BBC/Roadshow Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 265 mins .
G . PAL
It doesnít seem like it, but itís been over 20 years since the arrival of the honourable Jim Hacker, MP on Australian TV screens, where it was to remain for many years to come in innumerable re-runs on the ABC, eagerly indulged in again and again by a legion of fans - many of whom were real-life politicians. Created by Jonathan Lynn (who would later write and direct the superb comedy of the hit movie My Cousin Vinny, amongst others) and Antony Jay, Yes Ministerís humour is centred on the well-meaning Hacker (Paul Eddington), who has managed to get elected as the Minister for Administrative Affairs in the British government, but who really doesnít have much of an idea about how to navigate the day-to-day machinations of the political system. Every inch the politician, heís keen to get things done that will earn him a place in history, but at the same time heís more than a little obsessed with how heís perceived by his constituency. In other words, heís an idealist without much of a clue - and thatís where Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne) and Bernard Wooley (Derek Fowlds) come in.
Jim Hacker, MP (Paul Eddington) stands behind the men behind the, err, man.
While Bernard is loyal and protective in his role as Hackerís private secretary (constantly filling him in about whatís really going on), Humphrey is a different proposition altogether. A life-long civil servant with a barely-disguised contempt for politicians, heís developed a complex network of contacts and colleagues within the establishment and unshakeably believes that he knows the best way for things to get done. The fact that heís often right is something not entirely lost on Hacker, who is frequently rescued from the brink of political disaster by Humphreyís behind-the-scenes machinations. But as Hacker gets better at the popularity-versus-duty juggling act of being an MP, he starts to exercise more control over his job. Or at least, he tries to.
This third season of one of Britainís most popular TV comedies was made when the show was at the height of its popularity, but perhaps suffers slightly in comparison to its earlier days; the passing of time hasnít helped either, the storylines based on issues and events of the early Ď80s now seeming almost quaint at times. When itís on fire, though, the showís in fine form - as in the episode The Moral Dimension, where the smuggling of alcohol into an official engagement in the otherwise alcohol-free Kumran provides ample opportunity for comic cleverness.
This third season of Yes Minister would turn out to be the last - but its successor, Yes Prime Minister, would turn out to be even funnier than the original, with Sir Humphrey increasingly at the mercy of an ever more confident Hacker. The bridge to that series was made some time after the end of series 3, with an hour-long one-off special episode called Party Games. That special episode is, admirably, included in this double-disc set - and while the ending is no surprise today, the events that lead to it are laid out with glee in some of the showís best writing.
Shot in a 4:3 ratio on one inch videotape by the BBC (with the occasional use of 16mm film), Yes Minister looks surprisingly fresh on DVD despite the passing of two decades since its production. While some of the episodesí master tapes do seem to be in slightly less-than-perfect condition, there are no major problems and itís unlikely that theyíve ever looked better than they do here. The Party Games special, made some time later, offers the best picture quality of the lot - itís noticeably sharper and more colour-saturated - but overall, this is archival material presented as well as could be expected; thereís some video noise, but itís not especially disturbing (and being sourced from analogue video, itís unavoidable). The use of two discs for this set (as opposed to the first two seasonsí single-disc squeeze) offers some breathing space in the encoding department as well; while the BBCís MPEG encoding still has some way to go, no major problems crop up here.
The first disc is dual layered, but fear not - unlike some other BBC offerings (such as Dadís Army) none of the episodes are marred by an unexpected layer change.
Itís mono, plain and simple. Thereís really not much more to say than that; this is the original single-channel audio heard on the day of first broadcast. Give your expensive surround-sound setup a holiday. The mono audio is encoded as a Dolby Digital 2.0 stream, as is common for BBC releases.
There are no extras included here at all - unless you count the Party Games special episode as an extra, which you may or may not depending on how much of a series purist you are!
A landmark BBC comedy series written by a couple of very clever men and acted to perfection by three brilliant comic talents (two of whom, sadly, are no longer with us), Yes Minister is still exceptionally funny viewing, even if this third season isnít quite up to the standard of what came before and after it. Fans of the series, who would have seen these episodes countless times in reruns on the ABC, will be delighted.