The Grace Brothers department
store has everything... including clothing departments run by a sales staff who
range from eccentric to entirely dysfunctional. Are You Being Served?
Series 6-10 picks up the show where the previous boxed set left off, continuing
the misadventures of the same cast of characters. Considering its long run, Are
You Being Served? must have tickled the funny bone of a good many viewers,
and certainly those viewers will be delighted to now have the complete series
available on DVD. This boxed set contains all 35 half-hour episodes from
seasons 6 through ten, running from 1978 to 1985.
Before having this set come
into my hands, I'd never heard of Are You Being Served?, much less seen
any episodes. Unfortunately, the episodes in this set failed to convert me into
a fan... or even a mildly interested viewer. The show's humor comes from a
combination of physical comedy and insult-slinging among the characters,
neither of which generally appeal to my sense of humor.
Much of the comedy depends on
the viewer knowing and loving the characters. Viewers who started watching the
series from the beginning may have developed an affection for these characters
over the first five seasons, but I have to admit that I didn't find them interesting
in the episodes here. Rather than characters, they're really caricatures, from
the effeminate Mr. Humphries and the wise-cracking Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spooner, to the outspoken Miss
Brahms and stuffy Mr. Peacock. Each one has his or her peculiarity, and each
peculiarity is the source of countless jokes. I think we're supposed to find it
immensely amusing each time we see Mr. Humphries dressed in frilly clothes or
hear another character make a reference to him being gay, for instance, but
this kind of humor wears thin very quickly indeed. So if you don't care about
the characters at all, and if they don't seem like three-dimensional people,
listening to them snipe and spar with one another is tedious rather than
If the slapstick humor were a bit
better, the comedy still might work, but somehow the ridiculous situations of
the various episodes seem contrived rather than ludicrously funny. The
"punch line" of each episode is often predictable as well: in
"Anything You Can Do," in which the staff is forced to take over the
lunch counter for a day, I saw the ending joke coming a mile away. In the end, Are
You Being Served? wasn't actively bad; it just wasn't funny. And for a
purely comedic series, that's the kiss of death.
Are You Being Served?
Series 6-10 is quite a massive set. The 35 episodes are spread across six DVDs,
each in individual keepcase; the final volume of the set contains the special
features spread across two discs. All seven cases are contained in a glossy
The Are You Being Served? episodes
maintain a consistent and reasonably good image quality from the earlier (1978)
to the later (1985) episodes. All are presented in their original television
aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The image is a bit soft, with detail slightly blurred
in middle- and longer-distance shots, and there is some edge enhancement;
however, this is not obtrusive. I saw a few instances of colored haloes and
artifacts, but these were only occasional; colors (including Mrs. Slocombe's
hair) are bright and clear. The print is nicely clean and free of noise or
The soundtrack for Are You
Being Served? is a solid Dolby 2.0 mono. The dialogue is always clear and
understandable, though not always crisp. Overall, it's a nicely clean soundtrack,
and the "laugh track" doesn't intrude too much on the dialogue.
The first six DVDs (volumes
8-13) each contain a "Who's Who" section with information on each
character and the actors who play them, along with trailers for other BBC
releases. The seventh DVD (volume 14) contains the bulk of the special
features. The first bonus feature is "The Best of Are You Being Served?"
(1 hour 16 minutes), which is a retrospective feature that highlights the
funniest moments from various episodes over the course of the series.
Admittedly this seems a bit extraneous as a special feature for a
"complete series" collection, but it may interest some viewers.
Of more note to fans is
"Celebrating Mollie Sugden" (1 hour 28 minutes), which is a special
feature focusing on the career of the actress who portrayed Mrs. Slocombe in
the show, in honor of her 80th birthday. This program is hosted by John Inman
(Mr. Humphries) and features interviews with Mollie Sugden herself, Trevor
Bannister (Mr. Lucas), Wendy Richard (Miss Brahms), and Nicholas Smith (Mr.
Viewers are also given a taste
of two other series, with the pilot episodes of Grace and Favor (also
known as Are You Being Served? Again) on Disc 1 and 'Allo 'Allo
(an unrelated comedy series also written by Are You Being Served?'s
Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft).
For fans of the series, there's
no doubt that BBC Worldwide has done a very nice job of packaging and
presenting the second half of Are You Being Served? Even though I've
enjoyed other British comedies, I didn't care for it at all, but humor is
something that is very individual. If you've seen Are You Being Served?
before, perhaps on PBS, and enjoyed it, this boxed set is a reasonable
purchase. If you've never seen the show before, I suggest you rent it first to
decide whether the show is worth your time.