Are You Being Served?

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.

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.



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". 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. 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. 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.

DVD Name Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 1 27 August 2002 25 July 2005 2 March 2006
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 2 27 August 2002 19 September 2005 8 June 2006
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 3 27 August 2002 30 January 2006 5 October 2006
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 4 27 August 2002 27 March 2006 7 March 2007
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 5 27 August 2002 5 June 2006 6 June 2007
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 6 30 September 2003 28 August 2006 3 October 2007
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 7 30 September 2003 25 August 2008 6 March 2008
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 8 30 September 2003 13 October 2008 7 August 2008
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 9 30 September 2003 TBA 2 October 2008
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 10 30 September 2003 TBA TBA
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 1-5 27 August 2002 2 October 2006 TBA
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 6-10 30 September 2003 TBA TBA
Are You Being Served? : Complete Christmas Specials 27 September 2005 N/A 3 November 2005
Are You Being Served? : The Complete Series 1-10 7 September 2004 TBA TBA
Are You Being Served? Again : The Complete Series 7 September 2004 TBA TBA

See also


External links

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