Episode Reviews Part 11
In this episode (the 1979 Christmas special), a strike by many Grace Brothers workers and the resulting hard feelings afterward provide Ladies' and Men's Wear another opportunity to dress up and put on a show as they rehearse for a "first-class afternoon of frolic and entertainment" for the children of the store employees.
Last episode to feature Trevor Bannister (Mr. Lucas) and Alfie Bass (Mr. Goldberg). Ironically, Bannister's delightful performance as Punch in his last episode is one of the highlights of his tenure with AYBS?
- The sight of Mr. Humphries in hair curlers.
- Mr. Humphries' decoration of a nude mannequin (reminiscent of a similar scene in "A Bliss Girl".)
- The return of the strikers, who aren't half friendly. The ever-cheerful Mrs. Yardswick serves lunch as only she can: not only does she throw plates on the canteen table with the force of a bomb, she switches Mrs. Slocombe's and Captain Peacock's main courses with her bare hands and gives Mr. Humphries two years' worth of sauce on his spaghetti.
- Mr. Humphries' memories of seeing a new telegraph pole outside his window and thinking it was a giant beanstalk (he had thrown his baked beans out the window the night before).
- After considering various fairy stories for the children's show, including "Ali Baba", "Little Red Riding Hood" (Lucas: "I like that one; it's got everything—cannibalism, transvestism, and meals on wheels") and "Mother Goose", the staff finally decide on the venerable "Punch and Judy".
- Mr. Humphries' description of Young Mr. Grace's office as "a senior citizen's Emmanuelle."
- Cast of "Punch and Judy":
- Punch: Mr. Lucas
- Judy: Miss Brahms
- Policeman: Mrs. Slocombe
- Devil: Captain Peacock
- Pork Butcher: Mr. Goldberg
- During the "Punch and Judy" rehearsal, Mr. Rumbold plays incidental music on the piano at every opportunity—whether director Humphries wants him to or not. His mantra: "If you don't like it, you only have to say."
- Mrs. Slocombe's delight in her character whacking Punch on the head with a truncheon.
- Judy's baby—a factory reject chimp from the Toy Department. Mrs. Slocombe spots a resemblance between the "baby" and its father, Punch (Lucas).
- Whenever Punch and Judy try to kiss, their funny noses get in the way.
- Mr. Humphries finally puts an end to Rumbold's interruptions by slamming the keyboard cover down on his fingers.
- The finale: "What's the Matter with Kids Today?", featuring the staff dressed up as children (including Mr. Goldberg as a Sex Pistols reject and Mr. Humphries as Little Lord Fauntleroy).
Presumably the staff entertained the employees' children satisfactorily and got back into their good graces and the canteen manageress reverted to being moderately crabby instead of extremely so.
- (Mrs. Slocombe has bent over to clean the steps in front of the lift while Captain Peacock sweeps the floor.)
Mrs. Slocombe: Captain Peacock, would you mind Bisselling in another direction?
Peacock: Mrs. Slocombe, I'm a married man: I've seen it all before.
Mrs. Slocombe: Not at this time in the morning, not at that angle, and not this one!
- Humphries: I bet those Germans are glad they lost [World War II]; they'd be bankrupt by now.
- (Mr. Rumbold interrupts one of Peacock's "you shouldn't be on the floor" tirades against Harman.)
Rumbold: Mr. Harman shouldn't be on the floor.
Harman: I keep telling him that, but he will keep delaying me!
- Mrs. Slocombe (after Humphries' peroration on the history of "Punch and Judy"): Mr. Humphries, I was hoping to get home tonight. Do you think we could skip a couple of centuries and get on with the plot?
- Humphries (responding to Mrs. Slocombe's request to play Judy): Judy is a young, innocent waif. Do you see yourself as a young, innocent waif?
Goldberg: Well, it is make-believe.
Peacock: Not to the point of incredibility.
- Humphries (to Peacock): I need someone to frighten the children, so I've got you down as the devil, the hangman, and the policeman.
- Miss Brahms: We have to use funny voices, don't we?
Humphries: Yes we do, and yours will do very nicely.
Typically chaotic and unorganized Grace Brothers production and one of the funniest post-1977 episodes.
Series Eight (1981)
It was the best of times ("The Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe"); it was the worst of times ("Is It Catching?"). This series marked the introduction of new Men's Wear Junior/irritant Mr. Bert Spooner (played by pre-Beatles pop star Mike Berry) and two rather unsuccessful Men's Wear seniors, Messrs. Grossman and Klein. The 1981 series is the last to be represented on home video, with "The Erotic Dreams…" gracing Volume 4.
Mr. Humphries comes down with the dreaded "Marine's Disease." [Huh?]
- First episode with Mr. Spooner and Mr. Grossman (Milo Sperber).
- First appearance of the late Debbie Linden as Young Mr. Grace's/Old Mr. Grace's latest sexy secretary.
Mr. Spooner's previous assignments:
- Pet Department (thrown out)
- Sports Department
Last "regular" appearance of Harold Bennett as Young Mr. Grace (he would make a brief appearance in the last episode of the 1981 series, "Roots?") and the first appearance of Kenneth Waller as Old Mr. (Henry) Grace. Unlike his successor, Bennett possessed a deft comic touch and convincingly played Grace Brothers' elderly owner.
- Mrs. Slocombe's hilarious demonstration of shoe selling, including crawling around on her hands and knees after injuring her back. After using a tape measure to get Miss Brahms' shoe size, she finally forces an Italian 36 onto Miss Brahms' foot:
After making the "sale", Mrs. Slocombe waddles up the steps to use the lift doors to straighten her back out.
- Mrs. Slocombe: How does that feel?
Miss Brahms: I'm not sure about the color. [Mrs. Slocombe hits her on the leg with a shoe horn.] I'll take them!
- Mrs. Yardswick's efforts (with the help of a chubby canteen employee) to keep the staff from rearranging the canteen tables.
- Mr. Humphries' sitting on the floor to eat lunch when there's no room for him at the table:
- Peacock: Mr. Humphries, if you sit on the floor there all alone, people will start talking. Why don't you sit over there?
Humphries: As long as I'm sitting here, I'll know what they're talking about.
Mr. Humphries suddenly faints in Men's Wear and soon has a rather phony-looking lump on his nose. The doctor enters wearing an environmental suit to announce his diagnosis, "Marine's Disease." The affliction is highly contagious, and the entire staff has to be quarantined in the store basement for seven days, sleeping in antiseptic disposable sleepwear and sharing a king-sized water bed.
The water bed shared by the staff is as turbulent as the high seas, causing Mrs. Slocombe to get seasick. After they finally get the bed still, phase two of the disease (sneezing) begins!
- Peacock: Madam, I don't like the tone of your voice.
Mrs. Yardswick: I don't like the color of your moustache, but I'm learning to live with it.
- Mrs. Yardswick: I'm under a great strain cooking for you lot.
Miss Brahms: You'd be under a lot more strain if you had to eat it!
- Mrs. Slocombe: I don't want to sit alone at that table like one what's been ostricsized.
- Humphries (pulling a letter from his inside coat pocket): It's a demand from the tax man, but he's not getting it.
Peacock: How much does he want?
Humphries: He doesn't want any money. It's just a demand, and he's not getting it!
- Rumbold (introducing the staff to Old Mr. Grace): This is Mr. Humphries.
OMG: I've heard all about you from my brother, but I didn't understand a word of it.
This could have been a great episode, but instead it comes off as flat and formulaic. Was AYBS? beginning to show its age?
The Peacocks' marriage is on the rocks again (what else is new?), with Mr. Rumbold the unlikely homewrecker—or is he?
- "A Personal Problem" is very likely one of the least descriptive AYBS? episode titles ever.
- Episode takes place on a Thursday.
- If juniors such as Mr. Spooner aren't allowed in Rumbold's office without an appointment, why is it apparently OK for a lowly maintenance man such as Mr. Harman to barge in unannounced?
Old Mr. Grace in the tanning bed with his secretary (in his protective goggles, he eerily resembles none other than Paul Shaffer!)
- Miss Brahms' discourse on auras, which helps her shift a purple-and-white cardigan that's been in stock since 1976.
- The violin-playing tramp (conveniently accepting AmEx cards) who gets a 10p contribution out of Mr. Humphries the day before payday.
- Captain Peacock's fruitless attempt to find lodging after being thrown out by Mrs. Peacock. None of his old "friends" seem to remember him, and he is even turned down by his Auntie Hilda.
- Mrs. Slocombe's euphemism for fornication: "committing misconduct."
- Mrs. Peacock's locking her husband out of Rumbold's office and then poking a pencil in his eye when he tries to peer into the keyhole.
- To obtain "evidence" of the Rumbold-Peacock affair, Captain Peacock climbs out the fitting-room window and onto a ledge to hang from a rope and take a Polaroid through Rumbold's office window. Peacock backs out, however, and Mrs. Slocombe is sent out instead, anchored with a rope tied around Peacock's waist. Mrs. Slocombe takes the picture, but the ensuing commotion prompts Mrs. Peacock to look outside. She sees her husband standing on a ledge with a rope, and (thinking he is about to commit suicide) admits the "affair" was merely a charade to make Peacock jealous and hopefully save their marriage.
The Peacocks kiss and make up, so to speak (hard to do out on a ledge), and "all's well that ends well"…for a while, at least.
- Mrs. Slocombe: Men can be beasts!
- Peacock (as Mrs. Slocombe ventures out on the ledge): Whatever you do, don't look down.
Mrs. Slocombe: I'm more worried about people looking up!
- Humphries (looking at the newly-developed picture meant to show Rumbold and Mrs. Peacock): Well! It's just him; she's not there!
Miss Brahms: She must be in there somewhere! Look behind the filing cabinet.
- Mrs. Peacock: Do you still love me?
Peacock (hanging onto a gargoyle for dear life): What do you think I'm doing out here, you silly b——?
A pale imitation of "Oh What a Tangled Web."
It's not quite the National Enquirer or News of the World, but Old Mr. Grace starts an in-store magazine, What's On in the Store, with "Splash" Humphries in charge as editor. Also, a couple of contestants in Grace Brothers' version of Miss World look awfully familiar….
First appearance by the oft-mentioned "raver from Novelty Candles", Miss B. Hurst.
Peacock's age is given as 55 (according to Mr. Humphries).
- Special Delivery to Men's Wear: Mr. Humphries in a sailor suit (he had lost his own clothes in a poker game).
- Mr. Humphries' slightly exaggerated reports of canteen talk for the new paper. The staff decide they'd prefer him to push for more reforms, mention the £600 bonus they never received, and report on gossip from other departments.
- The male customer who wants a "fun" wig to wear to a stag costume party ("I want to look hysterically funny.") After trying on the "Faye Dunaway" model, he seeks a man's opinion from the first gentleman who comes along:
Customer: "Excuse me, can you do something for me?"
Mr. Humphries (after a period of considered reflection): "I think I'm too late!"
- To get the staff's £600 bonus, Humphries comes up with the idea of holding a holiday girl competition with a prize of £600 and a holiday aboard Old Mr. Grace's boat (the latter prize added in order to make the former prize possible). It is assumed Miss Brahms will win easily, but she backs out when she learns what goes with the £600. [Well, it's still not as bad as Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?] Mrs. Slocombe enters in Miss Brahms' place, and a desperate Peacock and Spooner haul Mr. Humphries off to the fitting room to do what he must to win the £600 for the department.
- Miss Bathroom Fittings (ambition: to be kind to animals and to help old people).
- Miss Haberdashery (ambition: to travel and to help old people).
- Miss Novelty Candles (ambition: to help people [not necessarily old people]).
- Miss Ladies' Intimate Apparel [Mrs. Slocombe in an outlandishly revealing green outfit with black stockings] (ambition: to travel and to help old people in boats).
- Miss Do-It-Yourself [Mr. Humphries in a sequined bathing suit] (ambition: "to get out of this costume").
After Mr. Spooner slips Old Mr. Grace the key to Mr. Humphries' cabin [how can he have a cabin on the boat before he's won the contest?], OMG promptly declares Mr. Humphries the winner.
- Rumbold: You are, after all, quite an unusual person.
Humphries: It has been mentioned.
- Rumbold: Keep [the paper] all light and gay.
Humphries: I'll keep it as light as possible.
- Peacock (to Miss Ladies' Intimate Apparel, a.k.a. Mrs. Slocombe): Would you like to tell the judges your name and what planet you come from?
Great fun—even Old Mr. Grace is tolerable.
"Grace Brothers unfair to sales persons!"
Business is so slow that the staff have time for crossword puzzles. When Old Mr. Grace learns that sales for the morning total exactly 0, he threatens to either reduce wages 10% or move the department into the bargain basement.
"Grace Brothers unfair to sales persons!"
First appearance by Louise Burton as Virginia Edwards, Old Mr. Grace's latest sexy secretary.
The Story Behind Mr. Lucas' Departure?
- Captain Peacock's address: 36 Copthorn Ave.
- Wendy Richard almost cracks up after Peacock asks Mrs. Slocombe to go upstairs and Miss Brahms says "I bet it's been a long time since anyone said that to you."
Rumbold: This is one of the lowest figures we have ever had.
Spooner: What was the one below that, then?
Peacock: When we didn't sell anything all day and fired the junior.
- Rumbold's lecture on salesmanship (comparing the department to a jam pot).
- To test Mr. Humphries' ability as a floorwalker, Rumbold and Mrs. Slocombe pretend to be a "typical" married couple coming into the store. Peacock then takes Rumbold's place to demonstrate a more disagreeable and argumentative customer.
- Rumbold and Peacock's discussion of the meaning of "suburban", with Peacock insisting he is "upper middle class" instead.
- To air their grievances (literally), the staff stage a demonstration on the roof (giving us a rare glimpse of a part of the store other than Ladies' and Men's Wear), chanting "Grace Brothers unfair to sales persons!" in unison over the parapet.
- Mr. Humphries' "paper dart", which turns out to be a paper hat.
The protestors can't get anyone to pay attention to their protest, but as luck would have it, the bargain basement catches fire. Several firemen arrive on the store's roof to rescue the staff, while Mr. Humphries encounters an old friend from his days as a mixed infant.
- Peacock (reading a crossword puzzle clue from The Times): "Found in an ancient Greek bath", two words beginning with 'a' and 'p'.
Mrs. Slocombe: "'Found in an ancient Greek bath', two words beginning with 'a' and 'p'"…it's on the tip of me tongue…a plughole!
- Rumbold (explaining in a call to Old Mr. Grace why sales have been nonexistent lately): It's been tiddling all morning.
OMG: What was that?
Rumbold: Tiddling all morning.
OMG: Where are you speaking from?
Rumbold: My office, sir.
OMG: Your office is better equipped than mine.
- Mrs. Slocombe (to her temporary husband, Mr. Rumbold): It must be magic being married to you.
- Mrs. Slocombe: Mr. Rumbold, why are you holding my hand?
Rumbold: You're my wife.
Mrs. Slocombe: Well, what do you think I'm going to do, run away?
- Humphries (to Mrs. Slocombe's temporary husband, Captain Peacock): You can't have madam walking around with an old bag on her arm.
Peacock: Why not? I've been doing it for years.
- Miss Brahms: I'm looking for Dallas, and all I'm getting is Coronation Street.
- Peacock (expounding on his World War II heroics): I was in the front line, often with 24 hours of constant shelling!
Miss Brahms: Yeah, when he finished the peas, he had to get on with the potatoes.
- Humphries: There hasn't been a martyr in my family for 500 years!
The plot isn't much, but there are several funny bits. A tour de force for Mrs. Slocombe, with two "and I am unanimous in that"s and one "weak as water."
Could Mr. Humphries be more Graceful than he and his co-workers ever imagined?
First episode with Mr. Klein from Cutting (Benny Lee), replacing the little-mourned Mr. Grossman.
Mr. Spooner has been working in Men's Wear for 6 months.
"Will The Real Mr. Humphries Sr. Please Stand Up?"
- Mr. Humphries' spending the night on the Men's Wear counter (with friend Paddington Bear) in anticipation of getting first crack at the main attraction in the store's latest sale, a specially reduced fur coat coveted by the entire staff. Unfortunately, Old Mr. Grace decides to give the coat to his secretary.
Mr. Humphries' Report Card
|Punctuality||9 out of 10|
|General Manner||Good mixer|
|Customer Handling ||Accomplished|
|Knowledge of Stock||Conversant with stock|
|Reaction to Authority||Excellent [not "crawler"]|
|Appearance and Clothes||Very good|
|Pencil in Top Pocket?||Never without pencil|
|Social Activities||On the fringe|
- After seeing an old picture of Mr. Humphries' mother, Old Mr. Grace jumps to the conclusion that Wilberforce is his son. Mr. Humphries adopts the surname Grace-Humphries ("I shall keep my maiden name"), and "Daddy" gives him the fur coat he had earlier presented to his secretary. The staff try to curry favor with Mr. Grace-Humphries, thinking he'll be their next boss.
- Mrs. Humphries' arrival in the department en route to a "reunion" with Old Mr. Grace. She innocently repeats some of her son's remarks about his co-workers (particularly Captain Peacock) and is overcome with emotion when she handles the chalk her son uses for fittings. In her subsequent visit to Old Mr. Grace's office, she is naturally quite confused by OMG's reminiscences. It turns out that Mr. Grace had been with another showgirl in the photograph he had seen, Annie Grainger [hopefully no relation to Ernest Grainger].
Mr. Humphries' father was:
- A milkman who had been kicked in the head by his horse and had to lie down in the future Mrs. Humphries' parlor;
- A parachutist who "dropped in" late one Friday night; or
- A passenger caught in the Tunnel of Love at Weston-super-Mare during a power failure.
To everyone's relief, intra-store relations return to their former state, while Mr. Humphries (sans "Grace") has to go back to normal (or as near as he can get). He still has the coat Old Mr. Grace gave him, but he decides to wear it himself instead of giving it to his mother.
- Mrs. Slocombe (grumbling about the wad of money Mr. Harman shows off): That's the trouble nowadays: all the wrong people have the money.
- Humphries (on a suggestion for determining who gets first crack at the fur coat): I'm not walking around here blindfolded with a lot of hands waiting to get lucky!
Mrs. Slocombe: And that goes for me, too!
Spooner: It could be your last chance.
Miss Brahms: Ignore him.
Mrs. Slocombe: I am. It's not easy, but I am.
- Humphries (after his nomination for Salesperson of the Year is announced): May I thank you for your touching reception. I'm completely underwhelmed.
- Peacock (reading aloud): "Progress report on Wilberforce Claybourne Humphries, age…"
Humphries (interrupting): Sshh! Keep your voice down, please; that's private and confidential. I don't want the whole world to know that I'm accelerating down the road of life toward forty.
Peacock: According to this form, you can see it clearly in your rear-view mirror!
- Mrs. Humphries (to Peacock): You know, when one gets to know you, you're not a toffee-nosed git after all.
- Humphries: Mr. Grace is not my father? What does that make me? [Mrs. Slocombe wordlessly hands him a basket.]
John Inman's performance in the dual roles of mother and son makes "Heir Apparent" a comic delight. It's a shame we didn't get to see more of Mrs. Annie Humphries during AYBS?'s run, although she does appear in the Best of AYBS? pledge drive special.
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