Mind your PMQs; the Yes men are back
The success of the play encouraged them to embark on a new television series using the play’s cast, with David Haig as Hacker and Henry Goodman as Sir Humphrey. The BBC rejected it (possibly just as well, given Jay’s strident views on cutting the BBC). “At first they said, ‘That’s a good idea, do a pilot,’ and we said, ‘We’ve done 38 pilots and a stage play – if you don’t know what it’s going to be like now, you never will.’ Gold were happy to go straight ahead so we went with Gold.”
Again, Jay’s aim is to entertain rather than effect political change. “I wouldn’t attribute too much power to satire,” he says. “I don’t think it can change one state of affairs to another. At best it can speed change up. If a lot of people are thinking about something, maybe laughing at it can move things on.”
Things have moved on a lot since the original series. Jay has seen Armando Iannucci’s more frenetic and fast-paced The Thick of It, but feels that they’re covering very different territory in a very different style. “It’s terrific but it’s not about government policy, it’s about political embarrassments and the public-relations side of government.”
And he does feel that politics has changed. “It’s become even more of a bubble. It doesn’t have any connection to the world outside. When we started, an awful lot of senior politicians had fought in the war. They’d lived real lives and had done real jobs.
“Now, few know anything about life outside politics. They come up as researchers or PR people and they live in this isolated bubble.” He sighs. “The more you find out about politics the less respect you have for the whole process.”
However, he has some sympathy for politicians. His favourite episode from the original series is The Whisky Priest in which “we see that despite all of Jim’s failings there is something inside him that wants to govern the country properly”.
But he can’t? “No he can’t,” says Jay. “And that’s where the comedy is.”
Yes, Prime Minister starts on Gold on Tuesday at 9pm
Touchstones of Telly Satire
That Was The Week That Was (1962-1963):David Frost and company kick deference to touch with incisive political commentary often through the medium of calypso.
Hall’s Pictorial Weekly (1971-1980):Eamon Morrissey’s depiction of Liam Cosgrave as the minister for hardship was blamed by some for bringing down a government in 1977.
Yes Minister (1980 -1988, 2013):Political idealism becomes bureaucratic farce as three men chat across a big desk.
Spitting Image (1984-1996):Politicians are nothing but puppets, so best lampoon them with grotesque rubber puppets.
The Day Today/Brass Eye (1994, 1997 and 2001):Chris Morris’s surreal mockery of news programmes now looks tame compared to actual news programmes.
The Thick of It (2005-2012):Frenetic and scatological, the Armando Iannucci-penned sitcom sees politics as ongoing crisis management.
The Daily Show (1996-present):Jon Stewart’s review of the news has arguably replaced the news for a generation of Americans.