Episode Reviews Part 12

Closed Circuit

Several themes from previous episodes are revived here, including making a television ad ("It Pays to Advertise") and installing closed circuit video cameras in the store ("Big Brother").

Ironic Bit:

Mr. Humphries' comment to Miss Brahms about the girl who ended up on the cutting room floor is rather ironic in light of the fact that Wendy Richard actually had a scene from the Beatles film Help! end up on the cutting room floor (see the AYBS?-Beatles Connection page for more details.)
Best Bits: Bons Mots: Old Mr. Grace arrives at Romano's with his ever-present secretary and nurse. When Lord Hirly enters the restaurant, he hears the nurse's voice and heads straight for OMG's table, totally ignoring Miss Brahms. The "Brahms family", who thought Lord Hirly would be picking up the tab, have to alter their order slightly—from pheasant to egg and chips.


Mixed bag—a few good bits, but too much of the material seems all too familiar.

The Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe

Could Mr. Humphries be the man of Mrs. Slocombe's dreams? He certainly doesn't think so, making every effort to ensure he isn't free at all! We also learn what Mr. Spooner doesn't know about the ballet and what Miss Brahms does know about lovemaking (in the old-fashioned sense of the word).


"The Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe" has the longest title of any AYBS? episode, with 33 letters and spaces. Runner-up: 1973's "Diamonds Are a Man's Best Friend", with 31.
Best Bits: Bons Mots: At the ballet, Miss Brahms helpfully gives Mr. Humphries some of the make-out tips she learned in Catford. The tips are not terribly effective with Mrs. Slocombe, since she has passed out from consuming an entire box of liqueur-filled chocolates. The tips do work—on Miss Brahms and Mr. Humphries.


"The Apartment" had hinted at an attraction between Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphries, so this episode's exploration of that is a great concept. Also, Wendy Richard's performance in "Erotic Dreams…" is one of her strongest.


Cast in blackface production numberIn the final AYBS? Christmas special, the staff surprise Old Mr. Grace on his 90th birthday by having the Grace family roots traced and then preparing an appropriate musical number. As a genealogist (Mr. Rumbold's brother Microft) delves further into the family history, the staff rehearse, in turn, a Welsh song ("We'll Keep a Welcome in the Hillside"); a Scottish dance (with Mr. Humphries getting up close and personal with a couple of swords); and a West Country song (with the staff looking rather like refugees from Weird Al Yankovic's "Amish Paradise" video). The family's true origin is revealed to be African(!), and the staff perform "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee" in a revival of the Black and White Minstrel Show.


Nicholas Smith (Rumbold) stumbles over the word "preparing" in his speech to the Messrs. Grace (Old and Young).
Best Bits: Bons Mots: Conclusion/Editorial Comment:
"Roots?" is a difficult episode to consider, with its skimpy plot and disturbing ending. It's definitely not the typical music-filled, happy AYBS? Christmas episode.

If we are to consider AYBS? as a whole, we must view all aspects of the show, good and bad. "Roots?" especially reminds American fans that other countries did not have the same history of racial conflict that we did and may have different standards as to what sort of comedy is within bounds and what sort is unacceptable.

In this light, it is not wrong for the avid AYBS? fan to wish to see this episode, but "Roots?" is still far, far from the light-hearted farce that has endeared AYBS? to so many fans.

A few fans have reported seeing an edited version of "Roots?" air on some PBS stations, in which the "big surprise" at the end is the Yokel (West Country) performance rather than the minstrel show. This rearrangement produces an abrupt transition from a party scene to a pre-party rehearsal, which rather disrupts the episode's continuity, to say the least. (Thanks to Eric Norton for the info.)

[We now return you to your regularly scheduled web site.]

Series Nine (1983)

As AYBS? continued into the 1980s, the less-than-successful efforts to replace Mr. Grainger were finally dropped, and Mr. Humphries was promoted to head of Gent's Ready-Mades with little fanfare. Also, Mr. Grace (presumably the elder of the brothers) was only heard via telephone and not seen; and male fans of the show got a new secretary to ogle, the well-endowed Miss B. Belfridge (Candy Davis).

The Sweet Smell of Success

Thanks to Mr. Grace's latest economy drive, wages are frozen and Mrs. Slocombe takes to selling homemade perfume to supplement her income.


Déjà Vu: Best Bits: Bons Mots: After getting a black eye from his wife, Captain Peacock permanently suspends the sale of Adam and Eve perfume. Miss Brahms' friend telephones to tell her he won't be able to come to the store because of an audition. Mrs. Slocombe then realizes her handsome customer was real, and she and Mr. Humphries daub the remaining perfume all over themselves in the hope the magic scent will carry to his Kensington penthouse.


After a slow start, some good moments toward the end.

Conduct Unbecoming

Or "The People vs. Mr. Humphries": after the genial "mummy's boy" has left home due to his disapproval of his mother's latest suitor, he is accused of stealing money from the Men's Wear till and has to face a rather motley "committee of inquiry", his career in the retail trade at stake.


The episode's events take place on the 12th of the month.
Best Bits: Bons Mots: While Mrs. Slocombe is away powdering her nose, Humphries tells his side of the story, throwing himself at the mercy of the "jury". Nevertheless, he is found guilty and asked to resign, depriving Mrs. Slocombe of the opportunity to deliver her "winding-up" speech. Harman finds the missing cash stuck in the back of the till. Just as Humphries learns of his exoneration, his mother telephones the store to let him know she's through with her new boyfriend. Not only is his career saved and his relationship with his mother restored, he even gets a big kiss from Miss Belfridge, appreciating it more than one might imagine.


Some might find this episode a bit depressing, but "Conduct Unbecoming" is still great fun in spite of the deus ex machina ending and the resemblance to "Oh What a Tangled Web".

Memories Are Made of This

Due to a flu outbreak in the sports department, Ladies' Wear and Gent's Ready-Mades are forced to sell tennis rackets and fishing flies. Mr. Walpole, the sports department's handsome golf pro, pays a visit to the first (or fourth or third) floor; and Mrs. Slocombe experiences a well-timed "flashback" to her childhood.


Best Bits: Bons Mots: Mrs. Slocombe regains her memory at the hospital and storms into the department threatening to sue for losing an entire day's commission. Rumbold offers her the fake fur coat she'd had her eyes on to settle the matter. After he leaves, Mrs. Slocombe admits her amnesia was (mostly) an act—she'd only lost her memory for a minute. Then, it's off to the ice cream parlor to celebrate!


AYBS?'s take on the overused amnesia plot device produced a rather slight episode. Some amusing moments, though.

Calling All Customers

As Grace Brothers makes plans to advertise on Citizens Band radio (which is free, after all), who would have thought that 1) CB radio was popular in Britain; or 2) Miss Belfridge had an O-level in English Literature?


Mary Whitehouse
Mrs. Mary Whitehouse was the leader of a conservative watchdog group, the National Viewers and Listeners Association, that strove to protect British morals by pressuring radio, TV, and movie companies to "keep it clean." Some of the objects of her wrath in the sixties and seventies included the ground-breaking sitcom Till Death Us Do Part and the Monty Python film Life of Brian. (I don't know whether Mrs. Whitehouse ever complained about AYBS? or any plays presented on CB radio.)
Best Bits: Bons Mots: The staff's chaotic rehearsal of "The Adventures of Jim" is accidentally sent out live over Britain's CB radio frequencies. When truck drivers storm the store, Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocombe don their punk outfits to scare the mob away. Two rather refined drivers take one look at the punk duo and declare their intention to take their trade to Harrod's, whereupon the horrified "punks" chase after the lost customers.


Good start, lags a bit in the middle, but a great ending. Lots of double entendres, and one of the most "British" episodes of AYBS?.

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©2000 Emily Jackson