British Comedies

Are You Being Served?

Camp Mr. Humphries, Mrs. Slocombe's pussy and the ridiculous goings-on at Grace Bros. have kept audiences laughing since 1973. This tongue-in-cheek farce, by top writers Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, is one of BBC's best-selling classic comedies, especially in America, where its success is phenomenal.

A large, old-fashioned department store in London, Grace Bros. is still run on strictly hierarchical lines. Each member of staff knows their place — in theory. In practice, they are all engaged in their own private wars with management and with each other:

On the top floor is young Mr. Grace (Harold Bennett), a frail octogenarian with a dollybird on each arm.

Take the lift down and you'll find Mr. Rumbold (Nicholas Smith), manager of the clothing department. In reality he leaves the day-to-day running of his floor to his snooty shop-walker, Captain Peacock (Frank Thornton). Peacock's ambition is a seat in the executive restaurant, but meantime he has to mediate between Menswear and Ladies' Fashions.

In Gentlemen's Ready-To-Wear, Senior Salesman, Mr. Grainger (Arthur Brough), is an obstinate old man prone to falling asleep. He is later replaced by Mr.Tebbs (James Hayter), then by Mr. Goldberg (Alfie Bass), who served in the army with Captain Peacock. Under him is Mr. Humphries, played by John Inman, a very popular character with his camp mannerisms and jaunty readiness to measure an inside leg. Bottom of the pecking order comes randy Mr. Lucas (Trevor Bannister), who is later replaced by Mr. Spooner (Mike Berry).

Ladies' Separates and Underwear is staffed by Senior Saleslady, Mrs Slocombe (Mollie Sugden), a rapacious widow with an astonishing range of fluorescent hair colors and malapropisms. Her main topic of conversation is her pussy. Junior Saleslady, Miss Brahms (Wendy Richard), is a sharp-tongued, buxom Cockney.

And finally, down in the basement, (but usually up in the department), is the caretaker, Mr. Harman (Arthur English), who delights in making a nuisance of himself with his trade unionism and ridiculous display models.

 

Episode Guide

  1. PILOT EPISODE -The Ladies' Intimate Apparel must share a floor of Grace Brothers department store with the Gentlemen's Department. In fact, Mr. Grainger is forced to take down his trousers and let Mrs. Slocombe put her knickers there instead.

  2. DEAR SEXY KNICKERS - Mr. Lucas continues his attempts to win the heart (or at least the body) of Miss Brahms, this time through a love letter addressed to "Sexy Knickers". His attempt at delivery creates even greater problems, however, as Mrs. Slocombe receives the note and assumes it is from Captain Peacock.

  3. OUR FIGURES ARE SLIPPING - The staff are concerned about the decrease in sales. Mr. Rumbold decides to hold a staff training session for the departments on Captain Peacock's floor, but the staff find its timing most unfortunate.

  4. CAMPING IN - The staff must spend the night in Grace Brothers due to a transport strike, camping out in tents on the sales floor. Mrs. Slocombe refuses to share her tent with Miss Brahms, who then won't leave Captain Peacock's. Mr. Lucas has great trouble getting his to stay up (which is unusual for him).

  5. HIS AND HERS - A perfume retailer causes agitation among the staff by giving away free ties and knickers with each sale. The sales staff feel she will reduce their sales, but Captain Peacock's agitation is of an entirely different sort -- he immediately attempts to chat her up.

  6. DIAMONDS ARE A MAN'S BEST FRIEND - A wealthy client loses a valuable diamond in the store. A reward is offered for the missing diamond, but at the same time a shipment of rhinestones is dropped in the store. The staff each finds a rhinestone, which they think is the missing diamond.

  7. THE CLOCK - Mr. Grainger fears he will be forcibly retired. At his going-away party, Mr. Grace misunderstands and accepts the clock that is Mr. Grainger's retirement present from Grace Brothers, and Mr. Grainger continues on in his old position.

  8. COLD COMFORT - The staff try to cope with a shortage of heat. Mr. Lucas creates a bewildering array of heating devices, ranging from two hairdryers to aim up one's pants to a new sales line -- "Novelty Foot Warmers.

  9. THE THINK TANK - At Grace Brothers, all eyes are on the bottom line. When sales begin to slip in the Ladies' Lingerie and Gentlemen's Ready-Made departments, the staff are asked to pool their ideas for improving sales.

  10. BIG BROTHER - Surveillance cameras are installed at Grace Brothers. Mr. Rumbold begins to carefully watch their every move. He counts Mrs. Slocombe's visits to the ladies' room, observes Miss Brahms adjusting her "stock", and catches Mr. Lucas smoking.

  11. HOORAH FOR THE HOLIDAYS - The staff must suddenly try to choose a group holiday package, as the store is being closed for renovations and they are ordered to take vacation. They are shown a selection of slides from a short list of the worst hotels to be found.

  12. THE HAND OF FATE - Everyone on staff hopes the hand of fate is working for their own particular promotion. Mr. Humphries displays his talent for telling fortunes.

  13. COFFEE MORNING - The staff protest the monitoring of their breaks and trips to the restroom, in the form of a signing in and out book. A union meeting is convened, and Mr. Grace finally arranges for the coffee to be brought to the staff to avoid them losing their break time in transit to the canteen.

  14. UP CAPTAIN PEACOCK - Captain Peacock, as a reward for his many years of service, gains privileges to the Executive Washroom and Dining Room, to the great consternation of Mr. Grainger. In the Executive Dining Room he is treated to "Le Shepard's Pie" and an "amusing" little wine.

  15. COLD STORE - Seasonal illnesses have most of the staff down. Mr. Lucas first feigns illness to get home to his girl. He next pretends to sprain his ankle, in an act of supreme frustration, but is sent to the hospital by Mr. Grace, spoiling his plans for the day.

  16. WEDDING BELLS - Mrs. Slocombe is greatly disturbed to learn that she has no say in the garments she sells -- namely, knickers with slogans such as "In Case of Emergency, Pull Down". Young Mr. Grace says he is going to marry one of the staff. Could it be Mrs. Slocombe?

  17. GERMAN WEEK - The staff try to promote the sale of their goods, by dressing up in German fashion. Mrs. Slocombe does her duty in sampling the German wine, gets drunk, and ends up fighting Captain Peacock during their dance.

  18. SHOULDER TO SHOULDER - The ladies' department temporarily move into the gentlemen's while their department is remodeled, and tensions run high. No one is more pleased than Mrs. Slocombe when the men learn that they now must move into the ladies' while their side is redone and she gets her chance at pay back.

  19. NEW LOOK - Ever on the look to improve their level of sales, the staff try a Twenties sales theme. The floor promotes the Great Gatsby style, complete with appropriate musical accompaniment.

  20. NO SALE - Mr. Rumbold tries an experiment -- opening the store earlier in the morning. Sales are good, but the staff are not pleased at having to come in so early. Through a variety of techniques they try not to sell anything to avoid the longer hours.

  21. TOP HAT AND TAILS - A ballroom dance contest has the Grace Brothers staff at their elegant best.

  22. FORWARD MR. GRAINGER - Mr. Grainger temporarily takes over Mr. Rumbold's position, to Captain Peacock's envy. The staff are no less amazed -- they were sure Captain Peacock would get anything going in that office, especially the new secretary.

  23. FIRE PRACTICE - A surprise fire drill reveals a horrible lack of organization in the store's fire procedures. So panic measures are taken to turn the staff into expert escapists, anti-arsonists and paramedics.

  24. FIFTY YEARS ON - The staff celebrate Mrs. Slocombe's birthday. The major task is to confirm her age, which is finally determined by finding the age of her pussy, Tiddles. From the records they decide that she must be turning 50. But is that right?

  25. OH WHAT A TANGLED WEB - Captain Peacock appears to be having an affair with Miss Hazlewood, bringing Mrs. Peacock to Grace Brothers with the intention of determining the truth. It all comes out at the board of inquiry after Mr. Grainger is attacked by Miss Hazlewood's irate father.

  26. MRS. SLOCOMBE EXPECTS - The staff think Mrs. Slocombe has requested leave in order to have a baby, but they find that the expectant mother is her cat. Denied time off, Mrs. Slocombe smuggles Tiddles into work.

  27. A CHANGE IS AS GOOD AS A REST - Mr. Grace likes to play musical chairs with his departments. He orders Ladies' and Gentlemen's Wear into the toy department where they start to slowly but surely warm to the change.

  28. FOUNDER'S DAY - The staff compile a retrospective for Mr. Grace's 80th birthday. After all, he is the creator of the Grace Brothers enterprise and deserves to be brought into full glory.

  29. THE OLD ORDER CHANGES - The staff dress in mod fashion as a sales gimmick, after Mr. Grace's visit to the States. Mr. Grace next goes to China and gives them his new sales proposal, described in his Little Red Book.

  30. TAKEOVER - The staff prevent another firm's hostile takeover of Grace Brothers by impersonating the shareholders. Mr. Harman gives a rousing speech, and Grace Brothers is saved.

  31. GOODBYE, MR. GRAINGER - Mr. Grainger's temper as become extremely short. The staff, in a private meeting with Mr. Rumbold, decide he must go. However, when he wins the lottery, his bad mood vanishes and he makes his peace with the staff and stays on.

  32. IT PAYS TO ADVERTISE - The staff star in a TV commercial for Grace Brothers, produced by Mr. Humphries. Could Mr. Grace's cheapness be the reason for using his staff in such fashion?

  33. BY APPOINTMENT - The staff prepare for a visit by the Queen. The visit is abruptly ended when Mrs. Slocombe accidentally pushes a flower pot out the window, nearly hitting the Royal Couple.

  34. THE CLUB - Young Mr. Grace invites his workers to form a social club - in a dismal cellar badly in need of decoration. Undeterred, the staff tackle the paint and paper job with vigor.

  35. DO YOU TAKE THIS MAN - Mrs. Slocombe has fallen for a bouzouki player in a Greek restaurant. When he returns home to his wife, Mrs. Slocombe stages a wedding for her wealthy uncle so she can get the house promised her if she marries a Greek.

  36. SHEDDING THE LOAD - Sales figures are down; profits are low. Young Mr. Grace is forced to make some economies. The threat of redundancies is looming. Someone is going to have to go - but who is it to be?

  37. 5. A BLISS GIRL - A new display of perfume arrives from Bliss, but there is no Bliss Girl to man the counter. Mrs. Slocombe refuses the position, so Mr. Humphries becomes the Bliss Girl for the day.

  38. HAPPY RETURNS - It is Young Mr. Grace's birthday and there is the traditional free lunch for staff in the canteen. Afterwards, the staff plan a much more festive event for the celebration.

  39. THE JUNIOR - Mr. Goldberg is hired as a junior after having recently run his own small tailoring business. To Captain Peacock's chagrin, the staff learn that Mr. Goldberg had served under the Captain but recalls those army days differently.

  40. STRONG STUFF THIS INSURANCE - The staff must take physicals to get insurance. Listening through the door of Mr. Grace's office, they hear Mr. Harman describing the state of the furniture, which they misunderstand as being the results of their physicals.

  41. THE APARTMENT - By permission of Mr. Grace, Mrs. Slocombe moves into a display apartment in Grace Brothers, because her new home is occupied by squatters. Due to a transport strike, Mr. Humphries seeks to join her in her new accommodation.

  42. MRS. SLOCOMBE, SENIOR PERSON - Mrs. Slocombe temporarily takes the place of Mr. Rumbold, who has taken ill . She eats the cream cakes she finds in his office. But she then gets a call from the hospital warning that the ice cream is what made him ill.

  43. THE HERO - Captain Peacock is challenged to a boxing match by a member of another department. He backs out, and Mr. "Hugger" Humphries is "elected" to take his place in a wrestling match. He loses that match, but Mrs. Slocombe enters the ring and defeats the challenger.

  44. ANYTHING YOU CAN DO - The standard of the canteen food of Grace Brothers is rapidly going from bad to worse. After confronting the catering workers with their complaints, the staff are told to get on with the food preparation on their on.

  45. THE AGENT - Mr. Goldberg runs an agency to get the staff better jobs. After Captain Peacock and Mr. Rumbold become aware of this, Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocombe are given raises, and decide to stay with the store.

  46. IS IT CATCHING - The staff contract a strange tropical illness, Marine's Disease, from Mr. Humphries. They are quarantined in the basement until the disease is past.

  47. A PERSONAL PROBLEM - Captain Peacock's wife works at Grace Brothers, as Mr. Rumbold's secretary. He is intensely jealous and is absolutely convinced that the two of them are having an affair.

  48. FRONT PAGE STORY - Mr. Humphries is made editor of the new staff magazine. The 1st Floor staff is not pleased with the stories he writes about them causing friction in the relations between floors.

  49. SIT OUT - The staff go on strike after being threatened with a pay cut or being moved to the bargain basement. They stage a protest on the roof which is interrupted by a fire which destroys the basement.

  50. HEIR APPARENT - Old Mr. Grace becomes convinced that Mr. Humphries is his long-lost son. Mrs. Humphries (also played by Mr. Inman) arrives, and shows that she has never had relations with Mr. Grace.

  51. CLOSED CIRCUIT - Grace Brothers has decided to enter the video age and display advertisements on closed circuit television throughout the store. Meanwhile, there is a new face in Menswear.

  52. THE EROTIC DREAMS OF MRS. SLOCOMBE - Mrs. Slocombe has dreams in which she and Mr. Humphries become romantically embroiled. When she attempts to turn fantasy into reality, the situation becomes most difficult to handle.

  53. THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS - Mrs. Slocombe sells her home-made perfume. After a misunderstanding, Mrs. Peacock finds Captain Peacock without his pants (perfume had spilled on them) and the ill-fated trousers in the hands of Mr. Rumbold's secretary.

  54. CONDUCT UNBECOMING - Mr. Humphries is accused of stealing and his distinguished career could end in disgrace. In a trial, he is found guilty and dismissed, but Mr. Harman finds the missing money in the back of the till from which it was supposedly stolen.

  55. MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS - When the handsome golf pro from Sports comes to the floor for a demonstration, he accidentally hits Mrs. Slocombe. She then thinks she's a little girl, wrecking havoc on the store as she cavorts around the department.

  56. CALLING ALL CUSTOMERS - The staff perform a play on CB radio to advertise Grace Brothers. The play results in the store being swamped by truck drivers who are driven off by Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocombe.

  57. MONKEY BUSINESS - Bad news. Grace Brothers may be bought by the Japanese. The staff take their problems to Number Ten, where they contact President Reagan by the phone. Mrs. Thatcher gets fashion tips from Mr. Humphries.

  58. LOST AND FOUND - Mrs. Slocombe's cat is missing, and in comforting her, Mr. Humphries finds himself entangled more deeply than he would have expected. It appears that he is to be Tiddles' replacement.

  59. GOODBYE, MRS. SLOCOMBE - Mrs. Slocombe is forcibly retired from her position. Mr. Humphries and Captain Peacock get her job back, but they are retired in the same manner. They end the show as the cleaner and the lift operator.

  60. GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE - Captain Peacock's marriage appears to be in trouble. The rest of the staff soon discover that Miss Bagnold is his unwanted paramour.

  61. THE HOLD UP - It is closing time when two ruthless criminals enter the scene. What can be done to save the assets of the store? The staff hatch an incredible plan, and it almost works.

  62. GAMBLING FEVER - The staff like to bet on horse races. After being caught watching the race in Mr. Rumbold's office, Mr. Humphries goes to the sports department and mimes the race to the rest of the staff over the security camera.

  63. THE NIGHT CLUB - The staff film a commercial for a nightclub to the run in the store. The picture is lost when the ad is shown, leaving only the sound, making the nightclub sound like a harem.

  64. FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS - The staff are offered accommodation on the premises to save time and money on traveling. But they soon find that flat-sharing is not altogether a bed of roses.

  65. THE POP STAR - Mr. Spooner's vocal talents are discovered during the staff show. He is signed by a record company, and the staff appears on TV performing the song when Mr. Spooner loses his voice.

  66. 1975 CHRISTMAS CRACKERS - The holidays are at hand and the staff dress up to try to boost sales. Mrs. Slocombe dresses as Robin Hood, which explains the funny quiver she has in back. The department is remodeled, and they enjoy their holiday dinner in the canteen.

  67. 1976 THE FATHER CHRISTMAS AFFAIR - Everyone wants to play Father Christmas after a mechanical version flashes the staff and crushes a small boy. Who will finally be selected to personify the season?

  68. 1979 THE PUNCH AND JUDY AFFAIR - The floor staff enact a life-size Punch and Judy show to try to placate the rest of the Grace Brothers employees, whose picket lines they crossed.

  69. 1981 ROOTS - It is the occasion of Old Mr. Grace's 90th birthday. The staff attempt to make him a coat of arms, leading to the tracing of his roots.

Cast

Wendy Richard as Miss Brahms

John Inman as Mr. Humphries

Mollie Sugden as Mrs. Slocombe

Harold Bennett as Mr. Grace

Trevor Bannister as Mr. Lucas

Frank Thornton as Captain Peacock

Arthur English as Mr. Harman

Nicholas Smith as Mr. Rumbold


Production Information

Produced by David Croft

Written By David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd

 

 
   

 
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