Episode Reviews Part 12
Several themes from previous episodes are revived here, including making a television ad ("It Pays to Advertise") and installing closed circuit video cameras in the store ("Big Brother").
Mr. Humphries' comment to Miss Brahms about the girl who ended up on the cutting room floor is rather ironic in light of the fact that Wendy Richard actually had a scene from the Beatles film Help! end up on the cutting room floor (see the AYBS?-Beatles Connection page for more details.)
- Mrs. Slocombe's classic request of her neighbor, Mr. Akbar: "Would you go to my front door, bend down, and look through the letterbox? And if you can see my pussy, would you drop a sardine on the mat?"
- The staff's delight at seeing themselves on the telly.
- Mr. Fortescue's and Mr. Humphries' efforts at making Mr. Rumbold look presentable on TV.
- To look more youthful for the unforgiving television camera, Mrs. Slocombe applies enough anti-wrinkle cream to her face for 10 people, causing her face to become rather immobile. (This segment also gives Mr. Humphries an opportunity to reprise the "turning prunes back into plums" joke from a few years back.)
- Miss Brahms has a go at the camera—great looks, voice another matter ("like a fishwife"). It is decided that Miss Brahms should mime to the low, sexy voice of Old Mr. Grace's nurse, and it is this combination that attracts Lord Hirly (although "Dear Sexy Voice" doesn't have quite the same ring to it that "Dear Sexy Knickers" does).
- At Romano's, Captain Peacock and Mrs. Slocombe pretend to be Miss Brahms' parents to help her impress Lord Hirly and to give her a respectable background. Mr. Humphries also pitches in, showing up dressed as an Anglican bishop when his suit fails to come back from the cleaner's (but exactly which part is he playing?)
Old Mr. Grace arrives at Romano's with his ever-present secretary and nurse. When Lord Hirly enters the restaurant, he hears the nurse's voice and heads straight for OMG's table, totally ignoring Miss Brahms. The "Brahms family", who thought Lord Hirly would be picking up the tab, have to alter their order slightly—from pheasant to egg and chips.
- Peacock (after Rumbold's prominent ears have been cellotaped): We seem to have travelled from the grotesque to the bizarre.
- Rumbold: I don't mind having a bald head. Actually, it's considered rather virile.
Humphries: That's the trouble; we don't want people coming into the store for the wrong reasons!
- Mr. Fortescue:…and I do know you…
Humphries: May I say that one gin and tonic in the grenadiers' retreat does not make a lasting friendship.
- Mrs. Slocombe (in the commercial): Yes, it's all happening in my underwear today….
- Humphries (trying to polish Miss Brahms' Cockney accent): I wonder if you could make it a bit more upmarket.
Miss Brahms: Roll up, roll up!….
- Waiter: Madam, a nice apéritif?
Mrs. Slocombe: Why, thank you! And they're my own, too.
Mixed bag—a few good bits, but too much of the material seems all too familiar.
Could Mr. Humphries be the man of Mrs. Slocombe's dreams? He certainly doesn't think so, making every effort to ensure he isn't free at all! We also learn what Mr. Spooner doesn't know about the ballet and what Miss Brahms does know about lovemaking (in the old-fashioned sense of the word).
"The Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe" has the longest title of any AYBS? episode, with 33 letters and spaces. Runner-up: 1973's "Diamonds Are a Man's Best Friend", with 31.
- Mrs. Slocombe's drunk scene with Miss Brahms in the fitting room.
- Mrs. Slocombe's hiding liquor in a perfume bottle (à la "Cold Comfort") to cope with her disturbing obsession.
- Mr. Humphries' relating of the previous night's "rave-up" (a sort of video party hosted by one of Mr. Humphries' many friends, a member of an adult video club who receives a discount for being a theological student). When the tape for the evening began to play, the picture went out, and only later did the partygoers realize they were hearing the audio portion of The Onedin Line instead of an X-rated movie. This scene has undoubtedly one of the first references to VCRs in any situation comedy (original UK air date: 28 May 1981).
- To help the desperately unhappy and increasingly ill-tempered Mrs. Slocombe overcome her infatuation with Mr. Humphries, the staff place a personal ad to try to find that special someone for her. Unfortunately, the ad respondents flee in terror when they see the woman described in the advert in the flesh.
- Mrs. Slocombe's appearance in the canteen wearing a Lady Godiva-like blonde wig.
- Mrs. Slocombe's dream about Mr. Humphries as "Squirrel Nut King", with herself as "Little Lady Squirrel."
- When called into Rumbold's office because of her alcohol-exacerbated unpleasantness to customers (even they are calling her "a crabby old cow", not just certain members of staff), a tipsy Mrs. Slocombe declares she had stopped into the pub next door for a "packet of crissops."
- The department had already won tickets to the ballet at Covent Garden (The Nutcracker, AYBS?'s favorite ballet), so it is decided that Mr. Humphries should use the occasion to "romance" Mrs. Slocombe, turning her fantasy into reality so that it will (hopefully) fade away.
At the ballet, Miss Brahms helpfully gives Mr. Humphries some of the make-out tips she learned in Catford. The tips are not terribly effective with Mrs. Slocombe, since she has passed out from consuming an entire box of liqueur-filled chocolates. The tips do work—on Miss Brahms and Mr. Humphries.
- Mrs. Slocombe (to Miss Brahms after the latter has caught her in the fitting room hitting the bottle): I'm just taking me slimming pill; only I've run out of water, and I can't bear neat gin.
- [Mrs. Slocombe, suitably fortified with gin and tonic, deals with a customer wishing to return a cardigan.]
Customer: I'm going to take your name!
Mrs. Slocombe: I'm sorry, madam, we're not allowed to give names.
Customer: Well, in that case, I…I shall remember your face!
[Mrs. Slocombe makes a face at the customer.]
- Mrs. Slocombe (on Mr. Humphries): He's different in me dreams.
- Spooner (discussing Mrs. Slocombe's "fatal attraction" with Mr. Humphries): Do you think she wants something?
Humphries: I hope not.
- Humphries: Quite a lot of ladies have thought twice about me. Trouble is, it's the second thought that puts them off!
- Spooner (at the ballet): Have they all forgotten the words?
Klein: They don't have words in ballet, you ignorant birk!
"The Apartment" had hinted at an attraction between Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphries, so this episode's exploration of that is a great concept. Also, Wendy Richard's performance in "Erotic Dreams…" is one of her strongest.
In the final AYBS? Christmas special, the staff surprise Old Mr. Grace on his 90th birthday by having the Grace family roots traced and then preparing an appropriate musical number. As a genealogist (Mr. Rumbold's brother Microft) delves further into the family history, the staff rehearse, in turn, a Welsh song ("We'll Keep a Welcome in the Hillside"); a Scottish dance (with Mr. Humphries getting up close and personal with a couple of swords); and a West Country song (with the staff looking rather like refugees from Weird Al Yankovic's "Amish Paradise" video). The family's true origin is revealed to be African(!), and the staff perform "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee" in a revival of the Black and White Minstrel Show.
- Last episode with Harold Bennett as Young Mr. Grace (Bennett passed away 15 September 1981).
- Last episode with yellow credits.
- Grace Brothers closes on Sundays (losing business to Lally and Willett's, no doubt).
- Mrs. Slocombe is a contralto.
Nicholas Smith (Rumbold) stumbles over the word "preparing" in his speech to the Messrs. Grace (Old and Young).
- Mrs. Slocombe's Union Jack hairdo (red, white, and blue).
- Mr. Humphries' entrance in an "electric" suit.
- Mr. Harman's working during his tea break to earn overtime.
- Miss Brahms' assumption that the famous Welsh singing festival eisteddfod has something to do with ice skating.
- Mr. Humphries' pink and white Welsh miner's outfit (originally made for Margaret Thatcher).
- Mrs. Slocombe: Captain Peacock, are you going to stand there and hear me insulted?
Peacock: This seems as good a place as any.
- Old Mr. Grace (sitting with his secretary in his office in the dark): How long have you been frightened of the dark, my dear?
Miss Edwards: Ever since you blew all the candles out, Mr. Grace.
- Rumbold: We're getting right off the point, don't you think?
Humphries: Yes, but it's fun, isn't it?
- Mrs. Slocombe: I've got a sculptor coming this evening. He's going to do my pussy in clay!
- Rumbold (seeing Humphries in his pink and white miner's outfit): Mr. Humphries, why are you different from the others?
Humphries: You know, a lot of people ask that.
- Mrs. Slocombe (during rehearsal): Excuse me, Mr. Rumbold, but this line,
"We'll kiss away each hour of hiraeth"—what is hiraeth?
Mr. Humphries: Yes, if we're going to kiss it, we ought to know what is is.
"Roots?" is a difficult episode to consider, with its skimpy plot and disturbing ending. It's definitely not the typical music-filled, happy AYBS? Christmas episode.
If we are to consider AYBS? as a whole, we must view all aspects of the show, good and bad. "Roots?" especially reminds American fans that other countries did not have the same history of racial conflict that we did and may have different standards as to what sort of comedy is within bounds and what sort is unacceptable.
In this light, it is not wrong for the avid AYBS? fan to wish to see this episode, but "Roots?" is still far, far from the light-hearted farce that has endeared AYBS? to so many fans.
A few fans have reported seeing an edited version of "Roots?" air on some PBS stations, in which the "big surprise" at the end is the Yokel (West Country) performance rather than the minstrel show. This rearrangement produces an abrupt transition from a party scene to a pre-party rehearsal, which rather disrupts the episode's continuity, to say the least. (Thanks to Eric Norton for the info.)
[We now return you to your regularly scheduled web site.]
Series Nine (1983)
As AYBS? continued into the 1980s, the less-than-successful efforts to replace Mr. Grainger were finally dropped, and Mr. Humphries was promoted to head of Gent's Ready-Mades with little fanfare. Also, Mr. Grace (presumably the elder of the brothers) was only heard via telephone and not seen; and male fans of the show got a new secretary to ogle, the well-endowed Miss B. Belfridge (Candy Davis).
Thanks to Mr. Grace's latest economy drive, wages are frozen and Mrs. Slocombe takes to selling homemade perfume to supplement her income.
- Last appearance by Diana King as Mrs. Peacock.
- Mrs. Slocombe's assistant number is given as 193; Mr. Humphries', 4711.
- Miss Brahms' suggestion of "His and Hers" as a possible name for Mrs. Slocombe's perfume.
- The defective Beauty Belle bra.
- Mrs. Slocombe having the last word with Mr. Spooner in the canteen.
- The canteen's "set menu", a corrosive mystery soup served by Mr. Harman while wearing a gas mask.
- The staff's singing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" (dimes in Britain?)
- In order to convince Captain Peacock to let her sell the perfume at the store, Mrs. Slocombe has to promise him a cut of her profits and prove to the skeptical floorwalker that the perfume genuinely attracts the opposite sex. Miss Brahms has asked an actor friend to come to the store and pretend to be a customer interested in the perfume. Meanwhile, a real customer (a wealthy, handsome man with a penthouse in Kensington) comes in, smells the perfume, and buys £12 worth. The perfume has another effect on him—he kisses Mrs. Slocombe and calls her a "very beautiful woman." Mrs. Slocombe thinks he's Miss Brahms' friend and dismisses his affectionate behavior.
- After Mr. Rumbold goes home early because of a bad cold, Captain Peacock takes over in Rumbold's office and puts Miss Belfridge to work typing perfume bottle labels (very slowly). While bringing tea to the busy pair, Mr. Harman knocks over the bottles of perfume sitting on the desk, spilling scent all over Peacock and Miss Belfridge. [Why didn't they label the bottles before filling them with perfume?] Meanwhile, a suspicious Mrs. Peacock is on her way up from the ground floor. In the confusion, Peacock ends up on some scaffolding outside the office window with no trousers. Mrs. Peacock hears Miss Belfridge sneezing in the closet, opens the door, and sees her holding her husband's pants.
After getting a black eye from his wife, Captain Peacock permanently suspends the sale of Adam and Eve perfume. Miss Brahms' friend telephones to tell her he won't be able to come to the store because of an audition. Mrs. Slocombe then realizes her handsome customer was real, and she and Mr. Humphries daub the remaining perfume all over themselves in the hope the magic scent will carry to his Kensington penthouse.
- Mrs. Yardswick: Don't worry, the set lunch is free.
Mrs. Slocombe (sarcastically): Oh well, that'll make it taste better.
- [Mrs. Slocombe discusses her sideline.]
Mrs. Slocombe: It's something I do at home.
Humphries: Well, that narrows it down a bit.
- Humphries: My mother used to take me to the Botanical Gardens a lot when I was a little boy. She's got a lot to answer for.
- Mrs Slocombe: I've mixed herbs that no one has ever mixed before! [Did the less adventurous think that particular combination of herbs would explode?]
- Peacock (suggesting a name for the perfume): What about "Adam and Eve…Straight from the Garden of Eden"?
Humphries (sniffing scent): Enough of that and you'd get chucked out of anywhere!
- Miss Brahms (sniffing perfume behind Mrs. Slocombe's ear): It smells a bit…chemicals.
Mrs. Slocombe: That's me perm!
- Customer: I'd like a brigade tie.
Spooner: Certainly, sir. Fire or ambulance?
- Humphries (after dabbing perfume on his wrist): Does it do anything for you?
Spooner (sniffing): Nah!
Humphries: There's hope for me yet!
- Miss Belfridge (suffering from a cold): Would you like for me to move a bit further away?
Peacock: No, I'm reasonably immune.
- Miss Belfridge: I'm sorry I'm so slow [typing].
Peacock: Well, there are rather a lot of keys for one little finger.
- Peacock (after learning his wife is on her way): Get in the cupboard!
Miss Belfridge: It's only my first week!
After a slow start, some good moments toward the end.
Or "The People vs. Mr. Humphries": after the genial "mummy's boy" has left home due to his disapproval of his mother's latest suitor, he is accused of stealing money from the Men's Wear till and has to face a rather motley "committee of inquiry", his career in the retail trade at stake.
The episode's events take place on the 12th of the month.
- After a customer tells her that Italian men have a penchant for grabbing at young ladies, a suddenly pious Mrs. Slocombe declares her intention to holiday in Italy "to get a peep at the Pope," adding "The pilgrim's path is never easy."
- Mr. Humphries' late arrival at work, placing his monogrammed suitcase near a mannequin to try to hide it from Peacock and then explaining to the irate floorwalker "it suggests to the customer travel." Peacock then finds a half-eaten sandwich in the dummy's coat pocket with a bite taken from it showing a gap in the front teeth.
- Mr. Humphries' neighbor bringing his Paddington Bear to the store in a pram.
- Mr. Humphries' uncharacteristically making trouble at the pub next door, then entering the canteen tipsily singing "My Way."
- The "departmental inquiry" (read: kangaroo court), with an impatient Rumbold presiding ("It's an open-and-shut case; it shouldn't take long"), an equally biased Peacock prosecuting, Mrs. "Perry Mason" Slocombe as defense counsel (Harman: "Called to the bar at 5:30; had time for only one gin and tonic before she was called out again"), and a "committee of inquiry" (read: jury) including Miss Brahms, Mr. Spooner, and deaf old Mr. Wagstaff, who exclaims "If ever I saw a guilty man, it's him!" and points at…Rumbold.
While Mrs. Slocombe is away powdering her nose, Humphries tells his side of the story, throwing himself at the mercy of the "jury". Nevertheless, he is found guilty and asked to resign, depriving Mrs. Slocombe of the opportunity to deliver her "winding-up" speech. Harman finds the missing cash stuck in the back of the till. Just as Humphries learns of his exoneration, his mother telephones the store to let him know she's through with her new boyfriend. Not only is his career saved and his relationship with his mother restored, he even gets a big kiss from Miss Belfridge, appreciating it more than one might imagine.
- Peacock (to a sobbing Humphries): Stand up like a man—or as near as you can get to it.
- Humphries (explaining why he is intoxicated): I had a leaky glass and they had to keep filling it up.
- Mrs. Slocombe (in prosecutorial mode): Are you Captain Stephen Peacock, a floorwalker at Grace Brothers?
Peacock: No, I'm a rice pudding maker from Epping Forest!
- Mrs. Slocombe (questioning the prosecutor's motives):…a man who has two Parker Pens and can afford the Ritz—and I don't mean crackers!
- Humphries: Can't I say anything?
Mrs. Slocombe: No, I've got to say it for you.
- Peacock (to Humphries): If it wasn't you, then the finger of suspicion will fall onto one of us, and we'll have to go through all of this again!
Some might find this episode a bit depressing, but "Conduct Unbecoming" is still great fun in spite of the deus ex machina ending and the resemblance to "Oh What a Tangled Web".
Due to a flu outbreak in the sports department, Ladies' Wear and Gent's Ready-Mades are forced to sell tennis rackets and fishing flies. Mr. Walpole, the sports department's handsome golf pro, pays a visit to the first (or fourth or third) floor; and Mrs. Slocombe experiences a well-timed "flashback" to her childhood.
- Peacock's golf club: a no. 3 wood.
- Humphries' title is given as First Assistant on the Men's Counter.
- Mr. Harman's "stimulated grass."
- Miss Belfridge's "bad spell of weather" (or is it "whether"?)
- Peacock's extremely limp handshake upon meeting Mr. Walpole.
- Spooner "addressing" the golf ball ("Dear Ball"). [Ed Norton's "Hello, ball!" on The Honeymooners is still funnier.]
- Under Mr. Walpole's tutelage, Peacock hits Mrs. Slocombe in the head with the practice mechanism's golf ball, causing her to lose her memory and regress in mental age about 40 years. (At least she does get to embrace Mr. Walpole.)
- Mrs. Slocombe, dressed in a "Goldilocks" outfit and wig, wreaks havoc in the canteen by kissing Peacock on the cheek, throwing paper wads at the canteen manageress, and shoving a plate of jelly and cream in Mr. Harman's face.
- Peacock and Humphries telling riddles to "little Betty." (Peacock is completely clueless as far as riddles go.)
- Mrs. Slocombe's driving a golf cart around the department, crashing it straight into Rumbold's office.
Mrs. Slocombe regains her memory at the hospital and storms into the department threatening to sue for losing an entire day's commission. Rumbold offers her the fake fur coat she'd had her eyes on to settle the matter. After he leaves, Mrs. Slocombe admits her amnesia was (mostly) an act—she'd only lost her memory for a minute. Then, it's off to the ice cream parlor to celebrate!
- Mr. Walpole (inquiring about Mr. Humphries' golf prowess): What handicap?
Humphries: So they tell me.
- Mrs. Slocombe (in childish mode): My mummy says I mustn't talk to strange men!
Humphries: Well, you can talk to me.
AYBS?'s take on the overused amnesia plot device produced a rather slight episode. Some amusing moments, though.
As Grace Brothers makes plans to advertise on Citizens Band radio (which is free, after all), who would have thought that 1) CB radio was popular in Britain; or 2) Miss Belfridge had an O-level in English Literature?
- Mary Whitehouse
- Mrs. Mary Whitehouse was the leader of a conservative watchdog group, the National Viewers and Listeners Association, that strove to protect British morals by pressuring radio, TV, and movie companies to "keep it clean." Some of the objects of her wrath in the sixties and seventies included the ground-breaking sitcom Till Death Us Do Part and the Monty Python film Life of Brian. (I don't know whether Mrs. Whitehouse ever complained about AYBS? or any plays presented on CB radio.)
- Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphries arrive at work dressed as punk rockers (Humphries also has a multicolored Mohawk wig) after they had finally managed to escape from the previous night's "punk and funk" fancy dress party.
- Mrs. Slocombe's chat with a truck driver on CB radio ("Hello! Brrreakah, Brrreakah!" in her best posh tones). When she tells him about all the prizes she's won for her pussy, the startled trucker wrecks his rig.
- The staff try to come up with an English Dallas as a vehicle for advertising Grace Brothers on CB radio. Literary expert Miss Belfridge is set to judge the entries, which include Mr. Humphries' "Nellie the Naughty Nun" (99% of which gets blue-penciled) and Captain Peacock's entirely unoriginal adaptation of Lawrence of Arabia ("Peacock of Arabia"). Harman's entry, a ribald tale of rural England called "The Adventures of Jim", is chosen; the staff are paid/bribed £100 to perform his play.
The staff's chaotic rehearsal of "The Adventures of Jim" is accidentally sent out live over Britain's CB radio frequencies. When truck drivers storm the store, Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocombe don their punk outfits to scare the mob away. Two rather refined drivers take one look at the punk duo and declare their intention to take their trade to Harrod's, whereupon the horrified "punks" chase after the lost customers.
- Rumbold: Captain Peacock, if this department goes down, what will you do?
Peacock: Probably salute.
- Peacock (critiquing Miss Brahms' entry): There are no male harems in the Middle East.
Miss Brahms: I could make it Watford.
- Humphries (indignant after his "Nellie the Naughty Nun" has been rejected for its language): There's nothing in there that isn't in the dictionary.
Spooner: Yeah, but not all on the same page!
Good start, lags a bit in the middle, but a great ending. Lots of double entendres, and one of the most "British" episodes of AYBS?.
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