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Yes Minister

By David Stubbs

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. The pilot episode, "Open Government," is curious in that it contains opening and closing credits different from and distinctly inferior to the rest of the series. You also sense that Mrs. Hacker was originally intended to have a larger role, with comedy focusing 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's mousy private secretary Bernard making occasional interjections.

While Sir Humphrey is at times a little too sinister for sitcom consumption, all the series' classic features quickly show up: Hacker's occasional Churchillian bombast, followed by panicky double takes when flummoxed, and 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 and slashing red tape in episodes like "The Economy Drive." It's ironic that when Yes, Minister 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 satirized here.

 

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 Your Memories Shared!

"My brother and I accidently staggered on re-runs of YES, MINISTER being whown on South Carolina ETV during the early 1990's, and we almost needed surgery to repair the hilarious, side-splitting, INTELLIGENT humor that the cast provided. We've never seen politics so clearly defined in the absurd yet tellingly manipulative manner. Eddington, Hawthorne, and Fowlds are superb actors, and the writng is first rate. As African-Americans, we loved Redd Foxx and Archie Bunker in how complex issues were skillfully portrayed wit humor; politics is served with no less brilliance than YES, MINISTER. We taped a lot of the episodes, or favorite being (paraphrased) THE WEB!. I will order it and surprise my brother (he's paralyzed). We still talk about tha series from time to time. Thanks for helping me remember the good times tha show brought to us, even as a re-run."

--Studlyload

"I lived in Europe in the early Awesome80s and used to watch this program on television every week. I loved it, and was very happy to discover when I returned to the US in 1984 that it was being played on the Arts & Entertainment cable network. Right after "Yes, Minister", A&E would play another Britcom called "Last of the Summer Wine", about 3 retired geezers in Yorkshire. Last year, the local PBS station started airing "Yes, Minister" and "LOTSW" back-to-back, just like I rembered from those days! I taped "Yes, Minister" compulsively that year, and attempted to spread the word to my friends in high school. No-one could really understand the show, though - you had to listen carefully to it, and had to have some familiarity with British politics. The only person who enjoyed watching them was my government teacher."

--Epop

"Get past the English accent (not that hard) and you have a masterfully wickedly funny show in "Yes Minister". I vividly remember the episode in which a hospital won some sort of award - and it was so very good and efficient because there were no patients in it! Everything being equal, I'm more partial to British humour (deliberate spelling as a tip of the hat)."

--Sontzwin

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: 1980-1983

Cast: Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne, Derek Fowlds

Network: BBC

Genre: Sitcom

Theme song

Spinoff(s): Yes Prime Minister

Image courtesy of the BBC


   
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