Episode Reviews Part 5
The Ladies' and Gent's departments are thrown together behind the same counter when Young Mr. Grace decides to redecorate. In a battle royale of the sexes, the two sides clash over customers, counter space, and even canteen condiments.
A surprisingly early (to Americans) reference to Margaret Thatcher (she did not become prime minister until 1979).
When the staff first return from the canteen in the episode's final scene, Mr. Grainger appears without glasses, Mrs. Slocombe having hidden them. Later in the scene, the familiar spectacles have returned to Mr. Grainger's face without explanation.
Stone (as in "11 stone 4", the weight of the telephone customer) is a unit of weight equal to 14 pounds; thus, 11 stone 4 would equal 158 pounds.
- The "Captain Peacock, Mr. Rumbold wants you on the phone"/"Mr. Rumbold doesn't want you on the phone" routine with Miss Thorpe.
- Miss Thorpe's unique filing system:
Mr. Rumbold: "Oh, Miss Thorpe, where's the maintenance file?"
Miss Thorpe: "You mean the one marked 'Decoration'?"
Mr. Rumbold: "Yes."
Miss Thorpe: "I filed it yesterday under 'A'."
Mr. Rumbold: "Under 'A'?"
Miss Thorpe: "Yes, I file most things under 'A'."
Mr. Rumbold: "I don't quite follow."
Miss Thorpe: "Well, A letter, A sales report, A customer's complaint."
Captain Peacock: "A different way of finding anything."
- The returned wig customer. Seeking the assistant who sold her a dreadful-looking wig, she shows her receipt indicating assistant 51 to Mrs. Slocombe:
When Mrs. Slocombe asks her to remove her wig, she exclaims "This is my own hair!"—the wig she is trying to exchange is in her shopping bag.
—Yes, it was an older woman.
- A customer telephones to order a made-to-measure suit. Mr. Humphries and Mr. Lucas try to guide him through the measuring process with little success. Mr. Grainger then steps in to expertly determine the customer's size—and then hangs up without getting his address.
- Mrs. Slocombe and Miss Brahms rummaging through Mr. Grainger's private drawer.
- When Miss Brahms ventures behind the curtain separating the work area from the rest of the floor, she is "goosed" by a workman resembling Tom Jones. Mrs. Slocombe then barges into the work area, hoping for the same experience, but the workman who looks like Steptoe [from Steptoe and Son, the British series that inspired the American Sanford and Son] gets to her first. Later, Captain Peacock goes behind the partition; he is molested by a workman resembling Larry Grayson (an effeminate British personality).
- The honeymoon couple who come in to buy sweaters but spend as much time kissing as examining the goods. The rival departments literally battle each other trying to serve them.
- The trick Mrs. Slocombe and Miss Brahms play on Mr. Grainger (replacing his pencil with one from the joke department) that eventually backfires (Mr. Grainger unwittingly uses his joke pencil to stir Mrs. Slocombe's coffee).
Eventually the work is completed, and Young Mr. Grace, after a couple of tries, unveils the newly-remodeled Ladies' Department—which looks exactly as it did before. Next, it's the men's turn….
- Humphries (to telephone customer): "We'll do your inside leg. (Aside to Lucas) This should be fun."
Lucas: "You ought to be careful. You know it's an offense to make dirty phone calls."
- (Captain Peacock beckons Mrs. Slocombe with a wave.)
Mrs. Slocombe: "I do not respond to waves."
Miss Brahms: "What about that man you met on your holiday?"
Mrs. Slocombe: "Ah, that was different; he was waving from his yacht!"
- Captain Peacock: "Mr. Lucas, you are not indispensable. There are many young men who would bend over backwards to get into Grace Brothers."
Mr. Humphries: "That's one of the qualifications."
- Lucas: "You nearly got me the sack then."
Mrs. Slocombe: "You should have been put in one at birth."
- Mr. Humphries: "[This sweater is] half man-made wool, half polyester fiber."
Honeymoon husband: "Surely that's man-made as well."
Mr. Humphries: "Ah, yes, but it's made by different men."
- Honeymoon husband (again): "Shall I or shan't I? Should I or shouldn't I?"
Lucas: "Is he or isn't he?"
Humphries: "I don't know, but I'd think it'd help if there was a rush."
- Mr. Grainger: "That Mrs. Slocombe gets in my hair."
Mr. Humphries: "Metaphorically speaking, you mean."
A somewhat disjointed storyline, but still some good scenes. Definitely well above average.
Another think tank produces another dubious sales gimmick—bring back the Great Gatsby look!
- Only episode with "rolling" end credits.
- Miss Thorpe's last episode.
- The water fountain routine. The fountain, instead of having its intended effect, reminds customers of the rainy day they've just escaped and prompts the staff and at least one customer to head for the ladies' or the gent's, as the case may be.
- Grace Brothers' latest tacky display, the Camishirt. The display malfunctions, as usual, but Mr. Mash takes advantage of the problem to give Mrs. Slocombe quite a shock.
Young Mr. Grace decides to choose his favorite voice—his own—for the background announcements. The episode concludes with Mr. Humphries, two lift girls, and Goddard the chauffeur performing a twenties dance as the grand finale.
- Mr. Humphries, trying out the red carpet by the fountain: "Must be lovely being the queen."
- Mrs. Slocombe, arriving at work on a rainy day: "My pussy got soaking wet. I had to dry it out in front of the fire before I left."
- Mrs. Slocombe recounts her night out to Miss Brahms:
Mrs. Slocombe: "When we stopped, we weren't outside my house at all."
Miss Brahms: "Where were you?"
Mrs. Slocombe: "Outside his place, miles away."
Miss Brahms: "No!"
Mrs. Slocombe: "Yes! Anyway, he asked would I like to go in for a nightcap? Well, it seemed harmless enough; it wasn't until he actually produced one with a nightie to match that I realized what was going on."
Miss Brahms: "Hope you asked him to take you straight home."
Mrs. Slocombe: "Yes…eventually."
- Miss Brahms: "Oh, we could have those lovely 1920s frocks with all feathers and beads."
Mr. Humphries: "Oh, that would be nice!"
- (Discussing who should do the background voice)
Miss Brahms: "Oh, let's have that lovely Gordon Honeycomb what reads the news on the telly."
Mrs. Slocombe: "Oh, I like Richard Baker. He's got lovely eyes."
Mr. Humphries: "Do you know, I take more notice of the news when he reads it."
- Mr. Humphries, admiring himself in the mirror in his morning suit: "Mirror, mirror on the wall…ooh, you cannot see the join at all!"
- (Later in the same scene)
Mr. Humphries: "You know, I think these sleeves are too long."
Mr. Grainger: "Oh, don't worry; they'll ride up with wear."
Mr. Humphries: "There's no need to lie to me. I work here."
Masculine Women and Feminine Men
Masculine women and feminine men,
Which is the rooster, which is the hen?
It's hard to tell them apart today.
Girls were girls and boys were boys
When I was a tot,
Now we don't know who is who
Or even what's what.
Knickers and trousers, baggy and wide,
Nobody knows who's walking inside
Those masculine women and feminine men.
It's a wonder this episode didn't bring back the Charleston. Unique and charming.
The first of two Christmas-themed AYBS? episodes combines familiar plot elements (desperate sales gimmicks, another think tank session to inconvenience the staff) with amusing holiday-related bits and an elaborate costume/musical finale.
First appearance of Doremy Vernon (a waitress in this episode, the cranky canteen manageress in later years).
- Last episode with Mr. Mash.
- Lady Templewood (Betty Impey) is listed in the credits, but her scene was apparently cut.
- One of the few episodes to mention Mrs. Slocombe's other pet, Winston the canary.
Trevor Bannister (Mr. Lucas) loses his balance going down the stairs in his one-legged pirate costume and is unable to finish his line.
At the think tank, Mr. Humphries suggests engaging someone to play Father Christmas to attract customers during the holiday season, but the idea is rejected. A year later, the staff have obviously changed their minds ("The Father Christmas Affair").
- Mrs. Slocombe shows up for work dressed up as a witch, complete with black hat and broomstick (Mr. Humphries: "I always suspected it.")
- At the early-morning think tank, various bizarre ideas for dressing up the store and increasing Christmas sales are put forward (a sprig of holly in the underwear, kisses for all the gentleman customers, reindeer and a sleigh to transport customers to the counter). Young Mr. Grace eventually decrees that the staff will wear novelty costumes.
- The Christmas lunch. Mr. Lucas forgets to buy a ticket and has to settle for a standard main course of halibut and no Christmas cracker. The others are treated to a perfectly awful lunch with an emaciated turkey and a flaming pudding that turns into the Towering Inferno of desserts.
- The maintenance department also get into the holiday spirit (and happily collect the resulting overtime pay) by beautifully redecorating the shop floor.
- Captain Peacock (to an uncooperative Mr. Mash): "That militant attitude is not part of the Christmas spirit!"
- Peacock: "We can't burst into song every time the lift opens."
Mr. Humphries: "What a pity; I was looking forward to being a counter tenor."
- Miss Brahms (examining a bottle of wine at the Christmas lunch): "White wine's my favorite! Vin blanc coop—whereabouts is coop?"
Mr. Lucas: "That's co-op!"
- Mrs. Slocombe (in her Robin Hood costume): "Do I have to have this funny quiver 'round the back?"
Mr. Lucas: "You've always had a funny quiver 'round the back."
Captain Peacock: Snowman
Mr. Rumbold: Court Jester
Mrs. Slocombe: Robin Hood
Miss Brahms: Fairy
Mr. Humphries: Prince
Mr. Grainger: Humpty-Dumpty
Christmas Time Is Here
- Captain Peacock
- Holly, mistletoe, big fir trees
And once again a splendid reason
To celebrate the festive season,
Christmas time is here!
- Mr. Mash
- I've knocked up a land enchanted,
Christmas trees freshly planted.
And the reason for my smile—
The overtime made it worthwhile!
- I, although a senior member,
Get lightheaded in November.
- Mr. Lucas
- That's why he's dressed up as an egg,
And I've lost half my inside leg.
- Mrs. Slocombe
- Speaking on behalf of blouses,
It's rather drafty 'round the houses.
- Miss Brahms
- That must be why I saw you shiver.
- Captain Peacock
- You should have worn a bigger quiver!
all sing chorus
- Captain Peacock and Mr. Rumbold
- Even we so far above you
At Christmas time just want to love you.
- Captain Peacock
- I, after all, must be a sport.
- Mr. Grainger
- I trust I shan't be taken short.
- Miss Brahms
- Mr. Humphries looks so charming.
- Mrs. Slocombe
- It's his smile that's so disarming.
- Mr. Humphries
- How kind! But if I were a prince
I'd still like Christmas pud and mince.
all sing chorus
- Captain Peacock
- Young Mr. Grace!
- Mrs. Slocombe
- And there's the bell!
- Sit down, sir; you've done very well!
We're so happy with our grotto
- Mr. Mash
- Here's a bottle. Let's get blotto!
A memorable Christmas present for AYBS? fans in 1975. One of the best of the "dress-up" spectaculars.
Series Four (1976)
Another year, another set of classic AYBS? episodes.
"Oh, What Do They Know!"
Incidentally, all but one episode from the 1976 series, "Fire Practice", is available on VHS video.
I would like to be kind. I really would. I would like to say that Are You Being Served?
, which returned to BBC1 last night, gave us service with a smile. It didn't. I watched grim-faced as the cast plunged despondently deeper and deeper into a predictable situation and struggled with even more predictable lines.
Evening News, 9 April 1976
In another ill-considered attempt to stimulate business, the store's opening time is moved up to 8:30 a.m. The staff decide to take revenge by practicing the fine art of not selling.
First episode featuring a telephone call from Mr. Humphries' mother.
- Mrs. Slocombe's cat is referred to as "he". In later episodes ("Mrs. Slocombe Expects" and "Lost and Found"), "he" has kittens.
- Mrs. Slocombe's windblown hair suddenly gets restyled during the first scene.
- When Mr. Rumbold answers his office telephone to speak to his "secret admirer" (Mrs. Slocombe), the handset cord pops out of the phone's base. Miraculously, he is still able to communicate with Mrs. Slocombe. ;-) [Thanks to Alan Church for reporting this blooper.]
- The early start's effects on the staff's personal lives: Captain Peacock's wife is irritated (not surprisingly); Miss Brahms and Mrs. Slocombe have to ride to work on Miss Brahms' father's motorcycle; Mr. Grainger is hit on the head with a bottle of bismuth by Mrs. Grainger while the latter is dreaming she is Errol Flynn; Mr. Humphries has to hitch a ride on a navy ship to get to work on time; and Mr. Lucas gets to tell another of his tall tales involving his "crippled" mother to explain his tardiness.
- Customers on their way to work come in and out of the store so quickly that Mr. Grainger doesn't even get to finish his rambling sales pitch.
- As the wedding hat customer tries on each hat in stock one by one, and even the lid to the hat box, Mrs. Slocombe repeatedly intones, with all the false sincerity she can muster, "Oh, that does suit madame!" Captain Peacock finally stops her with the remark "Mrs. Slocombe, your needle's stuck in the groove."
- When Mr. Grainger is given a sugar cube-cum-die to decide who'll go into Mr. Rumbold's office to check the previous Monday's sales figures, he promptly drops it into his cup of coffee.
- Mrs. Slocombe's pretending to be Mr. Rumbold's secret admirer ("I've got a thing for happily-married bald-headed men.")
- The couple considering a £95 evening gown. Mrs. Slocombe tries to dissuade them from buying it to keep the day's sales figures down and ends up sparking an argument between the two which leads to the destruction of the dress, the wife bursting into tears, and the possible destruction of the marriage.
Five minutes before closing time, one last customer comes in who needs dissuading. Despite the best efforts of Lucas and Humphries, the customer keeps coming back, determined to buy the raincoat in the window display. Mr. Grainger finally comes to the department's rescue by insulting the customer ("You've got a fat face, piggy eyes, and a pimple on your nose!"). Beaming triumphantly, he turns to his younger colleagues and says, "You young salesmen just don't know how not to sell clothes."
- Mr. Rumbold: "Well, at least you're here on time, Mrs. Slocombe."
Mrs. Slocombe: "Time for what? There won't be any customers, you know. And what it's doing to my domestic arrangements—having a bath at six o'clock in the morning played havoc with my pussy!"
- (In the canteen)
Miss Brahms: "How's your queen pudding?"
Mr. Humphries: "It hasn't quite fulfilled its promise."
Mr. Lucas: "I don't know; it promised to be awful and it's disgusting."
- (Later in the canteen)
Mr. Grainger (stumbling over "hypothesis"): "How did you arrive at that hypothesis?"
Mr. Lucas: "I beg your pardon?"
Mr. Grainger: "I won't say that again; my teeth are caught up with this custard."
Neatly plotted episode with several amusing bits. A good start to the 1976 series.
- Mr. Humphries' quenelled halibut (a very refined way of doing fish).
- Mr. Humphries' deep, dark secret: he was once an instructor at the Twinkle Toes Dance Salon in Weston-super-Mare and a Sunshine Babe.
- "Dueling Pianos" between Mr. Rumbold and Captain Peacock.
- Mr. Lucas' and Mrs. Slocombe's "graceful" duet. Lucas eventually resorts to a little help from a spare mannequin to dance comfortably with Mrs. Slocombe.
- Mr. Grainger's measurements: 42-42-42.
- The costumes from the Dress Hire Department (just a slight mistake in the measurements). Meanwhile, the ladies' beautiful costumes prove to be a bit of an impediment to walking.
After Young Mr. Grace observes the staff's dancing technique, he decides the robots would better represent the store in the competition.
- Mr. Grainger: "You know, people very seldom curtsy these days."
Mr. Humphries: "My milkman does."
Mr. Lucas: "You should stop answering the door in your tiara."
Mr. Humphries: "You've been there early, have you?"
- (Très Bon Mot) Mr. Humphries: "I'm late! I'm late! I must press button 8!" [Button 8 drops the male robot's trousers.]
- Captain Peacock: "We have hidden talent lurking in our midst. Now, we've been looking through Mr. Humphries' records…."
Mr. Humphries: "I was innocent of the charge; it was a case of mistaken identity!"
- Mr. Grainger: "I'm very fond of ballroom dancing. I'm not very good at it, but I am very fond of it."
- (At dance practice)
Mr. Humphries: "Shall I lead?"
Captain Peacock: "I'll lead."
Mr. Humphries: "This [places hand on Peacock's upper back] would be wrong, and this [moves hand down to Peacock's derrière], this would also be wrong."
- (Later at dance practice; Mr. Lucas and Mrs. Slocombe are partners.)
Mr. Humphries: "Hand in the small of the back, Mr. Lucas."
Mr. Lucas: "I can't find the small of her back. I can find the big of her back, but I can't find the small of her back. [Mrs. Slocombe stamps on his foot.] Ah!"
- Mr. Humphries: "Mr. Grainger, do you know your vital statistics?"
Mr. Grainger: "I've had no interest in them since I lost sight of my toes."
It's unfortunate this episode was lost for so many years, as it is quite entertaining—a beautifully whimsical farce/musical.
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Episode Reviews Part 3
Episode Reviews Part 2
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© 1997 Emily Jackson