It's been a week now since Faber and Faber, the UK publisher, released Malcolm Tucker: The Missing Phone, a comedy that takes the form of an iPhone app, and somehow the nation survives. For those who aren't regular viewers of the BBC, a bit of explanation: Malcolm Tucker is the expletive-spouting spin doctor for No. 10 Downing Street in The Thick of It, a wicked smart comedy series that does for UK politics what The Office did for corporate bureaucracy. At the center of the £3.99 app is a delicious conceit: That you have stumbled across Malcolm's lost mobile, which is crammed with enough incriminating emails, voicemails, text messages, and attachments to bring down the government. And you've got it all in the palm of your hand.
Of course, Malcolm wants his phone back very badly, and launching the app will make you the target of the government's increasingly frantic attempts to retrieve it. Over the ensuing 72 hours, as you explore the contents of his handset, you'll get a barrage of pottymouth communiqués from Malcolm and his associates. Expect fecund combinations of swear words (you have to be 17 to download the thing), along with perhaps the richest political satire ever to unfold on a cell phone.
For what is ostensibly a television series, The Thick of It has long had a habit of popping up at unexpected times and places. The show began with a pair of three-episode mini-seasons in 2005 (now available on DVD), then reappeared in 2007 as a pair of hour-long TV specials. In early 2009 came a movie called In the Loop, followed later in the year by a further eight episodes, each accompanied by a making-of special on BBC Red Button, the interactive channel. Last month, Faber brought out The Thick of It: The Missing DoSAC Files, a book composed of purportedly confidential documents the unfortunate press secretary has managed to leave on a train. (DoSAC is the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship, the fictional superagency where most of the action in the series takes place.) With the app, Tucker emerges as an inadvertent one-man WikiLeaks.