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Yes, Prime Minister to Return to Screens; but Will It Still Have Bite?

Posted on the 30 March 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Yes, Prime Minister to return to screens; but will it still have bite?

The original cast of Yes, Prime Minister

The television series Yes, Prime Minister, a satirical take on life in British politics, is to return to our screens on UK Gold. It will be inspired by contemporary events, including MP’s expenses, a Scottish referendum on independence, and the European Union.

Yes, Minister, set in the office of MP Jim Hacker, was first broadcast in 1980, and went on to run for four years. The sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, started in 1986. Hacker’s permanent secretary was Sir Humphrey Appleyby, played by Nigel Hawthorne. The original two writers, Antony Jay (now 81) and Jonathan Lynn will be writing the series, which will be six parts. It’s expected to star David Haig, who played Jim Hacker in the stage production, and Henry Goodman as Sir Humphrey.

“What we see in the news and political programmes is really only half of the truth about politics. It’s the half concerned with the good of the nation and the benefit to people. The other half is personal ambition, the desire to do other people down and the need for praise and status and all those sorts of things. We put those in to fill up the picture,” said Antony Jay, quoted on The Daily Telegraph.

Pastygate is perfect. Commentators are pointing to the nature of contemporary political events, which especially lend themselves to satire. Jane Rogerson, Director of Commissioning at UKTV, said to The Daily Telegraph: “Just look at Pastygate. That could have been in the original Yes, Minister. We’ve only received the first script so far so I can’t give you solid details of the plot other than to say the reference points about the crises, the challenges, the personalities; they are all utterly contemporary of the present day.”

Grab a crumpet. Recreating a classic is always “fraught with risk”, said Walter Ellis in his blog on The Daily Telegraph. But Jay and Lynn are “pillars of Britain’s Comedy Establishment.” We are “in safe hands.” Not all remakes are successful, but “a treat is in store. Sir Humphrey and the PM: grab a cup of tea and a crumpet and get stuck in. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

But isn’t it just a bit old? Guy Stagg, also on The Telegraph, was less sure in his blog. Compared to The Thick of IT, he wondered whether the “Eighties revamp will be anything like as good.” Sure, Margaret Thatcher loved the original, but the “format won’t translate to a modern audience.” Government power structures have changed – it’s “spin doctors, not civil servants”, who are now in charge. The comedy in Yes, Prime Minister i understated – “a career in politics is no preparation for government”, for example, whereas in The Thick of It there are “dazzling rants and obscene insults.” It’s made Yes, Prime Minister “seem impossibly outdated. The world of Sir Humphrey Appleby is now as distant as that of Downton Abbey.

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