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Why Yes Minister is vastly superior to The West Wing

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From the BBC Radio 4 Documentary of the Week of March 2, 2012


Wikipedia on Yes Minister and The West Wing

Armando Iannucci of The Thick of It and Veep, along with Sir Bernard Ingham (Margaret Thatcher’s chief press secretary), Lord Donoughue (Senior Policy Adviser to PMs Wilson and Callaghan) and others explain why Yes Minister is so amazing:


Pay attention from 5’00” onwards, in the video below, where it is explained what inspired Yes Minister and who its sources were.


At 8’27” (below): “[Yes Minister] is not The West Wing … [The West Wing’s] main problem is it is American and that means that every member of the cast is prefect, is virtuous, he has a reverence for government … The characters in Yes Minister have [flaws] in abundance. But the great thing about the program is that those flaws extend beyond Westminster itself. Every institution in the show is shown to be corrupt and sick. Everyone. The BBC, the Church, countryside lobbies, trade unions, industry. Everyone out there is shown to be just as confused, shoddy and crazy as everyone over there.


N.B. The BBC bastards pulled part 2 of Armando’s film.

Armando on Yes Minister in The Daily Telegraph

[L]et me single out Yes, Minister as the best, most useful warning we’ve ever had of how we can go on convincing ourselves we operate under a properly functioning democracy while the truth is that the blindnesses and obstinacies of those with any sort of power clumsily conspire to make that democracy dysfunctional.

many of the plots were based on information passed on by government insiders at the very highest level. What we were watching felt like documentary, and yet we laughed. This was the unsettling thing: we were laughing at the truth, because the truth was so clearly absurd.

Yes, Minister was the first show on British television to dramatise with deadly accuracy the twisted and contradictory logic that passes for standard political dialogue.

Only now can we appreciate Yes, Minister’s warnings about the complacency within our state institutions. The programme didn’t imply these people were evil; rather, that they were dangerous because they were convinced they were doing the right thing, and therefore flabbergasted by criticism.

If it’s so easy now to imagine the absurd conversations taking place in the corridors of power that led to these arguments, then that’s because Yes, Minister so effectively provided us with the template. It’s a mark of its subversive influence that we now cannot trust a politician if he sounds like a character from Yes, Minister or deploys the sort of malformed logic for which the programme was famous. If it’s depressing that this sort of logic is still used, it’s a cause for rejoicing that we now have the means to identify it.

William Hague, current Foreign Secretary of the UK and others explains how true to life Yes Minister was:





TV critic Heather Havrilesky on The West Wing:

What rock did these morally pure creatures crawl out from under and, more important, how do you go from innocent millipede to White House staffer without becoming soiled or disillusioned by the dirty realities of politics along the way?

Bonus Videos: Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, the creators of Yes Minister, and others on Yes Minister and its connections to British comedy.




And lastly, a view from the “Left Wing” side (makes me love Yes Minister even more):

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