Backbench MP Jim Hacker (Paul Eddington) is promoted to the cabinet as Minister for Administrative Affairs, a key (fictional) role in the new government. He has to work with the delightfully devious Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne), a senior civil servant who is determined that ministers should be kept firmly in their place, and the altogether more pleasant Bernard Woolley (Derek Fowlds).
Hacker has many grandiose ideas, a nice line in Churchillian pomposity and little idea how things really work. At almost every turn, his plans are thwarted by Sir Humphrey. The three seasons of the original series are classic British comedy, with some lovely lines. I’m particularly fond of this exchange between Hacker and Bernard. Hacker has just asked Bernard how Sir Humphrey found out that Hacker had been having a meeting with a member of the department (something Sir Humphrey does not approve of at all)
“God moves in a mysterious way”
“Let me make one thing perfectly clear – Humphrey is not God, OK?”
“Will you tell him, or shall I?”
The show was popular with politicians and public – even Margaret Thatcher, not generally known for her sense of humour, enjoyed it. It became generally known that the relations between the Civil Service and ministers were not wholly inaccurate, which would account for a lot…
After a couple of years, the show returned with a Christmas special, in which Hacker (unlikely enough as a Cabinet Minister) managed to rise to the position of Prime Minister, while Sir Humphrey moved up to the top as Cabinet Secretary. Two seasons of Yes, Prime Minister followed. Perhaps not as good as the earlier programmes, but still very watchable all these years later.
On watching the DVDs, I spotted a sight gag in one episode that I’d missed before. There’s a shot of some newspapers on a table, all with headlines relating to Hacker’s latest exploit. In a tribute to its reputation for typos, The Guardian appears with The Gaurdian on its masthead. Nice
 Readers of a certain age might recall him as “Mr Derek”, when he worked with Basil Brush