With his party now ready to form the government, Jim Hacker anxiously awaits a call from the Prime Minister offering him a Cabinet post. When the call does come, he is named Minister of ...
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With his party now ready to form the government, Jim Hacker anxiously awaits a call from the Prime Minister offering him a Cabinet post. When the call does come, he is named Minister of Administrative Affairs. He meets his new Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby and his Permanent Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley. As his first act, the new Minister decides to make good on his party's election promise to have open and transparent government by publicly canceling a major contract issued by the previous government to an American computer firm. Sir Humphrey counsels against it knowing that there will soon be important US government visitors but Hacker pushes ahead only to find himself summoned to 10 Downing St. Written by
Someone asked me once in a private message what it was that makes great comedy. I replied that if I knew the answer, I'd write it myself and make millions. The truth is, no-one knows. I'm sure that when 'Yes Minister' was first mooted in 1979, the head of comedy at B.B.C.-2 could not have been thrilled. A sitcom set in the grim, grey world of British politics? What a turn-off! But it got made thankfully, and proved to be one of the best sitcoms in B.B.C. history.
'Open Government' begins the day after a General Election ( the winning side is not named. A real election was being fought as this was made, and to try and predict the outcome could have left the producers looking foolish ). Jim Hacker ( Paul Eddington ), newly elected M.P., nervously awaits a call from the Prime Minister, expecting to be offered a job in the Cabinet. Following a number of false alarms, the call finally comes, only wife Annie ( Diana Hoddinott ) takes it in error.
Jim is appointed Minister Of Administrative Affairs. On arrival at the Ministry, he is greeted by civil servants Bernard Woolley ( Derek Fowlds ) and Sir Humphrey Appleby ( Nigel Hawthorne ), who run the place while using the Minister as a figurehead. Jim's faithful political adviser Frank Weisal ( whom they call 'weasel' ) is whisked off to a waiting room while they brief the new boy. Jim's first major policy idea is 'open government', giving the electorate the chance to connect with the people it has elected. Sir Humphrey is appalled. He regards the voters as 'the bewildered herd' - ignoramuses who should be kept in the dark for their own good. He concocts a plan to embarrass Jim and stop the policy from becoming a reality...
A hilarious first episode, though rather chilling with its implication that democracy is worthless and that the real power in the country lies in the hands of faceless, unelected bureaucrats. It is a theme that writers Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn ( what a far cry from 'Doctor In Charge' this was! ) returned to many times in the course of the series. The writing and acting are simply brilliant.
The version on my D.V.D. copy has a different title sequence and theme music. I'm glad that they were replaced. Ronnie Hazlehurst's bombastic tune is far superior to the dreadful one used here.
Funniest moment - Jim grabbing the phone, expecting to hear the P.M.'s voice. Instead he finds himself talking to the Gas Board!
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