste.

In the first episode, a construction foreman and a flight attendant head off to raft on Oregon's White Salmon River. Initially treated as “customers,” they soon face the challenge of actually having to guide two rafts-full of clients through a multiday rafting and camping trip.

The sequences in the rapids are exciting in a hand-held-camera-with-water-on-its-lens sort of way; and the sibling relationship that forms between the two job-trippers gives the show some genuine human interest.

This Job's a Trip is consistent with the network's broad “travel entertainment” mandate, and should click with couch-potato travelers, as well as viewers who just hate their jobs. —George Vernadakis

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