Yes, Prime Minister: Review

yes_prime_ministerThirty years on from Prime Minister Jim Hacker’s debut in Yes, Minister, the series has been revived, based on a successful stage adaptation of the original series. Scripted by the original creators Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, the first episode aired last night on Gold – after the BBC insisted on a pilot (“There were 38 pilots available on DVD,â€? said Lynn).

2013’s Jim Hacker has been reincarnated as David Haig, who’s something of a political satire stalwart, having memorably appeared as passive-aggressive enforcer Steve Fleming in The Thick of It.

In this episode, the dysfunctional political triptych of Hacker, Sir Humphrey Appleby and Bernard Woolley plot together to repair the damage from a gaffe-strewn interview with a Paxman-style figure, in which the PM let slip his attempts to solve the European economic crisis were floundering.

I’ll willingly admit I haven’t seen any of the original series, though I am a young buck at 23. I’ve seen every episode of the aforementioned TTOI, The Day Today, Seinfeld and The Larry Sanders Show, though. I know what I like when it comes to comedy. My opinion of Yes, Prime Minister 2.0 is not tinged with nostalgia and if I’m honest, this reboot did nothing for me. There’s too much old-school emphasis on one-liners rather than analysis of character. In one scene, the PM tells the head of his Policy Unit: “Dealing with Europe isn’t about achieving success,â€? (pregnant pause) “it’s about concealing failure.â€? You can see the punchlines coming a mile off. They’re the three most powerful people in the country and though visibly flustered, they don’t actually seem all that anxious. In reality the political profession would be gradually eroding their mental and physical health beyond repair.

That’s not to say it’s a show that’s badly made or acted – far from it. Yes, Prime Minister works well as a studio sitcom, and the chemistry between the three main characters – fresh from appearing in the stage play – is obvious. I get that the tone is gentler than many ‘modern’ sitcoms. Lynn explains that the characters are there to be sympathised with: “Our view is that if we were in those jobs we would behave the same way, so our criticism is of the system and human nature.â€?

Regardless of mise-en-scene iPads or references to the Eurozone, to me the show seems out of time. It’s just too polite.