Forgot your password?

Yes Minister - One Of The Best Sitcoms You May Not Have Seen

By Edited Nov 15, 2013 3 11

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.

Yes Minister Title
Yes Minister was primarily set in the minister's office in the Department for Administrative Affairs (a fictional government department), with Yes, Prime Minister mostly taking place in the Prime Minster's offices in 10 Downing Street. Other places are various other offices and private members' clubs around Whitehall and London, although not the Houses of Parliament, the statement being that these were the places where the actual business of governing the country was carried out, the Houses of Parliament merely being the place where the theatrics of government was performed.

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 Appleby
Sir Humphrey is Hacker's nominal subordinate. A lifelong member of the Civil Service, he is initally the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Administrative Affairs, and later the Cabinet Secretary. Sir Humphrey read Classics at Balliol College, Oxford and entered the Civil Service after performing his National Service.

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.”[3120]

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 Wooley
Bernard is the Principal Private Secretary to James Hacker when he is Minister for Administrative Affairs, and moves with him when Hacker becomes Prime Minister. Although more loyal to Hacker than Sir Humphrey, his loyalties are somewhat split because Sir Humphrey is his actual boss. Like Sir Humphrey, Bernard is also an Oxford graduate. When asked by Jim where his ultimate loyalty would be if the chips came down, Bernard replied that "...it's my job to see the chips stay up." He does, on occasion, provide ideas and ammunition for Jim to use against Sir Humphrey, although he always maintains a distance so that Sir Humphrey cannot call him on these.

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.)


James "Jim" Hacker
im Hacker is a former polytechnic lecturer, political researcher and political newspaper editor before he became a Member of Parliament for Birmingham East. He got a degree, a third (for which Sir Humphrey often derides him), from the London School of Economics, but was later given an honorary doctorate from Baillie College, Oxford.

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

Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister 2-Pak
Amazon Price: $128.98 $63.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 28, 2013)


May 18, 2012 3:12am
I loved this programme!
May 18, 2012 4:33am
Me too, I think it's such a shame it isn't repeated more often.
Jun 1, 2012 3:14am
You can actually pick up both complete series now as a box set in some of the UK supermarkets.
Jun 2, 2012 2:12am
It's just a shame they don't repeat it on television.
Jun 1, 2012 3:17am
Jun 1, 2012 3:19am
Oops. Wanted to say Yes Minister and Yes PM are two of the funniest Sitcoms ever made. It's far too rare to find intelligient comedy these days and I wish there had been more!
Jun 2, 2012 2:12am
Heck, it's far too rare to find anything intelligent on television after the invasion of the brain eaters from the planet reality tv. I wonder if a new version with new actors would work?
Feb 25, 2014 1:53pm
Loved both the programs. Brilliant writing, wonderful political satire.
Feb 26, 2014 3:16am
They have done a new version (which I haven't seen) but it looks like it hasn't been half as good as the original, which is still a classic.
Jan 24, 2015 12:24pm
One of my favorite sitcoms of al time. It is a quality show with well crafted scripts and great acting. And yes, if you live in a parliamentary democracy, the series still retains its relevance today. Being Canadian, I watched it on the CBC. Some elf at the CBC brilliantly scheduled it to appear immediately after the political intrigues of the 10 o'clock news!
Jan 25, 2015 6:53am
It does still stand up well, better than believed. They recently made a new version, with different actors, and on a new channel. Although I haven't seen it - it was a paid channel - it didn't rate as well with those who did.

Modern programme writers should take note that assuming the audience is intelligent and not as thick as two short planks doesn't mean that a show will fail.
Add a new comment - No HTML
You must be logged in and verified to post a comment. Please log in or sign up to comment.


  1. "Speaking to be Understood." Local Government Improvement and Development. 27/03/2012 <Web >

Explore InfoBarrel

Auto Business & Money Entertainment Environment Health History Home & Garden InfoBarrel University Lifestyle Sports Technology Travel & Places
© Copyright 2008 - 2016 by Hinzie Media Inc. Terms of Service Privacy Policy XML Sitemap

Follow IB Entertainment