TEHRAN – The freed British sailors and marines, who were held by Iran for nearly two weeks, have become the biggest thing ever on Iranian television, replacing reruns of Who’s the Boss as the number one show here. They have become so popular, in fact, that they just signed a multi-million dollar deal to keep appearing.

Every day during their captivity, the Brits appear in television broadcasts produced by the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Iranians by the thousands called off work or skipped school just to watch the broadcasts of the Brits smoking, drinking, and standing in front of maps.

“I just love them,” said Velveeta Khomeini-Hussein who spoke through an interpreter. “They’re so dry and witty – much better than the last [British TV show] we had – what was it called? Benny Hill?” Ms. Khomeini-Hussein then dashed into her hut and turned on her TV for another rerun of the British smoking and apologizing.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Tony Blair has confirmed that the last sticking point in the negotiations between Iran and the United Kingdom over ending the hostage crisis was how to divvy up the lucrative television rights for the hostages. Production of new episodes of the show, tentatively titled The Infidel Captives, is scheduled to begin next week.

The popularity of the Brits doesn’t please everyone in Iran. A man, who refused to be identified, said that the popularity of the Brits is ruining his chances of starting an independent television network in Iran. “Again with the adorable hostages -- I can compete with that?” the man asked, then spat on the ground. “If lawsuits were allowed in Iran, I’d sue those [Revolutionary Guards] – putting me out of business before I even get started!”