Are You Being Served?

infobox television
show_name = Are You Being Served?

caption = Title card of pilot.
genre = Sitcom
runtime = 30 minutes
creator = Jeremy Lloyd & David Croft
writer = Jeremy Lloyd
David Croft
Michael Knowles
John Chapman
producer = David Croft
Harold Snoad
Bob Spiers
Martin Shardlow
director = David Croft
Bernard Thompson
Harold Snoad
Ray Butt
Gordon Elsbury
John Kilby
Martin Shardlow
executive_producer = David Croft
starring = Mollie Sugden
Frank Thornton
John Inman
Wendy Richard
Nicholas Smith
Trevor Bannister
Harold Bennett
Arthur Brough
James Hayter
Arthur English
theme_music_composer = Ronnie Hazlehurst
country = United Kingdom
language = English
network = BBC1
first_aired = 8 September 1972
last_aired = 1 April 1985
num_series = 10
num_episodes = 69
list_episodes = List of Are You Being Served? episodes
related = "Comedy Playhouse"
"Are You Being Served? (film)"
"Are You Being Served? (Australian TV series)"
"Beane's of Boston"
"Grace & Favour"
imdb_id = 0068040

"Are You Being Served?" was a long-running 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. It was mainly written by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, with contributions by Michael Knowles and John Chapman. The idea for the show came from Lloyd's brief stint working at Simpsons of Piccadilly in the early 1950s, a classy clothing store which traded for over 60 years until 1999. [cite news|url=|title=Going Down: 'Grace Bros' store closes|first=|last=|publisher=BBC|date=1 February 1999]

The episodes rarely left the store, and to parody the stereotype of the rigid British class system, characters rarely addressed each other by their given names, even after work. In 2004, it came 20th in "Britain's Best Sitcom".


*Frank Thornton - Captain Stephen Peacock
*Mollie Sugden - Mrs Betty Slocombe
*John Inman - Mr Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries
*Wendy Richard - Miss Shirley Brahms
*Nicholas Smith - Mr Cuthbert Rumbold
*Arthur Brough - Mr Ernest Grainger "(pilot to series 5)"
*Trevor Bannister - Mr Dick/James Lucas "(pilot to 1979 Special)"
*Harold Bennett - Young Mr Grace "(pilot to 1981 Special)"
*Larry Martyn - Mr Mash "(pilot to 1975 Special)"
*Stephanie Gathercole - Mr Rumbold's secretary "(pilot to series 2)"
*Nina Francis - Miss Ainsworth "(series 2 and 3)"
*Moira Foot - Miss Thorpe "(series 3)"
*Arthur English - Mr Beverley/Harry Harman "(from series 4)"
*Penny Irving - Miss Bakewell "(series 4 to 1979 Special)"
*James Hayter - Mr Percival Tebbs "(series 6 and 1978 Special)"
*Vivienne Johnson - Nurse "(series 6 to 1981 Special)"
*Alfie Bass - Mr Harry Goldberg "(series 7 and 1979 Special)"
*Mike Berry - Mr Bert Spooner "(from series 8)"
*Milo Sperber - Mr Grossman "(series 8, episodes 1 to 4)"
*Benny Lee - Mr Klein "(series 8, episodes 5 to 7; 1981 Special)"
*Kenneth Waller - Old Mr Grace "(series 8 and 1981 Special)"
*Debbie Linden - Secretary "(series 8, episodes 1 to 4)"
*Louise Burton - Secretary "(series 8, episode 4 to 1981 Special)"
*Candy Davis - Miss Belfridge "(from series 9)"
*Diana King - Mrs Peacock "(series 4 and 9)"
*Diana Lambert - Mrs Peacock "(series 10)"
*Doremy Vernon - Canteen Manageress "(from 1975 Special)"
*Pat Astley - Mr Grace's Nurse "(series 5; uncredited)"


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

Despite this abundance of gags, the main humorous base of the series was a merciless attack on the British class system. This permeated every interaction in the show and was especially evident in the conversations between maintenance men Mr. Mash or Mr. Harman and the ostensibly higher-class store personnel.

Characters included such stereotypes as the effeminate Mr. Humphries, who lived with his mother; Captain Peacock, the haughty floorwalker who purportedly fought Rommel in the North Africa Campaign of World War II (but was actually in the Service Corps), and the snobbish and boisterous Mrs. Slocombe of the ever-changing hair colour.

The show spawned the catch phrase "Are you free?", usually said by Captain Peacock to the staff; more often than not, the staff are noticeably free, and each would look solemnly from side to side before saying, "Yes I'm free, Captain Peacock." As John Inman remarked, when Mr. Humphries trilled, "I'm free!" it became his own personal catchphrase.

During its run, the series attracted some mild criticism for its reliance on sexual stereotypes and sexual "double entendres", including jokes about Mrs. Slocombe's "pussy" (cat). John Inman's camp portrayal of Mr. Humphries as an effeminate man whose sexual orientation was never expressed was supposedly offensive to some gay men, but the character quickly developed a cult gay following. 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". [cite news|url=|title=I'm Free! - The Complete "Are You Being Served?"|first=|last=|publisher=Orion Books|date=1999] With a broad mixture of stereotypical gay characteristics and some apparent heterosexual attractions, viewers were left wondering about Mr. Humphries' true 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".



"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 airspace 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. [cite news|url=|title=Obituary - John Inman|first=|last=|publisher=The Times|date=9 March 2007] Although the pilot was produced in colour, only a black-and-white version of this episode remains.

The show went on to receive huge audiences, with later episodes attracting up to 22 million viewers. [cite news|url=|title=Comedy actor Inman dies aged 71|first=|last=|publisher=BBC|date=8 March 2007] 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 song

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 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 1998 by a dance act calling itself "Grace Brothers", 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 "". 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, "Are you free?". The Pink Floyd song "Money" also uses a similar cash register effect.


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 ran for two years in 1976 and 1977.

Other countries

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 U.S. adaptation pilot episode called "Beane's of Boston" aired on 5 May 1979 on CBS, but it didn't make it to a full series. An Australian version, also called "Are You Being Served?", ran for sixteen episodes from 1980 to 1981 and starred John Inman as Mr Humphries. The show was aired in Canada during the late night on YTV.

"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.


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", and the dialogue from the TV episodes were used. 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.

DVD releases

Series One to Seven, including the pilot episode and Christmas specials from those years, are available on DVD in the UK (Region 2) from Cinema Club with Series 8 due to be released on the 13 October. "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!"), are available on DVD in Region 1 (North America).

Currently, the first Eight series and the film have been released in Australia with Series 9 due to be released in October 2008 (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.

ee also

*List of films based on British sitcoms


External links

*|id=comedy/guide/articles/a/areyoubeingserve_7770355.shtml|title="Are You Being Served?"
* [ "Are You Being Served?"] at the British Film Institute
*Screenonline TV title|id=579093|name=Are You Being Served?
*imdb title|id=0068040|title=Are You Being Served?

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