reprise: September 2004 Archives
If you liked "Yes, Minister," the brilliant BBC series about a newly elected Member of Parliament wandering Alice-like in the Wonderland of a government run by Her Majesty's civil service, then Virgil says rush out and rent the sequel: "Yes, Prime Minister." It is even funnier.
The first series depicts the antagonistic relationship between Jim Hacker, M.P. (Paul Eddington) and his slithery civil service handler, Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne in his prime). Also present is Sir Humphrey's apprentice, the overeducated Bernard Woolley (Derek Fowlds, master of the slow burn).
By the end of the first series, Hacker still doesn't know how to get the better of Sir Humphrey, although he's learning. You get the feeling that no politician in this system is any match for the careerists whose whole purpose in life is to keep the pols from doing anything that would upset their bureaucratic apple-cart.
In the second series, Hacker is chosen as Prime Minister because the Party cannot decide between two powerful men and sees Hacker as ineffectual and therefore safe. But such is the satisfying comedy of the thing: Hacker rises to the occasion, and relishing his new power starts giving it back to Sir Humphrey in ways that will make you laugh out loud.
Again, who would have thought so much comedy could be wrested from the spectacle of close associates vying for power? My political friends tell me that this is what Tip O'Neill really meant by his famous remark, "All politics is local." The question is, why are we Americans so incapable of seeing the humor of it?