German Political Satire Stole Dialogue from British Series ‘Yes Minister’

Der Minister - H 2013

Ironically, the new hit series is a parody of the life of a German Defense Minister who resigned over charges of plagiarism.

COLOGNE -- A political satire on German TV about a plagiarist politician itself copied lines of dialogue from other sources, including the BBC’s Yes Minister.

The series, Der Minister, which premiered this week to strong ratings on commercial network Sat.1, is a thinly veiled parody of the rise and fall of German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. Guttenberg was Germany’s most popular politician and tipped as a top candidate to become Chancellor before he was forced to resign after admitting he copied large portions of his university doctorate.

But as an article in German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung revealed that the plagiarist parody is actually itself a plagiary, with several lines stolen from other sources. These include lines from acclaimed British political satire Yes Minister, among them this description of cabinet ministers: "It used to be said there were two kinds of chairs to go with two kinds of Minister: one sort folds up instantly; the other sort goes round and round in circles."

Der Minister also nabbed lines of invented uefrom an article in German satire magazine Titanic written by Oliver Maria Schmitt about Guttenberg and his wife.

Der Minister screenwriter Dorothee Schon has admitted her scripts for the series were in part “a media collage” and inspired by commentary from and about Guttenberg.

This isn’t the first time a German series has been “inspired” by someone else’s work. Commercial network Pro7 famously greenlit a fly-on-the-wall scripted comedy that was obviously based on Ricky GervaisThe Office. However after the similarities between the two series were made public, the producers, Cologne-based Brainpool, agreed to pay Gervais an adaptation fee. The German version of The Office, called Stromberg, ran for five successful seasons on Pro7 and is now being made into a feature film.

Der Minister is also off to a good start. The series’ premiere drew an audience of 2.13 million viewers, a 18.2 percent share, in the key 14-49 demographic. Overall 4.44 million Germans, or 14 percent of the viewing audience, watched the show’s debut.