Yes Minister / Prime Minister

Discussion in 'General Multimedia' started by EnlightenedMonk, Jun 9, 2009.

  1. EnlightenedMonk

    EnlightenedMonk Member of The Month JULY 2009 Senior Member

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    This is a thread dedicated to the old series that ran in the 80s on BBC.

    It was a marvellous series in my opinion comprised of the clueless minister (Jim Hacker), his manipulative Permanent Secretary (Sir Humphrey Appleby) and his blundering Principal Private Secretary (Bernard Woolley)... It provides a vivid account of modern politics and how the affairs of the state are conducted under most circumstances...

    Though this series can be classified as political satire, there is a lot of truth to it and viewers will find it relevant no matter which day and political age is being analysed.

    Compulsary education for wannabe political analysts and students of political science in my opinion... and, a tonne of laughs for everybody else who's not interested in politics and just wants to listen to Sir Humphrey's.

    Please give your comments about what you think about this series...

    I spent quite a bit of time specifically encoding and uploading these videos on youtube and hope you guys take the time out to watch and enjoy them...

    Each of the episodes is a work of art... trust me on that one...
     
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  3. EnlightenedMonk

    EnlightenedMonk Member of The Month JULY 2009 Senior Member

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    I'll start off with a brief writeup and background of each of the characters as given on Wikipedia...
     
  4. EnlightenedMonk

    EnlightenedMonk Member of The Month JULY 2009 Senior Member

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    Jim Hacker

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    Jim Hacker first appears in Yes Minister having been recently re-elected as Member of Parliament for his constituency, Birmingham East, soundly defeating his opponents. His early character is that of a very gung-ho, albeit naive politician, ready to bring sweeping change into his department, unaware that Sir Humphrey and the civil service are out to stop any semblance of change, despite their insistence that they are his allies. Hacker is also noted as having challenged Humphrey while he was a member of the Opposition by asking difficult questions of his Permanent Secretary while testifying at a committee: Sir Humphrey stated that Hacker had asked "...all the questions I hoped nobody would ask," showing his new Minister to be at least a reasonably capable politician.

    Before long, Hacker begins to notice that the Civil Service has been preventing any of his changes from actually being put into practice. Bernard is sympathetic to Hacker's plight and tries to enlighten his Minister as to the tricks and techniques employed by government staff, but his ability to help is limited by his own loyalties in the Civil Service. Hacker soon learns and becomes more sly and cynical - reminding us that he is, after all, a politician - using some of these ploys himself. While Sir Humphrey nearly always gets the upper hand, Hacker now and again plays a trump card, and on even fewer occasions, the two of them work towards a common goal.

    Hacker also learns that his efforts to change the government or Britain are all really for naught, as he discovers in the episode "The Whisky Priest", when he attempts to stop the export of British-made munitions to Italian terrorists.
    Throughout Yes Minister, there are many occasions when Hacker is portrayed as a publicity-mad bungler, incapable of making a firm decision, and prone to blunders that embarrass him or his party, eliciting bad press and stern lectures from the party apparatus, particularly the Chief Whip. He is continually concerned with what the newspapers of the day will have to say about him, and is always hoping to receive promotion by the Prime Minister (Hacker ran the unsuccessful campaign for a political ally during the Party's last leadership election - his man lost, becoming Foreign Secretary, and leaving Hacker nervous about his prospects under the winner, now Prime Minister). He is equally afraid of either staying at his current level of Cabinet seniority, or being demoted.

    Just prior to the start of Yes, Prime Minister, Hacker shows a zeal for making speeches and presents himself as a viable party leader, after the Prime Minister announces his resignation, in the episode "Party Games". He is given embarrassing information about the two front-runner candidates, and manages to persuade them (by insinuating that secret information pertaining to both may be revealed to the public) to drop out of the race, and lend their support to him. With help from the recently promoted Sir Humphrey and other senior civil servants, Hacker emerges as a compromise candidate and becomes head of his party unopposed - and Prime Minister.

    In Yes, Prime Minister Hacker strives to perfect all the skills needed by a statesman, giving more grandiose speeches, dreaming up "courageous" political programmes, and honing his diplomatic craft, nearly all of these attempts landing him in trouble at some point.

    In a Radio Times interview to promote the latter series, Paul Eddington stated, "He's beginning to find his feet as a man of power, and he's begun to confound those who thought they'd be able to manipulate him out of hand."
    Hacker becomes a more competent politician by the end. Though primarily interested in his personal career survival and advancement, he, unlike Sir Humphrey, views Government as a means rather than an end in itself.

    Hacker has many prominent habits that feature throughout the series:

    Drinking. Hacker enjoys various alcoholic beverages, particularly harder liquors, including scotch whisky: "the odd drinkie", as he likes to call them. He is seen drunk on more than one occasion, and even was caught drinking and driving in the episode "Party Games". He used his political immunity to escape charges.

    Disdain for certain types of culture. Sir Humphrey thinks Hacker to be a cultural philistine who is unaware of the importance of protecting Britain's artistic heritage. Hacker believes it only important to the upper-class snobs (such as Sir Humphrey himself), and several other "wet, long-haired, scruffy art lovers", arguing that operas created by Italians and Germans are not representative of Britain's cultural heritage. However, upon becoming Minister for the Arts (in "The Middle-Class Rip-Off"), Hacker asks Humphrey if he could tag along on a gala night at the Royal Opera House. Humphrey is delighted by the volte-face and declares, "Yes, Minister!" enthusiastically. It should also be noted Hacker and his wife enjoy seeing foreign films, and in the same episode Hacker demonstrates some grasp of art, enough to make a strong case that a disputed art gallery in his constituency is not worth saving. (See also "Football" below.)

    Pomposity. Hacker is often seen going off into sentimental, overly pretentious speeches either to himself or to Bernard and Sir Humphrey, holding his lapel on his suit jacket in a very royal manner. He also mimicked Napoleon by slipping his hand in the front of his suit jacket upon hearing he was selected by the party to become party leader and hence Prime Minister. However, it appears that Hacker's political idol is Winston Churchill: he occasionally speaks in the statesman's gruff style and is seen reading biographies of him.

    Football. Hacker believes that sport is of a greater cultural importance and is even willing to sacrifice a local art gallery in order to bail out his constituency's football team, the fictional Aston Wanderers, that was being threatened with bankruptcy. He didn't support the team though, and was mentioned as being an Aston Villa supporter in the first episode.
     
  5. EnlightenedMonk

    EnlightenedMonk Member of The Month JULY 2009 Senior Member

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    Sir Humphrey Appleby

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    Sir Humphrey is the master of obfuscation and manipulation, often making long-winded statements such as, "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 that there could be a case for re-structuring their action priorities in such a way as to eliminate your liquidation from their immediate agenda." He is committed to maintaining the status quo for the country in general and for the Civil Service in particular, and will stop at nothing to do so — whether that means baffling his opponents with technical jargon, strategically appointing allies to supposedly impartial boards, or setting up an interdepartmental committee to smother his Minister's proposals in red tape. Throughout the series, he serves as Permanent Secretary under the ministry of Jim Hacker at the Department of Administrative Affairs; he is appointed Cabinet Secretary shortly before Hacker's elevation to the role of Prime Minister.

    Sir Humphrey won a classical scholarship to Winchester College before reading Classics at Baillie College, Oxford (a possible reference or allusion to Balliol College, Oxford). After National Service in the Army Education Corps he entered the Civil Service. From 1950 to 1956 he was the Regional Contracts Officer, an assistant principal in the Scottish Office, on secondment from the War Office (where he was responsible for a serious mistake that was revealed in "The Skeleton in the Cupboard"). In 1964 he was brought into the newly-formed Department of Administrative Affairs, where he has worked until his appointment as Cabinet Secretary. He is recommended for the KBE early on in the series in "The Official Visit".

    Sir Humphrey represents, in many ways, the perfect technocrat. He is pompous, arrogant and elitist, and regards his less-well-educated minister with some contempt. He frequently uses both his mastery of the English language and even his superb grasp of Latin and Greek grammar to perplex his political master and to obscure relevant issues under discussion. However, his habit of using language as a tool of confusion and obstruction is so deeply ingrained that he is sometimes unable to speak clearly and directly even in circumstances in which he honestly wishes to make himself clearly understood. He genuinely believes that the Civil Service knows what the average person needs and is the most qualified body to run the country, the joke being that not only is Sir Humphrey, as a high-ranking Oxford-educated Civil Servant, quite out of touch with the average person but also that the Civil Service identifies whatever is 'best for Britain' as being 'best for the Civil Service'. Jim Hacker, on the other hand, tends to regard what is best for Britain as being whatever is best for his political party or his own chances of re-election. As a result, Sir Humphrey and Hacker often clash.

    He still holds women to be the fairer sex, and is thus overly courteous, frequently addressing them as "Dear lady". Like Hacker, Sir Humphrey enjoys the finer things in life, and is regularly seen drinking sherry and dining at fine establishments, often with his fellow civil servant Sir Arnold Robinson, who was Cabinet Secretary throughout Yes Minister. Sir Humphrey is also on the board of governors of the National Theatre and attends many of the gala nights of the Royal Opera House. His interests also extend to cricket, art and theatre.

    According to the foreword (dated 2019), of the book The Complete Yes Minister: The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister by the Rt. Hon. James Hacker MP, a novelisation of the series, he spent his last days in St Dympna's Hospital for the Elderly Deranged, after the "advancing years, without in any way impairing his verbal fluency, disengaged the operation of his mind from the content of his speech." This contradicts the date of death given in Politico's Book of the Dead.

    In a Radio Times interview to promote the first series of Yes, Prime Minister, Nigel Hawthorne commented, "He's raving mad of course. Obsessive about his job. He'd do anything to keep control. In fact, he does go mad in one episode. Quite mad."
     
  6. EnlightenedMonk

    EnlightenedMonk Member of The Month JULY 2009 Senior Member

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    Bernard Woolley


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    He is the Principal Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Administrative Affairs (fictional governmental dept.), then Prime Minister, James "Jim" Hacker. However, his loyalties are split between his Minister and his Civil Service boss, Sir Humphrey Appleby. Whilst he is theoretically accountable to Hacker personally, it is Sir Humphrey who writes his performance reviews and apparently wields influence over Bernard's future in the Service, leading to difficult situations for the young civil servant. When Hacker once asked his Private Secretary where his loyalty would lie when the chips were down, Woolley replied, "Minister, it's my job to see the chips stay up."

    Woolley is always quick to point out the physical impossibilities of Sir Humphrey's or Hacker's mixed metaphors, with almost excessive pedantry. He can occasionally appear rather childlike, by making animal noises and gestures or by acting out how such an analogy cannot work. Even so, on many occasions Sir Humphrey describes Woolley as a "rising star" and "high flier" of the Civil Service, though it is not entirely clear how to interpret Sir Humphrey's remarks — that is, whether with sincere deference to Bernard's capabilities or with indignance to such a term being applied to a subordinate.
    Woolley plays an important role in many episodes in helping Hacker. For example, in "Doing the Honours", it is his idea that leads to Hacker proposing a scheme that links national honours to departmental economies (and he is quick to remind the Minister that he didn't suggest it, if asked). He seems to have studied past civil service actions in depth, occasionally recommending historically proven responses (such as the "Rhodesia Solution" for a potential arms scandal in "The Whisky Priest").

    His background is not something revealed to any great extent, though we do find out (passim in the very last episode) that Woolley, like Sir Humphrey, is an Oxford graduate. (The novelisation, in an apparent mistake, refers to Bernard at one point as a graduate of Cambridge, but later follows the series in confirming that he attended Oxford. There is, however, no problem in suggesting that he attended both.) In addition, several areas of specialist knowledge surface from time to time: one example arises in "The Greasy Pole" where, while discussing the possible political dangers of building a chemical facility in Liverpool (to manufacture the fictional compound "metadioxin"), Woolley is quick to remind Sir Humphrey that Greek, unlike Latin, has no ablative case (which suggests, similarly, that Bernard – like Sir Humphrey – also read Classics).

    Woolley is often the source of much exposition, serving in some ways as a proxy for the audience. His common sense views lead him to ask apparently sensible questions of Sir Humphrey, which are generally used to demonstrate his superior's rather more counter-intuitive view of the situation. Much of the satire comes from the fact that Sir Humphrey's views are not just shared by other experienced civil servants, but are taken completely for granted. Bernard's naïve questioning is the perfect way of bringing this out for the audience. In one such conversation, in "The Devil You Know", Bernard will simply not let the matter rest and eventually homes in on the heart of the issue. He begins the sentence, "But surely, in a democracy..." and is immediately dismissed by an exasperated Sir Humphrey. In "A Victory for Democracy", Bernard is genuinely outraged when he learns that the Foreign Office is conducting its own policy with little regard for the Prime Minister's wishes.

    On the other hand, we frequently see Bernard forced to hide something, at which point he tries to mimic Sir Humphrey's distinctive style of confusing never-ending sentences in order to play for time with the Minister. An example of him attempting to "walk the tightrope" in this way occurs in "The Skeleton in the Cupboard", when he has to conceal a betrayed confidence from Hacker. Although he becomes slightly more adept at this over time, he is clearly much less proficient. At other times, he is the one explaining to the Minister how the civil service machinery works. When asked by Hacker if "...all this is to prevent Cabinet from enacting its policies?", Woolley casually and earnestly replies, "Well, someone's got to."

    Woolley, like the Minister and Sir Humphrey, progresses through the series, especially in his understanding of political mastery. In the last scene of "The Tangled Web", the final episode of Yes, Prime Minister, Woolley of his own accord both saves Sir Humphrey from public embarrassment and gives Hacker a lasting weapon to use against him, by acquiring a tape of Sir Humphrey describing the British public in many unpleasant ways, spoken off the record after a radio interview. This act of service to the Prime Minister can be seen as the final result of many series' wrestling between the two competing loyalties. Throughout both series, Bernard is the only civil servant portrayed with any sense of conscience, seeking constantly to justify his actions to himself. In the final episode, therefore, he realises that his principal loyalty must be to the (Prime) Minister, and his intervention in the crisis is crucial in saving Hacker's political reputation and in ensuring that the Cabinet Secretary, like any other civil servant, remains a "humble functionary".

    As with the other principal characters in the series, both actor and character have the same date of birth. This means that Bernard is in his mid- to late-forties during the series. Bernard is also married: in the Yes, Prime Minister episode "The Key", he declares that he does not give the key to his house to his mother-in-law. However, his wife never appeared in the series.
     
  7. EnlightenedMonk

    EnlightenedMonk Member of The Month JULY 2009 Senior Member

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