Yes Prime Minister, the sister/sequel series to the BBC's Yes Minister, aired from 1986 to 1988. There were 16 episodes centring on the same central characters from the previous series:

  • Jim Hacker, the journalist-turned-MP-turned-cabinet-minister;
  • Sir Humphrey Appleby, who made it his mission to stymie Hacker's every move at the Department of Administrative Affairs;
  • Bernard Woolley, Hacker's principal private secretary who is often caught between a sense of duty to his minister and loyalty to the civil service.

Party Games

A one-hour Yes Minister special titled "Party Games" aired on December 17, 1984 and bridged the gap between the two series, though Yes Minister went off the air in 1982 and Yes Prime Minister didn't air until January 1986. In it, the unseen prime minister of the first series stuns Parliament and the civil service by announcing his retirement. Through a series of internal machinations, Sir Humphrey becomes secretary to the cabinet (head of the civil service; it was repeatedly joked in the first series that the cabinet secretary is actually the person who runs the country) and Hacker becomes leader of his party and, consequently, prime minister. Bernard stays on as his principal private secretary.

The series

Yes Prime Minister ran for 16 episodes over two seasons (or "series," as they're known in the U.K.). The change in "scenery" enabled the writers to expand storylines beyond those of the original series, which tended to focus on Hacker's plans to cut the bureaucracy and reduce red tape in his capacity as minister of administrative affairs. Yes Prime Minister saw Hacker and his team contend with issues of national defence, foreign affairs, health policy, funding for the arts (which also came up in Yes Minister) and the prime minister's role as a statesman. Through it all, Hacker steadfastly maintains his principles — unless there are votes to be gained otherwise — and Sir Humphrey is as Machiavellian as ever. Bernard, meanwhile, continues to seem to want to do the right thing while also staying gainfully employed.

Among the changes introduced in Yes Prime Minister are the introduction of Dorothy Wainright, Hacker's political advisor (whom Humphrey sardonically refers to as "dear lady"), more frequent appearances by members of the cabinet and the more frequent occurrence of ludicrously verbose speeches by Sir Humphrey. (The latter appeared in Yes Minister but in Yes Prime Minister, there's one in every episode.)

I have a friend who is a real-life civil servant in a Westminster parliamentary system, and he says he prefers Yes Minister to Yes Prime Minister as far as satire goes, but it's still worth a watch.

The play

Show creators Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn teamed up for a stage play version of Yes Prime Minister in 2010. It ran in London's West End from September 2010 to January 2011 and then toured the United Kingdom. Adaptations have also been staged in Australia, as well as in the U.S., where Michael McKean played Hacker.

An updated version of the series aired on the U.K.'s Gold channel in 2013. It received mixed reviews.


Jonathan Lynn on 'Yes, Prime Minister,' working with Michael McKean again, and why U.K. political shows are so darn popular
Yes Minister — Wikipedia

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