Episode Reviews Part 10
Series Seven (1979)
With the departure of James Hayter, Men's Wear acquired yet another department head in the person of Harry Goldberg (played by venerable comic actor Alfie Bass). Despite a few uncomfortable anti-Semitic moments in the 1979 series, the show maintained its high comic quality. At this point, the home-video pickings become rather slim, as the only post-1978 episode currently available is 1981's "The Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe."
The staff bid farewell to the retiring Mr. Tebbs, and the search for a replacement turns up a surprising figure from Captain (or rather, Corporal) Peacock's army days.
Mr. Humphries, temporarily promoted to department head in this episode, would be promoted for good (and without fanfare) in the 1983 series.
Mr. Goldberg's "method" of adding up sales figures (he seems to be a cross between an accountant and a supplicant at the Wailing Wall.)
- The staff's struggle to come up with any "happy memories" left behind by Mr. Tebbs.
- Mr. Lucas' rather short step forward to assume his new position as assistant salesman.
- The applicants who show up to be interviewed for the vacant junior salesman position: the elderly, homeless Mr. Webster; and the Humphries-esque Mr. Beauchamp (of whom Mr. Humphries vehemently disapproves: "We don't want people like that here!") However, a rather late arrival to the interview, former tailor Harry Goldberg (who served in the British army during World War II with Corporal Stephen Peacock) wins the position over Peacock's strong objections.
- The sight of dozens of Mr. Goldberg's old customers storming the department asking for him after Humphries and Lucas had rejected his idea of splitting the commission three ways. (In fact, Mr. Goldberg brings in so much new business, he is made senior salesman in order to keep him on; Humphries and Lucas are demoted to their former positions but happily share Mr. Goldberg's commission.)
Mr. Goldberg has to use a bit of blackmail on Peacock to persuade him to not push for Goldberg's dismissal—namely, a photo of Goldberg and Peacock in the army showing Peacock's tattoo. In light of this evidence, Peacock relents (and can be seen tearing up the incriminating photo during the end credits).
- Mr. Humphries: I've been here 16 years, man and boy…mostly boy.
- Mr. Rumbold (referring to Mr. Humphries): Is he or isn't he [the new senior salesman]?
Young Mr. Grace: People have been asking me that for years.
Although Alfie Bass' portrayal of Mr. Goldberg can be grating at times, "The Junior" is a solid AYBS? episode, with an especially amusing bit in the bizarre parade of job applicants.
Titter-filled romp about the staff undergoing a medical examination for a group insurance scheme.
Ting-a-ling Knickers (not only are they part of a tacky display, they also turn up on Mrs. Slocombe, Mr. Humphries and a couple of Young Mr. Grace's nurses.)
- Customer (looking at dressing gowns): They all look very nice; I'm never quite sure what men like.
Mr. Humphries: No, it is a bit of a puzzle sometimes.
- Mr. Rumbold: Shall I tell them of the latest developments [regarding the health scheme]?
Young Mr. Grace: I guess you'd better; I'd make a mess of it.
- Humphries (on learning the examining doctor is homeopathic): That's something to look forward to!
- Mrs. Slocombe: Everything you say is full of innuendo and double-entendre! [one of the most ironic statements ever made on AYBS?]
Mr. Lucas: You've been watching Mastermind [an ultra-intellectual British game show] again.
After their physical, the staff gather outside Young Mr. Grace's office to hear the results of the examination, unaware that they're actually listening to a report on the state of YMG's office furniture.
- As punishment for snatching away Young Mr. Grace's chair just as he is about to sit down, Captain Peacock's flower is unceremoniously removed from his buttonhole.
|Brahms and Lucas
- The men start doing push-ups in the canteen when they see the beautiful woman doctor who will be giving them their physical:
Humphries: Hang on a minute! Why am I doing this?
Lucas: She's homeopathic.
Humphries: Oh, thanks for reminding me.
- A ballet mistress friend of Mr. Humphries puts the staff through some exercises to prepare them for their physical. Oddly enough, Mrs. Slocombe has a bit of trouble at the bar(re). Later, Mr. Humphries and friend lead the rest through a number from Swan Lake.
- The Examination: The men report for their physical, but their gowns haven't yet arrived from the laundry. The hapless staff members must undress and spend several nervous minutes behind a screen. [One wonders if the actors were really naked and why they kept their socks and shoes on.] Arriving late, Mr. Humphries gets the shock of his life as he sees his co-workers as he has never seen them before. Toward the end of the scene, Mrs. Slocombe and Miss Brahms enter in robes and see the men's embarrassing state:
Peacock: I'm sure there are not supposed to be two sexes in the same room at once!
Miss Brahms: Why not? There was two sexes in the room before we come in.
Substandard ending; otherwise a fairly good episode.
"The Apartment" could be called "Guess Who's Spending the Night?" as Mrs. Slocombe, temporarily finding herself at home on the store's top floor due to squatters in her new flat, is joined by her fellow workers, one by one, after they are stranded by a sudden transport strike. The 1985 episode "Friends and Neighbours" is basically a rewrite of this episode, but "The Apartment" is much funnier.
- The "top floor" of Grace Brothers is obviously just a re-dress of the familiar Men's Wear/Ladies' Intimate Apparel set.
- Mrs. Slocombe claims her husband was taken away by the fraud squad. Later, in Are You Being Served? Again!, she claims he disappeared on an errand to Sainsbury's to pick up some slightly salted butter.
- Captain Peacock is bitten by a hungry Tiddles as he attempts to pet her.
- With nowhere to lay her head, Mrs. Slocombe asks her "friends" for accommodations. The others come up with various excuses, some of which are actually true. (After claiming 3 Pakistani nuns were staying with him, Mr. Humphries admits, "They will be nuns by the time we get to the fancy dress party.")
- Mrs. Slocombe's temporary apartment—all the comforts of home, including a front door.
- Rather than walk 15 miles home because of the transit strike, a dapper Mr. Humphries arrives first to spend the night with Mrs. Slocombe. As she struggles with the door latch, her gallant visitor walks around the partition to ask if she needs a hand.
- The brush salesman's unusual pajamas that Mr. Humphries inherits.
- The Week of Love:
- Monday is for meeting.
- Tuesday is for talking.
- Wednesday is for wishing.
- Thursday is for touching.
- Friday is for [torn out].
- Just as Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocombe are getting to know each other better, the doorbell rings, startling Mr. Humphries and sending him scurrying across the flat. Captain Peacock arrives to take advantage of Mrs. Slocombe's "hospitality", followed shortly by Mr. Lucas, who surprises Peacock by joining him in bed:
Peacock: "Mr. Humphries?"
Peacock: "Thank heaven for that!"
- Mr. Rumbold and Mr. Goldberg arrive next. Rumbold evicts Lucas from the bed and forces him to sleep on the floor, while Goldberg sleeps in the bath. Finally, Miss Brahms arrives and has to sleep with Mrs. Slocombe. Humphries, who had planned to sleep with Mrs. Slocombe (!), ends up on the sofa.
- Mrs. Slocombe: You know how clumsy those removal men are. I'm not having them handling my pussy!
- Mrs. Slocombe (after learning her new flat is occupied by squatters): Who am I going to squat on?
- Humphries (after the transit strike hits): Mr. Rumbold, are you going my way?
Lucas: I'm sure you'd be the first to know if he was.
- Mrs. Slocombe: I use less makeup at home.
Humphries: Well, one does!
- Mrs. Slocombe (showing Mr. Humphries the guest room): It has a half-queen size bed.
Humphries: Better than no queen at all.
Mrs. Slocombe: Do you sleep as nature intended?
Humphries: Mrs. Slocombe, I've never done anything as nature intended.
In order to watch this episode and "Mrs. Slocombe, Senior Person", your humble webmistress once had to set up a bow tie UHF antenna to pull in a distant PBS station after the local station was knocked off the air during a thunderstorm. The video quality was so abysmal, it was often impossible to tell how many people were on the screen and what exactly they were doing.
The high point of this unusually-structured episode comes in the last 10 minutes. A couple of odd camera angles also add to "The Apartment"'s uniqueness.
The Last Word:
"Mr. Humphries, leave my pussy alone!"
When Mr. Rumbold is stricken with a case of food poisoning, Mrs. Slocombe realizes her long-held ambition of being promoted (in this case, to department head in Rumbold's place). The jealous staff (with the exception of the obsequious Mr. Humphries) resent her ascendancy, and she is soon pining for her old position.
In 1976's "Forward Mr. Grainger", the Men's Wear senior salesman takes over for Mr. Rumbold while the latter is away taking a management course and also provokes resentment among his co-workers.
YMG's Notes on His Loyal Staff
- Young Mr. Grace's ever-present nurse gets a rare opportunity to treat someone other than Young Mr. Grace.
- While Mrs. Slocombe is away running the department, Miss Brahms gets to wear extra supervisor's frills. Just as in "The Old Order Changes", Mrs. Slocombe orders her to cut them off.
- Peacock: TVF [too valuable on the floor]
- Goldberg: PI [past it]
- Humphries: ?
- Brahms: possible [on the other list]
- Slocombe: worth trying in a new position
- "Candid Cameron", the "flashing" Scotsman shopping for a black plastic mac.
- Mrs. Slocombe's grand entrance as Senior Person, attired in a smart blue and white suit.
- Mrs. Slocombe's lunch with YMG, during which they supposedly discuss the effects of television on the retail trade.
- When Mrs. Slocombe calls the Office Equipment department to request new blotting paper, she learns that the pink paper won't run out until 1992!
- Mrs. Slocombe summons Miss Edna Comlozi from Cosmetics (first mentioned in "Fifty Years On") to obtain toiletries for the executive washroom. She chooses 50p carbonic soap and cheap, rough towels. As Miss Comlozi leaves, she mutters "silly old bitch" under her breath.
- Lucas and Humphries arrive in Mrs. Slocombe's office to take measurements for her new suit. The measuring tape won't quite reach across her bust, waist, or hips, so they improvise with a pencil, an eraser, and a page torn from a calendar ("week of October 5").
Mrs. Slocombe admits to Mr. Humphries that she misses the shop floor and wants her old position back; also, she'll be expelled from the union if she spends two weeks in management. [Where's union firebrand Mr. Mash when you need him?] Meanwhile, Miss Brahms is setting sales records in Ladies' Wear. Rumbold calls from his sickbed to warn Mrs. Slocombe about the meringues left in his office—the cause of his food poisoning. Mrs. Slocombe had already eaten the meringues, and shortly after the phone call she has to be carried out on a stretcher. She will happily return to her usual position behind the counter after her recovery: "Me tummy's in turmoil, but me mind's at peace."
- Harman: Mr. Rumbold's been taken queer.
Humphries: Anything I can do?
- YMG (referring to Rumbold): The man's a fool unto himself.
- YMG (explaining to Mr. Goldberg why he's too old to take over for Rumbold): There's a great difference between you and me…I own the place; you don't.
"Mrs. Slocombe, Senior Person" is somewhat of a mixed bag, but it does provide a showcase for the assertive side of Mrs. Slocombe (bet you didn't know she had one), plus the rare sight of Mr. Humphries clashing with his fellow workers.
The WWF comes to Grace Brothers, in a way—Captain Peacock is called on to defend the department's honor against Mr. Franco of the Sports Department. Peacock's cowardly tendencies win out, and Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocombe have to save the day.
- Tiddles' birthday presents:
- Leg of southern fried chicken
- Real mink collar
- Lena Zavaroni record (the only way Mrs. Slocombe can get Tiddles to go out when it's raining). [In 1974, 10-year-old Scottish singer Lena Zavaroni had a million-selling hit with "Ma! (He's Making Eyes at Me)".]
- Clockwork mouse (gets loose on the shop floor and frightens Mr. Humphries)
- The silly puns made by the staff about Captain Peacock's unfortunate affliction (a boil on his derrière, discovered by Mr. Franco in the Sports Department's fitting room).
- Peacock's "testing" a rubber ring for the Medical Department.
- Mrs. Slocombe's asking for Captain Peacock's autograph after he has challenged Mr. Franco to a boxing match (thanks to Mr. Rumbold) for spreading the news about Peacock's affliction all over the store and refusing to apologize for it.
- When Peacock learns of Mr. Franco's boxing prowess, he starts trying to back out of the match. On the day the match is supposed to take place, Peacock arrives claiming his doctor told him that "after taking antibiotics, one mustn't drink…or box." Lucas refuses to take Peacock's place because of his alleged conversion to an anti-violence sect, leaving "Hugger" Humphries, the former catch-as-catch-can champion of Barleymore Road Mixed Infants school, to take on Mr. Franco. The reluctant hero tries to sneak into the ladies' fitting room, exclaiming "I'm not free!"
- After Humphries is literally thrown into the ring against Franco, his main tactic is to run around the ring, although the helpful Mr. Franco does give him pointers on wrestling theatrics. (Oddly enough, Mr. Humphries' red cap stays on during the entire match.)
Before Mr. Franco can demonstrate any more exotic wrestling moves (such as the "Patagonian nose hold") on Mr. Humphries, Mrs. Slocombe barges into the ring and knocks Mr. Franco out cold.
- Mrs. Slocombe: Today is a very special day.
Miss Brahms: And what's so special about today?
Mrs. Slocombe: Today's the day my pussy comes of age!
Miss Brahms: Oh! You mean it's 21 years since you first had it?
Mrs. Slocombe: No, it's 3 years since I first had her.
- Miss Brahms (trying to come up with le mot juste): What do you call it when they go all read and swell up and their eyes pop out?
Mrs. Slocombe: Apoploptic.
- Humphries: All I did was use the wrong finger to ring up the till and I got a "no sale."
Lucas: What finger did you use?
Humphries: It's immaterial, Mr. Lucas!
- Lucas (referring to Peacock's [temporary] hero status and the resulting attention from the likes of Mrs. Slocombe): Look at him! He's basking in it!
Humphries: Well, if I was in his position, I'd like to think I'd do the same thing. I wouldn't, but I'd like to think I would.
- (Lucas is trying to remove Mr. Humphries' trousers and get him in the ring.)
Humphries: I thought you weren't supposed to harm anything—animal, vegetable, or insect.
Lucas: I didn't say anything about fairy cakes.
- Mr. Franco (in the midst of a "move" on his opponent): I think you've done this game before.
Humphries: Not with so many people watching.
A "knock-out" ending—but could Mrs. Slocombe beat Hulk Hogan?
The staff of Grace Brothers' notorious canteen go on strike after complaints about the (lack of) service, so Ladies' and Men's Wear take up the slack.
First episode to feature Doremy Vernon as ill-tempered Canteen Manageress Mrs. Diana Yardswick (Vernon had previously appeared as a cook in "The Father Christmas Affair" and as a waitress in "Christmas Crackers" and "Happy Returns.")
A portion of "Anything You Can Do" seems to have been abruptly cut out (between the scene with Young Mr. Grace and the segment with the staff working to music).
The frog emerging from Young Mr. Grace's mock turtle soup…not a pretty sight.
- Dish consisting of meat baked in batter.
- Bubble and squeak
- Meat (usually beef) and greens (usually cabbage) fried together.
- Washing dishes.
- "Lunch" vs. "Dinner"
- "Why Are We Waiting?"
- The staff's attempt to clean up the canteen kitchen/war zone.
- Mrs. Slocombe's and Mr. Humphries' tandem washing-up with only one pair of gloves between them.
- The staff's discovery of a frog in the kitchen, frightening Mr. Humphries almost as much as a clockwork mouse. Mr. Goldberg engages the green visitor in conversation, but it eventually gets away (but not for long; see next entry).
- The staff resort to takeaway food (mostly shish kebabs and tandoori chicken) to meet the lunchtime demand in the canteen. Young Mr. Grace is served mock turtle soup (with a non-mock frog); fortunately, he doesn't notice the extra seasoning in his soup.
The excellent lunches prepared by the substitute staff are widely praised, but the canteen runs a loss of £8.45 in just one day. The staff throw in the (tea) towel and write out an apology to the canteen's regular staff, including "that cow of a manageress."
- Miss Brahms: I'm not working-class; I live in a detached house!
- Mrs. Slocombe: Apparently [the world] started as thick soup with little orgasms crawling around.
- Canteen Manageress (referring to Mrs. Slocombe): And as for her, she looks as though she's got a permanent smell under her nose.
Mrs. Slocombe: And the nearer you are, the stronger it gets!
- Mr. Rumbold: Is that [knockers] spelled with a "k"?
Mr. Lucas: I don't know; I've never seen 'em written down.
- Miss Brahms: We could run that canteen better than what they does!
Mrs. Slocombe: Do, Miss Brahms.
Miss Brahms: Yeah, well, we could run that canteen better than what they does do! [pause] That don't sound right, do it?
Mrs. Slocombe: It certainly don't, Miss Brahms.
- Mr. Lucas: Captain Peacock, are you sure you're not overtaxing yourself licking that pencil?
Good introduction to the fiery Mrs. Yardswick, but otherwise a bit flat.
Mr. Goldberg starts running an employment agency on the side to supplement his miniscule wages, and the chronically underpaid Grace Brothers staff eagerly make use of his services.
- This is the only episode to feature the oft-mentioned Mr. Patel from Accounts.
- At one point Mr. Humphries is seen wearing "normal" glasses instead of the designer eyewear/sunglasses seen in other episodes.
- Mr. Harman's definition of instant coffee: so named because these is only one instant in which it tastes like coffee.
- The new Security Wage Dispenser, which scans a worker and then gives out his/her pay after comparing the scan with an identity photo. Unfortunately, Captain Peacock's scan doesn't quite match his photo (taken for a Grace Brothers production of The Pirates of Penzance. Peacock reluctantly puts a pair of red knickers on his head and a miniature black lace brassière in one eye in order to get his wages.
- Mr. Goldberg talks Mr. Humphries into utilizing his new employment service and has him sign a lengthy, loophole-ridden contract. It turns out that just about the entire Grace Brothers staff (including Mrs. Slocombe, Miss Brahms, Mr. Lucas, and even the canteen manageress) is represented by "the agent."
- Mr. Goldberg's pocket watch—a present from a satisfied client, "Maggie" [presumably Margaret Thatcher].
- Young Mr. Grace's eye exam, in which he thinks the eye chart is written in Polish. He rejects his new reading glasses because they make him look like Elton John. [Pity YMG didn't live to see The Lion King or Aïda.]
- Mr. Goldberg obtains new positions at Lally and Willett's for Mr. Humphries (manager of Unisex Clothing Department) and Mrs. Slocombe (the job of her dreams, head of the Pussy Shampoo Parlor). Goldberg won't let them merely resign, however; he has them get themselves fired so that they can negotiate a settlement for wrongful dismissal (a percentage of which would go to Goldberg).
- To provoke her firing, Mrs. Slocombe tells off Mrs. Maxwell, the wife of one of the store's directors ("You've got a great big fat bum!") The pained look on Mrs. Maxwell's face is priceless.
- Meanwhile, Mr. Humphries makes a pass at another important customer, the Honorable Lavinia Effingham-Ffoulks, even inviting her to meet him in the park behind the bandstand to "pitch a little woo."
- The above efforts to get sacked backfire: Mrs. Maxwell is impressed by Mrs. Slocombe's honesty, and the Honorable Lavinia Effingham-Ffoulks leaves this message with Mr. Rumbold: "Tell Humphries '5:30 behind the bandstand and I'll take all the woo you can pitch.'"
Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocombe are offered new contracts to stay at Grace Brothers. Mr. Goldberg tries to hold them to their agreement with him, but they tear it up and dare him to sue them. Mrs. Slocombe goes off to celebrate, and Mr. Humphries goes off to pitch some woo.
- Peacock: We fear that Mr. Humphries is being suborned by Mr. Goldberg.
Young Mr. Grace: Well, he's been asking for it, hasn't he?
- Humphries (after his "pitch a little woo" remark to a customer has been discovered): You can't have people walking about saying the things I said!
Lucas: What do you mean? I've been doing it for years.
Slow start, but a few amusing moments (if one overlooks the Indian and Jewish stereotyping).
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