Synopsis: Secretary to the Cabinet, Sir Arnold Robinson is retiring and Sir Humphrey is to take his place. Hacker celebrates by getting gloriously drunk and is lucky to escape the breathalyser – unlike the Deputy Prime Minister. With his successor out of the way, the Prime Minister too steps down and the hunt is on to find his replacement. The politicians favour a strong candidate, someone with style and charisma who will lead the party into a new term of office. The Civil Service favour someone less headstrong, more ‘receptive to advice’…
eyelights: it sets up ‘Yes, Prime Minister’.
eyesores: Hacker feels too nebbish. Hacker’s spouse isn’t present enough. it’s not nearly as funny.
“First rule in politics: never believe anything until it’s officially denied.”
Following the end of its successful third series, on December 23, 1982, ‘Yes, Minister‘ returned briefly for a Christmas sketch on the Dec 27, 1982, programme ‘The Funny Side of Christmas’ – an 80-minute special that was a collection of shorts based on BBC shows.
After the two-minute ‘Yes, Minister’ sketch, “Christmas at the Ministry”, Hacker, Humphrey and Bernard wouldn’t be heard from again until December 17, 1984 (almost two years!!!), when the mini-film ‘Party Games’ was aired on the BBC.
It would prove to be the series’ swan song.
The Christmas special finds Sir Humphrey taking over the duties of the retiring Cabinet Secretary, who has decided to retire in the New Year. Naturally, he looks forward to the prestige of working for the PM. And Hacker is looking forward to finally having his way.
However, during the holidays, the Prime Minister makes a sudden and unexpected announcement, tendering his resignation. In light of this, Humphrey and his colleagues become concerned that the party will be divided in the leadership contest, tearing it apart.
And so they conspire to find a compromise candidate, one that isn’t quite effectual enough to interfere in their running of government. That candidate: Jim Hacker. After a few jokes at his expense, they approach him with the idea of running for party leader, thereby becoming PM.
What good, narcissistic politician could possibly pass up such a golden opportunity? Certainly not an ambitious man like Hacker! But how does he intend to get the keys to 10 Downing Street while facing such fierce competition? That’s when the party games begin!
Frankly, although it’s highly rated, I have mixed feelings about ‘Party Games’.
On the one hand, there’s the fact that Eddington plays Hacker in his exaggerated fashion again, making him seem most un-ministerial; he doesn’t appear like Prime Minister material one bit (which, let’s face it, may be the point). But I like it best when he is sharper, if naïve.
This approach sells the notion that Hacker tries to endear himself to the British public by taking on the cause of the British sausage, which is under fire from the EEC.
Bernard Woolley: “They cannot stop us eating the British sausage, can they?”
Jim Hacker: “They can stop us calling it a sausage though. Apparently it has got to be called the Emulsified High-Fat Offal Tube.”
Bernard Woolley: “And you swallowed it?”
It’s so absurd that this would be his rallying cry that you just have to laugh! Forget the Falkland Islands! He’s got the British sausage!
As with much of the three series, there are some good dialogues along the way. But some of it feels forced, especially with regards to Humphrey’s verbosity and Hacker’s ineptitude. But I really loved seeing the internal politics and wrangling going on behind-the-scenes – I eat that stuff up.
I also enjoyed seeing a few familiar faces in this special, with Philip Stone (Delbert Grady from ‘The Shining’) playing Duncan Short, Foreign Secretary (and Hacker’s competitor), and André Maranne (François in ‘The Pink Panther’ movies) playing Maurice, the European Commissioner.
But the episode feels thin in some ways, despite all the backroom politics going on. It’s not as funny, and it gives the impression of being filler material. Which it was: it was the lead-in to the sequel to ‘Yes, Minister’, ‘Yes, Prime Minister’; it’s actually just a set-up, a bridge of sorts.
Honestly, I probably would have rated this special more highly had I seen it at the time, not knowing that ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ existed – at least the surprise would have been intact. Years later, there wasn’t much of one and so the special lost a lot of its punch.
But I really can’t wait to tackle the next two series; that should be a blast!
“So Humpy, you are going do to the Prime Minister what you have always done to me… uh… for me?”
Date of viewing: January 26, 2015