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Are You Being Served? (1972–1985)
A British Comedy Classic!
9 January 2003
This series ran from 1972 to 1985, but as British series typically only do six or seven episodes in a season, there are only sixty-nine episodes in all.

The series focuses on the relationship between the staff of the ladies' department and the gentlemen's department in a mid-priced department store in London. Also involved in the humor and bickering are the floorwalker, the department manager, and the owner of the store. There were several cast changes, but most of the crew stayed on through the entire run.

As Frank Thornton (Captain Peacock, the floorwalker) points out in interviews, this show is appealing because it's about shops. Everybody knows what goes on in a shop. We see the bickering for display space, the outrageous lies told to clinch a sale, and the petty squabbles as management institutes ridiculous rules.

The one flaw to the series is that continuity stank. The departments in question bounced from floor to floor over the years, not because they were moved, but because the writers forgot where they were supposed to be!

A blessing to fans of the series is the new DVD collection which includes 34 episodes from the first five seasons. There were four Christmas episodes that are rarely shown on television, and two are in the time frame of this set. Also included is "Top Hat and Tails," which had been "lost" for twenty-five years. Once you see it, you'll understand why someone "lost" it until just recently (there's a scene that was surely considered inappropriate at the time).

This series has its down moments, but every episode brings laughs and joy. The quick wit and hilarious physical comedy remain timeless, even as the clothes seem more dated and the political references get stale.
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Goodbye Charlie (1985 TV Short)
Could have been much better...
4 December 2002
I actually saw the one episode of this show when it ran in 1985. The premise was acceptable, a variation on the prince-and-pauper role-swapping story. I think there was a show around the same time where a couple buy an enchanted lamp that grants them the wish of swapping bodies, but doesn't give them the ability to switch back.

The problem with using this situation in a half-hour sitcom is that there is only so much you can set up in twenty-two minutes. And the writers weren't up to the task - most of the episode was filled with bathroom jokes as "Charlene" tried to figure out the physiological aspects of being a woman.

It wasn't Suzanne Somers' fault this show was a stinker. And it wasn't the concept that was bad, either - Blake Edwards used it in his movie "Switch" several years later.
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Mannequin (1987)
No, not a classic... but a fun movie!
4 March 2002
Mannequin is a fun story about a man who creates a mannequin so exquisite he falls in love with it, and discovers that it has come to life with the spirit of an ancient Egyptian princess. No, it's not based on "Pinnochio," but rather the classic Greek story of Pygmalion, where a sculptor creates a statue of Venus and falls in love with it. This was also the basis for the musical "My Fair Lady," although the love interest between Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle isn't as obvious as in other forms of the same story.

There are several interesting ironies in the movie... "Police Academy" co-stars G.W. Bailey and Kim Cattrall never actually appear together until the final scene (because she turns into a mannequin whenever he is in sight). Fans of "St. Elmo's Fire" will be disappointed at the lack of a graphic love scene between McCarthy and Cantrell, but can go rent that other movie for the cheap thrill.

The biggest irony, perhaps, is that non-romantic plot featured classic old-guard department store, Prince & Co., battling the cheesy, glitzy, modern Illustra to prevent a takeover and a destruction of the grand traditions. The movie was shot on location at John Wanamaker in Philadelphia. In fact, Mr. Wanamaker's portrait in the main atrium is pointed out as being store founder Mr. Prince. In the years after the movie, Wanamaker's was bought out by Woodward & Lothrop, then May Company, and the building, which once had eleven floors of retail, now contains a three-story Lord & Taylor. So the fate avoided by Prince & Co eventually claimed Wanamaker's.

If you're from Philadelphia, you're sure to enjoy spotting the location shots (and can probably identify the allegedly broke Switcher's Rittenhouse Square apartment building). Anyone who even knows a gay person will appreciate Meschach Taylor's over-the-top performance as Hollywood Montrose. And fans of "M*A*S*H" and "Police Academy" will once again see G. W. Bailey get what he deserves for being such a jerk. It's fun, it's light - it's a good movie for an evening at home.
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The least of an otherwise great series
14 January 2002
Veggietales are a Christian video series whose characters are all vegetables or fruit (I say this because the main characters are Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, which are both technically fruit).

The animation get a little sharper and more fluid with each new video, and the basic children's morality message is intertwined with adult-level cultural references and humor - adults will want to watch the episode away from the kids, so they can see what they're missing over the giggling!

The best part about these videos is that while they are undoubtedly Christian in nature, the actual Christianity is not very blatant. They never suggest that Christianity is the only true path. Except for the Christmas video and the occasional New-Testament quote at the end, the values and stories are common to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

"God Wants Me to Forgive THEM?!" is the weakest of the series for several reasons. This was the second video in the series; the first, "Where's God When I'm Scared," had a "Silly Song" in the middle, and ended with "tune in next time..." but there wasn't a "Silly Song" in this one. The format of two fifteen-minute episodes rather than half an hour with an intermission gives less time to develop plot. And this particular episode is dripping with potential copyright infringement: the first half is entitled "The Grapes of Wrath," the second half is a "Gilligan's Island" spoof that introduces all the characters in a spoken version of the 1960's theme song (except the "movie star and that other girl" canceled). The intermission scene, the funny "Forgive-O-Matic," mentions infomercial classics Ronco, Ginsu, and Chia Pet by name.

If you're building a collection, though - this is the one to get. It is the only one I have not seen in the series' current release on light green videocassettes.
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Great cast, bad script, worth watching for the in-jokes
6 September 2000
The cast includes Daniel Day Lewis and Joan Cusack, who one thinks could turn out stunning performances with the worst scripts. This isn't the case.

The main reason I actually wanted to watch this movie twice is because of the in-jokes that only Southerners, and Atlantans especially, would get.

In one scene at an Atlanta hotel, the Marriott Marquis was transformed into a parody of another major hotel which once had a "lake" in its lobby, and a long-standing restaurant with an overworked Civil War theme.

I highly recommend seeing this movie at least once if you lived in Atlanta in the 80's. It's also good, I would think, if you've had experience with stubborn patriarchs and traveling art buyers, but that's probably a smaller group.
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