The TV equivalent of comfort food, Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft's 1970s sitcom Are You Being Served?
was British end-of-the-pier humour personified: a half-hour dose of smutty innuendo and amiable grotesques, with the jokes essentially unchanged from one week to the next. Founded on the country's class system (symbolised by the imperious Captain Peacock and grotty cleaner Mr Mash) and its appalling reputation as a service culture, the show became a popular hit, and ran for eight seasons. Though more riotously camp than anything previously seen on TV, John Inman's Mr Humphries (the show's most famous creation) was just about the most sexless character here, overshadowed by Mr Lucas's permanently unrequited lust for pert Miss Brahms in ladies' apparel--or even the philandering of Young Mr Grace, with his string of nubile secretaries, who looked as if they'd been plucked straight from the pages of Mayfair
. The true star of the series, however, remained mercifully off-screen: Mrs Slocombe's much-talked-about pussy. Whether damp (after being caught out in the rain) or frozen solid (the day the central heating broke down), it effectively defined this show's brand of humour: bawdy yet curiously innocent, playful yet deeply conservative. In this box set (which is in fact a large metal tin containing two tapes and even a glove puppet of the aforementioned moggy) there are six entirely characteristic episodes: Mrs Slocombe's underwear causes friction ("Wedding Bells"), her age is debated, as is that of her pussy ("50 Years On"), and a Greek banjo player pops the question ("Do You Take This Man?"). Ironically, the show hasn't aged in the slightest, because it was never remotely contemporary. --Andrew McGuire