Armando Ianucci is a superb mind, and has a superb knack of displaying a vision of how we think the country is run. During previous seasons of TToI, it was genuinely satirical because there appeared to be an air of “we know what we’re doing” emanating from within the gilded hallways of power. This series seems to fall a little flat, admittedly after only three episodes; because it is no longer mocking anymore. I believe that, the LibDems’ characters aside; it is how government happens.

So far it has felt a little forced. Now with three parties all vying for attention, it makes the stories a little more fraught and all-encompassing. Obviously the idea of TToI without Tucker et al is not possible – but taking us to their “ShadCab” feels unnecessary. We know how unloved the opposition is because we are the people ignoring them, it seems a bit redundant to show us the opposition in a room feeling unloved.

Whilst it has felt messy, the stand-out characters have been Peter Mannion MP and Phil. Once TToI is approached from an emotionally disinvested viewpoint, Phil becomes really a good character. Rather than being a twat in a suit, he becomes a walking joke. Something even funny as Phil himself is acutely aware of just how out-of-place, and out of love he is.

Mannion feels very much like Ken Clarke. Someone who originally felt like a radioactive spillage – something to avoid and leave well alone; now feels rather human. Rather, dare I say it; likeable. His mishaps are not evil engineered by the party machine, but rather an inopportune moment with a lens thrust in his face. I hate his policies, but I could accept his existence.

The real meat of TToI has always been in sweary, creative put-downs. This doesn’t really work in the environment of a coalition government. The key idea being to work together, so everyone is trying to get along. When things do go wrong, the outbursts are funny (see Stewart breaking Phil’s phone) but it is more out of angry spontaneity instead of genuine cold calculation and the desire to embarrass Ben Swain/ Nicola Murray/ anyone else.

I love TToI, and you’d have thought that a government split between the industry killing Tories and pointless Lib Dems would be a haven for Ianucci. A shame that the new characters get in the way. Obviously, for continuity reasons the actors couldn’t just become a different party in the same universe. That would be simple lunacy. But there is no empathy, not even through a malevolent dose of Schadenfreude. For it to really work, the characters have to make you believe they are worth investing in.

It makes even grimmer viewing for somebody who is well acquainted with Ianucci’s recent work in the USA, Veep. Much the same sort of set-up as in TToI, but focusing on the Office of the Vice President. Maybe it just seems better because it is fresh, the characters and situations are new. Whether or not that is the case, TToI needs to buck its ideas up, otherwise this last season will forever be remembered as the show on its last, confused legs.