Featuring the Tiddles seal of approval
- Mr. Lucas gets a mannequin "bent out of shape."
- The "Blue Cinema Club"
- Captain Peacock's lesson in handkerchief fluting
- Lucas reports a customer returning size 38 trousers that didn't fit his wife—but the audience forgets to laugh.
- Mr. Rumbold and Mrs. Slocombe mangling the story of King Solomon ("Nobody's cutting a baby in half.")
Black and White or Colo(u)r?
- Camera goes out of focus momentarily while Mr. Grainger admonishes Lucas next to the lift doors.
- Wendy Richard almost breaks up laughing while delivering this line to Arthur Brough (Mr. Grainger): "Mrs.Slocombe didn't like to take down your trousers without asking you first."
This episode, although now only available in black and white, was originally videotaped in color ("BBC Colour ©1972"). The B&W version is a telerecording made from the color version by the BBC as either a general back-up copy or for distribution to affiliates in Commonwealth countries where color wasn't in general use. The color version was presumably either lost, destroyed, or erased. Color pictures from this episode can be found on the Are You Being Served? laser disc jacket (one printed from a reversed negative) and in the KQED book. In 2009 the pilot was restored to full color using the color recovery technique previously used for an episode of Dad's Army. The restored version was shown on BBC2 as part of an AYBS? special night on 1 January 2010. As of yet, this color version is not out on DVD, although one can always hope.
Tidy ending—plot comes full circle as problem from beginning (where to put the Beauty Belle Bra display) is resolved in the final scene (on top of Mr. Grainger's trouser display, of course!)
Virtual Video Vault rating: "Casual but smart."
Series One (1973)
The show did "very well" in this first group of episodes (as far as quality goes; not so well in number of viewers). Incidentally all but "Diamonds Are a Man's Best Friend" are available on VHS tape and laser disc. (The first two volumes of the AYBS? tapes were supposedly issued on Beta in the early 90's. If anyone has ever seen a Beta tape, please contact me at the e-mail address at the bottom of the page.) On 7 September 2003, the pilot and every episode from 1973-1985 were released on DVD in North America.
A classic farce of misunderstandings.
Mr. Lucas and Mrs. Slocombe seem terribly friendly—Mrs. Slocombe seems especially fond of Mr. Lucas.
When lift doors open and close, a squeaking noise is clearly audible in the background.
- "That'll do, Miss Brahms."
- "Men's wear?" (Mr. Humphries answering telephone in artificially deep voice)
- When Mr. Grainger is measuring the inside leg of the 40" waist customer, he hands the tape measure to Mr. Lucas and asks, "What does it say?" Lucas' reply: "Made in England."
- After "putting the knee in" a too-small jacket, Lucas then tries this technique on trousers, but it doesn't work quite as well. Peacock, Lucas, and company try to explain to Mr. Rumbold what happened. Of course, Rumbold hilariously confuses "kneeing," "needing," and "kneading":
—Mr. Humphries kneed the jacket.
—You mean Mr. Humphries needed the jacket.
—No, you don't understand, sir. I kneed the jacket.
—You need it now.
—No, I kneed it then.
—You mean you needed it then.
—It's a matter of spelling, sir. You spelled "need" with an "n". Mr. Humphries was using a "k".
—Oh, you mean like kneading dough!…You kneaded it to make it more supple, which is why you needed the jacket.
—The method used [to enlarge jacket armholes] is to knee the jacket, with a "k".
—I am aware of how you spell "jacket", Captain Peacock.
In the end, Lucas has to apologize to the Ladies' Department for writing the note, but the misunderstandings continue—Lucas has to go out with Mrs. Slocombe rather than Miss Brahms. This provides a fitting conclusion to a catalog of misunderstandings.
- Miss Brahms: "I thought Burt Reynolds looked quite sexy [in Cosmopolitan]."
Mrs. Slocombe: "Well, you couldn't see anything; his arm was in the way."
- Captain Peacock (referring to "Sexy Knickers" note): "Mr. Grainger, did you write it?"
Grainger: "I don't even understand it!"
Peacock: "Mr. Humphries, did you write this note?"
Humphries: "No, but thanks for the compliment."
This episode tends to ramble, with several slightly amusing moments rather than two or three hilarious scenes.
- First glimpse of cleaning women
- (Historic First) First pussy joke!
- When Mr. Grainger nods off, Mr. Humphries asks "Are you free, Mr. Grainger?" to wake him.
- Mrs. Slocombe closing sticky drawer with her hip.
- Lucas' "autobiography"—he claims to live in a very poor part of Highgate with his crippled mother, an Asian boarder, an asthmatic cat, etc. Rumbold, of course, gets all the details wrong. (Lucas to Rumbold: "Shall I write it down for you?")
- Peacock's awful limerick ("On the chest of a barmaid from Sale…") and Mrs. Slocombe's retort ("Will that be all, Captain Peacock?")
- Customer returning Glen Check for refund ("Glen Checks take a bit of getting used to.") Lucas had offered a refund instead of a credit note in spite of store policy ("Ring down £20.50.")
- Lucas asks Miss Brahms out to the movies.
—Well, there's Bambi at Studio 2, then 'round the corner there's The Unsatisfied Virgin. (pause) I've seen Bambi.
- Hot cocoa and buns for the after-hours meeting!
- Rumbold pretends to be a customer at the after-hours meeting, only to get stuck in the lift.
- Lucas sells Mr. Grace his own vicuña coat. ("Mr. Lucas sold Mr. Grace Mr. Lucas' coat?" "No, Mr. Lucas sold Mr. Grace Mr. Grace's coat.")
Peacock: "Mrs. Slocombe, I hope your cat won't suffer unduly from its enforced confinement."
Mrs. Slocombe: "Oh, it's not confined. It's shut up."
Lucas just can't win today. This is another early episode featuring Lucas prominently—there wouldn't be many more as Mr. Humphries began to eclipse Mr. Lucas.
Another early farcical classic of misunderstandings and one of the first episodes to explore the true camaraderie among the staff members.
- Mr. Lucas has only been with Grace Brothers two months when this episode takes place.
- Date on newspaper announcing transport strike: March 2, 1973.
- First episode in which Mr. Lucas doesn't wear a waistcoat (vest).
- First of several episodes in which the staff has to spend the night at the store.
Highlights from the classic camping scene:
- The male customer who wants a large bra for his fiancée ("Do you have a male assistant at this counter?" "No, there isn't much demand for that at Grace Brothers.")
- Lucas' tape measure has to go where no tape measure has gone before in order to take the inside leg of a kilt-wearing Scotsman for a pair of tweed "breeks". The customer, showing remarkable insight, calls Lucas an "ignorant sassenach."
- Instead of sharing the large tent with Miss Brahms, Mrs. Slocombe takes it for herself, forcing Miss Brahms to take Peacock's tent and Peacock to share a bed with Rumbold.
- Staff are given castoff pajamas (or, in the case of Mr. Lucas, one-legged pajamas).
- When Miss Brahms is given men's pajamas, Mrs. Slocombe tells her to wear them "the wrong way 'round."
- "Campfire" sing and reminiscences about World War II—one of the most endearingly silly scenes in the entire history of the show, especially with Grainger's impersonations of Churchill and Lord Haw-Haw.
The tent-hopping scene and airbed-inflation bit were apparently so good, they were heavily "borrowed" for the AYBS? movie.
- (Discussing transport arrangements)
Rumbold: "Are any of you in walking distance?"
Humphries: "Well, I could be home by the morning if I set off now."
- (Discussing sleeping arrangements)
Mrs. Slocombe: "We can't all just kip down like Sodom and Gomorrah."
Humphries: "Or Swan and Edgar."
- Peacock: "I think there should be some separation between the sexes."
Grainger (glaring at Mr. Humphries): "And also within the sexes."
- Peacock: "Where am I supposed to bivouac?"
Mrs. Slocombe: "I don't care-wack; it's got nothing to do with me."
- Peacock: "I was trying to get Miss Brahms and Mrs. Slocombe together in the same tent."
Rumbold: "What, all three of you!?"
Peacock: "No, sir, I don't want to share with the ladies."
Rumbold: "Ah, good."
Peacock: "I want to share with you."
This episode—the first truly classic one—should "give every satisfaction."
- Mr. Lucas tells Mr. Humphries about his evening at the library (between Fanny Hill and Lady Chatterley's Lover).
- Lucas mocks Peacock's "caustic comments" behind his back as Humphries and Miss Brahms join Lucas in "larking about."
- Peacock invites Mrs. Slocombe to a dîner à deux, uninvites her, and then invites her again after the perfume lady rebuffs his advances.
- The salesgirl receives a frosty reception from all but Peacock (and to some degree Lucas). Actually Lucas is quite fond of her until he makes a pass at her, grabs her, and is slapped in return.
- After the saleslady is refused use of the changing rooms, she changes right in front of the staff of the Gentlemen's Department.
- (Priceless Bit) When a tape of the sales pitch for Hers perfume is played for the first time, the expression on Mr. Humphries' face changes from delight to ecstasy to dejection as he realizes the ad is aimed at women. For once, Mr. Lucas has to bring Mr. Humphries a glass of water.
- As the staff cook up a way to get rid of the salesgirl, another scene of farcical miscommunication ensues involving Henry II, Thomas à Becket ("Not that nice Mr. Becket from Hardware"), and Murder in the Cathedral.
- Lucas sabotages the perfume demonstration by "talking through his hat." Oddly enough, it takes two insults to drive off the female customer, but only one for the male.
Ironically, the staff end up selling the perfume after the girl quits and they discover the perfume company is a subsidiary of Grace Brothers. (It would seem that perfume would not come in hairspray-sized aerosol cans.)
- (After trouser display disappears)
Grainger: "Is this one of your machinations, Mrs. Slocombe?"
Mrs. Slocombe: "I don't do machinations!"
- (After Grainger and Mrs. Slocombe argue)
Rumbold: "Now, now, now."
Peacock: "Yes, as I was about to say, now, now, now" (rather mechanically).
- Mrs. Slocombe: "Seeing as our Mr. Grainger is behaving like a bear with a sore 'ead…"
- Rumbold: "I may be dense [pauses for laughter—audience doesn't get the joke] but what does the play have to do with the girl leaving?"
Another witty, pleasantly ridiculous romp.
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© 1997 Emily Jackson