I’ll be kicking off the evening with TOTP. Not a classic edition but studio performances by Talk Talk (Talk Talk) and A Flock of Seagulls (Wishing If I Had a Photograph of You) ensure that it’s not a total write-off.
From then on, it’s sitcoms all the way. There’s an embarrassment of riches tonight, beginning with Only When I Laugh and Shelley on ITV. Then it’ll be over to BBC1 for Only Fools and Horses before the highlight of the evening (both mine and Stan’s) which is Yes Minister on BBC2.
Tonight’s episode is The Skeleton in the Cupboard and offers Jim the satisfaction of gaining the upper hand over Sir Humphrey. The episode has two plotlines which are only tenuously connected (either could have worked just as well in another episode without the other) but when there’s so many quotable lines flying about, I’m not too concerned about plotting. To give just two examples ….
Sir Humphrey Appleby: If local authorities don’t send us the statistics that we ask for, then government figures will be a nonsense.
Jim Hacker: Why?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: They will be incomplete.
Jim Hacker: But government figures are a nonsense anyway.
Bernard Woolley: I think Sir Humphrey want to ensure they are a complete nonsense.
Jim Hacker: Bernard, how did Sir Humphrey know I was with Dr. Cartwright?
Bernard Woolley: God moves in a mysterious way.
Jim Hacker: Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Humphrey is not God, OK?
Bernard Woolley: Will you tell him or shall I?
The first storyline concerns a local council which has attracted Sir Humphrey’s ire (because they never send their paperwork back to the DAA). This hasn’t stopped them from becoming the most efficient council in the country though, but that’s something which cuts no ice with a bureaucratic mandarin like Sir Humphrey.
Jim is reluctant to censure the council simply because they can’t fill in forms, but he’s pressured by Sir Humphrey to do so. Jim seems to have no choice, but then a gift (evidence of Sir Humphrey’s incompetence from thirty years ago) is dropped into his lap. This is the cue for some exquisite squirming from Nigel Hawthorne as he reluctantly confesses all (equally good as ever, of course, is Paul Eddington as we see Jim delight in twisting the knife).
It’s difficult to say that Hawthorne didn’t deserve the four BAFTAs he won for Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, but it’s a bitter irony that Paul Eddington had to lose out to his colleague on each occasion (in the years that Hawthorne won, Eddington was always also nominated). If Jim and Sir Humphrey were a double act, then you could say that Eddington tended to play the feed at times (but though he had the less showy role, he was always excellent value). Indeed, one of the pleasures of rewatching the series is simply to appreciate just how good they both were.