Author Topic: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread  (Read 1890 times)

Fambo Number Mive

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Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« on: November 15, 2020, 03:30:04 PM »
I know we discussed the show a bit in the thread about the AYBS film but I thought it would be interesting to have a dedicated thread for it. I bought the boxset online and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. There's a very good podcast on Spotify called That Does Suit Madam where two American fans review it.

It's interesting to look at the politics of Are You Being Served - on the one hand it is somewhat critical of the unions (although the Packing Department might be doing well from overtime, they don't get commission like the sales staff) but it is also critical of the rich with its portrayal of Young Mr Grace as a stingy pervert who sells a lot of crap.

The more unpleasant bits are the occasional racism (such as the very racist depiction of a Japanese customer) and the sexual assaults by Mr Lucas. His replacement Mr Spooner, although played by not as good an actor, thankfully isn't a sex offender. You do wonder why actors like Trevor Bannister were happy to play a character who sexually assaulted women but wasn't depicted as a villain, but then the audience reaction does show how backward the Seventies were.

I do love the simmering dislike between Peacock and Rumbold and just how fun and nice a person Humphries is - the show had some brilliant comic actors in the cast. When Mr Grainger left they seemed to struggle to find a decent replacement for him - Mr Tebbs came nearest although his character got less amusing after the first episode.

Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2020, 03:46:10 PM »
Did Mr Lucas ever commit sexual assault?  I remember him using a lot of sexually-suggestive innuendo and banter but I don't recall him physically handling anyone.

Lisa Jesusandmarychain

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2020, 04:57:09 PM »
Please let's not pretend that AYBS was anything but a load of old crap. The film version was particularly abominable.

Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2020, 05:09:31 PM »
It was funny quite a lot of the time but should have finished after 1979.

Ambient Sheep

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2020, 12:23:46 AM »
Did Mr Lucas ever commit sexual assault?  I remember him using a lot of sexually-suggestive innuendo and banter but I don't recall him physically handling anyone.

Yeah, this.

I mean I'm guessing he actually did, otherwise Fambo wouldn't have mentioned it, but I'm a little intrigued as to what they were.

neveragain

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2020, 01:37:12 PM »
There's an awful lot wrong with it - as mentioned above but also including the show's dual use of Comedy Jew and Outrageous Poof! - and yet there's something warm and comforting about it (to me anyway). The sort of thing I like having on in the background. Rarely funny (except the odd pussy or visual gag), noble performances and far too much dressing up.

Tony Tony Tony

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2020, 02:30:42 PM »
Whilst loathe to dismiss the show out of hand, it definitely had its faults but I would counsel that these are very much when viewed through the prism of today's attitudes. I checked on the original transmission dates and was somewhat surprised to find that it ran right up to April 1985. I would have said it was a particularly British 'seaside postcard' type of humour but it seems to have been popular in quite a few other parts of the world, notably the US and curiously (to my mind anyway) in Israel. It was also ranked at 20 (of 100) in a 2004 BBC poll of Britains Best Sitcoms so there must have been some love for the show.

I do catch the occasional rerun on Gold or whatever and recall the original rather fondly but remember thinking at the time it was running out of ideas and the laughs were being milked from broad stereotypes and dodgy situations. The appreciation when catching a rerun does depend on where in original run it comes from, loosely the earlier the better.

For outrageously bad taste gags the spin off/John Inman vehicle Odd Man Out takes some beating, it ran for just one 1977 series and is easily found on you tube.

My best nonacdote regarding AYBS is that on a 2000 trip to Australia I happened across a real department store called Grace Brothers and bought some items there simply to bring home the branded bag. Apparently these days there is a Grace Bothers in Pontefract but this is a scrap yard and skip hire business which probably says a lot?     


Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2020, 04:37:01 PM »
I think I'm on the "it's a bit shit" side. It definitely was an extreme example of the Perry/Croft school of repeating the same jokes over and over and over. For my mind, it lacked the attempts at characterisation of Hi De Hi or Dad's Army, and without the gleeful absurdism of Allo Allo; it definitely felt a purgatorial sisyphean grind of always the same fucking thing despite the slightly changing cast. John Inman was very good with the limited material, but I'm not sure anybody else was particularly worth watching: Thornton and English seemed to be going through the motions.

I've no idea if it was meant to appeal to the nostalgia market of most of the Perry/Croft sitcoms, or if it genuinely was supposed to have been contemporary, or both. I don't think you'll find a political message in it beyond, "people are a bit crap".

Still, better than Are We Being Served?, the consumer affairs program designed to confuse young and old.

Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2020, 04:39:43 PM »
Now I'm laughing at Partridge pronouncing it

Are You Being Served?

then

Are You Being Served?

Dr Rock

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2020, 04:50:38 PM »
I don't remember it fondly. Possibly prefered It Ain't Half Hot Mum but it was better than Terry and June.

Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2020, 05:12:07 PM »
I've no idea if it was meant to appeal to the nostalgia market of most of the Perry/Croft sitcoms, or if it genuinely was supposed to have been contemporary, or both. I don't think you'll find a political message in it beyond, "people are a bit crap".

It's definitely contemporary as it's set against a backdrop of traditional department stores going out of fashion, thus the ridiculous schemes and gadgets they are lumbered with.

Annie Labuntur

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2020, 06:14:27 PM »
I think I'm on the "it's a bit shit" side. It definitely was an extreme example of the Perry/Croft school of repeating the same jokes over and over and over. For my mind, it lacked the attempts at characterisation of Hi De Hi or Dad's Army, and without the gleeful absurdism of Allo Allo; it definitely felt a purgatorial sisyphean grind of always the same fucking thing despite the slightly changing cast. John Inman was very good with the limited material, but I'm not sure anybody else was particularly worth watching: Thornton and English seemed to be going through the motions.

I've no idea if it was meant to appeal to the nostalgia market of most of the Perry/Croft sitcoms, or if it genuinely was supposed to have been contemporary, or both. I don't think you'll find a political message in it beyond, "people are a bit crap".

It wasn't Croft & Perry, it was Croft & Lloyd (as was 'Allo 'Allo and the AYBS spin-off Grace & Favour). Lloyd was a broader writer than Perry.

The idea came from Joanna Lumley, Jeremy Lloyd's wife at the time, who suggested his experience of working on the shop floor of Simpsons would make a good sitcom. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpsons_of_Piccadilly

Jockice

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2020, 06:51:14 PM »
Whilst loathe to dismiss the show out of hand, it definitely had its faults but I would counsel that these are very much when viewed through the prism of today's attitudes. I checked on the original transmission dates and was somewhat surprised to find that it ran right up to April 1985. I would have said it was a particularly British 'seaside postcard' type of humour but it seems to have been popular in quite a few other parts of the world, notably the US

I can confirm that from a trip to America in 1996 when it was still on the schedules there. As was the follow-up series, Grace And Favour, which had been retitled Are You Being Served? Again! That trip was also the first time I'd ever seen an episode of Friends, which I'd managed to totally avoid in Britain. And continued to mostly avoid when I returned.

Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2020, 11:08:47 PM »
…It’s interesting to look at the politics of Are You Being Served - on the one hand it is somewhat critical of the unions (although the Packing Department might be doing well from overtime, they don't get commission like the sales staff) but it is also critical of the rich with its portrayal of Young Mr Grace as a stingy pervert who sells a lot of crap.

There’s a lot to do with class, but politics? The commentary about unions - such as it is - was par for the course at the time but nothing compared to say, On The Buses, where union-bashing was a key element (far more so than the lechery).  The main union presence was Larry Martyn’s character, then Arthur English’s - the former was a common stereotype  (unpleasant, overtly class-conscious, semi-competent at best, chip on their shoulder etc.) that was inherently unlikeable, whilst the latter was charming, effective and often helped save the day.

Not sure how much the Grace Brothers can be said to be stingy - they were woefully out of touch with modern life but seemed relatively benign by sitcom boss standards.

..The more unpleasant bits are the occasional racism (such as the very racist depiction of a Japanese customer) and the sexual assaults by Mr Lucas. His replacement Mr Spooner, although played by not as good an actor, thankfully isn't a sex offender. You do wonder why actors like Trevor Bannister were happy to play a character who sexually assaulted women but wasn't depicted as a villain, but then the audience reaction does show how backward the Seventies were….

As you’ve been watching it recently, how does the former compare to other series of the time in your impression? Unfortunately, ‘funny’ foreigners were a common trope or getting characters to pretend to be foreign and was interested how much they crop up here.

As others said, would you provide some examples about Mr Lucas? Wouldn’t say I know the show that well as it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen much but can’t recall stuff like that with the character - from what I remember, there were comments about Captain Peacock’s wandering hands, but as the show went on, that was downplayed increasingly.

Whilst loathe to dismiss the show out of hand, it definitely had its faults but I would counsel that these are very much when viewed through the prism of today's attitudes. I checked on the original transmission dates and was somewhat surprised to find that it ran right up to April 1985. I would have said it was a particularly British 'seaside postcard' type of humour but it seems to have been popular in quite a few other parts of the world, notably the US and curiously (to my mind anyway) in Israel. It was also ranked at 20 (of 100) in a 2004 BBC poll of Britains Best Sitcoms so there must have been some love for the show..

Think that’s a fair point; feel it’s good to consider the context of contemporary attitudes and what was being served (no pun intended) in other shows. Going back to the point earlier about union criticism, my feeling is that AYBS was mainly using a comedic stock in trade commonly employed, rather than making a political point.

Yeah, very popular in other countries and absolutely massive in the States - seems to be showing every time I’ve been over.

[quote author=Tony Tony Tony link=topic=83637.msg4379090#msg4379090 date=1605537042….I do catch the occasional rerun on Gold or whatever and recall the original rather fondly but remember thinking at the time it was running out of ideas and the laughs were being milked from broad stereotypes and dodgy situations. The appreciation when catching a rerun does depend on where in original run it comes from, loosely the earlier the better.

For outrageously bad taste gags the spin off/John Inman vehicle Odd Man Out takes some beating, it ran for just one 1977 series and is easily found on you tube…[/quote]

People on the show have commented that it did get to the point that they were running out of fresh ideas for stories and employed increasingly far-fetched ideas - my feeling is that the show got away with it largely on the cast and the audience’s affection for them. Could be wrong, but my impression is that the cast dressing up in funny costumes became more common.

Think I’ve only seen clips from Odd Man Out… felt rather sorry for the rest of the cast of AYBS when the series was put on hold when Inman jumped shipped.

…but I'm not sure anybody else was particularly worth watching: Thornton and English seemed to be going through the motions.

I've no idea if it was meant to appeal to the nostalgia market of most of the Perry/Croft sitcoms, or if it genuinely was supposed to have been contemporary, or both…

Nah, Thornton was very good but it was a role that he would do in his sleep. In an episode such as when Alfie Bass’ character is introduced and starts to say how he knows Peacock from the war, works so well because of Thornton and he’s certainly not phoning it in.

Same with English - also, he came up with bits of business that made it up in the show.

Personally, I would say it was a contemporary show - there were departments stores at the time that were badly run and also antiquated. Glen Matlock in his autobiography recounted a Saturday job in a store (not sure of the year off the top of my head, but mostly 1974-5) where sales assistants would write out purchase details and put it with the customer’s money, which was transported via pneumatic tube - someone would send back change and a receipt.


It wasn't Croft & Perry, it was Croft & Lloyd (as was 'Allo 'Allo and the AYBS spin-off Grace & Favour). Lloyd was a broader writer than Perry.

The idea came from Joanna Lumley, Jeremy Lloyd's wife at the time, who suggested his experience of working on the shop floor of Simpsons would make a good sitcom. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpsons_of_Piccadilly

Aye. Also, Croft was in some ways a broader writer than Lloyd - the gags about Mrs Slocombe’s pussy and suggestive comments were pretty much Croft, rather than Lloyd.

Ambient Sheep

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2020, 12:27:41 AM »
There's an awful lot wrong with it - as mentioned above but also including the show's [...] use of Comedy Jew...

Another thing that passed me by as a child/teen.  I'm probably going to slap my forehead when someone answers this, but who?

Annie Labuntur

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #15 on: November 17, 2020, 01:54:17 AM »
Maybe the Alfie Bass character Mr Goldberg? He didn't last long.

Eg from about 9 mins in here https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x47r1t7

Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #16 on: November 17, 2020, 05:37:16 AM »
It's funny because she keeps talking about her pussy, but she's not talking about her fanny, she's talking about her cat.

Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #17 on: November 17, 2020, 05:51:07 AM »
It's funny because she keeps talking about her pussy, but she's not talking about her fanny, she's talking about her cat.

No the joke is that sometimes she is talking about her fanny but only she knows when, and that excites her.

Glebe

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2020, 11:16:23 AM »
As familiar as it seems to me, I've actually not really seen that many full episodes, just know bits and pieces and that (I did watch the full movie online a few years ago).

Mentioned this before but the episode 'Friends and Neighbours', where Mrs. Slocombe ends up living in a flat above Grace Bros and everyone else moves in had a scene where I recall Mr. Spooner playing some punk song on the stereo, checked out the episode on YouTube and Dailymotion awhile ago but the song appears to have been removed, probably for copyright reasons. Anyway, on that note here's Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocombe as punks (from the episode 'Calling All Customers', apparently):



Another thing covered in previous AYBS? threads, that bit in the movie with Derek Griffiths as a Sheik enjoying Mr. Humphries measuring his leg by sticking a balloon up his arse or summit...Griffiths did the Sheik schtick again in Terry and June episode 'One Arabian Night':


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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #19 on: November 17, 2020, 12:00:10 PM »
Ah, people in 70s sitcoms dressing as punks, marvellous.


Fambo Number Mive

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2020, 12:14:40 PM »
Did Mr Lucas ever commit sexual assault?  I remember him using a lot of sexually-suggestive innuendo and banter but I don't recall him physically handling anyone.

He tries to grope Miss Brahms (she put a folder or something in front of her bottom so he couldn't) and also groped one of Mr Rumbold's secretaries. He also tells Mr Humphries a rather unpleasant story of how he removed the door handle of his car to prevent his date getting out.

Each time it's treated by the audience as a joke.

Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #21 on: November 17, 2020, 12:24:12 PM »
Well, to be fair, how were you expecting the audience to react? A sharp intake of breath, followed by deathly silence? As has previously been stated, you have to take older comedy as something from a different era, and not try and analyse it too much from a modern perspective.

Fambo Number Mive

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #22 on: November 17, 2020, 12:27:28 PM »
As you’ve been watching it recently, how does the former compare to other series of the time in your impression? Unfortunately, ‘funny’ foreigners were a common trope or getting characters to pretend to be foreign and was interested how much they crop up here.

Aside from the Japanese customer, I remember one of the Christmas specials being quite racist where Mr Grainger wears blackface, the Father Christmas Affair. I think Young Mr Grace also makes a racist joke after his trip to China.

On the other hand the show laughs at Mr Grainger for being xenophobic towards the Germans, not with him.

I haven't watched that many UK Seventies and Eighties comedies but was watching the episode of Hi De Hi last night where they think the new Entertainments Manager is a spy and Ted is racist and homophobic in that, which the audience laugh at.




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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #23 on: November 17, 2020, 12:42:31 PM »
The thing about the different sensibilities in the 70s and Mr. Lucas's groping is fairly simple, and I don't think it's because people thought it was acceptable. I'm pretty sure 50% of the population were agin it, for a start. What people would have said if you'd asked them at the time, was that comedy wasn't real. Also sexual innuendo was a comedy trope. There were strong precedents going back to the 60s, things like Benny Hill, etc. So Mr. Lucas makes the joke about the car door handle, and the audience is like, oh my god imagine if he actually did that, oh dear, but he didn't - ha ha ha. I stopped finding those jokes funny around the age of about 12 because I began to realise they were very lazy and not very interesting.

kngen

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #24 on: November 17, 2020, 01:26:41 PM »
Cracking theme tune, though. Put a dub bass line on it, and it's basically Meat Beat Manifesto.

Glebe

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #25 on: November 17, 2020, 01:28:28 PM »
Ah, people in 70s sitcoms dressing as punks, marvellous.

Although just to be irritatingly pedantic, that was actually an '80s episode.

Cracking theme tune, though. Put a dub bass line on it, and it's basically Meat Beat Manifesto.

Not really dub bass but here's Matt Berry's cover... actually, he does go a bit more dubby with the Sorry! theme.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2020, 01:39:29 PM by Glebe »

Tony Tony Tony

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #26 on: November 17, 2020, 01:57:06 PM »
Happened across this Australianised version of AYBS

https://youtu.be/Xn1tRmwS0-w   

It seems the scripts are largely the same though the actors are changed with the notable exception of John Inman.

Not sure what to make of the performances, maybe it’s just because of familiarity with the UK actors but the Aussie ones don’t seem to cut it.

Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #27 on: November 17, 2020, 02:23:16 PM »
Quote
Personally, I would say it was a contemporary show - there were departments stores at the time that were badly run and also antiquated. Glen Matlock in his autobiography recounted a Saturday job in a store (not sure of the year off the top of my head, but mostly 1974-5) where sales assistants would write out purchase details and put it with the customer’s money, which was transported via pneumatic tube - someone would send back change and a receipt.

We had a store like that in Reading until 2013. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-25270010

Anyway, I did find the 1982 special Roots? once.

Other than the movie, which I watched recently (maybe during Lockdown 1), I don't think I've stuck out an entire episode.

In terms of similar shows, Dads Army, It Ain't Half Hot and Hi De Hi all have proper character moments, that undercut the comedy etc. Not so much here.

Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #28 on: November 17, 2020, 02:23:54 PM »
Costa Plonka though, wonderful.

Fambo Number Mive

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Re: Flute your handkerchief! An Are You Being Served? thread
« Reply #29 on: November 17, 2020, 02:33:47 PM »
Happened across this Australianised version of AYBS

https://youtu.be/Xn1tRmwS0-w   

It seems the scripts are largely the same though the actors are changed with the notable exception of John Inman.

Not sure what to make of the performances, maybe it’s just because of familiarity with the UK actors but the Aussie ones don’t seem to cut it.

I felt the same when I watched a couple of Australian episodes. I think the Chaser did a parody sketch or two called Are You Being Shagged? And there was another Australian parody sketch but I can't remember who did it.

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