Episode Reviews Part 3
Another of society's ills—shoplifting—hits Grace Brothers, precipitating another management-staff conflict. As usual, the staff prevails.
This episode marks the final appearance of Mr. Rumbold's original secretary (played by Stephanie Gathercole Reeve)—the only non-bimbo secretary in the history of AYBS? Ms. Reeve also provided the voice intoning "Ground floor, perfumery, stationery and leather goods…" in the AYBS? theme.
- After Mr. Clegg, the new store detective, inspects the personal belongings of each staff member as they leave for home, Rumbold absent-mindedly picks up a scarf from the counter with a price tag still attached, puts it around his neck, and starts to leave. Needless to say, this mistake catches Mr. Clegg's eye.
- Fascinated by his new gadgets, Rumbold uses the security cameras to spy on the staff, catching Mr. Lucas smoking, Mr. Grainger adjusting his dentures, and Miss Brahms "checking her stock." He eventually stoops to counting Mrs. Slocombe's trips to the restroom and noting what Grainger had for lunch.
- When Lucas is called into Rumbold's office for smoking on the job, he begins spinning one of his wild yarns as an explanation (nervous about spending the night alone, he asked Miss Brahms to come over, cook supper, and spend the night in the spare room. "Why does that make you nervous?" "Well, that's where I sleep; me mother might come back.")
- For a while, the staff are fascinated with the security cameras and preen for them at every opportunity ("Would madam mind standing a little bit to madam's right?…a bit more…that's better.") Eventually, though, they resent the loss of privacy.
- To test the new security system, Mr. Clegg dresses up as a "typical" shoplifter. He is quickly spotted by the ever-vigilant but over-enthusiastic staff, who eventually apprehend him with a bash on the head from one of Mrs. Slocombe's busts.
- The staff concoct a plan to get rid of the cameras: turning the tables on Rumbold, they use the new security system, along with Rumbold's hypochondria, to trick him into removing the cameras.
- Peacock: "Mr. Humphries, have you the time?"
Humphries: "It depends on what you had in mind, Captain Peacock. Well, I make it 25 past something or other. I must get a new tail for my Mickey Mouse."
- (Discussing recent shoplifting incidents) Rumbold: "I seem to remember Miss Brahms lost something last week."
Lucas: "It wasn't me."
Humphries: "You know, only the other day, a customer reached across the counter and put his hand in my Fair Isle drawers. (pause) He said he was going to pay."
- (Mr. Clegg inspects the staff's belongings) Clegg: "Excuse me, sir, what's that suspicious-looking bulge?"
Humphries: "I beg your pardon?"
Clegg: "In your pocket, sir. May I see it, please?"
Humphries :"If you must know, it's my orange."
Clegg: "Your what, sir?"
Humphries: "My orange. I always eat one on the train. It's the only way you can get a seat to yourself."
- (Mr. Clegg interrogates Peacock) Clegg: "Now, Mr. Peacock…"
Peacock: "Captain. And I am not a sales assistant; I am the floorwalker."
Clegg: "What exactly does that mean, sir?"
Lucas: "Well, he's not limited like us; he can nip about and nick things from either department, you see."
- Peacock (complaining about the security cameras): "It all smacks very much of George Orwell."
Rumbold: "Are you trying to say someone else did it?"
- (Lucas and Humphries meet secretly behind the counter.)
Humphries: "Are you sure we're safe here?"
Lucas: "Lower your voice!"
Humphries (in a deep voice): "Are you sure we're safe here?"
All's well that ends well (almost)—Rumbold removes the security cameras, but Miss Brahms gets the measles, ruining Lucas' best-laid plans. The security-camera theme of this cleverly-plotted episode was later copied in "Closed Circuit" and "Gambling Fever".
In some respects, this episode is a precursor to the AYBS? film (the staff go on holiday together), but we only see the planning, not the actual trip.
- Mrs. Slocombe's first reference to the "Caribbino."
- "Speaking for myself, I am unanimous."
Mrs. Slocombe's friend is Mrs. Althrop, not Mrs. Axelby.
- The made-to-measure customer finds his suit wasn't made as well as he had hoped (trousers too small in waist, legs too long, jacket sleeves too short.) The suit is pretty much ripped apart by the entire men's department in an attempt to make it fit, in the process ruining the customer's own shirt.
- As Humphries models a hooded dressing gown for a customer, an Irish lady just leaving mistakes him for a priest ("God bless you, Father.")
- Mr. Mash's holiday plans for the "seashells" (Seychelles).
- When the staff meet in the boardroom to choose their holiday destination, the choices presented to them are not the most appealing in the world:
- Costa del Sol (analogous to the Costa Plonka from the AYBS? film?), featuring the Hotel Royale Mediterranée Palace, "extensively modernized in 1948" and managed by one Don Pedro Alvarez Cohen (perhaps an acquaintance of the film's Don Carlos Bernardo).
- A Portuguese spot (compared to Accrington by Mrs. Slocombe) featuring roller skating, crazy golf, and accommodations in a one-star hotel:
Mrs. Slocombe: "Exactly how good is a one-star hotel?"
Peacock: "Can I put it to you this way: There is no such thing as a no-star hotel."
- A Tunisian resort with regular excursions to see pottery and wrought-iron work. Other "entertainments" include belly-dancing, sword-swallowing, and the prospect of toying with one's couscous (eaten, according to Peacock, with the "cut-off ear of a sheep") while sitting on one's jibbahs.
In the end, the staff get to take their holidays at the destinations of their own choosing—the last two weeks in November.
- Humphries: "I'll take the customer into the changing room, Mr. Grainger, and put his clothes on a coat-hanger."
Grainger: "And come straight back, Mr. Humphries."
- (Lucas and customer come out of the fitting room, Lucas holding lapels from the made-to-measure suit)
Lucas: "Thank you very much, sir. I'm glad that you're satisfied with this part of the suit, anyway. The rest of it will be ready a week on Tuesday."
Customer: "I shall look forward to that."
- (Discussing holiday plans) Rumbold: "I had aimed to go to Monte Carlo…try my hand at the tables."
Miss Brahms: "Oh…don't they need waiters any time of the year?"
- Peacock: "There comes a time when any man who is a man must stand up to be counted."
- Humphries, to customer: "Now, sir, we've got Turkish towel, terry towel, Terylene and wool, short length, calf length, slim fit or full, Orlon, Banlon, Shantung silk or simulated seersucker."
Customer: "Could you say that again?"
Humphries: "I'd rather show you."
- Miss Brahms: "I've got to be back in time for Top of the Pops."
Mrs. Slocombe: "Ooh, do you watch that?"
Miss Brahms:"No, but someone has to be there to hold me mum back when Gary Glitter comes on."
Mrs. Slocombe: "Does she fancy him?"
Miss Brahms: "No, she kicks the set in!"
Would that the film were this charming.
Series Three (1975)
After two seasons of competing with Man About the House and Coronation Street for British TV viewers, AYBS? found itself against softer competition in 1975, allowing it to shoot to the top of the ratings and to the forefront of the national consciousness. In short, AYBS? was finally a hit. "Wedding Bells", "German Week", and "New Look" are available on VHS, as is the 1975 Christmas special, "Christmas Crackers."
In this episode we see another of Mr. Humphries' talents, palm reading, as the staff hope "the hand of fate" is working for his or her own promotion to vacancies that turn out to be non-existent.
"The Hand of Fate", regrettably, features stereotypical assumptions about Asians that seem shocking to 1990s sensibilities, not to mention such racist terms as "Nip", pidgin English, "Asian" accents, and the mistaken belief that "Japanese" and "Chinese" are interchangeable. Some would say these attitudes are a product of another time and place; others might respond that their anachronism does not excuse their inappropriateness.
The début of Mr. Rumbold's first bimbo secretary, Miss Ainsworth (wearing an extremely short skirt).
- One of the few episodes to refer to Mr. Humphries' father.
- The only departments with female floorwalkers are costumery and haberdashery, according to Mr. Rumbold, who, of course, would know.
- Mr. Humphries has 15 years of experience. (Three years earlier he had only 10 years experience.)
- The leftover crocheted berets "as worn by Princess Margaret Rose" accidentally sold for £4 instead of 40p.
- Mr. Humphries' predictions:
(See below for how things really turned out.)
- Mrs. Slocombe: a man at her feet.
- Captain Peacock: climbing a ladder, an opening door, eventually finding himself wearing a new hat.
- Mr. Rumbold: a "T" and leaves.
And in the end…:
- Humphries (referring to his talent for palmistry): "My father noticed something funny about me when I was six."
- Humphries (discussing another one of his many talents): "I can pop out of me body whenever I like."
- Humphries (reading Peacock's palm): "Now let me see the back of your left hand…Oh, yes…"
Peacock: "What can you tell from that?"
Humphries: "We're late back from lunch."
- Mrs. Slocombe and Captain Peacock discuss Peacock's replacement when he is "promoted":
—Well, I think it's time we had a change of sex on the floor.
To Peacock's surprise, Mrs. Slocombe recommends herself for floorwalker:
—Am I to understand that you're recommending Mr. Humphries?
—Floorwalking has always been a man's job in this department.
—Well, I don't see why. I mean, anybody can stand there with their nose in the air looking stupid.
- Rumbold (in his usual state of confusion): "I sometimes wonder if, sitting in this office, I'm missing something."
"Beware of a bald-headed man with big ears," according to the leaves from Young Mr. Grace's broken tea bag, thereby persuading him to deny Rumbold his expected promotion. Meanwhile, Peacock helps Mrs. Slocombe put some hat boxes on the top shelf in one of the storage rooms. As Humphries and Lucas rush in to tell them about Rumbold, the door's swinging open knocks down the ladder Peacock was standing on, sending Peacock to the floor and a hat flying out of its box to land on Peacock's head. Humphries' predictions are fulfilled, but not as anyone had expected.
The Last Word:
Humphries: "I think this would be a very good time to leave my body."
The ending is a bit pat, the scene with the Japanese customer a distraction and not really necessary, but there are still some good examples of classic AYBS? farce.
Labor unrest hits Grace Brothers, led by…Mr. Grainger?
Last episode with yellow credits (until 1981's "Roots?").
- Mrs. Slocombe's battle of the "centipedes."
- The "abbreviated" memo ("From D.M./C.R. to F.W.L. and G.D./S.P. re Tea").
- After everyone refuses to sign the new clocking-in book upon returning from lunch, only Mr. Grainger is asked to sign since he is first out of the lift; thus, he is the only one reported to Mr. Rumbold.
- The "put it down" routine among Mr. Rumbold, Mr. Mash, and Miss Ainsworth.
- Responding to Mr. Grainger's problems with management, Mr. Mash convenes a union meeting right in the middle of the shop floor (a scene deftly satirizing union bluster).
In the end, Young Mr. Grace saves the day, but in a way the staff doesn't expect. No more trudging up to the canteen to take their tea break: now they'll have their morning coffee handed to them right on the shop floor.
- (After Grainger has refused to sign the book)
Grainger: You don't mean you're going to report me, Stephen?
Peacock: Yes I am, Mr. Grainger.
Grainger: Very well, Captain Peacock!
Peacock: I'm sorry, but it's my job.
Grainger: You mean to be a sneak?
Peacock: It's not easy for me, you know. On the one hand we have our friendship, and on the other I have my job to do. I have to wear two hats.
Grainger: Well, you'll find no difficulty in that; you're two-faced!
- Peacock: I want a word with the floor personnel by the center stand.
Miss Brahms: Well, I hope it's important. I'm dying for me lunch.
Peacock: Miss Brahms, everything I have to say is important. (turns away)
Miss Brahms: Pompous nit.
Mrs. Slocombe: Miss Brahms, you mustn't use language like that about floor personnel in my hearing. You'll get Ladies' Underwear a bad name.
- Discussing the new clocking-in book:
Miss Brahms: And every time I want to powder my nose, I've got to stick it in a book first?
Peacock: That is correct.
Miss Brahms: But what if it's an emergency and me biro's run out?
Peacock: Get someone else to do it for you.
Humphries: It's not the same as doing it yourself, is it?
- (Grainger has just been reported for refusing to sign the book.)
Grainger: Well, I think you all ought to sign something saying you won't sign it.
Humphries: Don't worry, Mr. Grainger, we're all behind you.
Mrs. Slocombe: Oh, yes, we're all in this together.
Lucas: Only you're in it a bit deeper.
- Mrs. Slocombe: You know, I think he went too far, defying Captain Peacock like he did.
Miss Brahms: We did all agree not to sign together.
Mrs. Slocombe: Well, of course, we wouldn't have signed the first time he asked us, as a protest. But we would have done the second time.
- Rumbold: Mr. Grainger, for the 4 minutes unauthorized absence, I am deducting 25p from your pay packet, plus a further 25p for refusing to sign this book.
Grainger: Could I sign now and save the 25p?
- Humphries: I think we all ought to chip in and pay Mr. Grainger's fine. I mean, after all, it's only 10p each.
Mrs. Slocombe: Ah! But he was fined 25p for being late and 25p for not signing. Now, we're only supporting him for not signing, so he should pay half.
- (At closing time)
Mash: Hold on, Mrs. Slocombe! As from now on, it's go slow.
Mrs. Slocombe: But if I don't get these covers on quick, I'll miss me bus!
Mash: Well, leave 'em!
Mrs. Slocombe: But my undies will get all smutty.
Mash: So let 'em get smutty.
Mrs. Slocombe: I'm not that kind of a person. I can't sell smutty underwear.
Mash: So the management, through their intractable attitude, will lose money.
Mrs. Slocombe: And I lose me commission!
Mash: We've all got to make sacrifices, brother.
Mrs. Slocombe: Not when I'm saving for me holidays!
- (After their "go-slow" morning)
Grainger: Well, I know we're all behind the union, Mr. Humphries, but I must say that I do think 10 minutes is rather a long time to spend on an inside leg.
Lucas: Especially as the customer only came in for a pair of gloves.
- Mrs. Slocombe: We seem to be getting so militant and so extreme.
Grainger: I can almost smell reds under the beds.
Mrs. Slocombe: There are no reds under my bed, Mr. Grainger.
Humphries: Nor mine. Mind you, I look every night.
With its deliciously ironic ending and clever wordplay, this episode is a delightful little diversion.
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© 1997 Emily Jackson