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October 06, 1985

"YES, MINISTER," 10 p.m. Thursdays (28)--The British make some of the worst comedies and some of the best. "Yes, Minister" is one of the best, a long-running BBC series that already has aired on the Arts & Entertainment cable network and is now being syndicated to many of America's public TV stations.

KCET is among the stations that have bought the first 21 half-hour episodes of this series, which satirizes the Whitehall and the British bureaucracy.

The writing is crisp and funny, and Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne are excellent as the central characters.

In the first episode, Parliament member Jim Hacker (Eddington) gets appointed to the position of Minister for Administrative Affairs (a fictional title). He immediately finds his bureaucratic underlings, led by his under secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby (Hawthorne), firmly opposed to his plan for an open government.

Hacker is half idealist and half pragmatist, a mostly well-meaning boob who is opposed at every turn by the sniffy, plotting, self-serving Sir Humphrey, the real master in this relationship.

Although the humor is decidedly British, the stories--dealing with general government ineptitude and waste--are universally applicable and equally relevant to American audiences. In a later episode, Hacker uncovers bureaucratic waste in the government health service, discovering that a hospital with no patients is kept open because it operates efficiently. It's a howl.

"Yes, Minister" was said to be Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's favorite TV program. But that was before this year, when the writers of "Yes, Minister" decided that Hacker was so incompetent that he deserved a promotion--to prime minister.

Well, Thatcher can always switch channels.

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