Episode Reviews


Featuring the catTiddles seal of approval

Are You Being Served? title screen Every good thing must start somewhere; Are You Being Served? began with this modest little presentation from Comedy Playhouse

The Pilot Episode

Firsts:
  • "Weak as water!"
  • Malfunctioning lift joke
  • Tacky display (illuminated Beauty Belle Bra)
  • "Don't worry about the sleeves: they'll ride up with wear."
  • "Glass of water for Mr. Grainger!"
  • "You've all done very well!"
Differences:
  • Opening theme slightly different
  • Only episode in which Mrs. Slocombe has "normal" hair
  • Mrs. Slocombe is more solicitous than normal—"It's nearly opening time!"
  • Captain Peacock gets unusually worked up about "crooked seams."
  • "Good morning, Mr. Grace" not in unison
Peacock flutes a handkerchief as Lucas and Humphries watch
Grainger and customer
Peacock and staff
Beauty Belle Bra display
Best Bits:

Bloopers: Black and White or Colo(u)r?
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.

Conclusion:

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.

Mr. Humphries helps Mr. Grainger up

Dear Sexy Knickers…

A classic farce of misunderstandings.

Differences:

Mr. Lucas and Mrs. Slocombe seem terribly friendly—Mrs. Slocombe seems especially fond of Mr. Lucas.

Technical Note:

When lift doors open and close, a squeaking noise is clearly audible in the background.

Firsts:

  • "That'll do, Miss Brahms."
  • "Men's wear?" (Mr. Humphries answering telephone in artificially deep voice)
Lucas and Humphries
Mrs. Slocombe and Miss Brahms
Peacock reads note
Best Bits:

Bons Mots: 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.

Captain Peacock and Mr. Humphries

Our Figures Are Slipping

This episode tends to ramble, with several slightly amusing moments rather than two or three hilarious scenes.

Firsts:

  • 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.
Best Bits:
  • 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.
    —What's on?
    —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.")
Mrs. Slocombe closes a drawer
Mr. Lucas and customer
Mr. Grainger and staff
Young Mr. Grace
Bon Mot:

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."

Conclusion:

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.

Mrs. Slocombe and customer

Camping In

Another early farcical classic of misunderstandings and one of the first episodes to explore the true camaraderie among the staff members.

Trivia:

  • Mr. Lucas has only been with Grace Brothers two months when this episode takes place.
  • Date on newspaper announcing transport strike: March 2, 1973.

Firsts:

  • 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.
Mr. Humphries in Asian-style pajamas
Captain Peacock and Mr. Rumbold
Best Bits:

Highlights from the classic camping scene: Bons Mots: The tent-hopping scene and airbed-inflation bit were apparently so good, they were heavily "borrowed" for the AYBS? movie.

Conclusion:

This episode—the first truly classic one—should "give every satisfaction."

Mr. Mash and Miss French

His and Hers

This episode is mainly remembered for guest star Joanna Lumley (later of Absolutely Fabulous fame), but there are several amusing bits in "His and Hers" as well. Incidentally, both the KQED AYBS? book and the new 25 Years book claim Lumley's character was named Miss French, but she is never referred to by name in the actual episode.

Firsts:

Rumbold announces "it was a boardroom decision" for the first time.

Trivia:

  • The lift indicator at the beginning of the episode only shows the basement, ground, first and second floors, in spite of frequent mentions of third and fourth floors in later episodes.
  • Captain Peacock laments being married for fourteen years.
  • The episode's events take place on a Thursday.
Mr. Humphries
The male staff offer free ties to perfume customers
Mrs. Slocombe and Miss Brahms offer garters to perfume customers
Best Bits:

Bons Mots: 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.)

Conclusion:

Another witty, pleasantly ridiculous romp.

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© 1997 Emily Jackson