Episode Reviews Part 7

The Father Christmas Affair (1976 Christmas Special)

The final AYBS? Christmas episode, featuring a malfunctioning display, the staff's greed, musical numbers and outlandish costumes. Nothing out of the ordinary, really….


First episode with the copyright date in Roman numerals.
Trivia: Personalities:

Stafford Cripps
1940s British statesman/diplomat.

Leslie Hore-Belisha
British Minister of Transport, who, in 1934, introduced the Belisha beacon to mark pedestrian crossings.


During the "Mammy" rehearsal scene, the music begins playing before the phonograph needle touches the record.
Tacky Display:
The CDU ("Christmas Display Unit!"), one of the most dangerous Grace Brothers displays ever, as it was the only one to cause harm (at least two customers were injured).
Christmas Bits Bons Mots Racism and Censorship:
The sight of Mr. Grainger in blackface in "The Father Christmas Affair" is understandably upsetting to many viewers, and the original ending of this episode, in which a black child selects Mr. Grainger, greasepaint and all, as the ideal Father Christmas, may seem positively bizarre to some.

Some public television stations air an edited version of "The Father Christmas Affair", in which Young Mr. Grace chooses Mrs. Slocombe to play Father Christmas. Mr. Grainger's closing line has been cut out, and an earlier scene of Mrs. Slocombe saying "Ho, ho, ho, little boy, have I got a surprise for you!" to Young Mr. Grace has been inserted in its place. (Thanks to James Han for posting this information at Jeff Rice's Canteen.)

Other than the incongruous ending, a tidy Christmas treat.

Series Five (1977)

The 1977 series was the last season of AYBS?'s classic era and the last featuring the original sales staff (Arthur Brough [Mr. Grainger] sadly passed away in 1978). Four of the 1977 episodes ("Mrs. Slocombe Expects", "A Change Is as Good as a Rest", "Founder's Day", and "The Old Order Changes") have been released on home video (VHS).

Mrs. Slocombe Expects

A blessed event for the Slocombe household: Tiddles gives birth. As usual, the rest of the department is hilariously caught up in the excitement/confusion.


Best Bits: Bons Mots: With Mr. Harman's help, Mrs. Slocombe smuggles Tiddles into the department's fitting room. Peacock finds the newborns there, and his stern demeanor melts in the face of cute baby animals (that does it every time). Each staff member gets one of the kittens (who seem to be awfully big to have just been born); Rumbold is left holding the pajama case used by the mother.


Clever storyline, although the ending is a bit sentimental.

A Change Is as Good as a Rest

This episode could be called "Ladies' and Men's Wear in Toyland", as the staff are temporarily assigned to the toy department.


In the boardroom scene, the shadow of a boom microphone can be seen moving across the table.
Trivia Censorship
For some reason, the CBS/Fox home video version of "A Change Is as Good as a Rest" has portions of two scenes edited out:
Best Bits and Top Toys Bons Mots After initially complaining about having to switch departments, the staff become so enamored with the toy department that they only reluctantly go back to their old trouser and bra displays.


A classic episode—sheer delight for children of all ages.

Founder's Day

(shouldn't it be "Founders' Day"?)

A uniquely British take on This Is Your Life, as the staff stage their own version, "Here Is Your Department," in honor of Young Mr. Grace's 80th birthday.


First appearance of Mr. Humphries' mother. [On some public television broadcasts of this episode, the film of Mrs. Humphries seems so faded as to be in black-and-white. The CBS/Fox home video version, however, has a bit more color.]
Trivia: Tacky Bit:
Superimposing the actors' faces onto old photographs to create "childhood" pictures. (At least the studio audience seemed to enjoy this gimmick.)
Young Mr. Grace's Biographical Bits: Best Bits: Bons Mots: Conclusion:
Funny yet somewhat odd episode revealing several facts about such key characters as Young Mr. Grace and Mrs. Slocombe.

The Old Order Changes


Just as the staff has recovered from a day in the toy department, another bizarre sales gimmick produces upheaval in Ladies' and Men's wear as the staff are now required to don "mod" clothing and adopt a more casual approach to serving customers, not to mention the horror of addressing fellow staff members by their first names.


"In Name Only" Tacky Display:
This episode's featured display could be called the YMGDU: an automaton replica of Young Mr. Grace that repeats the phrase "Welcome to my store!" As is usually the case with Grace Brothers displays, this one is faulty: when it raises its hat, the head comes off with it.
Best Bits: Bons Mots: After returning from a trip to Beijing, Young Mr. Grace decides to try the Maoist approach to selling after the American approach doesn't work out.


"The Old Order Changes" has everything—costumes, wit, tacky displays—and deftly explores each character's reaction to an unusual situation.

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©1999 Emily Jackson