A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this classic '70s/'80s British sitcom finds a lot of its humor in suggestive double entendres (a woman talking "innocently" about her cat uses the word "p---y," for example) and fairly vague sexual innuendo. Men frequently make sexist remarks about women -- who have little recourse, since the men rarely pay their concerns much mind. One main character is an effeminate man who everyone assumes is homosexual, though it's never confirmed. Teens will likely find the series dated and dry, but adults who can put it into context will get a few chuckles.
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What's the story?
Practically an institution in the world of British comedy, ARE YOU BEING SERVED? is set in the floundering Grace Brothers department store, where the employees fill their abundant free time by driving each other crazy with their irksome ways. There's stern Captain Peacock (Frank Thornton), who dictates orders to employees and nitpicks on deviations from the norm as he paces the floor in constant vigilance; grouchy Mr. Grainger (Arthur Brough) oversees the men's department, aided by hopeless salesman Mr. Lucas (Trevor Bannister) and flamboyant Mr. Humphries (John Inman), whose effeminate mannerisms -- and co-habitation with his mother -- lead many to assume he's gay. Shaking up the male-dominated mix is Mrs. Slocombe (Mollie Sugden), the outspoken head of the newly installed ladies' fashion department, whose myriad hair colors and penchant for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time fuel the men's ongoing exasperation. Her hard-working young assistant, Miss Brahms (Wendy Richard) -- though much less apt to draw attention to herself -- still ends up fending off both romantic advances and sexist remarks.
Is it any good?
Are You Being Served? continues to enjoy popularity on both sides of the pond more than 30 years after its hasty launch on British TV. The show's nods to classic British humor include sight gags, misunderstandings galore, and double entendres (the most popular of which involved Mrs. Slocombe's tales about her cat, which she always called "p---y"). It also serves up a hefty dose of mockery at the traditional English class system, which is best appreciated by viewers familiar with its inner workings.
The series will appeal mostly to adults, who will be able to put the extreme gender stereotyping, tense relationships between the sexes, and suggestive double entendres in context. Teens, on the other hand, will probably be turned off by the show's obviously passé feel; if they do tune in, be sure to give them some background on now-dated gender relationships and views on homosexuality.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how entertainment reflects the cultural changes of the time. How does this show portray British class issues of the '70s and '80s? What challenges were women facing at the time? How was homosexuality viewed? Do you think the show even tries to be accurate, or is it all exaggerated for humor? By comparison, how do today's TV shows portray women and people of different sexual orientations?
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