The BBC lost the TV revival of political sitcom Yes, Prime Minister
to digital channel Gold because it demanded a pilot episode, it has been revealed.
Both Yes, Prime Minister
and its antecedent, Yes, Minister
, were originally BBC series, and BBC In-House Comedy has made the six new episodes, based on the stage play. However, co-writer Jonathan Lynn
has told Chortle
that when he and Antony Jay
were looking to bring the show back to TV screens, following an approach by Gold, the duo decided to give first refusal to the BBC "as a courtesy" but the corporation told them to write a pilot first.
Lynn said that they pointed out to the BBC:
there were 38 "pilots" available on DVD, manufactured by the BBC, and a play running in the West End to capacity audiences. They said it was policy. So we said our policy was to not write a pilot for them. I thought it was absolutely extraordinary.
In response, a BBC spokesman said:
Yes, Prime Minister was last on air 25 years ago so it would not be unusual to ask for a pilot, as clearly a lot of the elements, including the cast, would be different.Yes, Minister
[Gold parent company] UKTV was involved in the initiation and development of the project; the BBC decided not to broadcast a new series as it was felt a better use of resources to invest in new comedy, for example Mrs Brown's Boys and Miranda.
ran for three series of seven episodes each from 1980 to 1982, winning BAFTAS for Best Comedy Series in 1980, 1981, and 1982. An hour-long Christmas special called Party Games
in 1984 paved the way for Yes, Prime Minister
, which comprised two series of eight episodes each, airing between 1986 and 1988. Nigel Hawthorne
won the Best Light Entertainment Performance BAFTA four times - in 1981, 1982, 1986, and 1987 - for his portrayal of Sir Humphrey Appleby.
The new series of Yes, Prime Minister
- starring David Haig
as the premier Jim Hacker, Henry Goodman
as Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby, and Chris Larkin
as Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley - starts on Gold on Tuesday 15th January
. It co-stars Zoe Telford
as political adviser Claire Sutton, and will guest-star Robbie Coltrane
The first episode - called Crisis At The Summit
- will be followed at 9.40pm
by the documentary Yes, Prime Minister: Re-Elected
, which will celebrate the phenomenon of the show and reveal how influential it was in its 1980s heyday.