Are You Being Served?  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
British stereotypes

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 Grace Brothers, a large, fictional London store. It was written mainly by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, with contributions by Michael Knowles and John Chapman. The idea for the show came from Lloyd's brief period working at Simpsons of Piccadilly in the early 1950s, a clothing store which traded for over 60 years until 1999.

The episodes rarely left the store, and to parody the stereotype of the 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 humour based on sexual innuendo, misunderstandings, mistaken identity and occasional slapstick. 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 remembered for its prolific use of double entendres.

The main humorous base of the series was a merciless parody of the British class system.Template:Fact This permeated every interaction and was especially evident in the conversations between the maintenance men and the ostensibly higher-class store personnel.Template:Fact

Characters included stereotypes as the effeminate Mr. Humphries, who lived with his mother; Captain Peacock, the haughty floorwalker who purportedly fought in the North Africa Campaign of World War II (but was actually in the Service Corps), the snobbish and boisterous Mrs. Slocombe with her ever-changing hair colour and Miss Shirley Brahms, a young, working-class, cockney-speaking junior assistant to Mrs. Slocombe.

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 answering, "Yes, I'm free, Captain Peacock." John Inman remarked, when Mr. Humphries trilled, "I'm free!", it became his own personal catchphrase. Another recurring catch phrase was "they'll ride up with wear", about the length of the sleeves.

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 explicitly confirmed was supposedly considered offensive by 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, some apparent heterosexual attractions, and always picking up on ambiguous words such as 'queen', 'gay' and 'camp', viewers were left wondering about Mr. Humphries' 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".

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Are You Being Served?" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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