Are You Being Served?

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox television Are You Being Served? was a British sitcom broadcast from 1972 to 1985. It was set in the men's and women's department of a large fictional London store called Grace Brothers. The episodes rarely leave the department floor, and if they do they generally don't leave the store. To parody the stereotype of the rigid British class system, characters rarely addressed each other by their given names, even during off hours.

Are You Being Served? featured mostly obvious humour based on sexual innuendo, misunderstandings and mistaken identity, as well as many costumes (usually in order to encourage business). Many jokes also confronted the English class system - for example those directed to Mr Mash or Mr Harman. Characters traded-on such well-worn stereotypes as the effeminate Mr Humphries who lived with his mother; Captain Peacock, the haughty floorwalker; and the snobbish and boisterous Mrs Slocombe. The show spawned the catch phrase "Are you free?", usually said by Captain Peacock to the workers; more often than not, the workers are noticeably free, making for comical responses and facial expressions, in particular, from Mr Humphries ("I'm free!", said in a playfully eager tone and with a knowing smirk).

As with several British TV comedies which had a very lengthy run, the quality deteriorated over time. Initially, although it did have a crude streak, it was an attempt to exploit the comic potential of a department store. After some time, it became widely criticised for its reliance on crude sexual stereotypes, e.g. jokes about Mrs. Slocombe's "pussy" (a sexual double entendre which became a byword for vulgar humour) or John Inman's parody of an effeminate gay man, offensive to many gay people. To this day, however, Inman defends his portrayal as "high camp," rather than gay, because it was never explicitly said that his character was a homosexual.

The series has become very popular in the United States on PBS stations, as well as in many Commonwealth nations around the world. There have been several short-lived spin-offs including Grace & Favour (US: Are You Being Served? Again!), Are You Being Served? (in Australia), and Beanes of Boston (an American version that was never broadcast). In 1977, an Are You Being Served? movie was released using the same characters and cast.


  • Mr Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries (menswear assistant, played by John Inman), whose ambiguous sexuality is used as a catalyst for many comedic situations and one-liners. He is particularly noted for his effeminate voice, which he discards when answering the phone: ("Mennnnnnswear," he intones in a deep register).
  • Mrs Betty Slocombe (née Mary Elizabeth Jennifer Rachel Yiddell Abergavenny) (ladieswear senior assistant, Mollie Sugden) who frequently changes the colour of her hair, and who always seems to have trouble with her feline, named Tiddles. She often refers to her pet cat as "my pussy", with statements full of double entendres that she herself completely misses. She is known for trying to sound refined and "posh," but when exasperated or annoyed, she reveals more than a trace of a northern English accent (it is never determined whether it is more Lancashire or Yorkshire, although Sugden herself is from Yorkshire). Her catch phrase is "...and I am unanimous in this..."
  • Captain Stephen Peacock (floorwalker, Frank Thornton), who considers himself above the assistants with both his position and his dubious military record, which wouldn't be so shameful except Peacock feels the need to brag about his experiences fighting Rommel in north Africa. Mash likes to tell the staff that Peacock served in the NAAFI instead, and probably didn't ever leave England. He also has a penchant of leering at Miss Brahms and sometimes Mrs Slocombe.
  • Miss Shirley Brahms (ladieswear junior, Wendy Richard), cheeky to Mrs Slocombe and known for her Estuary English accent, sometimes unintelligible to the person with whom she is speaking. Is sometimes (but usually not) receptive to the advances of Mr Lucas.
  • Mr Cuthbert Rumbold (manager of the floor, Nicholas Smith), bald, obnoxious, jug-eared, and none too bright.
  • Mr James (later changed to Dick) Lucas (1972–1979, Trevor Bannister), (menswear junior). A randy young man who is chronically late for work with always a creative excuse, and the only one of the staff not concerned with the pecking order (and thus, takes many sarcastic potshots at those who are, particularly Mrs. Slocombe). He was replaced by Mr Bert Spooner (1981–1985, Mike Berry) when Bannister left to do a play and felt that the scripts were repeating themselves.
  • Mr Ernest Grainger (1972–1977, Arthur Brough), Mr Percival Tebbs (1978, James Hayter), Mr Harry Goldberg (1979, Alfie Bass), Mr Klein (1981, Benny Lee), Mr Grossman (1981, Milo Sperber) (menswear senior)
  • Mr Mash (1972–1975, Larry Martyn), Mr Beverly Harman (1976–1985, Arthur English) (Maintenance). Both maintenance personnel who have no fear of their superiors, and who have a thorough knowledge of store operations and union workers' rights (and take home much larger paycheques than the sales assistants). Both are very common individuals, with the former common to the point of offensive.
  • Young Mr Grace (1972–1981, Harold Bennett), Old Mr Grace (1981, Kenneth Waller) (store owner)—both of whom were old (but loved young, curvaceous women) and neither was all that bossy to other members of staff—hence Young Mr Grace's catchphrase "You've all done very well!"

Episode list

Sixty-nine episodes were aired. All episodes are in the order they were first aired. Each season's first airing is shown alongside it.

Season One (1972/1973)

  • "The Pilot Episode" (which now exists only in B&W)
  • "Dear Sexy Knickers"
  • "Our Figures Are Slipping"
  • "Camping In"
  • "His and Hers"
  • "Diamonds Are A Man's Best Friend"

Season Two (1974)

  • "The Clock"
  • "Cold Comfort"
  • "The Think Tank"
  • "Big Brother"
  • "Horrah for the Holidays"

Season Three (1975)

  • "The Hand of Fate"
  • "Coffee Morning"
  • "Up Captain Peacock"
  • "Cold Store"
  • "Wedding Bells"
  • "German Week"
  • "Shoulder to Shoulder"
  • "New Look"
  • "Christmas Crackers"

Season Four (1976)

  • "No Sale"
  • "Top Hat and Tails"
  • "Forward, Mr. Grainger"
  • "First Practice"
  • "Fifty Years On"
  • "Oh, What a Tangled Web"
  • "The Father Christmas Affair"

Season Five (1977)

  • "Mrs. Slocombe Expects"
  • "A Change is as Good as a Rest"
  • "Founder's Day"
  • "The Old Order Changes"
  • "Take-Over"
  • "Goodbye Mr. Grainger"
  • "It Pays to Advertise"

Season Six (1978)

  • "By Appointment"
  • "The Club"
  • "Do You Take This Man?"
  • "Shedding the Load"
  • "A Bliss Girl"
  • "Happy Returns"

Season Seven (1979)

  • "The Junior"
  • "Strong Stuff This Insurance"
  • "The Apartment"
  • "Mrs. Slocombe, Senior Person"
  • "The Hero"
  • "Anything You Can Do"
  • "The Agent"
  • "The Punch and Judy Affair"

Season Eight (1981)

  • "Is it Catching?"
  • "A Personal Problem"
  • "Front Page Story"
  • "Sit Out"
  • "Heir Apparent"
  • "Closed Circuit"
  • "The Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe"
  • "Roots?"

Season Nine (1983)

  • "The Sweet Smell of Success"
  • "Conduct Unbecoming"
  • "Memories are Made of This"
  • "Calling All Customers"
  • "Monkey Business"
  • "Lost and Found"

Season Ten (1985)

  • "Goodbye Mrs. Slocombe"
  • "Grounds for Divorce"
  • "The Hold-Up"
  • "Gambling Fever"
  • "The Night Club"
  • "Friends and Neighbours"
  • "The Pop Star"

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