Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Yes, Minister

Yes, Minister
BBC Television Series

I do love an English sense of humour. There exists a most unfortunate stereotype that Americans don't understand sarcasm, which is hardly fair; we as a mass simply don't enjoy sarcasm in our entertainment. A show like Friends, one that is often funny, but never in any sort of remarkable way, is much more to our liking as a nation. That the U.S. version of The Office has lasted as long as it has, and with the success it has had, is a miracle. We don't usually like humour we have to try and keep up with; we like it to bring us along at the same pace.

Yes, Minister wouldn't do well on this side of the pond. It's quick, it's witty, and you have to listen not only to what the people say, but how they say it. A lot of the jokes hinge on word play or quick, biting retorts. It's never prickly, though. It's not unpleasant. You never feel as though you're attempting to stomach something sour.

The funniest joke Friends ever produced was in the last episode; Central Perk, their coffee shop of choice for seven (?) seasons, has closed. One of the titular band asks if everyone wants to get coffee, prompting Chandler to ask, "Where?" In all the time we've known them, that question was never asked, because it never needed to be, and in that moment, Friends commented on itself, and acknowledged the formula. It took a while for it to get there, but it got there. What Yes, Minister does so admirably, over the course of the three series (there are an additional two series in the guise of a sequel, Yes, Prime Minister), is change. It does lock into a formula, but it begins to play with it and reference it. The initial episodes focus on the efforts of Permanent Secretary Sir Humphry Appleby to foil the plans of the Minister of Administrative Affairs, Jim Hacker, MP. Middle episodes involve Appleby and Hacker going toe-to-toe, each trying to subtly outmaneuver the other. By the third act, it's turned into a bizzare partnership. The whole time, we're treated to clever critiques of the British government, and wonderful character bits.

It's pretty easy to get the jokes, even if you don't understand how the government works. I got the hang of it after the first episode. And, as I said, it occupies a good middle ground. Well worth your time, this is an excellent program.

Grade: A

No comments: