Episode Reviews Part 13
This episode, which manages to recycle several themes from previous shows (winter weather problems, takeover threats, denied pay rises, staff members trying to get themselves fired), has something to amuse and/or offend almost everyone—Japanese stereotypes, an escaped "monkey" roaming the store, a visit to Thatcher-era No. 10 Downing Street, and a chat with Ronald Reagan.
- Miss Comlozi, who made a brief but memorable appearance in "Mrs. Slocombe, Senior Person" (and is also mentioned in "Fifty Years On"), is fired from Cosmetics for being rude to a customer.
- Mr. Harman's given name is revealed to be Beverley, although Mr. Rumbold calls him "Harry" in his farewell talk.
- Jan Ravens (voice of Mrs. Thatcher) later provided the voice of Ruth Streeting in Pete Townshend's musical drama Psychoderelict and reprised her role in the concert/stage version (seen in the home video Pete Townshend Live). Now you know…
- Rusty Goffe (the runaway monkey froom the Pet Department) also had a non-speaking part in "The Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe" as a man who replied to a "lonely heart" ad; in 1971 he would appear as an Oompa-Loompa in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
When Mr. Harman gets a glimpse of Miss Belfridge's knickers after Mr. Rumbold turns on the office heater/blower, Arthur English (Harman) exclaims, "You've just made a happy man feel very old." Since this statement doesn't make very much sense at all, perhaps English mistakenly transposed a couple of words in the script's original line.
- The arrival in the blizzard of Mrs. Slocombe, Miss Brahms, and Mr. Humphries, with the help of some Yorkshire Terriers and Mrs. Slocombe's indefatigable pussy.
- Trying to prompt Mr. Rumbold to fire her, Mrs. Slocombe appropriately handles an elderly gentleman who wants a £5000 coat for his "second cousin" and tells him to "get stuffed."
- The "international gesture" the staff use to greet the Japanese—which isn't fully international (the U.S. version uses only one finger, not two).
- At one point, business is so slow that Mr. Humphries takes a moment to touch up his lipstick!
- Arriving at 10 Downing Street to enlist Mrs. Thatcher's help in fighting the takeover attempt, Mrs. Slocombe has a telephone chat with President Reagan ("I've seen all your films, you know"), while Mr. Humphries helps the PM choose a hat for Question Time in the House of Commons.
After the escaped monkey finds its way into Rumbold's office, the two Japanese representatives (who had insisted on seeing the management) get a banana in the ear. Suitably insulted, they drop plans to take over Grace Brothers and receive a "British worker's farewell" from the staff.
- Miss Brahms (on how the staff could get themselves fired): We'll burn the place down; that'll do it!
Peacock: We want to get fired, not jailed.
- Mrs. Slocombe: Mr. Humphries can be a Minister without…um…Thingumabob.
Humphries: I beg your pardon?
Mrs. Slocombe: That's the word I was looking for.
Humphries: I'm glad you found it!
- Mrs. Slocombe (responding to the Leader of the Free World's mention of Soviet leader Yuri Andropov): Ann who? Andropov? What film was she in?
Other than the Downing Street segment, a subpar episode.
Mrs. Slocombe's pussy comes up missing, and only Mr. Humphries can replace her…but does he want to?
- Norman Mitchell (underwear customer) also appeared as Mrs. Slocombe's rich American uncle, Wendel P. Clark, in 1978's "Do You Take This Man?"
- Mrs. Slocombe calls Miss Brahms "Shirley" while on duty and under no duress whatsoever.
- Stanford (actor not credited), the maintenance man seen helping a tipsy Mr. Humphries into Mr. Rumbold's office, is only the second black character ever to appear in AYBS? (the young boy in "The Father Christmas Affair" was the first). The only other black actor to appear regularly in AYBS? was Keith Hodiak, who played Mr. Harman's assistant Seymour in several episodes of the 1985 series.
- Rumbold's dictating a letter to Miss Belfridge rejecting her request for a pay rise.
- When the staff decide to buy Mrs. Slocombe a £50 Siamese kitten (Madame Wu, sired by five-time triple champion Emperor Chung of Bangkok) to replace Tiddles, Rumbold "generously" offers to contribute by using his 20% upper-middle management discount to purchase the cat in Grace Brothers' Pet Department.
- When the staff gather to present the cat to Mrs. Slocombe, she mistakes the bouquet-clasping Humphries' "I propose…" for an entirely different sort of proposal ("And I accept!!"), and the groom-to-be faints. (Well, they may not be soul mates, but they have been to roller disco a couple of times, and they also enjoy discussing Coronation Street [long-running soap opera airing on BBC rival ITV].)
- Mr. Winston, the Fleet Street-type reporter for the staff magazine, arrives at the reception in Rumbold's office, jumps to several wrong conclusions about which two staff members are getting married, and gets to cover the happy couple's first argument.
During the reception in Rumbold's office, Mrs. Slocombe's good friend Mrs. Axelby calls with astonishing news—Tiddles has been found with her six newborn kittens, fathered by none other than Emperor Chung of Bangkok. [Incidentally, Tiddles earlier had kittens in "Mrs. Slocombe Expects."] To everyone's relief, the marriage is called off.
- Humphries: I'm not ready to get married!
Spooner: How do you know?
Humphries: My mother told me.
- Mrs. Slocombe: [Mr. Humphries] means more to me than anything else in the world—except my pussy, of course.
- Mrs. Slocombe (still discussing Mr. Humphries): There aren't two like him in the world!
Miss Brahms: Well, not here, anyway.
- Customer: I don't want anything fancy, just a couple of Y-fronts.
Humphries: Sorry, sir, we're right out of Y-fronts. We do have a new range which are X-fronts.
Customer: X-fronts? I've never heard of them.
Humphries (laughs): You're behind the times—we've actually got a pair of W-fronts.
Customer: What's the difference between W-, X-, and Y-fronts?
Humphries: About two octaves!
- Humphries (speaking to his Mum on the telephone): I don't care what the neighbors say; tell them I've joined the Foreign Legion!…Yes, I'm definitely coming home tonight—she's not laying a finger on me until I've been down that aisle…It had to happen sometime; I just didn't think it would happen today.
- Mrs. Slocombe (showing off her engagement ring): It's only on appro.
Humphries: That makes two of us.
Amusing little story, especially the comic interaction between Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphries.
Series Ten (1985)
Or "Goodbye AYBS?", as the venerable sitcom entered its final season. For some, the show's end couldn't have come soon enough ("Are You Being Served? ranks as one of the all-time TV turkeys," Daily Express, 2 April 1985), while other commentators looked wistfully on the show's departure. Are You Being Served? had certainly come a long way from the stopgap Comedy Playhouse episode aired after the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics led to the suspension of the Games for several days. In its 12 years on the BBC, AYBS? provided Britons with a dependable source of fun and levity, and repeats of the show have continued to entertain audiences worldwide.
After taking 2 weeks off and spending 3 days in hospital for treatment of a "ladies' problem" (actually an ingrown toenail), Mrs. Slocombe returns to her duties at Grace Brothers, only to find she's been made redundant because of her age. The stalwart head of Ladies' Intimate Apparel is replaced by the remarkable (and remarkably irritating) Miss Featherstone.
First episode with animated "lift" opening title sequence; also, the font used in the credits is finally altered after 13 years (counting Comedy Playhouse).
Haven't we already had "Goodbye Mr. Grainger"? Would "Goodbye Lift Girls" have been next?
- This was actually the last episode of AYBS? ever produced (taping was postponed because of a strike).
- Mr. Humphries' title is given as Head of Men's Counter.
- The wilted bouquet of roses that reminds Mrs. Slocombe of her long-departed/missing husband.
- Captain Peacock's attempt to get Miss Belfridge moved to the Ladies' Department when Mrs. Slocombe is forced into early retirement.
- The "Dolly Parton" look affected by Mrs. Slocombe in order to convince Mr. Rumbold she isn't ready to retire just yet.
- Mrs. Slocombe's attempts to stay on at Grace Brothers by filling any position:
- Cleaning Woman (with knee pads made from an old bra)
- Window washer
- "Italian" canteen chef
- The staff's shameful treatment of Miss Featherstone, including disposing of her coat in Mrs. Slocombe's mop bucket and Peacock's "duel" with Miss Featherstone giving orders to Miss Brahms.
- Miss Featherstone's shameful treatment of staff members and customers, topped by her selling a customer her own hat.
- The versatile Mr. Humphries comes to the staff's rescue by pretending to be a difficult customer (the wife of an MP) to goad Miss Featherstone into blowing up and getting herself fired. After a few minutes with this particular "customer" (who drags a fur coat across the shop floor, among other things), Miss Featherstone decides to return to Toiletries.
Relieved to be rid of Miss Featherstone, Rumbold declares Mrs. Slocombe to be indispensable and reinstates her as head of Ladies' Wear. He and Peacock are the next to be made redundant because of age and are reduced to serving as lift operator and cleaner.
- Mrs. Slocombe: Me and Joan Collins are just (snaps fingers) that much apart [in age].
Humphries: Well, a miss is as good as a mile.
- Humphries (as the difficult lady customer): I was looking for a new fur coat—the pockets are full in my old one.
- Humphries (still in drag, asking for directions to Ladies' Wear): I've never been this way before.
- Miss Featherstone (fed up with her latest customer): I'm going back to Toiletries!
Customer Humphries: And while you're there, powder your nose; it's shiny!
- Miss Featherstone (still ranting): I hope I never ever meet a woman like you again!
Humphries: That's very unlikely.
More action than clever lines. Some amusing moments, but perhaps AYBS? was finally beginning to show its age.
Not only is Captain Peacock accused of having an extramarital affair (what else is new?), he must also take rather drastic and colorful (or, shall we say, "Humphriesesque") steps to frighten off his former amour, Miss Edna Bagnold from Accounts.
First appearance of Diana Lambert as Mrs. Peacock, replacing Diana King.
The designer eyewear display, "inspired" by 1978's "'Do You Take This Man?'"
- According to this episode, Peacock has been married for over 30 years (a decade earlier, he'd been married for only 14 years).
- Miss Bagnold had worked at the Midlands Bank prior to her short-lived employment at Grace Brothers.
- Miss Bagnold's kissing Captain Peacock in the lift…and kissing…and kissing….
- When Miss Bagnold comes into the canteen and declares her love for Peacock, Mrs. Slocombe pipes up and tells Miss Bagnold she's not the only one at Grace Brothers who loves Peacock.
- Later, Captain Peacock and Mrs. Slocombe decide to stage a "passionate embrace" in the fitting room to make Miss Bagnold jealous, with Mrs. Slocombe thoroughly enjoying every moment of their rehearsal. Unfortunately, Rumbold barges into their "love nest" by mistake instead of the intended young lady and is not pleased at all.
- Peacock eventually decides to give his marriage another try and prepares to attend a fancy-dress party with his wife at which he will be dressed as a woman and she as a man. The sight of the stern floorwalker in black stockings, cocktail dress, and rose-colored hat is almost too much for Mr. Humphries, but the bizarre costume does scare away Miss Bagnold for good.
The Peacocks generously give two tickets to the party to Mr. Humphries (who immediately dons "a little number" he's been dying to wear) and a top-hatted Mrs. Slocombe. Mr. Humphries gets the last word: "Thank goodness we're all back to normal!"
- Mrs. Slocombe (commenting on men having a little "canoodle" on the side): Ooh, some men like it at work
Miss Brahms: You denied everything when they fired Mr. Benthall!
Humphries: We all denied everything when they fired Mr. Benthall!
- Peacock (referring to his wife and Miss Bagnold): You don't know the anguish of making two women unhappy.
- Miss Brahms: You could go off and join the Foreign Legion.
Peacock: That did cross my mind—forgetting it all with a tough bunch of men.
Humphries: It's crossed my mind occasionally.
- Humphries: It's not easy being a man; I should know!
- Peacock (choosing a black lace jacket for the party): Are ladies wearing collars this high?
Humphries: Ladies, yes—but I don't think anyone else is.
- Humphries (seeing Captain and Mrs. Peacock in their respective costumes): Have I missed something?
Of the two Mrs. Peacocks, shrill-voiced Diana King made a much better wife/tormentor than Diana Lambert. The scene with Mrs. Slocombe and Captain Peacock in the fitting room was quite funny, but do we really need to see Frank Thornton in drag?
Or "The Gumby Gang Rides Again," as burglars break in during a night of stocktaking and "Pa Gumby" (Mr. Harman), "Mad Ma Gumby" (Mrs. Slocombe) and their crazy (step)son "Italian Tony, The Tooting Terror" (Mr. Humphries, playing against type once again) must save the day.
Best Bits [Actually, the entire show is one long, zany bit, so choosing the best parts was somewhat difficult.]:
- "The Hold Up" is the only episode to receive just one star in the KQED AYBS? book.
- Also, it is the only episode to feature a "clean", full-length version of the theme song.
- Miss Brahms calls Mrs. Slocombe "Betty"; the latter doesn't seem to mind at all.
- In this episode, Miss Brahms' assistant number is 134.
- Paul Humpoletz (the short, stocky burglar) later played Henry Heathcliff (father of Mavis Moulterd's ex-boyfriend Malcolm) in episode 11 (a.k.a. "Darts Competition") of Are You Being Served? Again!
- Our first glimpse of Mrs. Rumbold—but only her back.
- Miss Brahms' seduction of "Italian Tony."
- Of the Gumby Gang members, "Mad Ma" gets the Best Costume award; "Ma" also does a fair Mae West imitation and gets off several good lines.
- On the other hand…"Italian Tony" is the worst Italian caricature since the days of Chico Marx and probably one of the reasons the authors of the KQED book gave this episode only one star.
Mr. Rumbold, who thought the staff's telephone calls for help were part of a stocktaking-night practical joke, arrives at the store with the police. After the police leave with the Gumby Gang in tow, Rumbold is surprised by the real burglars.
- Mrs. Slocombe (referring to Miss Belfridge): It's amazing the trouble a little bottle of peroxide can cause.
- Peacock: If we could catch [the burglars] ourselves, well, it would be quite a feather in our caps.
Humphries: Feathers don't suit me; I think we should phone the police.
- Spooner (on the staff attacking the burglars): Well, there's four of us men…
Humphries: Three; I'm against violence.
- Mrs. Slocombe (after Miss Brahms is taken hostage): They could be doing anything to her! Oh, I wish I'd gone in her place!
Humphries: I was just thinking that myself.
[Later in the conversation]
Mrs. Slocombe: We've got to save Miss Brahms from being at the mercy of those rough men! I mean, they might even try to kiss her!
- Burglar: There's a rumor in the underworld that you're very keen on the girls.
"Italian Tony": So long as it's only a rumor.
- Peacock: I've got an idea!
"Ma Gumby": Well, treat it gently; it's in a strange place.
In an odd way, "The Hold Up" could be considered both a "dress-up" episode and a broad farce. Mr. Humphries' effectiveness as "Italian Tony, The Tooting Terror" is rather limited, however.
It's "déjà vu all over again" in this revamp of "Big Brother" and "Closed Circuit" (even the closed circuit TV system is nicknamed "Big Brother" in this episode). In the midst of a heat wave, Grace Brothers management installs not an air conditioning system but rather CCTV equipment to help nab shoplifters. Thanks to Mr. Harman's influence, the staff put the new equipment to use in quite a different manner than was intended.
First episode with Seymour (Keith Hodiak), Mr. Harman's assistant and the only black character to appear regularly in AYBS?.
Miss Brahms asserts that she and Mrs. Slocombe have been at Grace Brothers longer than Mr. Humphries; the pilot episode (1972) states that Mr. Humphries has been with the firm for 10 years, and several episodes imply that Miss Brahms has not been with Grace Brothers for very long. (In "The Old Order Changes" , for instance, Miss Brahms has been with the firm only 4 years.)
- Mr. Humphries as the Hokey-Pokey Ices man.
- When the staff finally receive their bonuses, the ones for upper-middle management such as Mr. Rumbold are delayed. Rumbold's bonus is eventually invested by Mr. Grace—on a race horse, "Inside Leg".
- Mr. Harman encourages his fellow workers to put their bonuses on a "dead cert". Captain Peacock then admits to his former gambling addiction (Mrs. Slocombe: "Fancy you going to the dogs"), even moving Mr. Humphries to tears with his tale of woe.
- Mr. Humphries' story of his affair with a (female) Salvation Army worker.
- Miss Brahms' hitting Mr. Spooner in the canteen.
- The staff lose all their money on the first race when the jockey falls off the horse just before reaching the finish line, so Mr. Harman (who happens to be a pawnbroker on the side) talks them into pawning their valuables and putting £10 each on the 10-1 shot "Inside Leg".
- In a classic scene, Mr. Humphries goes down to the Electronics department to listen to the race on the radio and mime the results via CCTV to the others, who have been forbidden to watch the race on the telly in Rumbold's office. Luckily for the staff, "Inside Leg" finishes first, just ahead of "Holiday Queen". But wait—in the 4 o'clock race, "King of the Fairies" is a "cert" at 20-1….
Unsatisfied with their winnings on "Inside Leg", the greedy staff place the money they've won on "King of the Fairies".
- Miss Brahms (noticing Peacock in shorts): Your knees is much younger than I expected!
- Miss Belfridge (wearing a bikini and holding up an even skimpier costume): It's between these two.
Peacock (noticing two of Miss Belfridge's more prominent features): Well, there is very little between those two.
- Peacock (on hows he kicked the gambling habit): Sheer willpower and the love of a good woman.
Mrs. Slocombe: Your wife!
Peacock: Her as well.
- Humphries (placing his bet): I'm not a betting man, but my mother is.
- Miss Brahms (trying to sell a hat to an upper-class customer who wants one for Ascot): It's very Dallas.
- Mrs. Slocombe (pawning her valued handbag): My part-crocodile handbag.
Harman: Which part's crocodile?
Mrs. Slocombe: The clasp.
- Miss Brahms (with nothing to pawn): I haven't got anything to offer.
Harman: You can have it on tick.
- Humphries (reluctantly pawning his pocket watch): I hope that horse wins; my mother gave me that watch when I became captain of the embroidery team.
- Spooner: How do you fancy "King of the Fairies" at 4 o'clock?
Humphries: I don't finish work until half past five!
Pretty good in spite of the recycled theme.
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