Episode Reviews Part 5

Shoulder to Shoulder

Miss Thorpe and friendsThe 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.
Best Bits: Bons Mots: 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….


A somewhat disjointed storyline, but still some good scenes. Definitely well above average.

New Look

Another think tank produces another dubious sales gimmick—bring back the Great Gatsby look!


Tacky Bits:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Best Bits: Bons Mots: 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.

The Finale:

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.

Christmas Crackers (1975 Christmas Special)

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).
Trivia: Bloopers:
Trevor Bannister (Mr. Lucas) loses his balance going down the stairs in his one-legged pirate costume and is unable to finish his line.
Ironic Bit:
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").
Best Bits: Bons Mots: The Finale:
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!"

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

Incidentally, all but one episode from the 1976 series, "Fire Practice", is available on VHS video.

No Sale

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.
Bloopers: Best Bits: Bons Mots: 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."


Neatly plotted episode with several amusing bits. A good start to the 1976 series.

Mr. Humphries and Captain Peacock

Top Hat and Tails

This previously "lost" episode, now airing on several public television stations and available on home video, has the staff training for a national ballroom-dancing championship, ably led by the multi-talented Mr. Humphries.


Début of maintenance man Mr. Beverley Harman.
Déjà Vu:
Mr. Lucas covers the bare breasts of the female robot with his hands, just as he did to the mannequin in the pilot episode.
The remote controlling the robots seems to be just a primitive 1970s calculator.
Memorable Display:
As the store celebrates the opening of the Dress Hire Department, two elaborate automated display units (male and female robots) are brought in. As usual with Grace Brothers displays, things do go wrong: the male robot keeps dropping his trousers instead of saluting and eventually punches his partner's head off her shoulders.
Mr. Harman and the 2 display units
The 2 display units dance together
Mr. Humphries and the male display unit dance
Best Bits:

Bons Mots: After Young Mr. Grace observes the staff's dancing technique, he decides the robots would better represent the store in the competition.


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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© 1997 Emily Jackson