1 9 8 0 – 1 9 8 2 (UK)
21 x 30 minute episodes
Yes, Minister ran from 1980 until 1982, with a total of 21 episodes. Paul Eddington starred as Jim Hacker, PC, MP, BDc (Econ), newly-appointed Minister of Administrative Affairs.
Hacker represents an unspecified political party but is clearly a moderate, either centre-right (most likely) or centre-left.
He enters office with enthusiasm and ambition, determined to make his mark upon public life, but soon comes to realise that his hands are tied by complex bureaucratic regulations that seem both indecipherable and insurmountable.
His Private Secretary, the pedantic Bernard Woolley, does his best to steer Hacker through the minefield, but whatever progress the two of them make is usually revealed as a dead-end.
This is because, keeping one or more steps ahead of Hacker, is his Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby KCB, MVO, MA (Oxon), a silky-smooth senior civil servant with a treasure trove of baffling phrases, paradoxical reasoning and enigmatic explanations. In Sir Humphrey’s hands, Hacker is merely the ball in a Machiavellian game of political ping-pong.
Appleby was committed to seeing that his ministerial charge never meddled too much in the department’s business, and that the real power remained securely in the hands of the civil service.
If Hacker inquired too closely as to why he was not going to get his way about something, Sir Humphrey was more than able to throw up a smokescreen of obfuscation and technical jargon, which usually discouraged further questioning.
This classic sitcom exposed the machinations of senior politicians and civil servants in Great Britain, and such was the standard of scripts and performance ( and the accuracy of the satire) that the programme became required viewing for politicians, journalists, and the general public alike.
The idea for the series was developed by writer Antony Jay and former Doctor in the House star Jonathan Lynn while both were on the payroll of the video production company set up by John Cleese in the mid-1970s.
The BBC bought the rights to the pilot episode and work on a full series finally got under way in 1979. From 1986, there was a 16-episode sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, with Hacker promoted to PM and Sir Humphrey elevated to Cabinet Secretary.
Harold Wilson‘s one-time secretary, Lady Marcia Falkender, was involved with the show, providing behind-the-scenes insight into the operations of Whitehall.
Amongst the show’s many devotees was one Margaret Hilda Thatcher, who named it as her favourite programme.
Sixteen episodes of Yes, Minister were re-recorded for broadcast by BBC Radio 4, with all the principal cast reprising their roles.
There were two series of eight episodes apiece, airing 18 October to 7 December 1983 and 8 October to 27 November 1984.
In 1997, Derek Fowlds stepped back into the role of Bernard Woolley to read Antony Jay’s How To Beat Sir Humphrey: Every Citizen’s Guide To Fighting Officialdom, broadcast in three daily parts by Radio 4 from 29 September to 1 October.
Rt Hon James Hacker MP
Sir Humphrey Appleby
Sir Arnold Robinson
Sir Frederick (‘Jumbo’)