Yes Minister series 1:
The first series of the elegant sitcom-cum-farce-cum-sophisticated political satire Yes Minister
, sets off Paul Eddington's Jim Hacker, Minister for Administrative Affairs, against Nigel Hawthorne's discreetly obstructive civil servant Sir Humphrey. It features the pilot episode, 'Open Government', curious in that it contains different and distinctly inferior opening and closing credits to the rest of the series. You also sense that Mrs Hacker was originally intended to have a larger role, with comedy focussing on the clash between political and domestic commitments, until the writers wisely decided to focus on the stand-off between Jim and Sir Humphrey, with Derek Fowlds' mousy private secretary Bernard making occasional interjections. While Sir Humphrey is at times a little too sinister for sitcom consumption, all the classic features quickly show up. Hacker's occasional Churchillian bombast, followed by panicky blank double-takes when flummoxed, Sir Humphrey's unflappable verbosity as he brings the dead weight of civil service bureaucracy to bear against Hacker's naively optimistic schemes for open government, Quangos and slashing red tape in episodes like 'The Economy Drive'. Ironic, that when this was first screened in the 80s, it was during the rampages of early Thatcherism in which Government had never been less like the ineffectual politicking satirised here. --David Stubbs
Yes Prime Minister series 2:
Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn's superb sitcom Yes Prime Minister
entered 10 Downing Street with Jim Hacker now Prime Minister of Britain, following a campaign to 'Save the British Sausage'. Whether tackling defence ('The Grand Design'), local government ('Power to the People') or the National Education Service, all of Jim Hacker's bold plans for reform generally come to nothing, thanks to the machinations of Nigel Hawthorne's complacent Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey (Jeeves to Hacker's Wooster) who opposes any action of any sort on the part of the PM altogether. This is usually achieved by discreet horse-trading. In 'One of Us', for instance, Hacker relents from implementing defence cuts when he is presented with the embarrassingly large bill he ran up in a vote-catching mission to rescue a stray dog on an army firing range. Only in 'The Tangled Web', the final episode of Series 2, does the PM at last turn the tables on Sir Humphrey. Paul Eddington is a joy as Hacker, whether in mock-Churchillian mode or visibly cowering whenever he is congratulated on a "courageous" idea. Jay and Lynn's script, meanwhile, is a dazzlingly Byzantine exercise in wordplay, wittily reflecting the verbiage-to-substance ratio of politics. Ironically, Yes Prime Minister
is an accurate depiction of practically all political eras except its own, the 1980s, when Thatcher successfully carried out a radical programme regardless of harrumphing senior civil servants. --David Stubbs
This complete collection includes every episode of the hugely popular political satire Yes Minister
series 1 – 3 (which first aired in 1980 on BBC 2) along with each episode in the subsequent two series of Yes Prime Minister
(which aired from 1986).
Meet the bewildered Rt Hon James Hacker, his scheming and equivocating Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby and of course, Bernard, the piggy-in-the middle, on their fraught journey through the corridors of power. Easily the sharpest political comedy every written, with clandestine help from real civil servants, and satire that bites so close to home it sometimes seems more like a documentary. This does the impossible: it makes politics not just fun but hilariously funny. Yes Minister episodes:
'Open Government', 'The Official Visit', 'The Economy Drive', 'Big Brother', 'The Writing on the Wall', 'The Right to Know', 'Jobs for the Boys', 'The Compassionate Society', 'Doing the Honours', 'The Death List', 'The Greasy Pole', 'The Devil You Know', 'The Quality of Life', 'A Question of Loyalty', 'Equal Opportunities', 'The Challenge', 'The Skeleton in the Cupboard', 'The Moral Dimension', 'The Bed of Nails', 'The Whiskey Priest', 'The Middle Class Rip Off'. Yes, Prime Minister episodes:
'The Grand Design', 'The Ministerial Broadcast', 'The Smoke Screen', 'The Key', 'A Real Partnership', 'A Victory for Democracy', 'The Bishop's Gambit', 'One of Us', `Man Overboard', 'Official Secrets', 'A Diplomatic Incident', 'A Conflict of Interest', 'Power to the People', 'The Patron of the Arts', 'The National Education Service' and 'The Tangled Web'.