Tag Archives: teleserial

TV Serial: Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister (1980s)

I had enjoyed this BBC tele-serial in the late 80s. So, when Swapna (my wife) noticed the DVDs of the complete collection in a bookshop, I said “let’s buy them.” Though I was looking forward to seeing them again, I had a lingering suspicion that with the passage of time and a different context, I may not enjoy them as much (like many other books, movies, TV programs, and places that were great some years ago, but disappointing now). But my suspicion was unfounded, and I enjoyed watching all the episodes once again – maybe more than I enjoyed them when I saw them over 25 years ago.

So here are the details, for people who may want to indulge in nostalgia, and also for those who never saw the original series.

I believe that the series have been revived in 2013 with a new cast, but I have not seen any episodes, so I will not comment on the 2013 version.

BBC TV Series
Genre Political satire, British comedy TV
Created by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn
Original Run Feb 1980 to Jan 1988
[The series was revived in 2013, with a different cast]
Cast Paul Eddington as Jim Hacker, first as a Minister and then as the Prime Minister of Britain
Nigel Hawthorne as Sir Humphrey Appleby the main civil servant through whom Jim Hacker has govern
Derek Fowlds as Bernard Woolley, Hacker’s Private Secretary
Deborah Norton as Dorothy Wainwright, Hacker’s political advisor in his stint as the PM
Music Ronnie Hazlehurst
Produced by Stuart Allen, Sydney Lotterby, and Peter Whitmore
Language English
Episodes Yes, Minister (22 episodes; 1980-7; 1981-7; 1982-8)
Yes, Prime Minister (16 episodes; 1986-8; 1987-8)The episodes are 30 min each.

Yes, Minister ImageAt the start of the series, James (Jim) Hacker’s party wins the general election in Britain and Hacker is appointed as the Minister of Administrative Affairs (I believe that such a minitry did not really exist in the 1980s).  Minister Hacker’s department is run by Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Permanent Secretary, a senior civil servant. Hacker’s Principal Private Secretary is Bernard Woolley, another civil servant, but not as senior as Sir Humphrey. After a few years, due to some fortunate circumstances, Jim Hacker becomes the prime minister, and Sir Humphrey and Bernard get elevated along with the minister. Sir Humphrey assures his colleagues in the civil service that they have a ‘house-trained’ Prime Minister.

Extremely watchable and Hilarious

Each hilarious episode of 30 minutes focusses on the working of the British government – the central theme being the relationship between the politicians and the bureaucrats. Hacker usually comes up with (or supports) idealistic proposals that will bring in change but may diminish the power of civil servants. In the early episodes, Sir Humphrey usually manages to put Hacker in a spot, so that he is forced to withdraw his proposal in exchange of being saved by Sir Humphrey or one of his senior colleagues in the civil service. There are other episodes where Hacker and Humphrey have to reluctantly support one another.
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