Absolute Power

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Absolute Power (2000–2006) is a British comedy series, set in the offices of Prentiss McCabe, a fictional public relations company in London, run by Charles Prentiss (Stephen Fry) and Martin McCabe (John Bird). Its name is taken from a quote by the historian Lord Acton that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".

The series began on radio, then transferred to television.

Radio Series 1 (2000)[edit]

Episode One: Conservative Party[edit]

Charles: (to his bank manager) How far will you extend my overdraft, for the exclusive, unrestrained, or possibly restrained, use of my body?

Charles: You were going to spend your redundancy money on a pub.
Martin: No, no, no. I was going to spend my redundancy money in a pub.

Episode Two: Relaunch of The Sun[edit]

Charles: You have that talent peculiar to the mediocre, of stating the obvious in a way that brings out the genius in a genius.

Episode Three: Mayor of London[edit]

Martin: Ah, America, America, Land of the Arse.
Charles: I do so very beg your pardon?
Martin: It's true. They've all got them. Great big enormous ones. It's because they drink Coca Cola out of dustbins.

Charles: (reading) "Congratulations, as usual. Appreciate what a difficult assignment this was, and have doubled your fee. Please eat this e-mail."

Episode Four: The Church of England[edit]

Bishop of Bath and Wells: I want you chaps to do what I believe you call a "product relaunch".
Charles: You want us to relaunch God?

Has the Church gone off-message?

Archie: The Prime Minister was returning from a speaking engagement in the North last night, when he was confronted by a billboard. An enormous billboard, saying: "Don't make me come down there! – God"

Episode Five: Radio 3[edit]

Writing a report on the future of Radio 3

Martin: (reading aloud while typing) "So, in conclusion," erm...
Charles: Martin, it's no good typing "so, in conclusion" at the bottom of a blank screen.

Charles: Cuff O, backwards.

Episode Six: English Sporting Success[edit]

Controller of BBC 1: To a public service broadcaster, ratings are like sex: when you're getting plenty, they don't matter; when you're not getting any, they matter lots.

Radio Series 2 (2001)[edit]

Episode One: Martin is Bored[edit]

Charles: Labour has just lost one of its safest seats.
Martin: How interesting(!)
Charles: Do I have to explain to you the significance of that?
Martin: You don't have to, Charles, no. Mind you, it might relieve the tedium, if the explanation involved pulling your trousers down and doing your impression of a swingometer.

Charles: Do you happen to remember writing: "Dear Sirs, the reason I have not replied to your letters of the 26th and the 30th is that I couldn't be arsed. Yours in sport, Martin"?
Martin: Well, I may possibly have done. Why?
Charles: Well, because you e-mailed it to the Inland Revenue, who have written back in distressed tones.

Charles: I shall never forget that night I took you to Gordon Ramsay's. What was it you said? "If that bow-tied ponce serves me the squid ink, I will put it in a squid pen and write squid bollocks".

Episode Two: Promoting Philosophy[edit]

Sandy: We might have clients coming.
Martin: Well, as God once remarked to the people of Gomorrah: sod 'em.

Gayle: Now you're beginning to speak my language!
Charles: Oh, I'm not a beginner. I've always been fluent in Dirty Bastard.

Episode Three: Relaunching a Literary Career[edit]

Lunching a client with undisguised contempt

Martin: The salad of strawberry and feta cheese, please, and the chicken.
Charles: Smoked salmon and the confit of duck, I think.
Waiter: And for you, sir?
Ralph Parsons: Er, I'll have...
Charles: (interrupts quickly) An omelette!
Ralph: Oh.
Charles: And a bottle of Saint-Émilion. And a glass of Vimto for that.

Episode Four: The Elderly Initiative[edit]

Operation Shaft the Chancellor

Charles: Where are you going?
Martin: I'm going to my club for a glass of claret.
Charles: But there's work to do!
Martin: My dear Charles, even a first-class mind requires lubrication before shafting.

The morning after Charles' breakdown

Martin: If he should come in, show him some TCP.
Sandy: TLC, Mr McCabe.

Charles: If there's one thing better than having a first-class mind, it's being a first-class bastard.

Episode Five: Prison Reform[edit]

Martin: I want my morning claret. The sun is over the yardarm. If it isn't, I'll get a new yardarm.

Episode Six: Gayle Shand[edit]

Charles seems remarkably insouciant about the riot in Brixton prison

Martin: They've taken two Labour MPs hostage!
Charles: The Prime Minister's got hundreds of Labour MPs!

Radio Series 3 (2002)[edit]

Episode One: Poking the PM[edit]

Editor of the Daily Telegraph: We're thought to be out of touch with the...what do you call it?
Martin: Zeitgeist?
Editor: We don't use German in the Telegraph, Martin.

Archie: Charles, this is the most secret secret in the history of secret secret secrets. It is for your eyes only, with your eyes closed.

Charles: E-mail Clive: "see me to be sacked".

Episode Two: Health Service[edit]

Archie: Are you sure this is safe?
Charles: Of course this is safe! This is a dinner to celebrate outstanding achievement by British tennis players. There's nobody here at all!

With the threat of a general strike looming, Martin reviews Clive's work on the healthy eating campaign

Martin: I'm not sure how the Advertising Standards Authority will react to a fat naked man looking forlornly down, with a caption saying: "Can you see my point? Because I can't."
Clive: You did suggest a sexual theme.
Martin: Yes...Clive, you don't feel like going on strike now, do you?

Episode Three: Big Brother[edit]

Toggle wants a career in show business on the basis of no talent whatsoever

Charles: No, I'm sorry but Prentiss-McCabe has not sunk as low as that!
Toggle: I've been offered a quarter of a million to talk about my experiences.
Charles: How low would you like me to sink, exactly?

Charles: Morris, there are great men and men of weight, and waiters who get to clean the grate. Go and clean the grate, Morris!
Maurice: Oui, Monsieur.
Martin: Ah, that's more like it. You're much more fun when you're a complete bastard.

Episode Four: A Tennis Star[edit]

After a trip abroad, Charles has given Archie a present: a pink luminous Leaning Tower of Pisa ashtray

Charles: Well, I thought to myself, "What can I get for a Labour spin doctor?" And then I realised: a large piece of meretricious tat. Something eye-catching, but worthless.

Clive has nearly reached the end of his probationary period

Martin: Doesn't time fly when you're cocking things up?
Clive: It has been something of a learning curve.
Martin: A learning curve. Ah yes, you don't feel it's been more of an arrow pointing downwards, do you?

Episode Five: Men[edit]

Charles: Martin, when a potential new client comes to this office, you do not stand behind him with a sign saying "Loony Warning".

Martin: Somebody did ring. I got all the way to the phone. Then I suddenly realised I couldn't be arsed.

Television Series 1 (2003)[edit]

Episode One: History Man[edit]

Charles: Nigel, are you familiar with your arse? Because your wife has just saved it. Now get us a drink.

Episode Two: Pope Idol[edit]

Charles: Well, if you want loyalty, buy a dog.

Alison Jackman: Do you have any ethics at all?.
Charles: Now there's a theological question.
Alison: Surely one agency can’t possibly represent two people going for the same job. There must be rules about this sort of thing. Like, I don’t know, estate agents not acting for buyer and seller.
Charles: Not only can you represent the buyer and the seller, but you can steal all the light bulbs, pee in the sink and then go and live in the house after they’ve bought it. PR means never having to say you’re wrong. But…at the risk of sounding like your Uncle Albert, this is our little secret, alright?

Julia Stour (editor of the Daily News): It's a tabloid; three words is virtually War and Peace.

Episode Three: Tory Woman[edit]

Charles: [Referring to a name on adultery suspect list] She's been dead for five years.
Alison: I thought she went to live in Portugal.
Charles: A not dissimilar experience.

Episode Four: Mr Fox[edit]

Charles: I think this calls for the Ethiopian strategy.
Martin: Which is?
Charles: If you're hungry, go on television and appeal.

Martin: A sound gun on a windy night fails to distinguish between two words that fall similarly on the ear. Could it be that the minister is in fact saying, "What's a boy to do to get a fox round here?"

Episode Five: Country Life[edit]

Lord Harcourt: Now, one of you I've met before, and the other one has the brains. Which is which? [to Charles] I think you must be Jimmy.
Charles: Er, Charles, sir. A bit like Jimmy, but all the letters are different.
Lord Harcourt: What? You'll have to speak up; I've got aids in both ears.
Charles: I said...you've got what?!

Charles: Martin, you made this bed. Prepare to eat it!

Episode Six: Crash and Burn[edit]

Radio Series 4 (2004)[edit]

Episode One: The BBC[edit]

Charles: There's nothing even Prentiss-McCabe can teach this Prime Minister about deception. Except how to do it properly, I suppose.

Martin: Charles, does it occur to you that Archie must have been promoted?
Charles: What?
Martin: Well, somebody must have replaced their media supremo, whatever his name was...Alas-it's-a Shambles.

Episode Two: The Notion of Nation[edit]

Clive has been commissioned to give some tabloid appeal to the annual University Boat Race

Charles: Clive, what in the name of aquatic insanity possessed you to introduce a shoal of piranha between Putney and Mortlake?!

Martin is bored with signing copies of his book

Publisher: The thing is: you haven't signed all of them in your own name. A woman came up to me last night. She'd wanted you to sign a copy for her sister, and you'd written: "Yours in sport, the Dalai Lama". And then there was that poor woman in Yeovil, the one whose book you signed: "All the best, Buffy the Vampire Slayer".

Episode Three: Healthy Eating[edit]

Apparently, the Prime Minister is a fitness fanatic

Archie: He's got his own gym in Number 10. He's always up there.
Charles: Except when he's clutching his chest and falling over.

Clive has been left in charge of the healthy eating campaign

Archie: What's this?
Clive: Well, there is a term of abuse which is sometimes applied to a person who's overweight.
Archie: I'm familiar with the term. I've just never seen one made out of actual lard before.

Episode Four: US Presidential Campaign[edit]

Alexandra: It is imperative that the President is re-elected. The future of the free world depends upon it.
Charles: (scornfully) No, it doesn't!
Alexandra: OK, my job depends upon it.

Charles: You know, it's one of the great regrets of my life that I was too young for Watergate.
Archie: Watergate was a monumental cock-up, Charles.
Charles: Only because I wasn't there.

Television Series 2 (2005)[edit]

Episode One: The Nation's Favourite[edit]

Charles: Lionel Blackmore could start a punch-up in a room full of nuns.

Episode Two: The Trial[edit]

Martin: Charles, Helena is costing us precisely ₤535.68 an hour before VAT. I think the least we can do is to pay attention!
Charles: Oh, I'm sorry, Helena. I didn't realise QCs needed people to listen in order for them to talk.

Charles: [To Alison] Look, if you’re going to speak too, you’re going to make this take a lot longer.

Episode Three: Blood Bank[edit]

Charles: Humour, where would we be without it? In Germany, probably.

Charles: At Prentiss-McCabe we care deeply about the little people. Unless they get in our way; then we hurt them.

Episode Four: Identity Crisis[edit]

What sort of character would oppose the introduction of ID cards?
Jamie: Mustapha Allawallah, suicide bomber.
Nick: Fingers Ratner, housebreaker.
Jamie: Seamus O'Anus, Irish terrorist.
Cat: Uncle Fumble, paedophile.
Jamie: Johnny Junk-Bum, drug smuggler.
Alison: Mr Asylum Seeker. The asylum seeker.
Charles: Yes, we might want to brainstorm that name a bit.

Charles: Television is not for watching; it's for being on.

Episode Five: Spinning America[edit]

Charles: It'd be so much easier if politics were like software: they could just call it Bollocks 1, Bollocks 1.1, Bollocks XP Home Edition...

Charles: I love the smell of a career burning in the morning.

Episode Six: The House of Lords[edit]

Charles: Besides, Priestley’s new office is so far away from the centre of power that if Number Ten got nuked, he’d merely looked tanned.

Charles: [To job applicant] Well, thank you for coming in and being so time-consuming.

Cast[edit]

External links[edit]

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