Set principally in the private office of a British Cabinet minister in the Department of Administrative Affairs in Whitehall, Yes Minister follows the ministerial career of The Rt Hon Jim Hacker MP, played by Paul Eddington. His various struggles to formulate and enact legislation or effect departmental changes are opposed by the British Civil Service, in particular his Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby, played by Nigel Hawthorne. His Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley, played by Derek Fowlds, is usually caught between the two.
Jonathan Lynn & Antony Jay have created what has to be one of the sharpest, wittiest comedies ever written. The hugely entertaining characterisations alongside the masterly manipulation of the English language make for a terrifyingly worrying observation on the true nature of "democratic" government and of the chronic ineptitude and incompetence of some/many of our elected representatives. Paul Eddington is superb as the politically naive Minister ("Jim Hacker MP") in the fictional, but perfectly plausible, Ministry of Administrative Affairs - an unimaginably pointless government department that seems to be a filter for all the junk that the more serious officers of state wouldn't touch with a flagpole. The power behind the throne is the Machiavellian "Sir Humphrey" (Nigel Hawthorne) as the permanent secretary; the senior civil servant who has every intention of following his ministerial instructions, but only insofar as they suit the needs of his red-tape brigade. Treading the wavy line between both is his private secretary "Bernard Woolley" (Derek Fowlds) who is almost as naive as his boss, but more practically idealistic - and also a man with his foot in his mouth on a fairly regular basis. What is also great about these series, is that the characters evolve. The hapless "Hacker" learns how to play the game and soon - occasionally - starts to have his victories over "Sir Humphrey" and his system. This triumvirate deliver a fast-paced, considered evaluation of the intricacies of inadequacies of government that stands up almost 40 years later in an amusing and potent fashion. Progressed to "Yes, Prime Minister" which is superb too! Got to be seen by anyone remotely interested in political satire and/or great comedy.