Of all things, it was my Gmail Webclips
that inadvertently led me to this article. Just goes to show that I can find things to blog about anywhere when I'm not lost in a fog of meh.
The Netherlands are making their own version of Yes, Minister
. As a native of that country whose TV exports are constantly being remade and/or reinvented by foreign TV stations, I'm naturally a bit wary about this; but then, I'm here. I'm never ever going to go out of my way to see the America Spaced
, but I hear the American Office
and Queer as Folk
have been qualified successes, - although I wonder about the title of that latter not being as witty in a culture that doesn't have that saying. So I could be up in arms about how the Dutch will no doubt ruin
a beloved British great and not do it justice through fundamentally not getting it
, but hey, I'm not Dutch and I don't want to watch it. We'll have the fees to help fund the BBC, thank you.Yes, Minister
, for my readers who are neither British Comedy fans nor gramarye1971
, was a BBC sitcom that ran in the early eighties, set in the offices of cabinet minister (and later the Prime Minister) Jim Hacker, and also featuring the department's Permanent Secretary
(and later Cabinet Secretary) Sir Humphrey Appleby and the minister's Principal Private Secretary
Bernard Wooley. The show was primarily about
the complications and petty machinations in Government, and while it particularly had a lot to say about Goverment in the UK in the early eighties, it's lasting popularity speaks of a wider relevant to other countries and other times. There's no reason at all the format couldn't be adapted skillfully and successfully to a Dutch audience of the twenty-first century.
So why am I talking about it, with the subject line I used? Well, because the Times Online have picked up on just one of the changes
the Dutch team are making:
Now Yes Minister is to be remade by Dutch television — with Sir Humphrey's permanent secretary role going to a woman, called Helen van Zuylen in the series.
Fans of the original series may wonder why the programme makers have changed one of the great characters of television comedy — the very essence of Establishment values, with his pinstriped suits, club membership and first-class classics degree from Oxford. Could a woman get away with being as condescending as Sir Humphrey?
As the late Paul Eddington's character, Jim Hacker, used to say when confronted with a tricky one: “I'm glad you asked me that question.”
What Sir Humphrey, played by the late Sir Nigel Hawthorne, would no doubt call “a very courageous decision” is thought to be motivated by a desire to bring the comedy up to date. After all, even in Whitehall, women permanent secretaries are no longer a rarity.
Obviously no woman could be as condescending as Times
writer Valentine Low. Apparently redressing a gender imbalance in a twenty five year old show to reflect today's politics would be changing the fabric of a show so fundamentally the Times
has to wring its hands and wonder if a woman would be up to the job. (It also mentions a new character - an assistant private secretary of Moroccan descent.)
Look, the new show is not going to be the old show: that's OK. The modern Netherlands are not 80s Britain, and I'm sure they're glad of that fact. I would have thought casting a woman in one of the roles would be minor in the list of changes the new writers are going to have to make, right?
Apparently not. Because no one's ever going to get tired of fretting about whether the world is ready
female fictional Permanent Secretary.
Get over it.