After what seems a lightweight start, this series suddenly gets very dramatic (in a 'House of Cards' way) and is very funny and gripping, if not quite reaching the highs of the 2 'Election Specials'. Without giving too much away (wouldn't want to leak), series 4 takes a sour look at the workings and machinations of the coalition government and the new opposition, which is now led by a hapless Nichola Murray.
It builds towards a public inquiry, not a million miles removed from the Hutton Inquiry, in which, arguably, the death of David Kelly was caused by the kind of vile people this programme satirizes. Malcolm Tucker (now which Hutton Inquiry witness was he allegedly based on again?) doesn't appear as often as in the previous shows, but he is still at the heart of the political plotting and every scene in which he is present is darkly humorous and superbly vitriolic.
The dialogue is still witty, but more toxic than ever before and Peter Capaldi's acting is spell-binding. Tucker is described as 'Iago with a blackberry' and Capaldi and the writers bring a Shakespearean dimension to the character. Aside from Iago there are analogies with the downfall of Richard II too.
There are a number of great comic performances where the character and the actor blend to such perfection that the actor never truly escapes the role ever again: Steptoe / Corbett, Fawlty / Cleese come to mind, for example, and Tucker / Capaldi may find himself, for better or worse, in this group of comedic geniuses.
It is not quite a perfect series. Too many characters swear and insult each other in a similar Tuckeresque way. Some argue this is due to the corrosive effect of Tucker on political communication, but some of the dialogue, perhaps, needed a bit more variety and nuance. Also, the 'liberal coalition' characters are suitably opportunistic, but slightly too puerile for my tastes. (I look at weasels like Clegg and Alexander and find them unpleasant, unprincipled, but not frivolous and I had hoped to see the 'junior' coalition partners in the series get more of a satirical battering - although Glenn takes a step in the right direction in the final episode.) Nonetheless this is clearly one of the few unmissable recent UK comedy shows. And what can replace it?