Episode Reviews Part 11

The Punch and Judy Affair

The sales staff in "Punch and Judy"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?
Best Bits: Bons Mots: 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.


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.

Is It Catching?

Mr. Humphries comes down with the dreaded "Marine's Disease." [Huh?]


Mr. Spooner's previous assignments:
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.
Best Bits:

Case History:

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.
Bons Mots: 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!


This could have been a great episode, but instead it comes off as flat and formulaic. Was AYBS? beginning to show its age?

A Personal Problem

The Peacocks' marriage is on the rocks again (what else is new?), with Mr. Rumbold the unlikely homewrecker—or is he?


Tacky Bit:
Old Mr. Grace in the tanning bed with his secretary (in his protective goggles, he eerily resembles none other than Paul Shaffer!)
Best Bits: Bons Mots: 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.


A pale imitation of "Oh What a Tangled Web."

Front Page Story

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).
Best Bits: The Contestants: Bons Mots: 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.


Great fun—even Old Mr. Grace is tolerable.

Sit Out

"Grace Brothers unfair to sales persons!"
And again…
"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.


First appearance by Louise Burton as Virginia Edwards, Old Mr. Grace's latest sexy secretary.
Trivia: The Story Behind Mr. Lucas' Departure?
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.
Best Bits: Bons Mots: 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.


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."

Heir Apparent

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.
Best Bits: "Will The Real Mr. Humphries Sr. Please Stand Up?"

Mr. Humphries' father was:

  1. A milkman who had been kicked in the head by his horse and had to lie down in the future Mrs. Humphries' parlor;
  2. A parachutist who "dropped in" late one Friday night; or
  3. A passenger caught in the Tunnel of Love at Weston-super-Mare during a power failure.
Bons Mots: 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.


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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©2000 Emily Jackson