Friday, January 13, 2012

Opening "Christmas Crackers" in "Are You Being Served?"

This Cafe special, written by natsumi13, was originally published in 2009. It's being reposted this month as part of our tribute to classic British television.

At Grace Brothers department store, the Christmas holiday is approaching, and the ladies and menswear departments have been requested to come in early for a staff meeting. They are to come up with ideas for decorating their departments, but no one is very happy about it. When Mr. Rumbold hasn't shown up to start the meeting, Capt. Peacock decides to go ahead and begin the discussion. After much bickering and insults, Mr. Rumbold arrives and announces that young Mr. Grace has already decided to use items from a theatrical company that he owns.

The highlight for both departments is that they are to have their Christmas lunch that day -- even though Miss Brahms points out, "But it's ages till Christmas!" Mrs. Slocombe reminds her that last year the canteen couldn't handle all the employees at once.

The lunch that follows is hardly what anyone would want. The turkey for five is the size of a cornish game hen and tough as boot leather, with the legs being stubbly; and with the flaming pudding not flaming because the brandy was probably soaked up by a currant, according to Mr. Humphries. The only one to enjoy the lunch is Mr. Lucas because he missed purchasing his ticket and is unable to buy one that day. He is forced to go through the canteen line, which he points out by saying that the others should have had the halibut. At the end of the lunch, young Mr. Grace arrives and tells them to go to the boardroom to pick out their costumes, while their departments are being decorated.

As the lift doors open, everyone has been transformed into fairy tale and fantasy characters. Capt. Peacock is a snowman, Mr. Lucas is a one legged pirate with a fake parrot on his shoulder, Miss Brahms is a fairy princess, Mrs. Slocombe is Robin Hood, Mr. Grainger is Humpty Dumpty or an easter egg (it isn't specified), and Mr. Humphries is Louis the 14th. After the staff members tease each other, the decorations are revealed and everyone joins in singing a Christmas carol.

Are You Being Served? was a UK series that aired from 1972 to 1985. The humor of the show used the class system of Britain as its basis. The characters were middle class and tended to look down on the maintence and canteen staffs. They rarely used each other's first names, always referring to one another as Mr. Humphries or Mrs. Slocombe. It employed double entendres, innuendos, mistaken identity, and sight gags to show humor.

The cast was comprised of:
John Inman- Mr. Humphries
Mollie Sugden- Mrs. Slocombe
Wendy Richards- Miss Brahms
Frank Thorton- Capt. Peacock
Trevor Bannister- Mr. Lucas
Arthur Brough- Mr. Grainger
Nicholas Smith- Mr. Rumbold


  1. This is a great special for a great show. I like that each character's costume seems to represent their indiviual personalities. At the same time, they're also contradictory. As a for instance, Mr. Grainger is short, round and tough, like a hard-boiled egg, but the pretty pastel colors of his costume are in direct contrast to his hard exterior. This was a very fun write-up, natsumi. Looking forward to more from you in the future!

  2. natsumi13, thanks for a wonderful post about a classic British series. I have only seen a handful of episodes on local PBS stations, but I have friends who rave about AYBS. Fortunately, “Christmas Crackers” is on YouTube and I think it’s such silly fun that its enjoyment doesn’t requires previous knowledge of the characters (though that probably makes it much funnier!). Mrs. Slocombe is a hoot with her giant witch’s “hat” and Robin Hood outfit (shown in one of your photos…very nice photos, by the way). I echo Sark’s remark that you should contribute more at the Café. You know, that way we’ll know we’re being served entertaining reviews.

  3. Natsumi13, I have just started to watch some classic British TV shows. This one looks like it might be very cute. Thank you for your wonderful review.

  4. "Are You Being Served?" is one of my very favorite shows! I have the whole series on DVD. Thanks so much for the great write-up on this wonderful show.

  5. John Inman & Mollie Sudgen crack me up all the time! After "the Bucket Lady" (it's bouquet!) on "Keeping Up Appearances," they are two of my favorite Britcom stars!

  6. Natsumi, I really enjoyed reading your entry! My mother loves "Are You Being Served" and "Keeping Up Appearances." This was a surprising and fun addition to the 12 Days of Christmas!

  7. I doubt Natsumi will read this (LOL!!!), but many a late night I stumbled on an old episode of Are you Being Served on my local PBS channel. I always enjoyed the show's uniquely British humor. I always loved Mrs. Slocombe best.

  8. Hi,

    Great to see many AYBS fans here! :-)

    I run an official "Are You Being Served?" site at:

    There are a lot of images and info pertaining to all the cast members.

    There is also a lot of other stuff for the AYBS fan including a blog, forum and an online role playing game.


  9. This show was great fun to watch and had multigenerational appeal.