Episode Reviews Part 6
In this episode, Mr. Grainger takes over the department in Mr. Rumbold's absence and, in the process, reveals an entirely different side of his personality.
chiropodist - another word for "podiatrist". (Would you visit a podiatrist recommended by Mr. Lucas?)
- One of the last episodes to mention Mr. Humphries' father. (Perhaps his mother was funnier.)
- Isabella Rye (Mr. Grainger's secretary) once appeared on a 1961 episode of the U.S. game show I've Got a Secret. Her secret: She was going to arm-wrestle IGAS panelist/resident curmudgeon Henry Morgan (she won, BTW).
- Mr. Humphries' teddy bear (isn't it supposed to be Paddington Bear?) versus Mr. Lucas' Basil Brush.
- Peacock, assuming he'll take over while Rumbold's away, is disappointed and annoyed when Mr. Grainger is put in charge instead (to qualify him for a higher pension). Later, when Rumbold announces the new arrangement to the rest of the staff, Peacock has to feign surprise (not a very good job of it at that).
- Mrs. Slocombe reminiscing about her long-missing husband's laziness.
- Once Grainger is put in charge, he takes full advantage of his new executive perks, asking for a rise, first-class fares, the drinks trolley, cigars, etc.
- Their "friend in the camp" turns out to be of no advantage at all. The staff, expecting to receive special privileges from their fellow salesman, instead find their new boss is a veritable tyrant. Grainger eventually fires Mrs. Slocombe for asking for time off to get her roots done (her calling Grainger a "silly old goat" probably didn't help).
- While Grainger is returning to his office after sacking Mrs. Slocombe, Lucas and Humphries give him the Nazi salute.
- To everyone's surprise, Rumbold returns early from his seminar. The others take revenge on Grainger's bullying and threats by, among other things, destroying his new coat and executive bowler and "sending him to Coventry". At one point, when Grainger asks the others to pass the sugar in the canteen, Mrs. Slocombe dumps the entire bowl of sugar in her cup of coffee.
Rumbold leaves again for his seminar, with Grainger again taking over the department. This time around, he's learned his lesson and instead of threatening to fire the staff for being late back from lunch, he offers them a drink from the executive drinks trolley.
- Mrs. Slocombe (after an unsuccessful night out with Mrs. Axelby): "Well, I find that manners are getting better and better."
- Mrs. Slocombe: "If I was in that office, you wouldn't be out here for five minutes!"
Mr. Lucas: "Oh, I know, you'd have me inside there for a quick chat and a cuddle, wouldn't you?"
- Mr. Humphries: "If it was me, I'd be tearing me hair out."
Mr. Lucas: "That shouldn't take you long."
Mr. Humphries: "That thin bit in the back is where the pillow rubs! The rest is growing lush and rampant."
- Mr. Grainger (to his scantily-clad secretary): "Get that skirt altered."
Secretary: "How much longer, Mr. Grainger?"
Mr. Grainger: "Make it shorter."
- Mr. Grainger (to Peacock, who has just asked for time off): "Times are very hard—just pass the whiskey, will you?"
- Mr. Grainger (inspecting Lucas' sales book): "So very messy…figures not clear, handwriting bad, must do better."
Mr. Lucas: "I'm sorry, Mr. Grainger. Shall I take 100 lines, then?"
- Mr. Humphries: "You know, I was in the navy, for a week or two…."
A bit of a slow start, with character study more important than plot (or even customers). A brilliant tour de force for Arthur Brough (Mr. Grainger).
In this rather schizophrenic episode, a royal customer (to be more precise, an Arab emir and his entourage) causes havoc, followed by the staff's expectedly disastrous yet hilarious attempts at fire preparedness training. Also, this is one of the first episodes to prominently feature the then-new maintenance man, Mr. Harman.
Some public television stations have dropped this episode because of its "controversial content", presumably referring to its stereotypical depiction of Arabs.
Arthur English (Mr. Harman) gets his words twisted around when describing the fire practice dummy (see below) but deftly covers his mistake by ad-libbing.
Myrtle the mouth-to-mouth practice dummy, complete with lights, bells, and expanding chest.
"Do you mind if I have a word with my friend?" (not quite "I'm free!" or even "Weak as water!").
- Mrs. Slocombe's and Miss Brahms' tortuous platform shoes.
- Mr. Humphries' and Mr. Lucas' ingenious methods of measuring the hips and inside leg of one of the emir's wives without touching her.
- The Arab party's attempt to pay for the trousers with a baby goat, then a rug, then a belly-dancing wife. They offer a suitcase full of £100 notes, but its contents end up on the shop floor in the confusion after the fire alarm goes off for a drill. (Lucas' and Humphries' delighted counting of "One for them and one for us" is turned into the sadder "All for them and none for us.")
- Mr. Humphries' simulation of being overcome by smoke during fire practice.
- The look on Lucas' face when he is asked if he'd like to rescue Mrs. Slocombe.
- (Ridiculous Bit) The disposable hygienic lips issued to the staff to practice mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
- Mrs. Slocombe's getting lost sliding down the fire escape ("Where is the way out?")
During fire practice, the fire alarm goes off for a real fire. The others rush out, with Mr. Humphries being personally rescued by the fire chief, leaving a Scottish fireman to rummage about in the canvas fire escape looking for Mrs. Slocombe.
- Captain Peacock: "Don't procrastinate!"
Mr. Harman: "I shall look that up, and if it ain't very polite, I shall probably come back and call you a very long word meaning 'twit'."
- Mrs. Slocombe (as one of the Arab party tests trouser material by biting it): "Excuse me asking, but do they get a lot of that sort of wear?"
- Mr. Humphries: "I'm not even a believer!"
- Arab interpreter (describing his country's customs): "Man may touch man, but woman may not touch woman."
Mr. Humphries: "Where did they say they came from?"
- Mrs. Slocombe (as Mr. Humphries measures the emir's wife): "Any minute now, he's going to get his head chopped off."
- Mr. Humphries (as Mr. Harman demonstrates the fireman's lift on him and pats him on the derrière): "You wait 'till you're asked!"
- Mr. Harman: "We don't practice [mouth-to-mouth] on the ladies."
Mr. Humphries: "We certainly don't practice on the men!"
Virtual Video Vault rating: C- for the first half (trouser-shopping emir), A for the second half (fire drill).
Mrs. Slocombe turns 50. Oh, the horror (for her and the put-upon staff)!
First appearance by Miss Bakewell (Penny Irving), one of the most durable of the "bimbo" secretaries.
- In the canteen scene, Miss Brahms states that Mrs. Slocombe's cat was born in 1968 (according to Mrs. Slocombe, at least); when Mr. Lucas checks the pet department's pussy book, its records indicate 1969.
- A major blooper: During the "Happy Birthday" rehearsal, no one can remember Mrs. Slocombe's name, or, for that matter, even the name of her cat! Yet even the pilot episode gives Mrs. Slocombe's first name as "Betty", and Tiddles is mentioned in episode 3, "Our Figures Are Slipping".
- Miss Comlozi of Cosmetics rates a mention in this episode; she would eventually appear in the flesh in "Mrs. Slocombe, Senior Person".
- The £6 fox customer is played by Diana Lambert, who would later appear as the second Mrs. Peacock in "Grounds for Divorce" and "Friends and Neighbours".
British History Lesson:
- an obsolete silver coin worth 5 shillings (25p)
- slang term for a shilling
Jarrow March: On 5 October 1936, a group of 200 workers began a 300-mile march from Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, to London in order to protest the closing of the town's shipyards. This event is considered by some as a landmark in the long history of worker struggles.
- Claude and Mrs. Claude, an elderly, absent-minded gentleman and his middle-aged wife, come to Grace Brothers looking for a robe and swimming trunks. Trying on the garments, Claude forgets one essential item—the swimming trunks. Fortunately, he was wearing his y-fronts.
- During lunch at the canteen, Mrs. Slocombe drops "subtle" hints about her upcoming birthday, along with a list of what she already has (an ironing board, iron, coffee pot, toaster…)
- Attempting to determine her age, the staff try to come up with historical events from her assumed year of birth, 1926:
Peacock: As Mr. Grainger here well remembers, "Ibn Saud proclaimed king of the Hejaz in Jiddah."
Mrs. Slocombe: Does he really?
Grainger: Yes, yes, there was dancing in the streets.
Peacock: Does the British army ceasing to use Cologne mean anything to you?
Mrs. Slocombe: I didn't know they'd even started.
- Gift ideas:
- Two cyanide tablets (Mr. Grainger's suggestion)
- Fifteen cut-price canteen vouchers
- Pet department voucher for a new pussy
- Voucher from Madam Beryl's beauty parlor for a facial
- To "help" the staff decide on her present, Mrs. Slocombe marks down an £18 fox to £6, but, as she is changing the ticket, a customer sees the fox's £6 price and promptly snaps it up.
- One of the funniest scenes in all of AYBS? is the staff's after-hours rehearsal of "Happy Birthday". Since no one can remember Mrs. Slocombe's given name (see Bloopers section above), the familiar refrain becomes "Happy birthday, dear er, er…"
Lucas: I think "er, er, er" suits her better than "er, er".
Rumbold, a founding member of Derry and Toms glee club (Peacock: "No wonder they went out of business"), assigns Humphries and Lucas parts that would probably be too high even for a castrato.
Grainger: I entirely agree; to "er" is human.
- Mrs. Slocombe's feigning surprise when she is given her present. (And the present is…? Mr. Humphries turns to the audience and says, "We're not going to tell you what it is; it's a secret." Perhaps the writers couldn't come up with a clever idea for a present.)
- Mrs. Slocombe's hard-to-determine name turns out to be Mary Elizabeth Jennifer Rachel Abergavenny Slocombe. (Her maiden name is later discovered to be Yiddell in "Founder's Day".)
As Mrs.Slocombe is presented with her "blooming" cake and sees a large "50" in pink icing, she unhappily exclaims "I am only 46!" and storms off. (In "Founder's Day" her year of birth is given as 1926, so her correct age was 50.)
- Lucas: If [Harman] chips in, that'll take 16 1/2 % off the ante.
Humphries: You're very good with figures when it comes to being mean!
- Peacock approaches Harman to ask for a donation to the present fund.
Peacock: Mr. Harman, it's Mrs. Slocombe's 50th birthday, and we're all putting in a pound each. What do you say?
Harman: I'm not allowed on the floor during working hours. [This is probably the only time Harman ever remembered that rule.]
- Humphries: I'd like to make it quite clear that, being of an affectionate nature, I have many friends of all shapes, sizes, and sexes. Even this morning I had some amorous advances from a rag-and-bone man's horse, which I repulsed.
There are enough classic bits in "Fifty Years On" for ten shows. Top-notch AYBS?.
Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
- Sir Walter Scott, Marmion
Rumors abound regarding an affair between Captain Peacock and Mr. Rumbold's new secretary, Miss Hazlewood, while the reaction of Peacock's jealous wife only fuels suspicions. After Young Mr. Grace convenes a board of inquiry, Mr. Rumbold, Mr. "Perry Mason" Harman and the rest of the staff try to get to the bottom of the sordid mess.
Début of the first Mrs. Peacock (Diana King), who would also appear in "A Personal Problem" and "The Sweet Smell of Success."
Peacock claims he and Rumbold have known each other 14 years, "man and boys' wear."
John Inman refers to only a "conference in Birmingham", yet the others in the scene respond with "sales conference in Birmingham."
Best Bits and Bons Mots:
As Mrs. Peacock, brandishing her umbrella, chases Mrs. Slocombe through the store (Miss Brahms: "It don't look like she got the job"), Mr. Hazlewood arrives to defend his daughter's honor. Mistaking Grainger for Peacock, the indignant father smashes Grainger in the head with her unneeded wedding cake, sending not a little simulated cream up the nostrils and not a few sultanas and salted almonds into other parts of Grainger's anatomy.
- a pale yellow seedless grape or the raisin thereof
In the board of inquiry scene, one of the greatest ever in AYBS?, the clever wordplay, misunderstandings, and pompous confusion aid this scene as it features: Harman's misplaced enthusiasm; Mrs. Peacock's overwrought emotionalism; Rumbold's bumbling; Grainger's slow recovery from the deadly wedding-cake assault; Peacock's usual pompousness; some surprisingly funny quips from Young Mr. Grace; and Mrs. Slocombe, Miss Brahms, Mr. Humphries, and Mr. Lucas being their usual hilarious selves. Some highlights:
(Un)fortunately, Mrs. Peacock believes her husband's story and pledges her undying love, to Captain Peacock's noticeable discomfort.
- Young Mr. Grace: Did you get all that down?
Miss Bakewell: Every word, sir.
YMG: Well, cross it out.
- Rumbold (to Miss Hazlewood): I'm going to ask you a direct question. I have no right to do so, and of course you don't have to answer it. And if you don't answer it, nobody's going to hold it against you or use it in any future proceeding. Do you understand?
Miss Hazlewood: Yes, sir.
YMG: It hardly seems worth their coming, does it?
- YMG: Who's this?
Rumbold: This is Captain Peacock's wife, sir.
YMG: Sooner him than me.
- (Mrs. Peacock has just burst into tears after seeing Miss Hazlewood.)
Mrs. Slocombe: I notice she didn't burst into tears when she thought it was me.
Lucas: Funny, that.
- Peacock has just explained that he spent the night with Miss Hazlewood because they had car trouble when he tried to take her home after she sought his advice on her forthcoming marriage.
Peacock: For, after all, when the final account is balanced up in the book of life, we are men of integrity. What I've said is true, and I swear it, as a God-fearing man and an ex-officer of the Royal Army Service Corps.
Rumbold: Mrs. Peacock, if ever I've heard the truth from the lips of a man, I've heard it today. I'm sure you can doubt your husband no longer.
Humphries: I didn't think people talked like this any more!
Excellent farce spotlighting Peacock's private life. Absolutely superb in every respect.
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© 1997 Emily Jackson