Yes, Prime Minister – there is a new show in town to worry about
Classic Eighties TV comedy returns to lampoon the Coalition
David Cameron, who once wrote a university essay criticising the inaccuracy of Eighties political satire Yes Minister will now have to cope with being lampooned by its creators.
The line-up of a new modern-day remake of Yes, Prime Minister, the satire's successful sequel, was unveiled yesterday. It means Mr Cameron will suffer the double indignity of being chided by a show which mocked Thatcher's governments at the same time that his cabinet is being satirised by The Thick Of It, the BBC political sitcom which returned last weekend.
The links between the two shows are strong, with David Haig (familiar to The Thick Of It fans as passive-aggressive spin doctor Steve Fleming) cast in the Prime Ministerial role of Jim Hacker, originally played by Paul Eddington. The part of Sir Humphrey Appleby – Hacker's manipulative Cabinet Secretary, made famous by actor Nigel Hawthorne – goes to Henry Goodman.
A new dynamic to the original show emerges in the form of Claire Sutton (Zoe Telford), a female political adviser deployed by the Prime Minister to weaken the influence of Sir Humphrey, a misogynist who tends to addresses women as "dear lady".
The remake has been devised by the original writers Jonathan Lynn and Sir Antony Jay and will tackle the contemporary themes of coalition government. One episode will see Hacker trying to cope with calls for a Scottish independence referendum, with Robbie Coltrane playing a Scottish politician.
The six-part series by BBC Productions will be shown on UKTV's Gold channel early in the New Year. Lord Nigel Lawson and Lord Roy Hattersley are among the political heavyweights due to make cameos.
Haig said the series was as relevant now as it was in the Eighties, when the name "Sir Humphrey" became a standard expression for a senior civil servant. "It has been modernised and is an up-to-date political environment but the issues – Europe, growth rates, political shenanigans are all exactly as they were with the same Machiavellian ducking and diving."
Goodman said the introduction of a female rival added a "new dynamic" to the Sir Humphrey role. "He's up against a woman and has to negotiate with her by wearing kid gloves and he's not used to doing that."
They were speaking at a UKTV season launch which was also attended by Sir David Attenborough, who is making a new five-part series called David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities for Eden, UKTV's wildlife channel. He will explore myths and oddities in the animal kingdom such as the unicorn and the platypus.
Political performers: The new cast
Sir Humphrey Appleby Cabinet Secretary: The acclaimed theatre actor Henry Goodman plays the role made famous by Nigel Hawthorne.
Jim Hacker Prime Minister: David Haig takes over Paul Eddington's role, having previously played a spin doctor in The Thick Of It.
Claire Sutton Head of No 10's policy unit: Zoe Telford plays the policy adviser. She played a tabloid journalist in The Thick Of It.
Bernard Woolley Principal Private Secretary: Chris Larkin is best-known for playing Hermann Goering in C4's Hitler: The Rise of Evil
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