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Are You Being Served?
Are You Being Served pilot title card
Title card of pilot (2010)
Genre Sitcom
Running time 30 minutes
Creator(s) Jeremy Lloyd & David Croft
Producer(s) David Croft
Harold Snoad
Bob Spiers
Martin Shardlow
Executive producer(s) David Croft
Starring Mollie Sugden
John Inman
Trevor Bannister
Frank Thornton
Arthur Brough
Wendy Richard
Nicholas Smith
Larry Martyn
Harold Bennett
Arthur English
Penny Irving
Vivienne Johnson
James Hayter
Alfie Bass
Mike Berry
Kenneth Waller
Doremy Vernon
Candy Davis
Theme music composer Ronnie Hazlehurst
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English
Original channel BBC1
Original run 8 September 1972 – 1 April 1985
No. of series 10
No. of episodes 69 (List of episodes)
Related shows Are You Being Served? (film)
Are You Being Served? (Australian TV series)
Beane's of Boston
Grace & Favour

Are You Being Served? is a British sitcom broadcast from 1972 to 1985. It was set in the ladies' and gentlemen's clothing departments of Grace Brothers, a large, fictional London department store. It was written mainly by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, with contributions by Michael Knowles and John Chapman. The idea for the show came from Lloyd's brief period in the early 1950s working at Simpsons of Piccadilly, a clothing store which traded for over 60 years until 1999.[1]

The inspiration for the store has also been credited to Rossiters of Paignton department store from the time Lloyd and Croft spent there,[2] and the former Clements of Watford.

Over the course of its 13-year run, only Frank Thornton, Mollie Sugden, John Inman, Wendy Richard and Nicholas Smith appeared in all 69 episodes, and all later featured in the sequel television series, Grace & Favour (also known as Are You Being Served? Again!). In 2004, Are You Being Served? came twentieth in "Britain's Best Sitcom".

In January 2010 the BBC screened the show's pilot programme (seen in colour for the first time since the early 1970s)[3] alongside several tribute shows to the late actors who appeared in the series with BBC2 dedicating an entire night to the show.

CharacteristicsEdit

Are You Being Served? featured humour based on sexual innuendo, misunderstandings, mistaken identity and occasional slapstick. In addition, there were sight gags generated by outrageous costumes which the characters were sometimes required to wear for store promotions, and gaudy store displays frequently featuring malfunctioning robotic mannequins. The show is remembered for its prolific use of double entendres.

The main humorous base of the series was a merciless parody of the British class system. This permeated almost every interaction and was especially evident in the conversations between the maintenance men and the ostensibly higher-class store personnel. The episodes rarely left the store, and to parody the stereotype of the British class system, characters rarely addressed each other by their first names, even after work, opting for their formal titled names ("Mr", "Mrs", "Miss", or even "Captain"). When they did address each other by their first names, it was almost always for a comical effect.

Main charactersEdit

Main article: List of Are You Being Served? characters
  • Mrs. Betty Slocombe, head of the ladies' department. She is known for her changing hair colour and conversations about her cat, which she always refers to as her pussy.
  • Mr. Wilberforce Claybourne Humphries, an effeminate, mincing, camp man who lives with his mother.
  • Captain Stephen Peacock, the haughty floorwalker who purportedly fought in the North Africa Campaign of World War II but was actually in the Service Corps and never saw combat.
  • Miss Shirley Brahms, a young, attractive, working-class, cockney-speaking junior assistant to Mrs. Slocombe.
  • Mr. Ernest Grainger, a 40-year veteran of Grace Brothers who often fell asleep on the job.
  • Mr. Cuthbert Rumbold, the autocratic, obsequious (to Young Mr. Grace), easily confused department manager.
  • Mr. Dick Lucas, the young, penniless, womanising junior salesman.
  • Young Mr. Grace, the very old, rich but stingy store owner, surrounded by attractive young women.
  • Old Mr. Grace, Young Mr. Grace's older brother who eventually replaced him at the store, when Young Mr. Grace retired.
  • Mr. Beverly Harman and Mr. Mash, the maintenance men who installed mechanised display units in store and were often scolded by Captain Peacock for being on the floor during opening hours.
  • Mr. Percival Tebbs, Mr Grainger's replacement. He retired after only one year in the men's department.
  • Mr. Harry Goldberg, Mr Tebb's replacement. Originally the junior salesman he was promoted after showing to be a master salesman.
  • Mr. Grossman, an expert shoe salesman, who replaced Mr. Goldberg as head of the men's department.
  • Mr. Klein, head of the men's department after Mr. Grossman.
  • Mr. Bert Spooner, replaced Mr. Lucas and was similar to him in many ways.

CastEdit

Cast of Are You Being Served?

Aybs1981.jpg
Cast of late 1981. (left to right): (top) Arthur English, Wendy Richard, Benny Lee, Mike Berry; (bottom) Nicholas Smith, Frank Thornton, Mollie Sugden, Vivienne Johnson, John Inman, Kenneth Waller, Louise Burton

Actor / actress — Character — Duration

Main characters
  • Frank Thornton — Captain Stephen Peacock — PilotSeries 10
  • Mollie Sugden — Mrs. Betty Slocombe — PilotSeries 10
  • John Inman — Mr. Wilberforce Claybourne Humphries & Mrs Humphries — PilotSeries 10
  • Wendy Richard — Miss Shirley Brahms — PilotSeries 10
  • Nicholas Smith — Mr. Cuthbert Rumbold — PilotSeries 10
  • Arthur Brough1 — Mr. Ernest Grainger — PilotSeries 5
  • Trevor Bannister — Mr. Dick/James Lucas — PilotSeries 7
  • Larry Martyn — Mr. Mash — PilotSeries 3
  • Arthur English — Mr. Beverley/Harry Harman — Series 4Series 10
  • James Hayter — Mr. Percival Tebbs — Series 6 and The 1978 Special
  • Alfie Bass — Mr. Harry Goldberg — Series 7–The 1979 Special
  • Mike Berry — Mr. Bert Spooner — Series 8Series 10
Secondary characters
  • Harold Bennett — Young Mr. Grace — PilotSeries 8 Episode 1 and the 1981 Special
  • Stephanie Gathercole — Mr. Rumbold's Secretary — PilotSeries 2
  • Nina Francis — Miss Ainsworth — Series 2Series 3
  • Moira Foot — Miss Thorpe — Series 3
  • Penny Irving — Miss Bakewell/Miss Nickelson (Movie) — Series 4–The 1979 Special
  • Vivienne Johnson — Nurse — Series 6–The 1981 Special
  • Milo Sperber — Mr. Grossman — Series 8 Episodes 1Episode 4
  • Benny Lee — Mr. Klein — Series 8 Episodes 5–Episode 7 & The 1981 Special
  • Kenneth Waller — Old Mr. Grace — Series 8 and The 1981 Special
  • Debbie Linden — Secretary — Series 8 Episodes 1Episode 4
  • Louise Burton — Secretary — Series 8 Episodes 4–The 1981 Special
  • Candy Davis — Miss Belfridge — Series 9Series 10
  • Diana King and Diana Lambert — Mrs. Peacock — Series 4, 8 and 9 (King); Series 10 (Lambert)
  • Doremy Vernon — Canteen Manageress — 1975 SpecialSeries 10
  • Keith Hodiak — Seymour — Series Ten
  • Pat Astley — Mr. Grace's Nurse — Series 5 Uncredited

^1 Arthur Brough died just before filming of series 6 commenced.

EpisodesEdit

Main article: List of Are You Being Served? episodes

Are You Being Served? was first broadcast on 8 September 1972 on the BBC, in the form of a pilot for the series Comedy Playhouse. It only aired when it did because of free airtime created by the Munich massacre during the 1972 Summer Olympics. The pilot was reshown at the beginning of the first series on 14 March 1973. That first series was aired in the same timeslot as Coronation Street on ITV, and consequently received relatively little attention. However, repeats shown later in the year were much more successful.[4]

Although the pilot was produced in colour, the videotape was wiped in the 1970s leaving only a 16mm black-and-white film telerecording. In 2009 the pilot episode was restored to full colour using the colour recovery technique previously used for the Dad's Army episode Room at the Bottom. The restored version was first shown on BBC2 on 1 January 2010 as part of an 'Are You Being Served' special night. It is not currently available on any DVD release yet.

The show went on to receive huge audiences, with later episodes attracting up to 22 million viewers.[5] After 10 series, 69 episodes and a 13-year run, Are You Being Served? came to an end on 1 April 1985.

In addition, the cast performed in character for a stage sketch on the BBC1 programme Variety on 19 June 1976.

Theme songEdit

The theme song, written by the show's co-writer David Croft and composer Ronnie Hazlehurst, consists of a lift girl (whose voice was provided by Stephanie Gathercole) announcing each floor over the musique concrète sounds of a cash register (which basically serves as the only percussion instrument) and a simple musical accompaniment.

A remix of the theme was released in 1996 by a dance act calling itself "Grace Brothers",[6] and featured samples of John Inman and Frank Thornton.

There is a homage to the theme song in the Ladytron song "Paco!" from the album "604", and New Zealand band Minuit's "I hate guns". A version of the theme song is featured on the album The Ape Of Naples by the experimental music group Coil. The theme song has also been covered by Australian band Regurgitator on their 1999 album ...art. Pop singer Jamelia's song "Window Shopping" (from her 2006 album Walk with Me) begins with a sample of the familiar cash register sound effect as well as Mrs. Slocombe's voice inquiring, "Good morning, Mr Grainger; are you free?".

ReceptionEdit

During its run, the series attracted some mild criticism for its reliance on sexual stereotypes and double entendres, including jokes about Mrs. Slocombe's "pussy" (cat) e.g. Mrs. Slocombe: "Animals are very psychic; the least sign of danger and my pussy's hair stands on end". John Inman's camp portrayal of Mr. Humphries as an effeminate man could easily be misinterpreted by viewers. Inman pointed out that Mr. Humphries' true sexual orientation was never explicitly stated in the series, and David Croft said in an interview that the character was not homosexual, but "just a mother's boy".[7] With a broad mixture of stereotypical gay characteristics, some apparent heterosexual attractions, and always picking up on ambiguous words such as queen, gay, and camp, viewers were left wondering about Mr. Humphries' sexual orientation. In an episode of the spin-off Grace & Favour, the character is further described as neither a "woman's man" nor a "man's man" and as being "in limbo".

The characters (Mr. Humphries especially) sometimes broke the fourth wall for comical effect.

FilmEdit

Main article: Are You Being Served? (film)

In 1977, an Are You Being Served? film was released using the same characters and cast. It was set in the fictional resort of Costa Plonka, in Spain. The film was an adaptation of the very successful stage version of the show, which played at the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool over the summer of 1976.

Other countriesEdit

The series has become very popular in the United States on PBS stations and on BBC America, as well as in many Commonwealth nations around the world. A US adaptation pilot episode called Beane's of Boston aired on 5 May 1979 on CBS, but it didn't make it through a full season. An Australian version, also called Are You Being Served?, ran for sixteen episodes from 1980 to 1981. It starred John Inman as Mr. Humphries, June Bronhill as a character similar to Mrs. Slocombe, and Shane Bourne. The store's name was changed to Bone Brothers, as Grace Brothers was the name of an actual department store chain in Australia. The show was aired in Canada during the late night on YTV.

Grace & FavourEdit

Main article: Grace & Favour

In 1992, most of the original cast reunited for a spin-off show called Grace & Favour. This series was called Are You Being Served? Again! in the United States and Canada.

MerchandiseEdit

Seven early episodes were novelised for a book, written by Jeremy Lloyd, called Are You Being Served? – Camping In and other Fiascos. This was written in 1976, and republished in 1997 by KQED Books. The seven episodes featured are Camping In, Up Captain Peacock, Wedding Bells, His and Hers, Coffee Morning, The Hand of Fate and The Clock.

In 1995, KQED Books published Are You Being Served – The Inside Story by Adrian Rigelsford, Anthony Brown, and Geoff Tibbals, with a foreword by Jeremy Lloyd, and sub-titled: "The Inside Story of Britain's Funniest – and Public Television's Favorite – Comedy Series". In 212 pages, the book's six chapters cover: The Cast of Characters, Behind the Scenes, The Episodes, The Spin-offs, Trivia Quiz, and Glossary. ISBN 0-912333-04-9.

In 1999, I'm Free! The Complete Are You Being Served?, a guide to the series, was published by Orion Books. It was written by Richard Webber, with contributions from David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd.

A board game was also produced in the 1970s. Players moved round a board resembling the shop floor to purchase one item from each of the four counters and leave the store, before their opponents and without going over budget.

DVD releasesEdit

All Ten Series, including both the black & white and colour versions of the pilot episode and all five Christmas specials from those years, are now available on DVD in the UK (Region 2). Are You Being Served: the Movie was released in 2002.

All ten series, as well as both series of Grace & Favour (in packaging titled Are You Being Served? Again!) and the film are available on DVD in Region 1 (North America).

All ten series, as well as both series of Grace & Favour (in correctly-titled packaging) and the film have been released in Australia (Region 4).

A DVD titled Are You Being Served? – Best of The Early Years and Are You Being Served? Christmas Specials have also been released.

DVD title Discs Year Ep. # DVD release Special episodes
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Complete Series 1 1 19721973 6 27 August 2002 25 July 2005 2 March 2006 The Pilot B&W version
Complete Series 2 1 1974 5 27 August 2002 19 September 2005 8 June 2006
Complete Series 3 2 1975 9 27 August 2002 30 January 2006 5 October 2006 1975 Christmas Special
Complete Series 4 1 1976 7 27 August 2002 27 March 2006 7 March 2007 1976 Christmas Special
Complete Series 5 1 1977 7 27 August 2002 5 June 2006 6 June 2007
Complete Series 6 1 1978 6 30 September 2003 28 August 2006 3 October 2007 1978 Christmas Special
Complete Series 7 1 1979 8 30 September 2003 25 August 2008 6 March 2008 1979 Christmas Special
Complete Series 8 1 1981 8 30 September 2003 7 September 2009 7 August 2008 1981 Christmas Special
Complete Series 9 1 1983 6 30 September 2003 24 May 2010 2 October 2008
Complete Series 10 1 1984 7 30 September 2003 13 September 2010 5 March 2009
Complete Series 1–5 6 1972–1977 34 27 August 2002 2 October 2006 TBA Same as individual releases
Complete Series 6–10 5 1978–1985 35 30 September 2003 TBA TBA Same as individual releases
Complete Series 1–10 11 1972–1985 69 7 September 2003
11 August 2009
13 September 2010 1 April 2010 Extra Disc with Profile Specials on Molly Sugden, Wendy Richards etc.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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