|2000 (six episodes)|
Having prudently terminated the In the Red/Chair/Balance saga with 1999's In The End, writer Mark Tavener swiftly abstracted what were arguably the series' two strongest characters as the basis for a new project. Absolute Power told the continuing story of Charles Prentiss and Martin McCabe (Stephen Fry and John Bird), originally conceived as conniving BBC Radio controllers: various thwarted schemes had seen them shunted sideways around the Corporation's hierarchy and ultimately, as the result of one management rationalisation too far at the conclusion of In The End, out onto the street. Branching out into a new career chosen to capitalise on their principal talents (namely skulduggery and swinging the lead) the duo set up a partnership specialising in 'government-media relations consultancy' -- otherwise known as 'spin-doctoring', by now an omnipresent satirical target thanks to the paranoiac PR policies of the New Labour government.
By talking up the extent of their personnel and facilities -- which actually consisted of Sandy (Siobhan Hayes), a reluctant work-experience secretary wedded to the NVQ rulebook, and a fridge -- the consultancy was able to pull in contracts to achieve a variety of seemingly impossible tasks, such as relaunching the Sun as an organ of the pro-European movement and revitalising the Church of England. However, since Charles's many ingenious 'wheezes' met with only intermittent success (and Martin had never really developed much of an understanding of the causal link between work and being paid), Prentiss McCabe relied for its survival on under-the-counter payments from Number Ten, conveyed via the agency's governmental handler Archie (Tony Gardner), in exchange for a variety of dirty deeds. This often led to complicated Yes Minister-style conflicts of interest -- especially when the team were also working on behalf of the Conservative Party... Among the more regular members of the variable supporting cast were Simon Greenall and Beth Chalmers; at least one episode in the series was written not by Tavener but by Mark Burton.