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September 27, 2011 10:57 AM   Subscribe


 
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I'll certainly miss hearing about Mrs. Slocum's wet pussy.
posted by mbatch at 11:01 AM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ooops. Mrs. Slocombe.
posted by mbatch at 11:03 AM on September 27, 2011


I've only seen Are You Being Served and 'Allo 'Allo, but if they are representative of his work, an agent of Satan has been called home to his reward.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:03 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by infini at 11:04 AM on September 27, 2011


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posted by oonh at 11:07 AM on September 27, 2011


I would hope the tributes at his memorial will include at least two copies of The Fallen Madonna Mit The Big Boobies.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:12 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll certainly miss hearing about Mrs. Slocum's wet pussy.

I missed it before the poor man went to the vast beyond. PBS doesn't seem to run "Are You Being Served?" anymore because it's not uptown/post-Thatcherite enough, because it's too politically incorrect, or both.
posted by blucevalo at 11:13 AM on September 27, 2011


"Good moaning", indeed.

Godspeed, sir.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:19 AM on September 27, 2011


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posted by mikelieman at 11:22 AM on September 27, 2011


I loved those shows! He'll be missed. Can't ALL be Rumpole Of The Bailey'!

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posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:23 AM on September 27, 2011


"Are you free Mr. Croft?" ... "I'm free."

Go in peace sir, and remember those wings will ride up with wear.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:23 AM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


You've all done very well.

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posted by Sys Rq at 11:24 AM on September 27, 2011


I would hope the tributes at his memorial will include at least two copies of The Fallen Madonna Mit The Big Boobies.

And a heartfelt speech to which we must listen very carefully, etc.

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posted by N-stoff at 11:25 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


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These shows were the gems of my childhood, and I will always aspire to be Mrs. Slocombe one day.
posted by strixus at 11:25 AM on September 27, 2011


Don't tell them your name, Croft!
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:25 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


And a heartfelt speech to which we must listen very carefully, etc.

Well, she will say it only once...
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:27 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have only a passing awareness of 'Are You Being Served?' as a work of comedy, but on the whole that list of show titles sounds as much like a parody of British television as it is plausibly real, like an invoice from a shipment of DVDs Cornelius would receive.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:27 AM on September 27, 2011




that list of show titles sounds as much like a parody of British television as it is plausibly real

Yeah, that's pretty much how the shows themselves were as well.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:30 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hrm.. I've only seen Are you Being Served and spinoffs. Seems Dad's Army gets good reviews in that first link, it worth delving into if I can get my hands on it?
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:32 AM on September 27, 2011


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posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 11:37 AM on September 27, 2011


I have only a passing awareness of 'Are You Being Served?' as a work of comedy, but on the whole that list of show titles sounds as much like a parody of British television as it is plausibly real

I am likewise minimally familiar with Croft's work, but the very fact that his oeuvre is a list of titles that sound like stereotypical British comedy suggests he was pretty influential.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:38 AM on September 27, 2011


I have many fond memories of watching "Are You Being Served" at half past midnight while curled up on the couch in the basement during the summer months when it was too hot to sleep in my own bedroom upstairs. I remember marvelling that something so clever and wry managed to slip past the dunderheads who were then responsible for filling up my schoolday afternoons with "Fairly Odd Parents" and "Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi".

"Are You Being Served", along with "My Family" and "Keeping Up Appearances", introduced me to the beauty of British comedy, and I was lost forevermore.

Rest well, Croft.
posted by Phire at 11:43 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by runincircles at 11:50 AM on September 27, 2011


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posted by PugAchev at 11:55 AM on September 27, 2011


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posted by drezdn at 12:02 PM on September 27, 2011


I was raised on British comedies on Channel 9 and 54 in the bay area. Are You Being Served wasn't shown here until years later, but I remember my British parents howling with laughter at the English spy speaking French so terribly in 'Allo 'Allo.

Funniest scenes compliation

It can't all be Shakespeare.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:07 PM on September 27, 2011


From the "RIP" link...

"There were no swear words in his shows. His programmes were the kind of thing you could sit in front of the TV and watch with your grandmother and grandchildren," he told the BBC.

Yeah, I'm not going to sit in front of the TV with my grandmother and my grandchildren and explain why everybody's laughing when Mrs. Slocombe talks about her pussy or when Mr. Humphries coos "I'm free!"
posted by PlusDistance at 12:08 PM on September 27, 2011


I actually think Allo Allo is very underrated, especially the earlier episodes (pre Yvette). And Dad's Army is pure quality. David Croft, I envy you your long life and successful comedy writing career.
posted by Summer at 12:08 PM on September 27, 2011


Are you 'aving a laff?
posted by stevil at 12:13 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh my god 'Allo 'Allo was one of the most gobsmacking experiences of my long and mis-spent life.

I bought it on a whim and settled in to watch. In the first five minutes I was absorbed in watching what really is one of the biggest accent fail train wrecks ever recorded by the hands of man. It's like watching people who once overheard what they thought was a French accent pretend to be very French indeed, with the difficulties enhanced by the fact that what they overheard was someone pretending to be chef boyardee. And at least once a speech they all forget that they're supposed to be pretending to be French.

In a show about the nazi occupation of France. A comedy about the nazi occupation of France.

Rest in peace, man. Hopefully there is no afterlife. I am not sure where he would go.
posted by winna at 12:15 PM on September 27, 2011


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posted by plep at 12:18 PM on September 27, 2011


Maybe it's just me, but I do not think the accents in 'Allo 'Allo were supposed to be realistic.

(Closet fan here too. It was naff, but it was funny naff. I could never get along with Hi-de-Hi!, though.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:18 PM on September 27, 2011


Maybe it's just me, but I do not think the accents in 'Allo 'Allo were supposed to be realistic.

No, I'm pretty sure the bad accents were part of the joke.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:32 PM on September 27, 2011


No, they weren't, but there is unrealistic and then there is 'Allo 'Allo. It is something, that is for sure.
posted by winna at 12:34 PM on September 27, 2011


"It Ain't Half Hot Mum" is now the single most inscrutably British phrase I've ever heard.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:36 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh and RIP guvnr

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posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:36 PM on September 27, 2011


I think the point of the accents in 'Allo 'Allo was that when you were doing the silly accent, you were speaking that language - a character could switch from silly French accent to silly English accent while translating between René and a lost English airman. I thought it was a wonderful conceit.
posted by Grangousier at 12:38 PM on September 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


I never really watched any of his sitcoms (although I remember seeing "Are You Being Served" on PBS back in the '90s) but as near as I can tell, Mitchell & Webb's parody Get Me Hennimore! is pretty much a pitch-perfect lampoon of the 1970s Croft style.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:39 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Holy crap Strange Interlude, that is Comedy GOLD
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:52 PM on September 27, 2011


Count me another who found AYBS? as a gateway drug to British comedy (thanks, KQED!). It may not have been terribly sophisticated (or, um, at all), and there are a few moments that now make me blanch a bit (serves as a reminder of the casual racism that used to permeate the media--it's much more sneaky these days).

With that said, RIP, you cheeky monkey.

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posted by smirkette at 1:55 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


'Allo Allo! was initially a pretty specific spoof of one program, the dramaSecret Army having the almost exact same plot/set up (except Secret Army was set in Belgium not France) - at least for the first few eps/series. Then 'Allo 'Allo! became it's own thing and Secret Army is pretty much forgotten now.

A few years back I visited a friend who was working in Holland and apparently it was really popular on tv over there at the time. Which was a bit mind-boggling

If you think 'Allo 'Allo! (and it's really just rather silly, and us Brits have a long tradition of sticking up two fingers to the Germans and of course the proper old enemy, the French), then It Ain't Half Hot Mum will blow your mind... hugely popular at the time it has now been cast out into the wilderness as non-PC borderline/(and at times outright) racism/homophobia would be too much for modern tv execs / audiences/

Dad's Army is still on... on BBC2 on early Sat evenings. And is IMHO one of the best sitcoms we've ever done (after Fawlty Towers and The Office). Still makes me laugh.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:03 PM on September 27, 2011


"It Ain't Half Hot Mum" is now the single most inscrutably British phrase I've ever heard.

Oh my yes. I read it five times, and I'm still not sure I comprehend it. It's the linguisic equivalent of the Devil's Fork.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:19 PM on September 27, 2011


Hrm.. I've only seen Are you Being Served and spinoffs. Seems Dad's Army gets good reviews in that first link, it worth delving into if I can get my hands on it?
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:32 PM on September 27 [+] [!]


Yes. Yes. A thousand times YES. And:

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posted by HandfulOfDust at 2:23 PM on September 27, 2011


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Awww, no.
posted by Splunge at 2:23 PM on September 27, 2011


sad, sad, sad.

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posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 2:28 PM on September 27, 2011


These were all TV shows of my childhood, through my teens and twenties. I still laugh at Dad's Army. I was amazed the first time I saw it in colour, I though it only existed in black & white, but then nobody had a colour TV where we lived in those days.

What I liked about the Croft/Perry comedies was the way they gently poked fun at the upper middle classes, such as the officers in It Ain't Half Hot, Capt. Mainwaring in Dad's Army and the ballroom dancers in Hi-de Hi, all characters who felt they were a cut above the people they were forced to work with, but usually made to look foolish by their own actions.
posted by essexjan at 2:34 PM on September 27, 2011


What I liked about the Croft/Perry comedies was the way they gently poked fun at the upper middle classes, such as the officers in It Ain't Half Hot, Capt. Mainwaring in Dad's Army and the ballroom dancers in Hi-de Hi, all characters who felt they were a cut above the people they were forced to work with, but usually made to look foolish by their own actions.

Captain Peacock in a nutshell.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:37 PM on September 27, 2011


Maybe some English MeFites can answer this for me, because it's something I've always wondered about. Many sitcoms are presented as the "quintessential" English sitcom, which reveals something about the English psyche that others simply do not manage to nail. Some examples: Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Steptoe & Son, Hancock's Half Hour, Reggie Perrin and so on. But all of the aforementioned work equally as well for me – someone born, brought up in, and always having lived in Scotland – as examples of British foibles/failures/quirks. But – and I've discussed this with a good few people – Dad's Army has never struck me in the same way. It seems to be the one comedy that, in fact, is essentially English, in a way that the others are not. Now this may just be me, and the friends/family I've talked to about it, but Dad's Army never got me in the way that Fawlty Towers, or Blackadder, did.

Is it just a case of Scotland – despite having plenty of German bombs dropped on it during WWII – being that much further geographically removed from the south-east coast that invasion wasn't going to happen? Or is it summat else? Because Dad's Army has never seemed to resonate as much with me as those other sitcoms. And I'm genuinely puzzled as to why.
posted by Len at 2:49 PM on September 27, 2011


Dad's Army and (indeed) It Ain't Half Hot Mum are a bit more complex, at least in theory, than they appear.

(The following is based entirely on what I remember from over thirty years ago, so could be faulty and sentimentalised. But then the guy just passed on, now's not the time to be coolly faultless.)

Although very broad comedy, Dad's Army was about class and power - the lower-middle class Mainwaring and his upper-class assistant Wilson. A lot of the time the programme revolves around Mainwaring's desperate struggle to cling on to the power he has (constantly undermined by the real Army, by the Air Raid Warden who shares the church hall where the Home Guard meet and the Vicar whose church it is). Wilson's class and breeding (and essential decency) mean that he effortlessly commands respect, but generally defers to Mainwaring (who is nonetheless jealous of him). And then there's the question of how someone of Wilson's background ended up as an assistant bank manager in a seaside resort, "lodging" with a working class woman and their illegitimate son.

It Ain't Half Hot Mum is, yes, racist, but in a much more interesting way than most broad television comedy of the seventies, which would often simply employ terms of abuse as childish as "chocolate drop" purely to raise laughs from the shock effect of it. Set in India during World War II, it follows a troupe of army entertainers as they put on shows (the homophobia mostly rests on childish abuse aimed by the tyrannical but useless Sergeant-Major at the troupe's drag queen Gunner "Gloria" Beaumont. In real life at the time, Gunner Beaumont, A.K.A. Melvyn Hayes, was married to Zoe Heriot out of Doctor Who. Just dropping that in as an odd fact.) The platoon represent a broad cross-section of the British at the time, from the upper-class officers, to the working-class squaddies from around the country. Most of them idiots of one kind or another.

Set against them are three (at the beginning) Indians: Rangi Ram (played by Michael Bates - according to Wikipedia, they chose Bates, an Anglo-Indian, native Hindi-speaker, but nonetheless a white man in make-up, because they couldn't find a suitable Indian actor. Even giving them the benefit of the doubt, it's quite a dodgy thing to see today), Char Wallah (tea seller) Muhammed and Punkah Wallah (the guy who pulls a string to work the fans) Rumzan, the latter two played by Indian actors. So there's another class system in microcosm. They operate as "rude mechanicals", but also as a chorus to the action, commenting on what ever idiotic mess the English have got themselves into this time (interestingly, Rumzan never speaks English). Although Rangi Ram is apparantly enthusiastically pro-British (although he's a bit of a hustler, so it's unclear how authentic the enthusiasm is), there is more skepticism among the other two, a skepticism that is usually borne out by the actions of the British. Also, Rangi Ram sums up the episode at the end - he is sort of the narrator, and in a way we are seeing the platoon through the eyes of the Indians.

One thing I remember in great detail is that in one episode, the platoon entertain a Rajah. One of the posh officers lets slip some ill-advised comment about the British being civilised, to which the (even posher and Oxford-educated) Rajah, incandescent with rage, informs them that the Indians were civilised when the British were "running round naked, and painting themselves blue". Which made quite an effect on me at the time.

(The rather more intelligent version of the entertainment-party situation (Peter Nichols' Privates On Parade), despite being much better on the plight of gay soldiers has no equivalent of the Indian trio.)
posted by Grangousier at 3:01 PM on September 27, 2011 [16 favorites]


us Brits have a long tradition of sticking up two fingers to the Germans

Your name will go on ze list.
posted by Artw at 3:05 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Further to Grangousier... one of the reasons Croft's comedies work so well - Dad's Army in particular - is the depth of the characterisation. Capt Mainwaring is a perfect example. He is, on the face of it, pompous, not that smart, enormously self-conscious and very arrogant. Simply left at that, the character would have been no more than a caricature of the Colonel Blimp stereotype of a British army officer. But Mainwaring was also tinged with personal pain (he was clearly trapped in a loveless marriage), absolutely and fearlessly brave, and totally loyal to his men, never asking them to do something he wouldn't do himself. Croft had the gift of writing characters with far more depth to them than at first seemed, which is why many of his series had such long runs.
posted by Major Clanger at 4:12 PM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Grangousier, that's a wonderful summation of those two shows.
posted by essexjan at 4:33 PM on September 27, 2011


Further to Major Clanger... the quality of the cast in Dad's Army was the perfect compliment to Croft's writing as well.

Arthur Lowe, for example, puts in a masterpiece performance in the Christmas episode as both Mainwaring and Mainwaring's alcoholic brother Barry (thus effectively playing opposite himself).

It's a sitcom plot concept that many programmes before and since have used at some point or other, but here it was both brilliantly funny, but also riven through with surpressed sadness - Mainwaring's mixture of love and disgust for his brother, and the argument over their father's watch.

Indeed that to me is the hallmark of good British comedy - the ability to be both funny and terribly sad at the same time. Sullivan nailed it a few times on Only Fools and Horses (Grandad's Death and the Miscarriage episode spring to mind), Elton on Blackadder Goes Forth (which barely needs linking to really) and Croft did it as well.
posted by garius at 5:20 PM on September 27, 2011


Oops - screwed up the second link
posted by garius at 5:24 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by monotreme at 5:55 PM on September 27, 2011


I've only seen Are You Being Served and 'Allo 'Allo, but if they are representative of his work, an agent of Satan has been called home to his reward.

Comments that start with "I've only.... but... " maybe better phrased as "I'm pretty ignorant, and thus don't have a full appreciation, but I'm going to chime in anyway..."

These aren't his best - but Dad's Army is sheer joy. Brilliantly written and acted. Hi-de-Hi also had its moments.
posted by the noob at 6:21 PM on September 27, 2011


Allo Allo and Are You Being Served were all essential part of my younger days. Throw in shows like Some Mothers Do Ave Em, Yes, Prime Minister, Mind Your Language and Dempsey & Makepeace...ahh, the days of tuc or digestive biscuits and tea.
posted by RedShrek at 7:19 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


. sad loss, I grew up with his comedies.

I was told by a German friend that 'Allo 'Allo was one of the first comedies screened in Germany that allowed them to laugh about the war.
posted by arcticseal at 8:42 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by MissySedai at 10:22 PM on September 27, 2011


@arcticseal

There's a wonderful story in the Allo Allo documentary/reunion they made a few years back now about selling Allo Allo to the Germans.

I can't remember it exactly, but it was something like this:

Sometime after the first series, the BBC were pitching it out to other countries, hoping to make some export sales. This included to German TV.

They didn't expect any interest from the Germans, but low and behold a German network requested a showing and one was duly arranged.

The day of the showing comes, and a number of very serious looking German TV execs turn up, to be greeted by nervous BBC execs (and maybe even Croft himself I think) who aren't entirely sure whether they're about to make Auntie some money or cause an international Incident.

They all talk numbers, concepts and demographics for a while, then the Germans head into the viewing room to see some episodes.

Listening nervously outside, all the BBC guys hear at first is silence. Then, suddenly, uproars of laughter which get more and more frequent as the showing progresses.

Finally, it ends and the Germans come out - looking very serious as they had when they'd gone in.

"Zis is a very funny programme." Says the lead guy politely in an accent vaguely reminiscent of the show, "but we don't zink Germany is quite ready for ze Allo Allo yet."

They parted with smiles and shaken hands, and then a couple of years later returned and picked it up for German TV, where it was indeed rather successful.

Indeed I think they sold it to most of the countries featured within it in the end. Apparently the general feeling was that it rather successfully lampooned EVERYONE involved - including the British through the ludicrously posh and idiotic downed British pilots hiding in Rene's cafe.

(hopefully i've not got that story wrong - it's from memory)
posted by garius at 1:02 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those abroad, who haven't seen Dads Army, Mainwaring is actually pronounced Mannering.

All the shows mentioned here (including It aint Half hot mum) are worth a look at an episode or two. Both IAHHM and Are You Being Served had men in them who were obviously (stereotypically?) gay characters, and while it is debateable what impact they had on the national psyche, they are interesting and fully formed characters and it is interesting to see their portrayal.

(Also, I came here from the Benny Hill thread - where the Goodies were namechecked... wow - 70's british comedy day on mefi. Two of the Goodies (Graham Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor) both appear on the radio 4 comedy panel show I'm Sorry I Havent A Clue which is also very funny.)

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posted by marienbad at 1:16 AM on September 28, 2011


Various points:

Allo Allo is not mocking or parodying the French resistance in WWII, it is—or started off as—a parody of the long-running TV series Secret Army, which was about the French Resistance and took itself very seriously. The first few episodes of Allo Allo were comedy gold. Then it descended into catchphrases.

Get Me Hennimore is specifically mocking Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, which David Croft didn't write. Croft's comedies are ensemble pieces.

Dad's Army is one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time, possibly one of the greatest in the world. Everybody in the UK knows the exchange that starts at 1:20 here: it's simply one of the most perfectly delivered lines in comedy.
posted by Hogshead at 3:51 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Last week David Croft, one of the most successful and talented comedy writers of his generation, died in Portugal. I wonder if he was worried about the euro? It's a nice thought that it's not his problem now. I hope when I'm dying, I remember to reflect on all the anxieties that are soon to become somebody else's problem. The insane terms of my will, for starters.
Thus starts a eulogy by David Mitchell on David Croft. It starts silly, gets calculatingly offensive, then ends up being touching. I'm surprised at the hostility at his work on evidence in this thread. Before I had never known anyone who didn't love what David Croft had exposed them too.
posted by Kattullus at 6:35 PM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


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