Long-running BBC sitcom created by David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd, following the exploits of the employees of the Ladies' and Gentlemen's ready-to-wear departments of Grace Brothers, a London department store, primarily inspired by Simpson's of Piccadilly (at which store Lloyd had briefly worked). The show lasted from September 1972 to April 1985, for a total of 69 episodes in ten series.
In classic Brit Com tradition, the episodes generally had relatively little in the way of plot. Individual episode storylines were largely set up to provide an excuse for the characters to deliver a rapid-fire succession of double entendres, typically dealing with the reactions (or over-reactions) of the staff to the latest management scheme, or the tension between the Ladies' and Gentlemen's departments. Nearly every episode in later series ended with the characters dressing up in silly outfits. The show rarely strayed beyond the department floor, and almost never left the confines of the store itself.
A one-off revival with an all new cast was broadcast in August 2016.
Came in twentieth in the BBC's Britain's Best Sitcom campaign.
The core characters of the show were:
- Mrs. Slocombe (Mollie Sugden), senior assistant on the Ladies' counter. She sported exotically colored hair and made constant comments about her cat, which she always called "her pussy". An evidently artificial posh accent was undercut by a propensity for malapropisms and a tendency to revert back to a working-class Blackpool accent when surprised or angry.
- Mr. Humphries (John Inman), associate (later de facto senior) assistant on the Men's counter. Ambiguously Camp Gay: the general confusion about his sexual orientation made up much of the show's jokes. Among his perennial gags was the substitution of a deep baritone for his usual effeminate voice when answering the telephone.
- Mr. Lucas (Trevor Bannister), junior assistant on the Men's counter. A borderline Casanova Wannabe, often in trouble for minor violations of the store's baroque codes of conduct (for example, his failure to display a properly fluted pocket handkerchief). Mr. Lucas was well-known for being almost predictably late — he usually attempted to cover it by signing false names in the work register, but this backfired when Captain Peacock dryly pointed out that the majority of the names Mr. Lucas chose were either celebrities, fictional, dead, or a combination thereof. He was later substituted in favor of Mr. Spooner (Mike Berry), essentially the same character reduced to a secondary role.
- Miss Brahms (Wendy Richard), the sexy Deadpan Snarker ladieswear junior, noted for her sometimes incomprehensible Estuary accent.
- Captain Peacock (Frank Thornton), the floorwalker. Due to his (somewhat exaggerated) military background (he served in the RASC, Royal Army Service Corps) and higher position, he considers himself above the assistants and flaunts his greater social standing. Constantly in trouble with his wife for supposed improprieties, although it is not clear whether he ever actually crossed the line into outright infidelity. note
- Mr. Grainger (Arthur Brough), the elderly, cantankerous senior assistant in menswear. He was later replaced by the progressively younger and less cantankerous Mr. Tebbs (James Hayter), then Mr. Goldberg (Alfie Bass), then Mr. Grossman (Milo Sperber), and finally Mr. Klein (Benny Lee). For the final few seasons, this role was removed, reducing the core cast to a Five-Man Band. However, by this point John Inman had understandably grown superstitious about the position of senior menswear assistant, and although his character was evidently promoted to replace the last one, he got his wish that this never be explicitly acknowledged onscreen.
- Mr. Rumbold (Nicholas Smith), the floor manager, often called upon to invent wild explanations for the staff's actions. Called 'Jug Ears' by the staff (and not always behind his back, either), his poor eyesight often lent itself to comical misunderstandings when he was forced to read anything. Verbal explanations also tended to be misunderstood due to him taking things very literally.
- Mr. Mash (Larry Martyn) — later replaced by Mr. Harman (Arthur English) — maintenance personnel used to make jokes about the class system (for example, though they are "dead common" and considered social pariahs by the staff, the maintenance staff is, thanks to their union, better-paid than the sales staff). Mr. Harman could be a Dead Pan Snarker when the situation called for it, but he could usually be counted on to help the Grace Brothers' staff out of that week's predicament.
- Young Mr. Grace (Harold Bennett), the ancient owner of the store. Dirty Old Man, but generally a pleasant, if easily confused boss. Though described as "young", he is well over 80: the query, "That's Young Mr. Grace?!" elicits the response, "Old Mr. Grace doesn't get around much anymore". Young Mr. Grace was replaced for a series by Old Mr. Grace (Kenneth Waller), an obviously younger actor under gobs of makeup; the character proved to be unpopular and was written out after one series, with the writers opting instead for an unseen Mr. Grace.
In parody of the British class system, characters are almost never referred to by their first names, and it is several seasons before we even know all of them (Additionally, several first names change over time; this was even shown with Mr. Lucas's profile picture on one of the discs in the official Region 1 DVD box set, as "Mr. Dick/James Lucas").
The characters in the show were, in large part, roles rather than people: actors were replaced frequently, each one playing essentially the same role as his predecessor.
Spawned a feature film, an Australian remake, and a short-lived revival, Grace & Favour, which reunited most of the cast as the keepers of a country inn (as the final management scheme before the store went under was to sink their pension fund into it). A number of the show's stars suspect that the viewing public did not realize that Grace & Favour was meant to be a revival, and therefore did not give it a chance. This is somewhat borne out by the fact that the show had more success in the US, where it was aired under the title Are You Being Served? Again!.
U.S. viewers know this show from its near-universal syndication on public television stations. In Mystery Science Theater 3000: Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, while running a fake public TV pledge drive as a moneymaking scam, Pearl Forrester identifies footage of Mike and the Bots as a clip from Are You Being Served?.
This series provides examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Mrs. Slocombe to Mr. Humphries. Although she appears to understand on some level that Mr. Humphries is not attracted to her, she continues to pursue marriage with him in the later episodes of the series. Mr. Humphries lacks the nerve to reject her, and he narrowly misses having relations with her out of sheer luck.
- Actor Allusion:
- In "The Hold Up", Mr. Harman comes up with a plan with Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphries to rescue the others by dressing up as the dreaded Gumby Gang. As Pa Gumby, actor Arthur English as Mr. Harman is dressed up as a character he was most famous for doing years prior to the show: a shady "spiv" character, complete with pencil moustache and wide tie.
- One of the Standard Snippets featured in "The Ballet of the Toys" is "Teddy Bear Picnic", a song featured on the same album on which star John Inman sang the title theme (which would later be used for the Australian version of the show).
- After Show / Revival: Grace & Favour (known as Are You Being Served? Again! in the U.S.) continues the series eight years after the original left off, but replaces the store with a country manor that the Ladies' and Gents' staff inherit from Young Mr. Grace and run as an inn.
- Almighty Janitor: Mr. Harman is multitalented and, therefore, frequently helps, in various roles, the Ladies and Gents staff members (getting extra pay for it doesn't hurt, either). His powers are highly evident in "Take-over", when he finds out about the plot point "emptying the waste-paper basket" and comes up with his own plan for saving the firm.
- Whereas Mr. Harman played this role straight, it was subverted by the original character, Mr. Mash. On the rare occasion that Mash actually attempted such things, he usually would fail (such as his role in trying to get a fairer coffee break).
- Ambiguously Gay: Mr. Humphries most of the time. As the series progressed, there were increasing suggestions that Mr. Humphries was actually attracted to women...predominantlynote .
- Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: In "By Appointment", Mrs. Slocombe talks about how much she didn't enjoy her vacation in Spain because of that reputation the Spanish have for groping women.Ms. Brahms: Was it all true?
Mrs. Slocombe: No, none of it.
- As Himself: British wrestling legend "Mr. TV" Jackie Pallo pretty much played himself in the Pro Wrestling Episode. He even did all of his best known moves to Mr. Humphries before being beaten up by Mrs. Slocombe.
- Ascended Extra: Some of the peripheral characters became near-regulars by the series’ end. Take the canteen manageress, who first appeared in the third series Christmas special, with three short lines. Until Series 7, she appeared once a year, if at all. By the tenth series, she was appearing in nearly every episode and regularly interacting with the staff.
- Miss Belfridge, from the final two series, was the only secretary to get non-office scenes on a regular basis (in addition to the typical office scenes).
- At the Opera Tonight: On one of their few outings, they attend a ballet in "The Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe". Appropriately enough ...
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Captain and Mrs. Peacock, "... although they've got a very strange way of showing it", reminds Mr. Humphries.
- Bad "Bad Acting":
- In "Cold Store", Mr. Mash does this when sabotaging the stairs with the intention of getting Mr. Lucas off early.
- In "Forward Mr. Grainger", when Mr. Rumbold asks Captain Peacock to "act suitably surprised" when publicly announcing something that Rumbold had already told Peacock in confidence, Peacock's reactions are hilariously stilted.
- Ballet Episode:
- "Happy Returns" tries to be this, but the main characters' plans are waylaid by another group's plans to perform The Ballet of the Toys.
- "Strong Stuff This Insurance" sees the staff getting ballet lessons in an attempt to execute an insurance scheme.
- The Barnum: Mr. Humphries.
- Belly Dancer: In "Fire Practice", an Arab Emir wants to buy some trousers from Grace Brothers. After Captain Peacock refuses payment of a goat, then a handmade rug, the Emir offers a wife which Peacock also refuses. However when the woman takes off her burka and does a sensual belly dance, he's tempted to reconsider.
- Bilingual Bonus: In "Fire Practice" the Emir speaks actual idiomatic Arabic. The translator embellishes a bit, but is largely accurate; it's just that Arabic speakers get the joke a bit earlier.
- In "The Old Order Changes" they're made to wear casual clothes, and speak informally. Captain Peacock ends up using the expression "Strides, for the omi with the naff riah" which is Polari for "trousers for the guy with the bad hair". Even made more amusing by the fact that Peacock's hair has also been permed into the same Afro.
- Birthday Episode: Doubling as Hey, Let's Put on a Show episodes: "Happy Returns" for Young Mr. Grace and "Roots?" for Old Mr. Grace.
- Blitz Evacuees: Mrs. Slocombe continually mentions having been a "Land Girl" during the war. She celebrated her 50th birthday in 1976, which would fit with her having been a Land Girl towards the end of the war. Her experience is elaborated upon (to her repeat embarrassment) when the cast retire to the country in Grace And Favour.
- Blowing a Raspberry: Mr. Mash without the two-fingered salute. Mrs. Slocombe and others on the floor with it.
- Bob from Accounting: Or, shall we say, Mr. Patel from Accounting. The staff make frequent references to the Accounts Department, and how all of them are Asian, and in one episode, Mr. Patel from Accounts does appear.
- Bottle Episode: More or less a "bottle series". In the entire run, only five scenes were set outside the store, and almost every episode limited the action to the sales floor, canteen, Mr. Rumbold's office, and sometimes Mr. Grace's office. Less frequent appearances were made by the boardroom and basement, with other sections of the store showing up once or twice (oftentimes the sales floor redressed).
- The Boxing Episode: In "The Hero", Captain Peacock is challenged to a boxing match by another department head but backs out. Then Mr. Humphries is chosen to take his place in a wrestling match and loses. Then Mrs. Slocombe enters the ring.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall:
- Series 4, Episode 5, "Fifty Years On", deals with Mrs. Slocombe's (allegedly) fiftieth birthday. They deliver to her the present, which comes in a red cubic box at least a foot on each side, wrapped up with a gold ribbon, in a moment that would probably be said to be shouting out to Pulp Fiction, except that hadn't been filmed yet.Mrs. Slocombe: (looking in the box) Oh! It's just what I've always wanted!
Miss Brahms: (leaning aside to peek in) Lovely, innit!
Mr. Lucas: (approaching the box eagerly, hands outstretched to take it from her) Well, come on, let's have a look at it, then! Oh, look at that, that's worth every penny!note
Mr. Grainger: (looking in the box, smiling and shaking his head) Oh, you know, Mrs. Grainger's always wanted one.
Mr. Humphries: (taking the box from Mr. Grainger) Well, I've had one of these for years, I wouldn't be without it!
Cpt. Peacock: (taking the box from Mr. Humphries) I wish I had had one in the desert!
Mr. Rumbold: (taking the box from Cpt. Peacock) I've never actually seen one before.
Mr. Humphries/John Inman: (winking directly into the camera and not at any of the other actors) We're not going to tell you what it is, it's a secret!
- Series 4, Episode 6, "Oh What a Tangled Web", has Captain Peacock and Mr. Rumbold's secretary arrive very late for work, leading to another direct address to camera by John Inman as Mr. Humphries:Cpt. Peacock: Good morning, Mrs. Slocombe.
Mrs. Slocombe: Good afternoon, Captain Peacock.
Cpt. Peacock: Yes, I am a bit late... there's a reason, of course.
Mr. Lucas: (scoffs) Yeah, here it comes.
Mr. Humphries: (direct to camera, as though introducing an object on Twenty Questions) And the next object is... a lie. A lie.
- Series 10, Episode 3, "The Hold Up": Mr. Humphries as gangster Italian Tony is being offered Miss Brahms by the burglars:Miss Brahms: (feigning disgusted fright) No, no, I shall never give in to an Italian whopper!
Mr. Humphries/Italian Tony: (direct to camera, looking very puzzled) They do have rumours in the underworld.
- Series 4, Episode 5, "Fifty Years On", deals with Mrs. Slocombe's (allegedly) fiftieth birthday. They deliver to her the present, which comes in a red cubic box at least a foot on each side, wrapped up with a gold ribbon, in a moment that would probably be said to be shouting out to Pulp Fiction, except that hadn't been filmed yet.
- Breakout Character: The concept was originally to have Mr. Lucas and Miss Brahms as the leads, being the younger and more normal characters. However, Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphries stole the spotlight.
- Brick Joke: Usually, a semi-, mal-, or non-functioning display shows up to close out the closing credits.
- British Brevity: Even though the show ran for ten seasons over 13 years, it produced only 69 episodes. This averages out to about seven episodes a season.
- Brits Love Tea: Almost every episode had some sort of reference to tea— Tea breaks, putting the kettle on, tea at meetings, and even a tea trolley at one point.
- Building of Adventure: The setting very rarely leaves Grace Brothers Department Store.
- Butt-Monkey: While not the only one to suffer this, Mr. Rumbold is clearly the resident Butt-Monkey of Grace Brothers!
- Call-Back: Late in Are you Being Served? Captain Peacock is established as a gambling addict. The Call-Back comes over a decade later in Grace & Favour (Are you Being Served? Again! in the states;) when Morris Moulterd is commenting on how Mrs. Slocombe's cat is only 100 yards ahead of the pack (of hunting dogs) and losing ground fast, he gives Tiddles 5:1 odds of not making it. Captain Peacock doesn't hesitate a moment in shouting "You're on!"
- Camp Gay: Mr. Humphries when he reveals what he does for fun.
- Camp Straight: Mr. Humphries may be over-the-top effeminate in his voice and mannerisms, but Word of God from John Inman confirms that he is interested in women (mostly).
- Camping Episode: In "Camping In" a transport strike forces the staff to stay in the store overnight using tents from the sporting-goods department.
- The signature exchange for one character (usually Captain Peacock) to get the attention of another is to ask, "[Character's name], are you free?" Mr. Humphries' delivery of "I'm free!" also appears at least once in almost every episode.
- Any visit from Young Mr. Grace will conclude with him waving his walking stick (as his valet, Godard — or his nurse in later series — tries to keep him from falling over) and exclaiming, "You've all done very well!" To which the staff unenthusiastically mutter, "Thank you, Mr. Grace" while bowing.
- Whenever something happens to give Mr. Grainger a shock, Mr. Humphries will call, "Glass of water for Mr. Grainger", and for which Mr. Lucas will reply with "Glass of water coming up!"
- Mrs. Slocombe's preferred concluding phrase for any sort of ultimatum is, "And I am unanimous in that". Meanwhile, if the male characters hesitate in stepping forward when the situation calls for action, she will angrily mutter, "Weak as water!"
- Whatever the ill-fitting part of the item of clothing the staff have just sold, they will invariably assure the customer, "They'll ride up with wear" (Acknowledged in several episodes to be pure fiction intended solely to complete the sale).
- If one character, usually Mrs. Slocombe, gets uncomfortable with the conversational tangent pursued by Miss Brahms, she will be cut off with a simple "That will do, Miss Brahms".
- Mr. Humphries answering the phone (in an obviously fake very deep voice): "Menswear".
- Chain of Corrections: Whenever Mr. Rumbold is writing down staff complaints.
- Character Aged with the Actor: The entire cast in Grace & Favour. This is lampshaded in the first scene of the first episode, when Mr. Humphries says that the shaky elevator ride has "put ten years on all of us".
- Christmas Episode: "Christmas Crackers" (Series 3), "The Father Christmas Affair" (Series 4), "Happy Returns" (Series 6), "The Punch and Judy Affair" (Series 7), "Roots?" (Series 8).
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Numerous characters disappear without explanation or acknowledgement, most notably Mr. Lucasnote and Mr. Grainger. Other characters who succumb to the syndrome include Mr. Mash, Mr. Goldberg, Mr. Grossman, and Mr. Klein, as well as numerous recurring secretaries and staff of Mr. Rumbold and both Grace brothers.
- The Coconut Effect: Parodied in "Calling All Customers", when Mr. Harman works the sound effects (and sound defects) for the radio show, using the fruit for the horse sounds. He keeps on until Mr. Humphries commands "Cut your nuts!"
- Coconut Meets Cranium: Mr. Rumbold removes his hat in "By Appointment" to reveal bandages for injuries from a coconut falling on his head in Coconut Island.
- Color-Coded Characters:
- The female sales assistants and lift girls wear dark brown uniforms (except in the first series, when the lift girls wore red) with the Grace Bros. logo.
- Upper-level male staff are entitled to wear a red carnation (and not a variegated color as Captain Peacock found out the hard way in "The Old Order Changes").
- The Packing and Maintenance Department wear light brown overcoats with the Grace Bros. logo.
- Continuity Snarl: Mr. Humphries mentioning in the pilot (presumed to take place on February 5, 1973) he'd been at Grace Brothers for 10 years, his mentioning in "The Hand of Fate" (premiered in 1975) that he'd been at Grace Brothers for 15 years, and Mrs. Slocombe turning 50 in "Fifty Years On" (in which she's hinted to have been born in 1926) don't really mesh well together.
- Convenient Replacement Character: Just about all the replacement characters fell into this category, but the fact that in Season 8, Senior salesman Mr. Grossman was replaced after four episodes with another character of the same age and temperament seems just a little TOO convenient.
- The Couch: The show had its own version of this: the long cafeteria table at which every character sat on the same side, so the set could be built with only one wall.
- Country Matters:
- In "A Bliss Girl", Mr. Harman refers to "some silly berk" when complaining about the fog on the ground floor, "berk" being a mild Cockney rhyming slang term for you-know-what.
- In "The Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe", Mr. Klein calls Mr. Spooner a berk for asking if the dancers forgot their lines.
- Crazy Workplace:
- Mrs. Slocombe, senior assistant on the Ladies' counter. She sported exotically colored hair and made constant comments about her cat, which she always called "her pussy". An evidently artificial posh accent was undercut by a propensity for malapropisms and a tendency to revert back to a working-class Blackpool accent when surprised or angry.
- Mr. Humphries, associate (later senior) assistant on the Men's counter. Ambiguously Camp Gay: the general confusion about his sexual orientation made up much of the show's jokes. Among his perennial gags was the substitution of a deep baritone for his usual effeminate voice when answering the telephone.
- Mr. Lucas, junior assistant on the Men's counter. A borderline Casanova Wannabe, often in trouble for minor violations of the store's baroque codes of conduct (for example, his failure to display a properly fluted pocket handkerchief). Mr. Lucas was well-known for being almost predictably late — he usually attempted to cover it by signing false names in the work register, but this backfired when Captain Peacock dryly pointed out that the majority of the names Mr. Lucas chose were either celebrities, fictional, dead, or a combination thereof. He was later substituted in favor of Mr. Spooner, essentially the same character reduced to a secondary role.
- Miss Brahms, the sexy Deadpan Snarker ladieswear junior, noted for her sometimes incomprehensible Estuary accent.
- Captain Peacock, the floorwalker. Due to his (somewhat exaggerated) military background (he served in the RASC, Royal Army Service Corps) and higher position, he considers himself above the assistants and flaunts his greater social standing. Constantly in trouble with his wife for supposed improprieties, although it is not clear whether he ever actually crossed the line into outright infidelity.
- Mr. Grainger, the elderly, cantankerous senior assistant in menswear. He was later replaced by the progressively younger and less cantankerous Mr. Tebbs, then Mr. Goldberg, then Mr. Grossman, and finally Mr. Klein. For the final few seasons, this role was removed, reducing the core cast to a Five-Man Band.
- Cute Kitten: One episode has Mrs. Slocombe's cat about to give birth, whereupon she smuggles it into work. The wrath of Captain Peacock is avoided via Cuteness Proximity.
- Damsel in Distress: Miss Brahms in "The Hold Up".
- A Day in the Limelight: Mr. Spooner in "The Pop Star".
- Deadpan Snarker: Mr. Harman and Miss Brahms in the classic sense of the term. Mr. Lucas without the deadpan aspect.
- Death Glare: From Capt Peacock and Mrs. Slocombe.
- Delusions of Eloquence: Mrs. Slocombe was frequently prone to this."The earth began as a soup, with little orgasms floating about in it."
- Deus ex 'Scuse Me: How Mrs. Slocombe and Mrs. Peacock meet in "Oh What a Tangled Web".
- Did You Get a New Haircut?: Played With in "It Pays To Advertise", when Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphries have mannequins made of themselves, and Mr. Grainger mistakes the mannequin of Mrs. Slocombe for the real thing:Mr. Grainger: Your hair's looking nice today, Mrs. Slocombe. (after a few moments) Alright, ignore me, you bad tempered old cow.
- Dirty Old Man: Old Mr. Grace, he always keeps young secretaries and nurses around, and there are rumors of his affairs with them. In fact, his death comes from being on holiday with one of them when her top comes undone in a scuba-diving accident.
- Captain Peacock was a milder version as the show went on. He started with a reputation for being handsy with young women on staff, particularly Miss Brahms and particularly at Christmas parties. As the show went on and Values Dissonance set in, he was mellowed into a man with a taste for younger ladies and troubles being faithful to his wife. He and Miss Belfridge were particularly fond of one another, but whether they actually had an affair was left ambiguous.
- Dirty Old Woman: Mrs. Slocombe, and it's never plainer than when gossipping with her junior. Consider this scene when Miss Brahms is about to throw away a number she picked up and Mrs. Slocombe stops her from "littering the floor":Miss Brahms: D'you know, I can't bear them big muscley men with hairy chests and tattoos; they can only think of one thing!
Mrs. Slocombe: I quite agree! ... Is that a five or an eight?
- Disco: A favorite pastime of Miss Brahms.
- Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: On Grace & Favour, Mavis often says that her father will "give her the strap" if she gets caught doing something.
- Dope Slap: Mr. Spooner was often the recipient of this, from either Mrs. Slocombe, Miss Brahms, or Mr. Humphries.
- Double Entendre: Put simply, the show lives and breathes double entendre, most notoriously those involving Mrs. Slocombe's pussynote . Hell, the total episode count is 69.
- Another was Mr. Harman coming in to inspect the furniture of Young Mr. Grace's office. The cast listens in, and thinks he's talking about them. Brahms gets very upset when the man says "and the knockers aren't genuine".
- In one Christmas show, the floor had a mechanical Santa, which was programmed to say "Ho Ho Ho, little boy! Have I got a surprise for you!", and then open its arms in a welcoming gesture. The phrase itself was enough of a Double Entendre, but the person creating the dummy had sewn the sleeves of the dummy's gown to the body of the gown, resulting in the dummy acting like a flasher. Mr. Humphries faints when he sees it.
- Dragged into Drag: Guess who falls victim to this to compete in Grace Brothers' "Holiday Girl Outfit" contest in "Front Page News"?
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In the early seasons...
- The menswear department was referred to as being on the first floor (like in the theme song) and the lifts only served the basement, ground, first, and second floors. A few seasons in and they were on the fourth floor.
- The ladies' department was "Ladies' Intimate Apparel" — in other words, lingerie. The department gradually evolved to sell ladies' wear of all kinds. The last one is possibly justified when one remembers that the pilot of the After Show mentions that they were the only departments left when the store closed; presumably the ladies' wear departments were consolidated over time to cut costs.
- Mrs. Slocombe regularly showed signs she was infatuated with Mr. Lucas. It didn't last. Miss Brahms was likewise more receptive to his advances in the early going (relatively speaking) than she was later on.
- Elderly Blue/Grey/Pink/Purple/Orange/Red/Yellow/Green Haired Lady: Mrs. Slocombe
- Elevator Failure: The opening gag in the first episode, and a Running Gag throughout the show.
- Elevator Floor Announcement: The show's Thematic Theme Tune has this. ("Ground floor: Perfumery, / Stationery and leather goods"). So good it was turned into a techno dance number, Are U Being Served? by Australian band Regurgitator. It rocks.
- Embarrassing First Name: Mr. Humphries's full name is "Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries". Mr. Harman's first name is "Beverly". Mr. Rumbold's first name is "Cuthbert". Mr. Lucas's first namenote is "Dick", which everyone else seems to find hysterical.
- Embarrassing Nickname: "Jug Ears" Rumbold.
- Endangered Soufflé: In "Take-over", Mr. Humphries was trying to hold down a souffle that was growing out of control.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Mr. Grace’s personal nurse is never called anything but “Nurse”, even though she appears in every single episode for three consecutive series.
- Everything Is an Instrument: The opening musique concrete theme started with cash register sounds forming a melody. This was a couple years before Pink Floyd's "Money".
- Eyelash Fluttering: Discussed after Old Mr. Grace buys his secretary a marked-down fur coat everyone wanted. Over tea, Ms. Brahms questions what she had to do to get it.Mrs. Slocombe: Oh, if you play your cards right, all you have to do is flutter your eyelids and smile and you can get anything you want.
Mr. Spooner: (flutters his eyelids and smiles)
Mrs. Slocombe: (unamused) Mr. Spooner, what are you doing?
Mr. Spooner: I want the sugar.
- Faint in Shock: Done on multiple occasions by Mr. Humphries, typically as a silent collapse into the arms of his coworkers.
- Fake-Hair Drama: Mr. Tebbs puts on a toupee in hopes of not being made redundant in "Shedding the Load".
- Faking Amnesia: Used by Mrs. Slocombe in "Memories are made of this" when she pretended to have forgotten everything since early childhood and spent the majority of the episode acting like a schoolgirl. The ordeal was a ploy to scare the management with a possible lawsuit.
- Fantastic Caste System: Grace Brothers' workforce is strictly stratified (parodying the British class system) and even has rules about what sort of hats each of the different staff members are allowed to wear (mocking the British class system's hat culture), as Captain Peacock bitterly found out when he decided to wear a bowler hat to work one morning.
- Fashion Show: Considering all the crazy costumes they had over the years, only two were actually this:
- Put on by the gang in "The Think Tank".
- The Holiday Girl contest in "Front Page Story".
- Felony Misdemeanor: Happens in several episodes, for example, Mr. Humphries was once detained for having a "suspicious-looking bulge" from an orange in his pocket.
- First-Name Basis: Surprisingly, for a show well-known for everyone being referred to on a Last-Name Basis, there were some exceptions:
- Captain (Stephen) Peacock and Mr. (Ernest) Grainger would mutually address each other by first name in private conversation — as they had known and worked with each other for many years, and were relatively close in social rank — Peacock was higher in the staff hierarchy but Grainger had seniority, both were war veterans, etc. Subverted when Captain Peacock would (typically unwittingly) offend Mr. Grainger; his warm address of "Stephen" would give way to an angrily sputtered "Captain Peacock".
- Mr. Lucas consistently referred to Miss Brahms by her first name, Shirley — a sign of his interest in pursuing a closer relationship with her. As she was generally less interested in him than the other way round, she seldom reciprocated.
- Flipping the Bird: Mrs. Slocombe does this to Captain Peacock in “A Bliss Girl” purely to justify his labeling her as “impertinent”.
- A Foggy Day in London Town: In the episode "A Bliss Girl", the fog has entered the building, and into the elevator.
- The episode also starts with Mr. Harman singing the George Gershwin song of that name.
- Foreshadowing: The penultimate episode of the original series, "Friends and Neighbors", finds the staff sharing apartments at the top of the store. The next series finds them all sharing an old country manor.
- Funny Foreigner: Several episodes involve one.
- In one, an Arab Oil Sheikh visits. He attempts to bargain, and pay, in goats. You read that right. Not groats. Goats.
- In another it's a Japanese Tourist with his "Cledit Caa" (Sooooooo!). Captain Peacock's attempts to communicate with him are at least as hilarious as the tourist himself ("You wanty buy?" "Whaty-wanty?")
- Also, a cranky German couple in "German Week", and Japanese businessmen looking to take over the store in "Monkey Business". Also, short-lived regular Mr. Grossman was an Alter Kocker example.
- Mrs. Slocombe's American uncle in "Do You Take This Man?" In the same episode, Mister Tebbs pretends to be one of these as "Archbishop Halitosis"; Mrs. Slocombe's uncle is none the wiser.
- Fun with Acronyms: Mrs. Diana Yardswick, the Canteen manageress, is a member of National Associated Canteen Employees, Restaurant and Domestic (NACERD).
- Fun with Foreign Languages: In "German Week", the German Band arrives, and a character says something to them in German, and they respond in English. In Germany and other European countries with a large proportion of people who speak English as a second language, it's common for tourists attempting to speak the local language to receive a reply in English. The guidebooks specifically warn people not to be disheartened by this and that the attempt is always appreciated.
- That said, it is unlikely that most English-speaking Germans would answer in a Cockney accent, like the "German" band did.
- The Gambling Addict: Captain Peacock, in the late episode "Gambling Fever", is established to have been this. It was on the cusp of ruining his life as early as his wedding night (established as having been 30+ years ago), but he apparently struggled away from it, though, as with all addictions, he struggled with relapsing.
- The Ghost: Harold Bennett, who played Young Mr. Grace, died in 1981. Though the writers tried to create a replacement in the form of his brother, Old Mr. Grace, the character proved unpopular and was written out after only one series. For the final two series, the characters would frequently refer to Mr. Grace and call him on the phone, but he was not seen again for the remainder of the show. However, no one ever specifies whether "Young" or "Old" Mr. Grace is the one being referred to.
- Glad I Thought of It: In "The Think Tank", Mr. Rumbold appropriates Captain Peacock's idea for a store fashion show. This backfires on him when Young Mr. Grace tells him it's a rotten idea.
- Grande Dame: Mrs. Slocombe affects this trope much of the time. When angry or flustered, however, she backslides to her "vulgar" working class roots (sometimes in the middle of a sentence).
- Grand Finale:
- The original series had "The Pop Star", which ended with a big musical number.
- The final episode of the sequel series, Grace & Favour had all the characters finally giving Mr. Rumbold a piece of their mind at what an incompetent he is as the Pointy-Haired Boss of the hotel, since they are all partners now, and he finally concedes the point.
- Groin Attack:
- Mr. Humphries gives a customer one in "Cold Store" to help Miss Brahms get his inside leg (long story).
- Mr. Lucas gets one courtesy of a toy horse in "Happy Returns".
- Having a Heart: In an episode where the staff are dressed in American costumes as part of young Mr. Grace's latest scheme to boost sales, Miss Brahms looks at Mr. Lucas who wearing a shirt open to the waist and comments that she never knew he had a hairy chest. Mr. Lucas replies that he's had it for years, then removes his chest wig and hands it to her.
- He Who Must Not Be Heard: Goddard, Young Mr. Grace's chauffeur during the first six series, never said a word during his numerous appearances. Also, Young Mr. Grace's original unnamed nurse never said a word.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Mrs. Slocombe's oft mentioned but never seen friend, Mrs. Axelby. Also, Mrs. Slocumbe's beloved cat, Tiddles, is often mentioned and seen twice using props, but the actual cat is never seen during the course of the series, though she (or, given how much time had passed, one by the same name) shows up in the spin off, Grace and Favour.
- Hey, Let's Put on a Show: Done pretty frequently in the latter seasons, often in celebration of Mr. Grace's birthday.
- Historical Character Confusion: Mr. Grainger comments that a plan the staff come up to avoid starting work earlier sounds like something Bulldog Drummond would have come up with to defeat Oscar Peterson. It has to be pointed out to him that Oscar Peterson is a pianist, and that Bulldog Drummond's arch-nemesis was Carl Peterson.
- Hurricane of Puns:
- In "Mrs. Slocombe Expects", Mr. Rumbold says three terrible puns about cats when Mrs. Slocombe tells him about the possibility of her kittens being born — he says puns like a 'cat-tastrophe' and a 'pussy-bility'.
- The entire conversation in the canteen in "The Hero", as the staff discuss Captain Peacock's "misfortune". Put simply, he was the Butt-Monkey for the episode!
- Iconic Outfit:
- Captain Peacock's Outdated Outfit, complete with red carnation.
- The saleswomen's and lift girls' uniforms.
- Idiot Ball: It's shared around pretty equally; the characters' intelligence level can be extremely variable. However, Miss Brahms seems to get stuck with it a lot later in the series, which is odd considering she was generally quite smart earlier in the series.
- Incompetence, Inc.: Grace Brothers is a declining old fashioned British department store run by two doddering old men whose managerial practices are hopelessly outdated and out of touch with reality while the staff continually bicker among themselves in petty rivalries for privileges and sales quotas.
- Induced Hypochondria: In an episode, the staff convince Mr. Rumbold that he's suffering from some unspecified stress-related disease, and that he should dismantle the security cameras to save himself from the urge to watch them all the time.
- Insistent Terminology: Captain Peacock insists on being referred to by his military rank. This is a reference to the tradition of retired senior officers in the (real) British Army continuing to use their titles in civilian life. However, it is only proper to do this if you have reached the rank of Majornote — which is one above Peacock's rank of Captain. This is another sign that his military service career is not what it seems to be. A real British Army Captain wouldn't dare try getting away with using his title in civilian life. If he were a British Navy Captain, it would be quite proper, but he uses the fact that he was in the Army to explain why he's younger than a Navy Captain would be.
- Insult Backfire: The time Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphries try to get fired, they respectively try to insult and rudely proposition customers. Mrs. Slocombe's customer praises her for her extreme honesty and writes a note of commendation to the management. Mr. Humphries' customer welcomes the proposition and also writes the management to let him to know when to rendezvous with her.
- Japanese Ranguage: In "The Hand of Fate", a Japanese Tourist came into the store with his "Cledit Caa" (Sooooooo!). Captain Peacock's attempts to communicate with him are at least as hilarious as the tourist himself ("You wanty buy?" "Whaty-wanty?")
Captain Peacock: And this, Honourable Mr. Lucas.Tourist: Rucas (bows deeply) Sooooo!Lucas: No, no, no, Lucas.Tourist: Rucas!Lucas: No, Luuucas—Captain Peacock: (interrupting) You must understand, Mr. Lucas, that this gentleman is Japanese. He has difficulty getting his tongue 'round his "r"s.Long Beat
- Jewish and Nerdy: One of Mr. Goldberg's signature traits is his skill at mental maths. Also, after the fashion (i.e. broad ethnic humour) of the show, the first time he demonstrates his skill, he sounds like Orthodox Jewish prayer (with the book in hand and the chanting and all).
- Kaleidoscope Hair: Mrs. Slocombe wears wigs, but every one is a different color.note
- Kangaroo Court: In "Conduct Unbecoming", Mr. Humphries is caught with a marked banknote from a till from where money has gone missing. Despite his explanation, he is made to resign, but the missing money is found just in time.
- Lady Drunk: Mrs. Slocombe. She brings alcohol to work in a flask and occasionally gets drunk on the job.
- Lampshade Hanging: In the episode where Mr. Humphries tries to get fired, he tries rudely propositioning customers. When that doesn't get him fired, he protests, "You can't have people going around making comments like that in the store!". Mr. Lucas then comments, "What do you mean...I've been doing it for years!" The show was almost entirely based around rude comments (even if they sometimes have an innocent explanation) that would have gotten all the characters fired sometime during the first series if the show were at all true to real life.
- Last-Name Basis: The staff nearly always address one another in this manner. Sometimes a well-meaning person tries to change this, and it only makes everyone visibly uncomfortable.
- Lethal Chef: Working in the canteen.
- Limited Advancement Opportunities: Only Mr. Humphries gets permanently promoted to Senior Sales Assistant. And even this was only implied by there no longer being anyone above him — per John Inman's request (as the rapid succession of actors who played Seniors after the death of Arthur Brough had made him superstitious about the position) this was never explicitly acknowledged.
- Love Letter Lunacy: In the first-season episode "Dear Sexy Knickers", a saucy note is delivered to the wrong person, who misunderstands who it's from. And when the sender is identified, the recipient is misunderstood. In the meantime, innocent people are cussed out and much Hilarity Ensues.
- Luke, I Might Be Your Father: In "Heir Apparent", Old Mr. Grace guiltily recognizes a photograph of Mr. Humphries' mother.
- Making a Spectacle of Yourself: Mr. Humphries seems to prefer flamboyant sunglasses.
- Man in a Kilt: In "Camping In", Mr. Lucas deals with a Scottish customer who is predictably wearing a kilt and (eventually) informs him that in Scotland, they measure the inside leg from the outside.
- Marilyn Maneuver: This is a common trope in this series that occurred several times including:
- This happened to Shirley Brahms thrice in "The Club" (twice in which her unmentionables are shown). The first time when she and the other staff members are in a basement and Young Mr. Grace presses a button or lifts a switch on a wall, which causes air from a floor vent to blow up the skirt of her uniform, revealing her white undies and Mr. Lucas gets a kick out of it. The second time Ms. Brahms is wearing a different outfit and she has a windblown skirt moment again, this time with Mr. Lucas jokingly pressing the button and she's wearing white undies with matching bustier or corset underneath. Third time, Mr. Lucas does it again, but the skirt lifts from the back and Ms. Brahms' back is turned to the wall.
- Earlier in the same episode, Young Mr. Grace's nurse (Vivienne Johnson) bends over at one point in front of him and he dress rides up, flashing her white panties and that sends his heart racing (and his pacemaker sounding off).
- In another moment in the same episode, Miss Bakewell (Penny Irving), lifts her skirt for Young Mr. Grace, presuming he wanted her to flash him.
- In another episode, "Monkey Business", Miss Belfridge's (Candy Davis) pink dress gets lifted in a draft from an electric fan nearby and she struggles to keep it down when her white panties are shown.
- Mean Boss: Miss Featherstone in "Goodbye Mrs. Slocombe".
- Mineral MacGuffin: In "Diamonds Are a Man's Best Friend".
- Mistaken for Cheating: Captain Peacock’s wife assumes he’s cheating on her with another woman in one episode. When she meets the alleged mistress, she learns that her husband was comforting the woman in question and convinced her to leave her fiancé.
- Momma's Boy: Mr. Humphries
- The Movie: A movie was made in 1977 where the cast take a holiday to Spain and hilarity ensues (some of it shamelessly recycled from the series). It also shamelessly nicked concepts from other British sitcoms of the time, including Andrew Sachs playing a character who's a hybrid of Manuel and Basil Fawlty.
- Movie-Making Mess: The second half of "It Pays to Advertise" is taken up with the Grace Bros. staff's disastrous attempt to film a cinema/TV advert for the store, with Mr. Humphries directing. Mrs. Slocombe's eyes keep getting stuck closed by her false eyelashes, Mr. Grainger's jacket is too big and his trousers too small, the radio mike Mr. Harman (acting as sound man) instructs Mr. Lucas (acting as boom mike operator) to put on Mrs. Slocombe ends up falling down the front of her dress and picking up the noise of her digestive system, the accordion Mr. Rumbold has been given to play as a gypsy musician makes sounds of flatulence instead of music... all converging in a perfect comedy of errors when they try to do a take. The hat check ticket Miss Brahms gives Captain Peacock is covered in her saliva after she holds it in her mouth, Mr. Grainger accidentally squirts Captain Peacock with a soda siphon, Mrs. Slocombe's bar stool gets stuck to her backside, and when Young Mr. Grace goes in front of the camera to pour himself a glass of champagne, he misses the glass by over a foot.
- Ms. Fanservice: Miss Brahms always had elements of this but the fanservice really took off with the addition of Miss Belfridge. Even the Canteen manageress took a turn—in a bunny outfit—in "The Night Club", two episodes before the finale.
- Multiple-Choice Past: Captain Peacock could never quite keep straight his stories of just what he did in World War II.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Italian Tony, The Tooting Terror!
- Never Win the Lottery: In the episode "Goodbye Mr. Grainger": old Mr. Grainger resigns after a bad depression, but the depression lifts when he discovers that he won a First Drawing in the pools. He buys the entire staff farewell gifts, and they discover that he didn't win anything. So they just club the money together that the gifts cost, tell him he just won that much, and manage to intercept his resignation before the boss reads it.
- No Accounting for Taste: Miss Brahms and Mr. Lucas occasionally go on dates together which neither party enjoys.
- No Name Given: Both of Young Mr. Grace's nurses, even though the second one appeared in every episode for three series. To a lesser degree, Mr. Rumbold's original secretary and the porters.
- Nobody Poops: Completely averted. Frequently, customers asked — usually Captain Peacock — for the restroom. Then there was an episode when Mr. Grainger's Potty Emergency was a subplot.
- Noodle Implements:
- In "Shedding the Load", two for one in one Noodle Incident: Cpt Peacock objects to Mr. Harman about a female mannequin being displayed "without knickers":Miss Brahms: Oh, ho, ho! You've changed your tune since the Christmas party!
Captain Peacock: I don't recall anything untoward happening at the Christmas party!
Miss Brahms: Ooh, you mean you've forgotten about the lift girl doing the belly dance on the tabletop?
Captain Peacock: I, I, I, I didn't see that.
Mr. Harman: That's because you were doing an impersonation of the Man in the Iron Mask with a waste paper basket over your 'ead!
- Cpt Peacock's Berserk Button in "A Personal Problem" is one word: blancmange.
- In "Shedding the Load", two for one in one Noodle Incident: Cpt Peacock objects to Mr. Harman about a female mannequin being displayed "without knickers":
- Noodle Incident: This show thrived on noodle incidences:
- The annual (but never seen) Christmas party is a nonstop source of these.
- Mr. Humphries sometimes refers to an incident with a vicar (or possibly several incidents with different vicars).
- Nose Tapping: By Mr. Humphries in "Goodbye Mrs. Slocombe".
- Oh, Crap!: In "It Pays to Advertise", it is either one extended moment or several in rapid sequence when Mr. Humphries pretends to be his own dummy.
- Oktoberfest: During German Week the store staff is forced to wear lederhosen. Two of the cast get very small, form fitting versions: Miss Brahms and Mr. Humphries.
- Only in It for the Money:
- The only motivation for being involved in a Zany Scheme.
- The stated reason for the Ladies' and Gents' departments being the only ones to cross the picket line in "The Punch and Judy Affair".note
- Outdated Outfit: Captain Peacock wears semi-formal morning dress, which at the time of the series had been abandoned by all but the staunchest businessmen.
- Overly Long Name: Mrs. Slocombe, née Mary Elizabeth Jennifer Rachel Abergavenny Yiddell.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: According to some accounts, Trevor Bannister, for whom the show was intended as a vehicle, eventually left the show because he felt he was overshadowed by the other actors' and their pantomime/music hall performances. Bannister himself, however, actually denied this and stated that the real reason he left was that he simply felt that the scripts were becoming too repetitive.
- Phony Veteran: Captain Peacock may well have served in North Africa during the War, but one doubts he saw much action in the Royal Army Service Corps.note According to a line from Mrs. Slocombe, Captain Peacock claims to have, "...fought hand-to-hand with Rommel".Peacock: I was on the front line! Sometimes with constant shelling!Brahms: And when the peas was done he'd have to get on with the potatoes.
- Mr. Goldberg served in North Africa as well and recounts a tale of as Corporal Peacock executing some embarrassing drunken shenanigans. Captain Peacock brushes this off as someone with the same name. Mr. Goldberg then adds that Cpl. Peacock had a tattoo that read "Death before Dishonor" and points out how hard tattoos are to remove. Captain Peacock gets visibly flustered and quickly changes the subject.
- Pilot: Originally aired as an episode of the anthology show Comedy Playhouse. The original master tape was unfortunately wiped, which is why for years the episode was only available in black and white (it was restored to color in 2010) and why it has such poor video quality compared with the other episodes.
- Playing Sick: Mr. Lucas tries to fake being sick so he can meet a woman who's coming for him from Oop North. Among other things, he tries the trick of sticking soap in his mouth. It was supposed to go under his tongue, but he swallowed it when Captain Peacock ordered him to speak clearly (he couldn't very well have spat it out under the circumstances, now could he?). He persuades Captain Peacock to send for the medical staff, as bubbles from his hiccups float by, prompting Captain Peacock to add:Captain Peacock: ...and a loofah.
- Pointy-Haired Boss:
- Mr. Rumbold was generally and genuinely clueless about running the store, albeit kinder to the staff and more well-intentioned than a lot of other PHBs. In fact, pretty much all the higher-ups at Grace Bros. could be classified as either "well-meaning but incompetent" or "knowledgable but with a big stick up their arse".
- Much of the senior staff at Grace Brothers could fit this category. Mr. Rumbold is the most blatant example, but a recurring theme is that everyone in a position of authority at the store is incompetent in one way or another; Captain Peacock is a blowhard, Mrs. Slocombe is far too self-absorbed to be much help to anything except for her pussy, Mr. Grainger is worn-out and well past the point when he should have retired, and Young Mr. Grace is virtually senile. Only Mr. Humphries can handle additional responsibilities while escaping mostly unscathed.
- Potty Emergency: Miss Brahms had to ask permission to use the gents' room in one episode, but this led to an endless chain of requests that ensured all the men were asked if it was ok for her to go. Once the ok was given:Miss Brahms: I don't have to go now.
- Precision F-Strike: Mrs. Slocombe in "Do You Take This Man?" when Captain Peacock breaks the news that her prospective groom was already married. Bonus points for one of the two consecutive profanities being an ethnic slur towards Mediterraneans.Slocombe: THE DAGO BASTARD!!!
- Pretty in Mink: A few times a fur was a minor plot point. One was when a lady comes in to buy a fur, and Hilarity Ensues when Slocombe and Humphries compete for the commission.
- Prima Donna Director: Mr. Humphries, whenever the cast puts on a show.
- Product Placement: Not on the original (it is forbidden under The BBC's rules), but Diners Club is featured prominently on the counters of the Australian version.
- Professional Wrestling: "The Hero" involves an early public recognition of kayfabe, where Mr. Franco from Sports Equipment (played by 60s-70s English pro wrestling star "Mr. TV" Jackie Pallo) coaches Mr. Humphries (whose reasons for being in the ring are too complicated to explain) while wrestling him (setting himself up as the heel and Mr. Humphries as the face).
- Put on a Bus: Young Mr. Grace was said to have gone on a sabbatical to write a book when actor Harold Bennett became too infirm to continue in the role. However, he appeared once to say good-bye and made one cameo before Bennett died.
- Queer People Are Funny: Mr. Humphries (not that it was ever made explicit in the show).
- Questioning Title?
- Quicksand Sucks: The display of "Is It Catching?" falls victim to this, going almost completely under by the next scene transition.
- Reluctant Retiree:
- Subverted in the episode "Goodbye Mrs. Slocombe": in the end, the management expands the policy, sending two other characters to an early retirement (Of course, this is all fixed in the Snap Back).
- Played straight in "The Clock", where Mr. Grainger is terrified of receiving a cuckoo clock — the standard gift for retirees at Grace Brothers.
- Remember the New Guy?: Invoked with increasing frequency as new senior salesmen were introduced on the show. When Mr. Tebbs, Mr. Grossman, and Mr. Klein are introduced, it is mentioned that they have previously worked elsewhere in the store, and the rest of the cast nod in recognition. In Mr. Tebbs' case, Mr. Lucas and Mr. Humphries note with some alarm that he and Capt. Peacock are already on first-names terms. None of these characters had ever been seen nor mentioned before. This is not too jarring, as over the years, dozens of other store workers were mentioned but never seen.
- Mr. Harman appears in Mr. Mash's place without a word of introduction, already knowing all the characters by name, as if he had been there from day one.
- Rhythm Typewriter: Both as the base for the theme tune and occasionally as an interstitial sound between scenes.
- Running Gag: You'll see we have a generous selection of ready-made examples:
- Mrs. Slocombe's pussy: to the point where David "The Mary Whitehouse Experience" Baddiel said that she changed the meaning of the word "pussy" in the UK from "Cat, with overtones of vagina, to vagina, with overtones of cat".
- Captain Peacock's admonishing Mr. Harman for being on the floor during opening hours, and being answered with wild and various reasons for Harman being there.
- Mr. Rumbold looking up at the ceiling longingly whenever the word "boardroom" is mentioned.
- Mr. Lucas' Hurricane of Excuses for being late.
- Mr. Humphries' adventures (and their explanations) in his quests to arrive on time to work.
- Mrs. Slocombe removing her earring to speak on the phone.
- In a nod to just how bad business is at Grace Brothers most days, many episodes will feature Captain Peacock asking "[Character's name], are you free?", followed by the character being addressed making an exaggerated show of looking up and down the completely empty counter before answering, "Yes, I'm free".
- Sausage String Silliness: The staff rehearses a live-action Punch and Judy show for the children of Grace Bros. employees. Mr. Goldberg plays a butcher and Punch (Mr. Lucas) gets in a tug of war with him over a string of sausages.Lucas: How can I steal 'em if he won't let go of 'em?Goldberg: What do you think? You want me to stand by idle while he pinches a pound of my best chipolatas while I've got a good customer waiting for them?Mr. Humphries (director): Mr. Goldberg, please, don't get carried away with your role. It's only make believe.
- Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: In the summer of 1976, a stage adaptation ran at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. Directed by Robert Redfarn, John Inman, Mollie Sugden, Frank Thornton, Wendy Richard, and Nicholas Smith reprised their characters while Mr. Lucas, Mr. Grainger, and Mr. Mash were recast. The play had basically the same plot as the film version which would debut the next year, though Young Mr. Grace's role was omitted entirely and Mr. Mash had less to do than Mr. Harman in the film. The play has occasionally been run at other theatres since.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: In "Front Page Story", this is Miss Brahms' reaction to the "second part of the prize" of the Holiday Girl contest.
- Senior Sleep-Cycle: Here is the only way to wake up a sleeping Mr. Grainger:Mr. Humphries: Mr. Grainger, are you free?
Mr. Grainger: Er, yes, I'm free!
- Sequel Escalation: Grace & Favour continues the adventures of the core cast of the series, but now they're equal partners in the hotel business and the productions values are dramatically increased with regular outdoor scenes using location shooting and the series has story arcs.
- Sequel Series: Grace & Favour is about the gang running a mansion they inherited from Young Mr. Grace as a hotel.
- Serious Business: Everything from what sort of pen you keep in your pocket, to how you fold your handkerchief, to what sort of hat you wear on your way in are matters of dire consequence at Grace Brothers. A recurring conversation in the Series 2 episode "The Think Tank" centered around that Mr. Rumbold was allowed to wear a bowler hat, but Captain Peacock, who worked under Rumbold, couldn't. However, Captain Peacock and senior sales clerks could wear a homburg, but the sales clerks under them couldn't. They could wear caps or trilbies.
- Sex Sells: "His and Hers" (Series 1, Episode 5) features the "His and Hers" perfume lady (played by Joanna Lumley), who explicitly calls it "corny" but plays this to the hilt.
- Sexy Santa Dress: Mr. Humphries wears one in "The Father Christmas Affair".
- Sexy Secretary:
- Young Mr. Grace (and his brother Old Mr. Grace) had multiple sexy secretaries during the series. Just the sight of them often put quite a lot of stress on his weak heart, and in the sequel series Grace and Favour, a sexy secretary's bikini top popped off (off-screen, of course), and gave Young Mr. Grace a fatal heart attack.
- Miss Belfridge under Mr. Rumbold.
- Skirts and Ladders: Miss Brahms invokes this when refusing to climb a ladder to stock some boxes in Captain Peacock's presence.Miss Brahms: I'm not going up there with you down here!
- Slippery Skid: Mr. Mash and Mr. Lucas staged one of these in an attempt to get Mr. Lucas off work for the day. Mash makes a big show of spilling cleaning fluid on the stairs, then loudly moans in Mr. Lucas' direction that he hopes no one slips on it.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Captain Peacock, to an extent.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Between Miss Brahms and Mr. Lucas.
- Social Semi-Circle: None of the actors have their back to the camera when sitting at a table or gathered in a meeting. Instead they leave one side of the table empty or line up.
- Soul-Sucking Retail Job: The Ur-Example.
- Sound Defect: In one episode, the staff of Grace Brothers are performing a radio play. Captain Peacock's character arrives at a pub and asks for a pint. The sound effect of the pint being poured is created by a jug of water being poured into a bowl from a significant height, and sounds more like somebody urinating. Miss Brahms, playing the barmaid, says "I bet you were dying for that".
- El Spanish "-o": A Japanese version, when a tourist comes to Grace Brothers.Mr. Lucas: What does the customer require, Captain Peacock?
Capt Peacock: I'll try to find out.
Mr. Lucas: Yes, of course. You were out east weren't you?
Capt Peacock: Mmm. (Beat) Whatee wantee?
- Speak of the Devil: In "Shoulder to Shoulder", Mr. Rumbold says he'll get Captain Peacock on the phone shortly just as Captain Peacock walks in, takes the phone, and thanks him.
- Spin-Off: More a remake than a spin-off but the Australian version had Mr Humphreys move to Australia and work in a department store with similar characters.
- Spit Take: Mr. Humphries' reaction at the end of the Hurricane of Puns in "The Hero".
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: When the programme began, Mr. Humphries (John Inman) was a prominent secondary character supporting Mr. Lucas (Trevor Bannister). By the time Trevor Bannister left the series, Mr. Humphries had become the lead, with Mr. Lucas supporting him. The credits were altered to reflect this, with Trevor Bannister often getting fourth billing during his final year in the cast. As Mr. Humphries got an increasing share of the laughs, the senior salesmen were also pushed to the margins. By the 8th series, they only speak a couple of times per episode; the following season, the role was eliminated. This was taken up to eleven in the Australian remake of the series, also starring John Inman. It used Recycled Scripts, but altered them so that Mr. Humphries got the maximum possible number of laugh lines, and was almost always the focus, even if this required him to act noticeably out of character. Most of the scripts came from early seasons that usually had Mr. Lucas bumbling or stirring up trouble; two things perennial apple-polisher Humphries was unlikely to do.
- Stealing from the Till: Mr. Humphries is accused of doing this in "Conduct Unbecoming" and asked to resign. Fortunately, Almighty Janitor Mr. Harman finds that the till is faulty, and the missing pound notes were actually jammed into the back.
- Storefront Television Display: In the episode "Closed Circuit", Grace Brothers decides to install televisions and use them to advertise the store's products and special offers. Miss Brahms is filmed for the store's first commercial with Mr. Grace's nurse reading the lines in voiceover since they thought her husky contralto would sound more appealing than Miss Brahms? nasally cockney accent. Not long after the commercial starts airing in the storefront, Miss Brahms is asked out on a date by a young Lord who explains that he saw the commercial while he was passing by the store and was instantly smitten with her and (what he thinks is) her sexy voice, setting the main plot of the episode in motion.
- Sure, Let's Go with That: Taken to its logical conclusion in "A Bliss Girl" when Mr. Humphries puts on heels and a wig to model a ladies' coat. Then Young Mr. Grace shows up and ...Young Mr. Grace: Do you have a boyfriend?Mr. Humprhies: Not at the moment.Young Mr. Grace: I’ve got a table at Romano’s with caviar and snapper dinner. Care to join me?Mr. Humphries: Well, it is Monday and me mother’s only got cottage pie!Young Mr. Grace: Well, that settles it!
- Most notably Mr. Tebbs replacing Mr. Grainger, Mr. Harman replacing Mr. Mash, and, to an even less successful degree, Old Mr. Grace replacing Young Mr. Grace.
- It could also be argued that Mr. Spooner was this to Mr. Lucas.
- In addition, almost all of Mr. Rumbold's and the Grace brothers' secretaries were virtual copycats of each other.
- The cast of the Australian version of the show.
- That Syncing Feeling: In the last episode, "The Pop Star", Mr. Spooner gets discovered and is off to become a famous singer. In his first TV appearance he sings the song which got him discovered, "Chanson D'Amour". He makes a demo reel-to-reel recording to send to the talent scout. He is booked on a TV show but his voice is getting tired. During the TV performance his voice gives out so they switch to the recording — but the cheap recorder they used and the studio use different speeds, so it comes out sped up to double time.
- That's What She Said: Mr. Mash indulges in a bit of this with the perfume salesgirl in "His and Hers".(Holding an extension cord) "Here we are the are, then. Let's hope we don't get a short-circuit when we plug it in...as Mae West said when she picked up the midget. I suppose it'll take a few moments to warm up...as Mae West said to the Eskimo."
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Mrs. Slocombe, the feminist battle-axe eternally unafraid to go over anyone's head except those of the Grace brothers if the situation should call for it, and Miss Brahms, the sexy Ladies' junior. It even shows in their novelty costumes in "Christmas Crackers", in which Mrs. Slocombe is dressed as Robin Hood and Miss Brahms is dressed as the Sugar Plum Fairy.
- Transatlantic Equivalent:
- A spinoff of sorts was created in Australia, in which Mr. Humphries decides to work in a Melbourne store for a while. All the episodes, save one, were re-stagings of episodes from the original series, save for a minor tweak here or there to fit the new setting. Suspiciously Similar Substitutes filled out the rest of the cast.
- An American version, produced by Garry Marshall and titled Beane's of Boston, was attempted in 1979 but didn't make it past the pilot stage.
- Tuckerisation: Mr. Harman was named after Blog Harman, a houseman at one of the schools David Croft attended.
- Uncanny Family Resemblance:
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Mrs. Slocombe's choices of hair color, including pink, green, purple, and others, are never remarked upon in the entire series. This was likely a reference/homage to Raymond "Mr. Teasy Weasy" Bessone, a flamboyant London celebrity hairdresser popular in the 30s through to the 60s known for dyeing women's hair outlandish colours.
- The Vicar: Never seen but often mentioned when Mr. Humphries is speaking with his mother.
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: Where Miss Brahms kept her radio play submission for "Calling All Customers".
- Video Credits: Since the episodes are practically teleplays, the clips are of the actors — sometimes not in-character — after completing the episode. This is a hallmark of writer David Croft.
- Walk This Way: In "Fire Practice", a visiting Arab sheikh's interpreter after being told to ask his master to "walk this way" stared at Mr. Humphries' mincing walk and replied, "It's more than my job's worth!"
- We Sell Everything: Try to keep track of the number of departments inside Grace Brothers, from Wigs to Joke products to Do-It-Yourself.
- Weird Trade Union:
- Mrs. Yardswick is a member of National Association of Canteen Employees, Restaurant and Domestic (NACERD).
- The Packing Department workers union is a satire of union rules.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Literally. The runaway clockwork mouse that led to the chain of antics in "The Hero" was confiscated by Cpt Peacock. He got Laser-Guided Karma for this (and more) but the mouse was never seen or referenced again.
- When I Was Your Age...: Mrs. Slocombe will complain about a junior salesperson's behavior or attitude by stating, "When I was a junior ... .".
- Whoopee Cushion: Mrs. Slocombe is greeted with one in her first day as "Mrs. Slocombe, Senior Person". It came with a note:
- With a Foot on the Bus: “Goodbye, Mr. Grainger” has every indication of being a farewell episode for Mr. Grainger. He resigns after hearing his colleagues remaking that he is getting too old (and perhaps senile) for his job, and that he was likely about to be fired. However, everyone has a change of heart and he decided to stay. Then, ironically, after appearing in only one more episode, the actor himself died.
- Work Com: Well, duh.
- "You!" Exclamation: In "Sit Out", Mr. Humphries and a fireman astonishedly recognise each other.
- Younger Than They Look: Nicholas Smith (Mr. Rumbold) played the part of a middle manager who had served in the Second World War, but he was in reality only five months older than Trevor Bannister (Mr. Lucas), who portrayed a junior who had been at school during the War.