Yes Minister: The Complete Collection (DVD)
The elegant sitcom-cum-farce-cum-sophisticated political satire Yes, Minister
sets off Paul Eddington's Jim Hacker, Minister for Administrative Affairs, against Nigel Hawthorne's discreetly obstructive civil servant Sir Humphrey. The pilot episode, "Open Government," is curious in that it contains opening and closing credits different from and distinctly inferior to the rest of the series. You also sense that Mrs. Hacker was originally intended to have a larger role, with comedy focusing on the clash between political and domestic commitments, until the writers wisely decided to focus on the stand-off between Jim and Sir Humphrey, with Derek Fowlds's mousy private secretary Bernard making occasional interjections.
While Sir Humphrey is at times a little too sinister for sitcom consumption, all the series' classic features quickly show up: Hacker's occasional Churchillian bombast, followed by panicky double takes when flummoxed, and Sir Humphrey's unflappable verbosity as he brings the dead weight of civil service bureaucracy to bear against Hacker's naively optimistic schemes for open government and slashing red tape in episodes like "The Economy Drive." It's ironic that when Yes, Minister was first screened in the '80s, it was during the rampages of early Thatcherism in which government had never been less like the ineffectual politicking satirized here. --David Stubbs