Question of the week: Is it wrong to recast Yes, Prime Minister?

Yes Prime Minister

Yes, Prime Minister is a true classic of British television. With characters almost inextricably linked to the actors who created them, Nigel Hawthorne and Paul Eddington, it was a telling, comedic look at the British civil service by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn.

Since the programme ended in the 1980s, Jay and Lynn have since created a version for the stage starring David Haig and Henry Goodman, and now UK Gold are taking that cast and creating a new series of Yes, Prime Minister, with Jay and Lynn writing that as well.

Today’s question, though, is:

Is it wrong to recast Yes, Prime Minister or should Jay and Lynn create new characters for the series? Is it disrespectful to the memories of Eddington and Hawthorne to have these same characters revived? Is it just impossible to imagine anyone else performing those roles as well as the originals? Or does it make no difference – a character’s a character and we might as well object that people are still playing Hamlet, even though the original actor is dead?

Answers below or on your own blog, please?

  • As per my comment to you on Twitter, I'm not a fan of this kind of recasting. It seems disrespectful, and I don't fully understand why they couldn't have done a similar series, but with different names for the characters. Hamlet's not really the same thing, unless we have proof that�Shakespeare always used precisely the same people for every production of his shows. It's more like John Cleese dying, someone doing a Fawlty Towers stage show, and then some small TV station bringing that to the TV.

  • Toby O'Brien

    I knew they were making a new series, but this is the first I heard of them recasting.� I was hoping they would do a sequel rather than a remake, a continuation with new characters following the same model.� I always think the creators do this when the material doesn't hold up; that just having the same characters will make us accept it.� But the reason the audience loves those original characters is because of the actors who embodied them.� Without them, it's just not the same.

  • Toby O'Brien

    I knew they were making a new series, but this is the first I heard of them recasting.� I was hoping they would do a sequel rather than a remake, a continuation with new characters following the same model.� I always think the creators do this when the material doesn't hold up; that just having the same characters will make us accept it.� But the reason the audience loves those original characters is because of the actors who embodied them.� Without them, it's just not the same.

  • Toby O'Brien

    I knew they were making a new series, but this is the first I heard of them recasting.� I was hoping they would do a sequel rather than a remake, a continuation with new characters following the same model.� I always think the creators do this when the material doesn't hold up; that just having the same characters will make us accept it.� But the reason the audience loves those original characters is because of the actors who embodied them.� Without them, it's just not the same.

  • Lisa Rullsenberg

    I saw the stage show version (touring version): it was fine enough, but I think if its coming back to TV then they should give the characters new names.� The cast look and probably will be great but it probably doesn't do them any favours to add the burden of history to their acting.

  • Electric Dragon

    Is it being set in modern times? Because the political world has changed a lot since Yes, (Prime) Minister, with the rise of the spin cycle and the dominance of the political advisers over the civil servants. In fact, there already is a modern version of Yes, Minister. It's called The Thick Of It.

  • It is. I know it's based on the stage play to some extent and they modified it for the TV version to talk about the Greek economic crisis.

  • Mark Carroll

    A character's a character. I don't think it's at all disrespectful, it's not like they're taking the original off the shelves so we can't watch it any more. In other shows I've seen I've survived same-character different-actor changes perfectly well.

    Though, the original was good enough that, through making it so close to it, it'll be obvious if some aspect is inferior. Kind of like in these Pop Idol things where some kid decides to take on a Queen song and the comparison with Freddie Mercury does them no favours whatsoever. So I wish them luck, they'll need it.

    Besides, I think the more outstanding aspect of the original was the writing. The book versions are still well worth a read, after all.