And she is unanimous in that!
February 2, 2016 2:07 PM   Subscribe

In the 1970s and early 1980s, there was a massively popular BBC sitcom called Are You Being Served, about the “antics” of the staff of the Grace Brothers department store ... [One of the main characters] was devoted to her cat, Tiddles. She would regale her colleagues each day with tales of its various misfortunes, and was always keen to finish work on time to get home and attend to its catly needs. She rarely called the moggy by its proper name, though – it was always referred to as “my pussy”.
A tribute to Mrs. Slocombe's Pussy.
posted by tocts (73 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 


I really wanted to find out about Mrs Slocombe's Pussy but that was pretty hard to open. I managed to get in eventually but I had to have a couple of tries. I think everyone else is having a go.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:27 PM on February 2, 2016 [44 favorites]


From the time when British TV comedy was simply Music Hall with a camera stuck in the front row.
posted by colie at 2:33 PM on February 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


"You know, this sort of thing just isn't fair on my pussy. She has a go at the furniture if I'm not there prompt."

I love this show!
posted by narancia at 2:40 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's on here Saturday nights. I never miss it.
posted by Splunge at 2:41 PM on February 2, 2016


I loved that show when it was shown in the US years later. I worked in an old-fashioned department store very much like that, complete with characters. One story I heard from an older employee was that at one of the branch stores a stock guy was fired for getting it on with the manikins in the storage room! It seems he had "fixed" one to be suitable to do the deed!
posted by mermayd at 2:41 PM on February 2, 2016


Any time I read a comment by a British MeFite, you can bet that I'm picturing them in my head as one of the cast members, such was the influence this show had on my unformed, pre-pubescent American mind.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:42 PM on February 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


"Mr. Humphries, leave my pussy alone!"
posted by dnash at 2:46 PM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


The first American streaming service to start serving Are You Being Served? will have my undying devotion.

(Related: uncleozzy's MeFi Music cover of the AYBS theme because it is related and because it should never be far from your mind and because it is one of my favorite things.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:48 PM on February 2, 2016 [17 favorites]


You've all done very well!
posted by unreason at 2:58 PM on February 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


Mrs Slocombe, are you free?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:01 PM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I loved that show! In the mid 2000s! I even remember the bizarre and kind of uncomfortable sequel where they all go live together.
posted by miyabo at 3:08 PM on February 2, 2016


This show has been one of my guilty pleasures for a long time. It's terrible! But it had an exotic sheen to an American teen and hey, broad wit. I suppose Three's Company is something of an American equivalent, humor-wise, but Are You Being Served is superior because it has more characters, because they are so reliably entrenched in their quirks, and because it's set at work - whether or not we've experienced life in retail, we all know what it's like to be entrapped in working life with other people.
posted by Miko at 3:09 PM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Any time I read a comment by a British MeFite, you can bet that I'm picturing them in my head as one of the cast members

I am, to be fair, functionally indistinguishable from Young Mr Grace.
posted by sobarel at 3:14 PM on February 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Miko, you'll be delighted to know that Three's Company was based on a UK show, Man About the House and that there's some available on Youtube. You're welcome.
posted by merocet at 3:15 PM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


The PBS stations in the Bay Area used to play AYBS? in the afternoon AND evenings back in the late 80's/early 90's. I somehow ran across it and became addicted, and would watch it in my room doing homework on the sweet little 8" b&w TV my parents got me for Christmas one year. Apparently I was laughing so loudly my parents could hear me downstairs and were wondering just what in the hell I was watching. They still talk about it.

It's still near and dear to my heart as it started my lifelong affair with British comedy, but there are some very problematic episodes re: race that I can't bring myself to watch whenever I decide to watch an episode or two. That said, when I retire, I plan on getting Mrs. Slocombe hair and changing the color as often as I like.

The twee but excellent ice cream shop Humphrey Slocombe in SF is named after the AYBS? characters. Oh, secret breakfast... drools.
posted by smirkette at 3:18 PM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Finally, an excuse to share Coil's cover of the theme song!
posted by Merzbau at 3:21 PM on February 2, 2016 [17 favorites]


[camp Lancashire accent]

Mrs. Slocombe asked me if I could handle her pussy over at my place for a few days. I told her it was simply impossible- I'm having the bathroom re-done and I'll be up to me eyeballs in caulk all weekend!

Besides, I think her pussy is rather high-maintenance.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:23 PM on February 2, 2016 [24 favorites]


When Mollie Sudgen died in 2009, there was a nice Twitter tribute with hashtag #mrsslocombespussy
posted by larrybob at 3:24 PM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


AYBS, Father Ted, Red Dwarf... British sitcoms (at least the ones I'm familiar with) always have such delightful and distinctive characters. I can't really think of any American equivalents in that regard. Taxi, maybe? and there was Don Knotts' Barney Fife...
posted by rifflesby at 3:25 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


The weird thing about PBS being about 40% Are You Being Served over recent decades is that, now that I live in London, I see this show as surprisingly invisible in the history of British comic tv and not very influential compared to many others.

But who doesn't love pussy?
posted by C.A.S. at 3:26 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


relevant (NSFW ish)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:27 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


My favorite was always 'Allo, 'Allo. Mainly for the terrible accents.


"Good moaning."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:27 PM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


You poor Americans are missing loads of good comedy.
That was one of the least subtle shows and is pretty much considered slapstick.
Another that has just had a film version released was Dad's Army.

If you really want to hear truly shocking scripts that would turn a censor blue you should listen to some of the early sixties Sunday shows like Round the Horn. I tried to get an old recording and so far have been censored into a corner.
posted by Burn_IT at 3:28 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh lord, merocet, Channel 18 in Milwaukee showed both Robin's Nest and Man About The House back in the late 70s day, along with a bunch of other Brit-coms and slapstick like Benny Hill from the earlier part of the decade that were otherwise laying about on some shelf of 3/4 inch tapes at ITV, I presume. Every so often, they'd show some year-old TOTP special, too (No, no Bowie or Bolan, or anyone cool like that, dammit. Think more Bay City Rollers-type stuff).

Are You Being Served. The theme was the only bit I liked about it. Man, I couldn't believe my fundy guardian let that stuff in our house, much less enjoyed that show, when I was a kid. Those double entendres were broader than the side of a barn. I guess she thought public TV = Classy! There was a coolness factor in elementary school about that show, as in it wasn't cool. The cool kids didn't watch PBS, the nerds only liked Python and Doctor Who (let it be known that I was a low-level nerd), and the jock boys liked Benny Hill. Our PBS station did show The Goodies, for like, 6 months in I think 1976. Anyway, I remember seeing the Kitten Kong episode and when I saw it again in Australia about 30 years later, it was the weirdest sensation of memory ever.

And Going To Maine: "HENNIMOOOOORE!"
posted by droplet at 3:31 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh my god I love this show.

I was raised by my grandparents. For some reason, as a teen in the 90's I was not allowed to watch Seinfeld or several other sitcoms my grandparents deemed too "dirty" and sexual.

Yet.

I was allowed to watch all the reruns of Are You Being Served on PBS. Go figure?
posted by Windigo at 3:33 PM on February 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


When BBC America started showing contemporary episodes of Eastenders in the early 2000s, I got the shock of my life seeing Miss Brahms again. Like the twins experiment in physics. I had been watching her TV self on Served four or five years previously in high school, 30 years had passed in real life...
posted by Diablevert at 3:37 PM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


(re: allo allo accents)

"rhenay. leesten cerhfullay. hi weell zay zees eunly wence."

every. episode. also the floppy celery.
posted by disso at 3:53 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


My favorite was always 'Allo, 'Allo. Mainly for the terrible accents.

I'm sure I've mentioned this on here before, but the terrible accents in 'Allo 'Allo were a wonderful conceit: when a character is speaking in a terrible accent, they are speaking that language. So you have Rene, Michelle and a British airman all speaking in outrageous French and English accents, Michelle switching between accents as she translates between French (which the airman doesn't speak) and English (which Rene doesn't speak). Crabtree, the gendarme, is an English undercover operative, and his accent is not only outrageous but also ludicrous, as he is speaking French but doing so very badly. Such a sophisticated gag for such an unsophisticated show.

Co-written by David Croft (as was Are You Being Served), who made a career out of mapping English culture and recent history through moderately inoffensive farce.

The one I'd like to see again is It Ain't Half Hot, Mum, which might be more difficult to track down (because of the persistent racism), but might also be more interesting in the earlier series (because as I remember it the writers didn't think persistent racism was a very good thing). It's probably on YouTube. I should just look, shouldn't I?
posted by Grangousier at 3:57 PM on February 2, 2016 [6 favorites]




I do hope you're not laboring under the misapprehension that I was in the pub boozing. I merely popped in to buy a packet of crissops!
posted by biscotti at 3:58 PM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


When I was a kid I loathed seeing Are You Being Served? on the TV Guide schedule, because I assumed it was a public interest/news panel type show, like the title was a rhetorical question about politicians and policy. I already hated that type of show due to The McLaughlin Group marking the end of the Carmen San Diego/Square One/3 2 1 Contact block of afterschool programming. When I finally accidentally saw the show, I loved it so hard that I immediately dove into a decade of severely insufferable Anglophilia, a time when I literally said things like, "I don't even like American bands!"

I blame Mrs. Slocombe's pussy.
posted by palindromic at 4:07 PM on February 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


Man, I love this show. So bad and good.
posted by graventy at 4:10 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


My favorite was always 'Allo, 'Allo. Mainly for the terrible accents.

I can trace back my appreciation for Renaissance art to The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies.
posted by sobarel at 4:14 PM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Nicholas Smith, who has died aged 81, was the last surviving member of the main cast of the Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft sitcom Are You Being Served?

Wait, Mr. Rumbold was the last survivor?
posted by Etrigan at 4:15 PM on February 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


Oh yes, Grangousier- I'm quite aware of the function of the accents in 'Allo, 'Allo. It's one of the things that makes the show great.

I will, however, have to dock you points for not prefacing your remark with "Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:16 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Previously in the Blue: Mollie Sugden dies at 86
posted by Sunburnt at 4:30 PM on February 2, 2016


I think this is one of the shows I watched when I was just barely old enough to think "heh heh" at all the pussy references but still young enough to not realize double entendres were a thing that grown-ups actually did, and so I assumed it was all just my own brain being terrible.
posted by straight at 4:40 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


windigo: woaaaaah, me too! Except for the grandparents part. This was also the case for me and my sister.

Monty Python was considered OK also. I wouldn't change that part of my childhood if I had a choice, but it certainly belies an interesting parenting strategy.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 4:46 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


There are rumors that the BBC may be planning some sort of reboot of AYBS? as part of a year long tribute to British television. I'm not sure quite how that would work in this case, because a lot of the humor stems from the overly stuffy and rigid hierarchy of the store, which is something that I don't think really exists anymore. It's like the "Downton Abbey" of sitcoms. (The "Keeping Up Appearances" re-do as "Young Hyacinth" sounds plausible, though, because social climbing is an ageless phenomenon.)

Previously in the Blue: Mollie Sugden dies at 86

I posted that! With absolutely no idea if it would mean much to anyone else. Was pleased to find out otherwise.
posted by dnash at 4:47 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


This show and Keeping Up Appearances are my favorite Britcoms.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 4:57 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


a lot of the humor stems from the overly stuffy and rigid hierarchy of the store, which is something that I don't think really exists anymore

I think W1A is the equivalent sitcom sendup of today's British sensibilities.
posted by miyabo at 5:03 PM on February 2, 2016


If you really want to hear truly shocking scripts that would turn a censor blue you should listen to some of the early sixties Sunday shows like Round the Horn

I have been listening to Round the Horne on BBC iPlayer - they have four shows at a time available and a new one is added every Tuesday. It's available here in the U.S.
posted by larrybob at 5:06 PM on February 2, 2016


I loved this show so much - they played it often on our local PBS station in Raleigh-Durham when I was a kid- that's right - the PBS station in North Carolina. I could never figure out if they weren't getting the jokes on the show or if it was just flying under the local government's radar.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:13 PM on February 2, 2016


My mother in law, in her seventies, refers to her cat as her "pussy" and frequently comes out with utterances like "I do love my little pussy" and "goodness, my little pussy has got extra furry this winter." The rest of us usually have to leave the room when this happens because we cannot keep a straight face. How can she not KNOW?
posted by lollusc at 5:19 PM on February 2, 2016 [17 favorites]


why do you assume she doesn't?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:21 PM on February 2, 2016 [37 favorites]


I love "Are You Being Served" even though I never made it all the way through the DVD set. It still airs every Sunday afternoon on our PBS station.
posted by drezdn at 5:22 PM on February 2, 2016


I would sign up for Acorn if they offered it for streaming.
posted by drezdn at 5:22 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've mentioned this show a bit here before, so I won't go into that aspect again but I will venture to say that some of these secretaries that worked for Mr. Rumbold, Mr. Grace too I suppose, were by far the most XXX rated thing I saw on broadcast TV, PBS no less, in my youth. Even then it was surreal.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:23 PM on February 2, 2016


*cough* it's very easy to use BBC iPlayer through a vpn *cough*
posted by miyabo at 5:27 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: How can she not KNOW?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:56 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


They used to show this on Canada's YTV channel late at night. YTV was the children's programming channel. I'd mostly forgotten about this, but I must've watched quite a few episodes when I was a kid, when all those double entendres would've gone straight over my head. I assume that's the only reason why YTV thought it'd be okay to put on their network.
posted by chrominance at 6:32 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just mentioned this post to my wife and she said, "I'm not sure if I've seen that show or if you've just told me about it" and now I don't know who I married.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:50 PM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Fans of AYBS might like Nick Hornby's Funny Girl, about British comedy in the 60svand 70s. I enjoyed it.

I watched the show on PBS every afternoon in high school. I think I didn't notice many of the entendres, but couldn't miss the pussy!
posted by apricot at 7:49 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh my lord, I loved this show as a kid. I remember the humor being very broad but what really carried the day was the physical expressionism of the cast which cued me in to the jokes that might have otherwise flown over my head.

I never associated British culture with snootiness the way some Americans do because instead I associated it with the knowing vulgarity of Are You Being Served? and the keen shrewdness of Keeping Up Appearances.
posted by librarylis at 8:11 PM on February 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


I had to watch this show with my dad as kid in the 80's in Canada (along with Fawlty Towers). It wasn't funny at all to me as child but I watched in fascination at the old British clowns. How wrong I was, I had no idea about this pussy business! The whole thing was entirely over my head.
posted by gillianr at 9:22 PM on February 2, 2016


My 78 year old Dad also refers to cats as "pussy" unselfconsciously. He is a righteous man who has never sworn in his life and although I'm sure he knows the other meaning, the other meaning is not part of his working vocabulary, so no double entendre arises in his mind.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:25 PM on February 2, 2016



When I was a kid I loathed seeing Are You Being Served? on the TV Guide schedule, because I assumed it was a public interest/news panel type show, like the title was a rhetorical question about politicians and policy. I already hated that type of show due to The McLaughlin Group marking the end of the Carmen San Diego/Square One/3 2 1 Contact block of afterschool programming. When I finally accidentally saw the show, I loved it so hard that I immediately dove into a decade of severely insufferable Anglophilia, a time when I literally said things like, "I don't even like American bands!"


Same here except I never accidentally saw it, and therefore only learned what it was actually about a few minutes ago!
posted by mantecol at 9:44 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm old enough to remember when this was first broadcast as a teenager in 70s Britain. Even then it was dated and embarrassing. Full of sexism and homophobia it was just lowest common denominator stuff for the masses.
posted by quarsan at 10:52 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Like many others, I ran into this on PBS as a bored youth. For some reason, I developed a very firm belief that Mr. Humphries was the "main character" and that the plot was supposed to revolve around him. It was some time before the penny dropped, and even now I still implicitly think of AYBS as "that show about Mr. Humphries."
posted by Scattercat at 11:10 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, how'd y'all feel about Australian pussy?
posted by Mezentian at 11:24 PM on February 2, 2016


I'm old enough to remember when this was first broadcast as a teenager in 70s Britain. Even then it was dated and embarrassing. Full of sexism and homophobia it was just lowest common denominator stuff for the masses.


Brit here, I was a middle class kid and saw it at the time and while you're too harsh, it was always a bit of a guilty pleasure. Because basically all TV in the 70s was a guilty pleasure - and in terms of racism and sexism there was far worse on offer at the time.

Some of AYBS's best stuff was based around the endless ridiculousness of simply having a job in a big organisation - which was later picked up by The Office.
posted by colie at 11:46 PM on February 2, 2016


The innuendo still lives on in Radio comedy, particularly I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. They have a scorer called Samantha who often has to leave before the end of the recording...
"Samantha tells me she has to go now as she's off to the country residence of her new gentleman friend, who has some interesting birds in the thicket. He keeps a young chicken, but Samantha says there are also wild breeds there, and she can't wait to see his Woodcock, Pullet and Swallow."
There's also a discussion of the history of innuendo in British radio comedy from the Huffington Post.
posted by Stark at 2:27 AM on February 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I couldn't call a cat "pussy" but "here, puss, puss, puss!" is what you yell to fetch the cat in, no matter how stupid you feel.

I saw the stage show of Allo Allo (with the tv cast). So awesome!
posted by kitten magic at 2:32 AM on February 3, 2016


My dad always tells a tale from the early days of teleconferencing becoming an accepted part of business practice. He was at an ad agency, and they were going to call a client in Germany. She worked out she could actually make the call from home. So they were all in the conference room, gathered around the phone speaker.
"Isn't technology wonderful?" said one of the English team. "This is much better than having to fly on a plane to talk to you."
"Yes, it's great," agreed the client. "I didn't even have to go into the office."
"Brilliant."
"It's very relaxing. Right now I'm just lying on the sofa, stroking my pussy."
At this point the English team had to abruptly hang up the call and wait for ten minutes while everyone had a glass of water and started breathing again. They made up a story about a technical fault, I think.
posted by Acheman at 4:15 AM on February 3, 2016 [16 favorites]


Finally, an excuse to share Coil's cover of the theme song

Wow.
In the Golden Age of TV I want to see what this was attached to.
posted by Mezentian at 6:03 AM on February 3, 2016


I am, to be fair, functionally indistinguishable from Young Mr Grace.
I hear Old Mr. Grace doesn't get around much anymore.
posted by milnews.ca at 8:04 AM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I listened to a talk by John McWhorter where he mentioned that he loves this show because of all the different accents.
posted by lagomorphius at 10:51 AM on February 3, 2016


Ever since I watched AYBS as a kid I've wanted to color my hair like Mrs Slocombe when I was older. Maybe I'll color my pussy too.
posted by littlesq at 3:28 PM on February 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


My dad always tells a tale from the early days of teleconferencing becoming an accepted part of business practice.

Must be something about conference calls that brings out the innuendo. My former boss always used to refer to multi-party conference calls as "a three-way". As in, "Let's have a three-way with Jason this afternoon, shall we?"
posted by lollusc at 3:08 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


This show was a favorite of my 90-year old great grandma when I was a kid.

I am not sure what to do with this additional information.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:57 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh boy, it looks like we're going to see Mrs Slocombe's pussy again! I hope they make a good job of it because I hate sloppy second attempts.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:03 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


A reboot?
Oh, this will not end well.
posted by Mezentian at 7:14 AM on February 19, 2016


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