Yes, Prime Minister: Review Of Classic Political Satire

‘Yes, Prime Minister’
G.O.L.D. Tuesdays at 9pm

In a media climate far happier to trade on past glories than pay little more than lip service to new investments, revivals and resurrections are becoming increasingly common. Following a successful West End run based on the original series, genius 1980’s political comedy ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ has been revived for a 6 part run on Sky broadcaster G.O.L.D. with the series’ original writing partnership of Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn at the helm.

It’s hard to be without sympathy for Jay and Lynn; two writers who have more than earned their place in the history books faced with the brief of replicating former glories in a vastly different political climate. Indeed, it’s not just the culture of politics that has changed since the 1980’s heyday of ‘Yes, Minister’ and ‘Yes, Prime Minister’, but the culture of satirising the politics itself.

Any comedy of this topic inevitably finds itself now existing as an almost post-Thick Of It entity, and to ignore this seems to have been Jay and Lynn’s most grave downfall here. For better or for worse, as ‘The Thick Of It’ began with instant comparisons to ‘Yes, Minister’, the new ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ now finds itself living in the aftermath of ‘The Thick Of It’ and its legacy.

As the new ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ begins with David Haig’s bumbling and gurning PM Jim Hacker being grilled by a BBC News presenter amidst the cringes and dismay of the Civil Service, the spectre of ‘The Thick Of It’ could almost be felt tapping you on the shoulder and pointing the way outside.

There is no question of the brilliance of the original ‘Yes, Minister’ and ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ series, yet herein lies the danger, and in the pursuit of emulating the charm and sharpness of the original it appears that little more than a kitsch throwback has been spawned.

Despite occasionally limp writing with four-minute warnings for every punchlines, Henry Goodman delivered a standout performance as Sir Humphrey, channelling the wry wiliness of the great Nigel Hawthorne without veering into tribute act territory.

Goodman’s performance was not merely testament to his own skill as an actor but serves as an astute reminder of the perfection of Sir Humphrey as a character – disarmingly gracious as a benevolent manipulator and circumventer of all things democratic.

This first episode sees Jim Hacker at the head of a Coalition; plagued not only by factionalism and deceit in his own party but with the instability and insecurity of his Coalition bedfellows.  Hacker is faced with an impossible position over Europe and Sir Humphrey’s Eurocrat links are pulling him in a different direction to Hacker’s party and electorate.

Whilst the premise is strong and potentially relevant, somehow the end result is something of a misfire. Similarly, save for the odd mention of the Coalition and the whiff of an iPad every now and again, there isn’t really much to suggest this was made any time after the original ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ ended in 1988, and whilst the original series may be timeless it’s clear that timelessness isn’t something one can assume or hope to emulate from what has gone before.

What made the original series timeless, and what will make ‘The Thick Of It’ timeless is the danger of the new ground satirised, the accuracy with which it reflects its time and simply the high quality of the scripts – and the new ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ struggles on all three counts.

All words by Fergal Kinney. You can read more from Fergal on LTW here.

Previous articleTokyo Rocks Festival: My Bloody Valentine, Blur & More
Next articleJohnny Marr: Upstarts – single review


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here