Take That, Aaron Sorkin

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Yes, Minister and its sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, are two of the smartest and funniest TV series ever made. They're also relentlessly skeptical about government: each episode is a lesson in the unfortunate incentives faced by vote-chasing politicians on the one hand and the permanent civil-service bureaucracy on the other. And, as of today, both are available on DVD. George Hunka marks the occasion with an appreciation.

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  1. i never saw yes prime minister . i whole heartedly agree with you from my recollections of yes minister .

  2. This series made me cry with laughter, as I was an international relations student when I saw it. I am looking forward to seeing it again, now that I’ve actually done some time in the bureaucracy (and used some of Humpy’s techniques to avoid doing something minorly illegal to hold on to my company’s contract). I got to see programs re-named to fit the new fad in government programs (partnerships) and basically continue on as they were with a couple of technical differences–and it all seemed eerily familiar.

    A prof of mine said, and I agree, that you could teach an entire course on political science with these series as the materials. Yes, Virginia, this is how policy is really made.

    Nigel Hawthorne’s performance is worth the price alone.

  3. They are funny in a British sort of way, but nothing beats Reno 911, which is on Comedy Central on Wed. nights. No, I don’t work for them, and don’t even regularly watch TV.

    However Reno 911 makes fun of all the C.O.P.S. type shows, which basically all make me sick.

    Somebody back me up here, Joe ???, it’s worth buying a new CRT for your set just for this show, after shooting that old one out trying to take out Tom Brokaw (well, he was smirking like an idiot …)

  4. Reno 911 is one of the finest programs on all of television! My god, if you haven’t seen it, you absolutely must – it’s just so absurdly rediculous, and yet with such a ring of reality and truth, as to be something very special indeed.

    If Yes, Minister is anything like that then I shall have to get it 🙂

  5. Plutarck – I’m not saying it is anything like the 2 British shows, I’m just saying it’s really funny!

  6. I don’t like Reno 911 that much, but its presence on a (market-driven) network is an encouraging sign—they think there’s an audience out there for anti-authoritarian comedy.

    I never was too interested in the Yes, Minister TV show—the acting seemed too broad, and it sounded like there was a laugh track—but found I liked the radio versions, which are available from the BBC.

  7. Word has it that Margaret Thatcher used to watch Yes Minister religiously and found it extremely funny. I can just picture her and Dennis at Downing Street saying “…hmmmm that *is* how government is run” while watching it.

    I used to love both shows and may seek them out on DVD.

  8. YM & YPM are dead brilliant, as they say over there. BTW, I did see “Party Games,” the special wherein Jim Hacker succeeds in “climbing the greasy pole” on U.S. broadcast on PBS. Perhaps not every PBS station ran it, though. Anywho, both series are like a seminar in public choice economics and human nature, and Paul Eddington and crew have the skill to deliver lines totally deadpan that the viewer finds hilarious. That is almost a lost skill on U.S. TV.

  9. “yes, minister” is okay. “Open Government” is an episode all must see: it makes you feel as if it’s best not knowing what happens in the innards of government. sort of like it’s good not knowing what happens when you’re under during surgery…

    ‘Allo ‘Allo, at least the first series is quite good, as well. highly recommended. “The Office” is fair/not bad. look for that to be the next trendy programme here.

  10. Oooo!

    Here is a site about the show, with quite a many very funny quotes:

    http://www.yes-minister.com/episodes.htm

    My favorites so far:

    Sir Humphrey: “Politicians like to panic, they need activity. It’s their substitute for achievement.”

    [Quoting an article in the Express about the fact that Inland Revenue has more employees than the Royal Navy]
    Frank Weisel: “Perhaps the government thinks that a tax is the best form of defense.”

    Note of course that there is now presently more bureaucrats in the British health system than there are beds in the hospitals. Insightful, isn’t it?

    Sir Humphrey: “The public doesn?t know anything about wasting government money, we’re the experts.”

    Bernard Woolley: “Well, yes, Sir…I mean, it [open government] is the Minister’s policy after all.”
    Sir Arnold: “My dear boy, it is a contradiction in terms: you can be open or you can have government.”

  11. EMAIL: master-x@canada.com
    IP: 82.146.43.155
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    DATE: 02/28/2004 12:04:49
    I do not fear computers. I fear lack of them.

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