Straightforward Account of a Long-Running BBC Sitcom
ARE YOU BEING SERVED? began life as a COMEDY PLAYHOUSE episode similar to STEPTOE AND SON. The entire idea looked to have been shelved were it not for the terrorist act at the Munich Olympics of 1972 in which several Israeli athletes lost their lives. With acres of time to fill in their schedules, the BBC turned to the sitcom pilot and transformed it into a series.
Ten series and thirteen years later ARE YOU BEING SERVED? ended. It was never a particularly up-market series - as the co-script writers David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd recalled, its humor was largely dependent on double-entendres. Although based on Lloyd's real-life experience working at London's Simpson's department store, its true roots were in the seaside postcard tradition of bawdy if sexist humor.
After a tentative start the series settled into a long run, even though the BBC's senior staff disliked it on account of its alleged "populism." Several executives thought it was more suitable for ITV. Despite their reservations, the series made a star out of John Inman, while re-establishing the careers of comedy stalwarts such as Mollie Sugden and Frank Thornton.
The series quite literally ran out of steam by the mid-Eighties; by comparison with newer products such as FRENCH AND SAUNDERS, it seemed a little old-fashioned. The cast re-assembled in 1992 for two series of a sequel entitled GRACE AND FAVOUR, but their type of humor had had its day.
This documentary offers a valuable account of the series, with archive interviews with many of the cast - the majority of whom have now passed away. ARE YOU BEING SERVED? continues to be broadcast on the BBC as well as on other stations worldwide - living proof, no doubt, of its durability. Fashions change: perhaps its style of humor is now back in vogue.
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