Original airdate: December 22nd, treat 1975
Running time: 43 minutes
Director: Ray Butt
Writers: Jeremy Lloyd, ed John Chapman
Cast: Mollie Sugden, John Inman, Frank Thornton, Wendy Richard, Nicholas Smith, Trevor Bannister, Harold Bennett, Arthur Brough
Are You Being Served? was one of the few British television shows that made it over to our little island in Trinidad in the early 1980’s. It stuck out between U.S. imports like Benson, Family Ties and Golden Girls and I remember watching it as a little boy with my family.
Set in Grace Brothers, a department store that sold men and women’s clothing, its cast of characters were the staff and they brought with them to each episode a heavy dose of innuendoes and double entendres. There was Captain Peacock (Frank Thornton), in charge of the floor and somewhat pompous. Mrs. Slocombe (Mollie Sugden), head of the ladies’ department and famous for her ever changing hair colours, and of course taking about her pussy. Miss Shirley (Wendy Richard), she also works in the ladies department and is a bit glamour girl at times.
Then there’s Mr. Lucas (Trevor Bannister), the charming womaniser who works in the men’s department. Mr. Grainger (Arthur Brough), a veteran staff member who’s mostly grumpy and sleepy. And of course, Mr. Humphries (John Inman), the famously camp one who’s known for saying “I’m free!”
Looking back on it now I’m really amazed at how they got away with it, but at the same time it was outrageously funny. As a little boy though I had no idea what some of the things meant or what we were meant to think of whenever Mrs. Slocombe mentioned her pussy. As I got older and rediscovered the series, thanks to reruns on UK Gold (we moved to Britain in the late 80’s), I realised just how filthy the show was. Together with brilliant actors and great writing Are You Being Served? is mentioned over and over again as one of the country’s most loved comedy shows and its not hard to see why.
Take this 1975 Christmas episode for example. Mr. Rumbold (Nicholas Smith), the store’s manager, has called everyone in for an early morning meeting to discuss ideas for boosting sales over Christmas. While Mr. Humphries suggests giving kisses to men who make purchases, Mrs. Solocombe offers that they should decorate the floor, but the store’s elderly owner, Young Mr. Grace (Harold Bennett), has decided to get them all into novelty costumes based on fairy tale characters, much to everyone’s dismay, apart from Mr. Humphries of course.
The next part of their day sees them all sat down for a staff Christmas lunch but Mr. Lucas has forgotten to purchase ticket and has to make do with the usual grub. When the half plucked turkey that’s the size of budgie is brought out to them, they all wish they’d forgotten their tickets as well.
What’s really side-splitting is when then put on the silly items they got from the crackers. While Mr. Peacock makes a comment about Mr. Grainger looking like Mr. Rumbold with the big ears and bald head, he has no idea he’s standing behind him!
The episode wraps up with a surprising musical turn as the staff come out in their costumes to see their work areas fully decorated. It’s a bit hammy, but in the spirit of Christmas it’s all for a bit of fun. Along with shows like ‘Allo ‘Allo! , Dad’s Army, Porridge and Open All Hours, Are You Being Served? remains one of the truly great British television sitcoms of that time, and also one of my family’s all-time favourites. Especially at this time of year!
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .