A Very Courageous Decision - Graham McCann

A Very Courageous Decision

By Graham McCann

  • Release Date: 2014-10-16
  • Genre: Humor
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A Very Courageous Decision Graham McCann Book Review Score: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars

The behind-the-scenes story  of one of the most successful and admired sitcoms of the 1980s

In 1977 the BBC commissioned  a new satirical  sitcom set in Whitehall. Production of  its first  series was stalled, however, by the  death throes  of  Jim Callaghan's Labour government and  the 'Winter of Discontent';  Auntie  being unwilling to broadcast such an overtly political  comedy until after the general election  of 1979.

That Yes Minister should have been delayed by the  very  events that helped bring Margaret Thatcher to power is, perhaps, fitting. Over  three series from 1980 - and two more as Yes, Prime Minister until 1988 -  the  show  mercilessly  lampooned  the  vanity, self-interest and incompetence  of our so-called public servants, making  its  hapless minister Jim Hacker and  his scheming Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey two of the most memorable  characters British comedy has ever produced. The new prime minister professed it her favourite  television programme - a 'textbook' on the State  in inaction  - and millions of British viewers agreed. 

In the years since  Yes Minister  has  become a  national treasure: Sir  Humphrey's  slippery circumlocutions  have  entered  the lexicon,  regularly quoted by political commentators, and  the series'  cynical vision of  government seems as credible now as it did thirty years ago.

Much of this success can be credited to its writers, Antony Jay  and Jonathan Lynn, who  drew on their contacts in Westminster to  rework  genuine political folly as situation comedy. Storylines  that  seemed absurd  to the  public were often rooted in  actual events -  so much so that they  occasionally attracted the  scrutiny of Whitehall mandarins.   

In A Very Courageous Decision acclaimed entertainment historian Graham McCann  goes in search  of  the  real political fiascos  that inspired Yes Minister.  Drawing on fresh interviews with cast, crew, politicians  and  admirers, he  reveals how  a subversive satire captured the  mood of its time to become one of the  most cherished sitcoms  of Thatcher's Britain.

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