Yes, Prime Minister - Series One
Not so much a political comedy, more a fly-on-the-wall documentary on the mechanics of government. When I was studying political science, first for my A-Levels, and then towards my degree, we were always asked to try and get copies of this and the earlier Yes, Minister
to watch. And learn. Not many sitcoms are that educational, to be honest, but this is not only very, very funny, but also a close interpretation of the mechanics of government.
And chillingly, some might say, as relevant now as it was then (1986).
For instance, from 'A Victory for Democracy':
Sir Humphrey Appleby: You know what happens when politicians get into Number 10; they want to take their place on the world stage.
Sir Richard Wharton: People on stages are called actors. All they are required to do is look plausible, stay sober, and say the lines they're given in the right order.
Bernard Woolley: What if the Prime Minister insists we help them?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Then we follow the four-stage strategy.
Bernard Woolley: What's that?
Sir Richard Wharton: Standard Foreign Office response in a time of crisis.
Sir Richard Wharton: In stage one we say nothing is going to happen.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Stage two, we say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.
Sir Richard Wharton: In stage three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there's nothing we *can* do.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Stage four, we say maybe there was something we could have done, but it's too late now.
It's strength, to me, lies in the fact that it's not about party politics. It's about the fact that it doesn't really matter which party is in government, they will always end up doing the same things that the incumbent did before. Why? Because the government might change, but the Civil Service never does. And it doesn't want to, either. I mean, just look at their reaction to Gordon Brown becoming PM. The Dispatches
documentary last night was chock-full of senior civil servants telling us why he isn't fit for office. Some of it might be true. But lest we forget, Brown has downsized the civil service a tad, and it's not something they'll forget in a hurry.
You don't have to know a huge amount about politics to understand Yes, Prime Minister
. It helps, true. But it's not essential. As long as you like schemers like Sir Humphrey, and dim-witted populists like Jim Hacker (he's a politician, after all), then you'll find something to enjoy.