Are You Being Served (BBC-1 1973-1985, John Inman, Mollie Sugden)

Sitcom Are You Being Served detailed shenanigans of the farcical kind with the staff of the clothing department of Grace Brothers Department Store. Divided into male and female sections, the departments were lorded over by department manager Mr. Rumbold and floor walker Captain Peacock.

Probably the archetypal 70s sitcom Are You Being Served was popular all over the world with local versions being made in the USA and Australia (the aussie version even starred John Inman as the outrageously camp Mr. Humphries whose clarion call was “I’m free”). The series is positively full of dodgy stereotypes, from the buxom Miss Brahms (Wendy Richard), the sex starved Mrs. Slocombe (Mollie Sugden) to the geriatric store owner “young Mr. Grace“ (Harold Bennett) who was always seen with a dolly bird secretary or two on his arm:

Full of single entendres and humor of the nudge and nudge schoolboy variety Are You Being Served was always going to be popular. Most episodes revolve around misunderstandings and sexual frustrations and so on, the level of humour is high though, even if it veers into saucy seaside postcard territory quite often.

Series co-creator Jeremy Lloyd had worked in a department store very similar to Grace Brothers in his early years and had been fascinated by the class structure and hierarchy of the store, realising this was the idea setting for a sitcom Are You Being Served was born (he was also influenced – not least in the name department by the very well known Australian department store of the same name).

Are You Being Served

Wendy Richard (Miss Brahms), Mollie Sugden (Mrs Slocombe) and Frank Thornton (Captain Peacock)

The staff at Grace Brothers rarely sold anything, but there were always certainties about the great 70s series: Mr Humphries was “free”, Mrs Slocombe was worried about her ‘”pussy’” and Young Mr Grace would appear to declare “You’ve all done very well!” Alongside Captain Stephen Peacock (the floor walker who likes to think the place would collapse without him), Mr Grainger, Mr Rumbold, Mr Lucas and Miss Brahms they filled the store with comic bickering, preposterous sales ideas and almost any excuse for the donning of silly costumes and so created one of the sauciest, campest and funniest sitcoms of the decade.

Writers Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft would later go on to create sitcom Allo Allo which traded on exactly the same kind of humor. There was a movie spin-off in 1977 which featured the gang going on holiday together and a continuation of the concept with the show Grace and Favour which saw the staff of Grace Bros being made redundant and going to work for Mr Rumbold at the hotel he was running called Millstone Manor. This ran for twelve episodes between 1992 and 1993. There was also pilot edition broadcast as part of Comedy Playhouse on 8 September 1972.

production details
UK / BBC-1 / 69×30 minute episodes / Broadcast 21 March 1973 – 1 April 1985

Writers: Jeremy Lloyd, David Croft / Executive Producer: David Croft

MOLLIE SUGDEN as Mrs Betty Slocombe
JOHN INMAN as Mr Humphries
FRANK THORNTON as Capt Stephen Peacock
NICHOLAS SMITH as Mr Cuthbert Rumbold
WENDY RICHARD as Miss Brahms
ARTHUR BROUGH as Mr Grainger(seasons 1-5)
ARTHUR ENGLISH as Mr Harmon(from season 4)
HAROLD BENNETT as Young Mr Grace
TREVOR BANNISTER as Mr Lucas (seasons 1-7)
PENNY IRVING as Miss Bakewell (seasons 4-7)
LARRY MARTIN as Mr Mash (seasons 1-3)

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