Comedy Connections (2003) s01e03 Episode Script

Are You Being Served?

1 What do Mollie Sugden, Joanna Lumley, EastEnders and the Munich Olympics have in common? Guessed it? .
Perfumery, Stationery and Leather Goods Yes.
The answer is Are You Being Served? We're off on a journey through 40 years of comedy - charting the careers of the best of the golden age of sitcom.
From Hancock's Half Hour to 'Allo 'Allo and beyond.
Are You Being Served was born when, in 1969, BBC comedy producer David Croft met fellow writer Jeremy Lloyd for the first time.
Our story begins when Lloyd was known for playing chinless toffs on an American comedy show.
# Here comes the Judge Here comes the Judge Order in the courtroom Here comes the Judge.
Dan Rowan andDick Martin.
After Rowan And Martin's Laugh-in, Lloyd fell in love with an English rose and said goodbye to America.
Really I think what persuaded me to write Are You Being Served? was Joanna Lumley, my friend and ex-wife, said, "You've run out of money, you've come back from America.
"Why not write about something you really know about? "How about your time at Simpson's in Piccadilly?" Meanwhile, David Croft was producing a show as influential in Britain as Laugh-in was in America.
I am wearing a toupee.
A wig, if that makes it any clearer.
So if any of you want a good laugh, at my expense, now's your chance.
'Cause I'm going to show it to you.
While Dad's Army was going from strength to strength, It's Awfully Bad For Your Eyes, Darling needed expert help.
David Croft worked on the scripts and met Jeremy Lloyd, appearing with wife Joanna Lumley.
The Croft and Lloyd partnership was to last longer than the marriage.
I think, while we were doing that, he told me of a show in a department store.
In fact, he had written it as a gentleman's department because he had experience of that.
I thought it'd be fun for them to share the department, so there was conflict, and Are You Being Served? was born.
The pilot script was written in three days.
For Jeremy, it was easier than measuring inside legs for a living, though not always as pleasurable.
The lift operator should be here to help us move.
Never mind! Come along.
Oh, Miss Brahms! What? Pull your skirt down! Some of them were at Simpson's, yes.
The Captain Peacocks were there.
Mrs Slocombes were in a department.
Slightly more upmarket Mrs Slocombes but the same.
Mr Humphries was there.
Croft and Lloyd found their perfect Captain Peacock in an actor displaying his tail feathers in Steptoe And Son and Hancock's most famous half hour.
Do you come here often? This is my 12th time.
There's no need to boast! How much did you give to the Arab refugees? Oh, really! Come on.
You're shouting about how much blood you've given.
How much did you give to refugees? I gave £5.
Oh, well, there you are.
I mean 'I was known as a useful type, you know.
'I'd do one episode of that.
' I didn't make a fortune but worked regularly - supporting my wife and daughter.
But then, Are You Being Served? came along.
Suddenly Frank Thornton disappears and there's Captain Peacock.
I'm afraid the whole occasion justovercame us.
Can we have a little more decorum, please? In 1962, David Croft's first comedy caper was Hugh And I, with Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd.
The girl in the crash helmet would soon own the most famous pussy in comedy.
We're going to the coast.
Brighton? Nothing so common.
I thought Mollie'd be marvellous as the frosty lady behind the counter.
People come in for that reason - you know them and they'll make a great job of it.
He said, "Oh, there's something we've written with you in mind.
" I said, "Ooh, what is it?" He said, "You'll know.
You'll get the script quite soon.
" In about two weeks I got Are You Being Served? From the DM stroke CR to FW stroke L&GD stroke SP, RE: T.
Captain Peacock? What language are you speaking? After the old battleaxe, the handsome hunk.
Rummaging around in the ITV hit The Dustbinmen, Croft got his hands on Trevor Bannister.
Hey, Mam! What? The Dustbinmen! It was enormously popular - 21.
5 million viewers on its first episode and maintained that for 21 episodes.
Never been done before or since.
It's in the Guinness Book Of Records.
I'm like Winston Churchill, you see.
Naturally brilliant, but no good at exams.
Or, to put it another way I'm just ignorant.
Mr Breathing, I don't care about ignorance.
Give us a bit of pigging bliss! I went down to the famous Gerry's club, which is where all of us go, and I bumped into a man called David Croft whom I'd not met before.
He said, "I'm glad I've met you.
I have a script for a pilot and I want you to do it.
" I said, "Oh, well.
Great, fine.
" I read it and, erthought it very amusing.
Croft added little-known actors Nicholas Smith, John Inman and Wendy Richard to make the gang complete.
The pilot was recorded and they waited for Are You Being Served? to debut in the Comedy Playhouse.
If the ratings were good, and the management liked it, it was on.
The BBC didn't like the pilot.
They disliked it so much, that when the series of short plays called Comedy Playhouse was on, they didn't show it.
And then they had a disaster at the Olympic Games in Munich, where there was a terrible tragedy.
They suddenly had blank screens, they needed something, and somebody reached for the nearest show - Are You Being Served? They put it on, 19 million people saw it and sufficient numbers of them absolutely loved it.
And we took off from that.
It got such a reaction, they said, "We'll book this one for a series.
" And that was it.
But that wasn't quite it.
The BBC were unsure about giving Grace Brothers their custom.
One of the staff was causing a problem.
Camping! I beg your pardon Bill Cotton, running the BBC, said, "The show's wonderful, get rid of the poof.
" And I thought, which one's that? "John Inman.
" I said, "He's a sissy.
He's a bit of a mother's boy and he walks funny.
" But it never occurred to me that he was overtly a homosexual.
I said, "Bill, there's no show without a poof.
It's vital.
" And David is reputed to have said, "Well, if the poof goes, I go!" The poof stayed.
The poof stayed, Are You Being Served? opened for business and audiences flocked to it like the first day of the Harrods sale.
There was no honeymoon period before we really got up and running on the first series after the pilot.
Sometimes you get a mix of actors and it might take them two series, even longer when you've got a largish cast, for them to really know each other, to trust each other.
Andthat wasn't the case with us.
Morning Mrs Slocombe, Miss Brahms.
Captain Peacock.
One minute late.
You're lucky to have me at all, Captain Peacock.
I had to thaw me pussy out before I came.
When they came to a scene they knew how to work on it, to rehearse it, where the laughs were, timing.
It took 70 million years to build resources of coal and oil.
In the space of 70 short years, man has ravished them.
Typical of men! The fact is, we cannot get enough.
BOTH: True.
They knew how to play an audience and hear the reaction and it's a great art.
They were absolute masters at it.
Keeping men interested in shopping was Wendy Richard as Miss Brahms.
Leggy, lippy - a saucy seaside postcard come to life.
You've got a problem there.
Well, you men should know.
We haven't got the same problem.
I remember at work saying something about, "I'm the sex symbol" and John Inman said, "No, it's me.
" And I believed him.
But, if you saw the fan mail and stuff I got I was so thick - Wendy, not Miss Brahms - that I didn't realise, you know, to a load of Americans and other chaps, Miss Brahms really was quite a sex symbol.
And I never realised.
Wendy had previously been in ITV's Please Sir! and On The Buses and was also the first Essex girl in ancient Rome.
Soppia! Please! Leave him alone, the young master.
I know where he hasn't been.
Now, find your straws and get out.
I've still got them on.
Straws, not drawers! Ooh, she is common! She really is.
Oh, you mean those straws.
Straws, yes.
Come on, then.
Here you are.
Having another raffle? What? Raffle.
This time you aren't the prize! Oh, dear, poor soul.
What a weight to carry all day.
Wendy had also appeared in Dad's Army and The Likely Lads.
Her earliest link with Croft was an episode of Hugh And I, now lost.
It began her comedy partnership with Mollie Sugden.
I think it was probably one of her first jobs.
She was very young.
And, erso we had a little basis to start with.
She was wonderful to be behind the counter with.
We spent a lot of time behind that counter.
Mostly, if you're not doing a scene on television, you just go away and chat.
You couldn't in Are You Being Served?, because there was a chance they would see you in the background.
You had to be behind the counter.
I can't think of anyone I'd rather be behind a counter with than Wendy.
She was so interesting, and fascinating, and, ergreat fun.
Soand there was a slight mother and daughter feeling about it.
There still is a bit.
I-I stillworry about her and .
want the best for her.
By the third series the show had entered the national consciousness and workplaces would ring with, "I'm free!" Everyone had a favourite.
A number rooted for big-ears in the office.
Everything down, Miss Ainsworth? I've taken it down.
"Knock, knock.
I believe you wanted a word.
"I've been waiting, Mr Grainger.
"Do you recognise this book? "Yes.
Take everything down, Miss Ainsworth.
I've taken it down.
" Don't put down what YOU say! Shall I put that down? No! Let's start again.
The thing about Rumbold, I read the first script and thought, he's an eager idiot.
He misunderstands everything.
He's also devious.
Like many of the cast, Nicholas Smith was no stranger to comedy when David Croft came calling.
He'd been in Doctor In The House, Up Pompeii and The Liver Birds and had perfect preparation for Rumbold on The Frost Report.
The council has decided to advance a grant to improve your property.
You're going to have a row of pylons across your vegetable patch.
He thought hard about Are You Being Served? So pin your ears back for Mr Rumbold's theory of comedy.
It's extremely difficult, I think, in modern society to write comedy either for theatre or television or films, because most comedy is based on there being rules you can't break.
I think I should tell you, Sir, we're not doing the dance.
But you've got to.
The answer is no.
You've got to find a situation where there are rules.
If I topple, I'll drag you with me.
You get nowhere without a reference.
The men are behind me, Sir.
Nicholas is right.
Take away the funny costumes and Bavarian Oompah band and Are You Being Served? Is a comedy of manners in an institution.
Add some catchphrases and pussy jokesand fame awaits.
I was decorating my bathroom.
Erwhen it first happened and I went for some thinners, for some turpentine, to Woolworth's in Portobello Road.
I lived in Notting Hill Gate, then.
I was attacked by several ladies with prams screaming, "There he is!" It went in a phase.
It was, that's him from the shop, that's Mr Humphries and then, thank God, it went to - Ooh, look, there's John Inman.
It was a great success and at one time we had over 20 million viewers.
When it's on now there are younger viewers who enjoy it.
By 1977, Are You Being Served? was so successful that the obligatory movie of the hit series was made.
The comedy connections start shooting off in all directions as the stars get their own shows.
John Inman was lured to ITV with his own show and new character.
Well, sort of.
And THIS is what I want.
Hundreds on the assembly line.
We must keep the wheels of this rock factory turning faster than ever! Turn the wheel and let's get cracking! Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft gave Mollie Sugden a star vehicle that sent her into space.
Do you know, I still get letters saying, when will you do more? At my age! Can you imagine me floating about on a wire now? Come Back Mrs Noah was a good idea which David Croft had about, um using, umMollie Sugden, basically, as a lady that won an atomic kettle in the year 2035 and went to the British space station to investigate it, pressed a button and it took off with a bulb changer, two scientists and somebody else who couldn't do anything.
We had great effects but only six shows 'cause the BBC didn't like it.
But of a shock to you, Mrs Noah.
It's a bit of a shock to all of us.
I should think so - I've left a chicken in the oven! Come Back Mrs Noah shows Croft's unofficial repertory company.
Ian Lavender from Dad's Army was the man in the specs.
Co-stars Michael Knowles and Donald Hewlett were in Dad's Army, Are You Being Served? and in the 1988 comedy, You Rang M'Lord? They're best remembered as Ashwood and Reynolds in Croft's next hit.
Teaming up with Jimmy Perry, It Ain't Half Hot Mum combined a forces setting with social comedy and gave us class warfare in the jungle.
SHUT UP! The Army has its own hierarchy and everybody knows what it is.
Is that the only hat you've got, Gunner? Yes, Sergeant Major.
It's MO's orders.
It protects me head from the sun.
I've got very thin skull bones.
Well, you know why that is, don't you? No.
You've got a huge brain.
It's rubbing inside and wearing your head out.
When you're on location and you have a lot of extras on the show, eryou find that the private extras gather in one section and the officers gather in another section They're all extras! They sort of associate with their own rank.
I say! These are working men's caps.
I was in India, umand Malaya and my partner Jimmy Perry ran a concert party for the royal artillery in India.
It was second nature.
Any complaints? If I may say so - the diet is very monotonous.
Monotonous? Monday you had corned beef hash, Tuesday corned beef fritters.
What's monotonous? Not bad, Sir.
The only trouble is they get the same thing every day.
It's as bad for us.
I'm fed up with chicken.
'Jimmy and David would observe people's mannerisms.
' I remember an incident in Ain't Half Hot when Donald was in the Navy, during the war, and was chatting at my desk.
He said, "I was in the Navy.
I did training - the worst two weeks of my life before I was commissioned.
" A few weeks later, this was in the script.
When I was in ranks the food was uneatable - worst two weeks of my life.
Carry on! With material that close to hand, no wonder the hits kept coming.
David Croft moved into the '80s with Oh, Happy Band and Hi De Hi.
A kind of It Ain't Half Cold Mum in a holiday camp.
Meanwhile, his protegee Mollie Sugden was larger than life in That's My Boy, which ran for six series - five more than John Inman's Take A Letter, Mr Jones.
That was lucky because he was free to go down under and remake Are You Being Served? which couldn't live without him.
The excuse was made that they couldn't find anybody camp enough.
But, when I got there, that was totally untrue.
Welcome, Mr Humphries.
I'm Mr Dunkley I'm very proud of my floor.
You've got a nice shine.
What polish do you use? I wasted a lot of videotape because I couldn't remember their names.
Having done so many episodes with Slocombe and Peacock, it was difficult to remember Crawford and Wagstaff.
Mrs Crawford and Miss Buxton, her junior.
May I say how pleased we are and I am unanimous in this and that goes for my assistant.
Mr Bankovitch will be over you and Mr Randall will be under you.
Just like being at home! At home, audiences hadn't taken to Oh, Happy Band but Hi De Hi, with its nostalgic setting, and familiar characters, became a ratings smash.
Off we go again I used to produce shows at Butlin's and Jimmy Perry was a redcoat.
We knew all about the Butlin world and the structure of holiday camps.
# Be sincere # In everything you do Be sincere Is all I ask of you.
It was a world we knew well and we depicted it, I think.
HI DE HI-I-I-I! So, between 1968 and 1982, David Croft and collaborators Jimmy Perry and Jeremy Lloyd had created Dad's Army, Are You Being Served?, It Ain't Half Hot Mum and Hi De Hi.
That's four more sitcoms than most people manage in an entire career.
But the question was, what next? We finished Are You Being Served? then we decided we'd write something sort of Upstairs Downstairs, and we had two days on that and we were just doing the downstairs part and I wasn't enjoying it.
Either something's going or not.
So I lay under the table to have a think and thought, what about the French Resistance? I phoned and he was in bed.
I said, "I'm not enjoying what we're doing.
"What about the French Resistance?" Oh, Rene! Oh, Yvette! At last we are alone! Hold me! Kiss me! Oh! It seems so very long.
What does? It seemed an ideal setting because there was danger, excitement, er seduction.
You know, generals to find out what the plans were, etc.
Umhiding people.
The central thing is a cafe everyone comes to.
The perfect set, really.
Good moaning.
You stupid woman! When we had the best of any pair or threesome, in any scene, we could cut elsewhere quickly.
Listen very carefully - I shall say this only once.
Heil Hitler! Club! It has great pace.
You will put it in 'ere and clip it to a pigeon.
You, Rene, will write about the uniforms we require.
Here is the paper supplied with the cylinder.
What shall I say? To London, please supply urgently, by parachute drop at your earliest convenience, German uniforms as follows With 'Allo 'Allo, Croft and Lloyd perfected the style of comedy they first used on Are You Being Served? Find a situation full of conflict, fill with strong characters and add catchphrases and gags.
Make it nostalgic and satirical at the same time - et voila! The partnership couldn't end without those who brought it together.
In 1992, they took Grace Brothers away from the shop floor and gave them a country hotel.
In Grace And Favour we actually went on location.
Lovely locations in the Cotswolds, on a farm.
It was It was great fun.
There's a rumour that you weren't on your own last night.
I wonder where that came from! Well, don't look at me! Do you know? I don't feel like breakfast.
I'll go for a manly walk.
I might pop into the village and buy a pipe DEEP VOICE: .
and a couple of ounces of St Bruno.
In my opinion it should never have been called Grace And Favour.
It should be, as it is in America, Are You Being Served Again? Some of the others didn't like it so much because we lost this hierarchical thing we had before.
I said to Jeremy, when we did the second series, "I think it ought to be emphasised Rumbold is managing the hotel.
"Thus, we can produce friction.
" And he said, "I think you're right.
" I think that's what happened.
In 1995, David Croft OBE produced one last series for the BBC and marked the privatisation of the railways by taking a swipe at the industry in Oh, Dr Beeching! But like the age of steam, it looked like Croft's style of comedy had run out of puff.
On the train! Lots of us are all part of David Croft's repertory company.
In fact, years ago, on David's This Is Your Life, I sat with Mollie and we had tears in our eyes because we're very proud of David, apart from being fond of him.
I looked at everyone and I thought, "He's made stars of all of you.
" With hindsight, how fortunate to be in that period of great comedies and to be part of them.
It's belonging to a fellowship, I suppose, that I don't think will be repeated.
That was a golden vein, no longer there.
For many of us they'll always be ready to serve, in a store that will be forever England.
This gentleman is going to a fancy dress do and wishes to use the gent's facilities to try it on.
The gentleman's department will be suitable.
This way, please.
Thank you.
Mr Grainger, are you free? Sorry, Captain Peacock - I'm going to have my coffee in the staff cafe.
Mr Humphries, are you free? I'm busy pricing ties, Captain.
The gentleman wishes to try on a dress.
I'm free!