This was a BBC political sitcom which had three series, each of seven episodes, televised between 1980-1984, and its' sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, which had two series of eight episodes each between 1986-88. The first episode was actually filmed in 1979, but was not aired until after the General Election.
The series is rarely repeated, due to it being considered too much a child of its political period to translate well to modern viewers, although this is not as true as is considered.
The three main characters are the Minister for Administrative Affairs and later, Prime Minister, James "Jim" Hacker, played the the late Paul Eddington, Bernard Wooley, Jim Hacker's Principal Private Secretary, played by Derek Fowlds and Sir Humphrey Appleby, initially Hacker's Permanent Secretary, later the Cabinet Secretary in Yes, Prime Minister, played by the late Nigel Hawthorne.
Other characters do have regular roles, but the majority of the program is based around the interaction of these three.
Both Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister won a number of awards and other nominations, for the program itself and for people involved in its creation and performance.
Unusually, the sitcom was written with the notion that the viewers were intelligent and treated them as such. If the writers could understand something, then the viewers probably could also, once they had the same information.
This is uncommon in many sitcoms, many of which patronise the viewers, and even less common in most of today's light entertainment fodder of "reality" and "talent" shows, which tend to treat viewers (and the participants for that matter, with possibly more justification) as if they were barely intelligent.
The series had high expectations of its' viewers, and these were achieved.
At the beginning of Yes Minister, Jim Hacker's unnamed political party has just won a General Election, and he has been made the new Minister for Administrative Affairs. Hacker propounds sweeping changes and new policies for his Department, and later as Prime Minister, but these rarely come to fruition thanks largely to the actions of Sir Humphrey.
Whilst outwardly courteous to Hacker, Sir Humphrey uses his knowledge and verbal skills, in particular during his "big speeches" which typically occur in every episode, long winded and logical but ultimately confusing to the more straightforward Hacker, to obfuscate, deceive, confuse and limit Hacker's actions.
Sir Humphrey Appleby, GCB, KBE, MOV, MA (Oxon)
Sir Humphrey is an elitist, and is opposed to "the wrong people" getting involved in running the country or, as it might be described, democracy. He appears to be helpful, yet sabotages anything that might threaten the status quo. He is absolutely convinced that the people best educated and equipped to run the country are, in fact, the Civil Service. The whims of politicians should be ignored if at all possible. Sir Humphrey considers that what's good for the Civil Service is good for Britain.
If a politician can not be kept busy enough to stop them from doing disastrous things, like coming up with new ideas or policies, Sir Humphrey is not above blackmail or obfuscation, the latter typically with his largely incomprehensible jargon-filled speeches.
“In view of the somewhat nebulous and inexplicit nature of your remit, and the arguably marginal and peripheral nature of your influence within the central deliberations and decisions within the political process, there could be a case for restructuring their action priorities in such a way as to eliminate your liquidation from their immediate agenda.”
Sir Humphrey is always polite to women, or "the fairer sex," often addressing them as "Dear lady." Even if they don't want him to.
Sir Humphrey's is often considered to be the archetypal Civil Servant, and some members of the Civil Service are called "bowler-hatted Sir Humphrey's" in reference to him.
Bernard Wooley, GCB
Bernard is quick to point out any logical errors in either Sir Humphrey's or Jim's metaphors, sometime with excessive detail. He also asks common sense questions regarding Sir Humphrey's more convoluted views. Unlike most Civil Servants, who not only share Sir Humphrey's views, but accept them on a basic level, Bernard often questions these views. Unlike Sir Humphrey, he actually respects the concept of democracy.
Minister, Later Prime Minister, James "Jim" Hacker Baron Hacker of Islington, KG, PC, BSc (Lond.), Hon. DCL (Oxon.)
After spending some time in Opposition, where he served as the Shadow Minister of Agriculture, he was appointed the Minister for Administrative Affairs after his party won the election. His attempts at reforming his Department are usually foiled by Sir Humphrey.
Jim Hacker often appears incapable of making decisions, being easily swayed by his advisors and Sir Humphrey, and seems to be a publicity hound. He often worries about his position whilst Minister, being afraid of being demoted, or even maintaining his position.
Thanks to getting some information regarding the two closest contenders for the position of Prime Minister, which he suggested might be leaked to the press, Jim is able to become Prime Minister himself when the current leader resigns. There, he is still unable to affect policy or initiate change to the degree he would like due to the machinations of Sir Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey actually explaining what he meant for once
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