Laughter really is the best medicine, and the clever and brilliantly written shows Yes Minister, and Yes, Prime Minister, which first appeared on our screens in the 1980s, remain a firm favourite today.
All of the realities, intricacies and nonsensical bureaucracy that politics entail, along with topics that are still surprisingly current today, are presented so believably that it’s almost like watching a tell all documentary and the three main characters created by writers Jonathan Lynn and Sir Antony Jay are masterful.
Paul Eddington is the bumbling but affable minister (and then Prime Minister) Jim Hacker, who is rather vain but not a bad chap. His rather slow LSE brain is initially no match for Oxford educated Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby (played by Sir Nigel Hawthorne and then Henry Goodman), who constantly derides the minister’s ‘lesser’ education.
Initially befuddled by the excessive eloquence of Sir Humphrey (a veritable Thesaurus, why utter a few words, when 300 confusing ones will do so much better), but once ‘understanding’ that politicians are low in the pecking order, far below the civil service, Hacker occasionally gains the upper hand. Or at least believes so.
The last member of the trio is principal private secretary, Bernard Woolley, played Derek Fowlds, whose loyalties are torn between Hacker and Sir Humphrey, his Civil Service boss.
Each episode is full of quips, political wrangles, underhand manoeuvres and finally ‘wrapped up’ by an exclamation, rarely appreciative, mostly weary and often resigned, uttered (usually) by Sir Humphrey of ‘Yes Minister.’
Imagine being a fly on the wall of the hallowed corridors of Westminster and Whitehall when this award winning series first aired. I like to think that the research was mostly conducted over long boozy lunches with politicians and their loosened lips.
Both of these superb TV series could be re-branded: ‘Everything you need to know about British politics and more’.