Are You Being Served?-The Best of the Early Years (1972)
Main Menu Audio
|Year Of Production||1972|
|Running Time||176:21 (Case: 180)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.29:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
One of the most successful British comedies to appear on the small screen in the 70s was Are You Being Served. Comprising ten series from 1973 to 1985, it rarely strayed from the standard British comedy repertoire of farcical situations, eccentric characters and never letting a good double-entendre slip by.
Written by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, both of whom later co-wrote the hugely successful 'Allo 'Allo (David Croft also co-wrote Dad's Army), the humour is often risqué without being crass, and frequently politically incorrect. The jokes rely heavily on the delivery of the actors to work, and deliver they generally do. John Inman, in particular, can sell a joke without even opening his mouth. You find yourself laughing even though you can see where the joke is headed well in advance of the punch line.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the show, Are You Being Served is set in a very old-fashioned style, very English department store; Grace Brothers. Centred around the Men's Wear and Ladies' Wear departments, the plots (such as they are) rely on the rivalry of these departments, the British class system, and retailing in general to generate the laughs. The characters and their eccentricities are pivotal to the gags working. While not my favourite comedy of all time, I did find this series quite enjoyable and a good way to while away an idle half hour when it was on television. It was a nice bit of nostalgia to revisit this classic comedy.
This DVD is a collection of five "best of" episodes from the first three series of Are You Being Served plus a TV special of a program called Funny Turns which features a look at John Inman's career.
Diamonds are a Man's Best Friend (29:37)
A customer loses an expensive diamond in Grace Bros and offers a £100 reward to whoever finds it. The staff go to extreme lengths to be the first to locate the diamond, with allegiances being formed and skullduggery undertaken in the quest to supplement their pay. Who will benefit from the £100?
The Clock (29:09)
Old Mr. Grainger is celebrating his 37th year at Grace Bros and the company is holding a dinner in his honour. But will this be his farewell dinner? Mr. Grainger wants to continue working but fears he is being retired when he hears a cuckoo clock, the traditional retirement gift at Grace Bros, in Mr. Rumbold's office.
The Think Tank (29:50)
Sales are down. Something must be done. Mr. Rumbold holds a staff "think tank" to brainstorm ideas to boost sales. A fashion show is organized but, with budgets tight, the staff must be the models.
The Hand of Fate (29:31)
Mr. Humphries shows an aptitude for palmistry. When he reads Capt. Peacock's hand and sees him "climbing the ladder and wearing a new hat", rumours of promotions and new opportunities run through the department.
Up Captain Peacock (29:14)
In honour of 20 years of service, Capt. Peacock is given the key to the executive washroom. The staff are jealous of his new privileges and plot to bring him back down to earth.
Funny Turns - John Inman (29:00)
A 1999 TV special that looks at the life and career of John Inman (Mr. Humphries). It includes interviews with many of the cast of Are You Being Served some 30 years on. Not riveting, but there are some interesting moments. Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft also speak about the show - Mr. Humphries in particular.
Considering these are TV shows from the early to mid 1970s, the video transfer is generally acceptable. Naturally, a full screen 1.33:1 presentation has been delivered, this being the way it was broadcast.
The image is mostly clean with good colour saturation, reasonable shadow detail (given the technology of the day) and very little low level noise. The real problem it has is with sharpness. Close-ups are quite sharp, but wider shots and movement tend to be soft. This can be annoying, particularly when someone turns their head quickly and the close-up moves from fairly fuzzy to relatively sharp as you watch. This was actually uncomfortable to watch, but is most likely a result of 1970s video. Fortunately, severe instances of this are rare.
There is a sequence around 27:15 in The Hand Of Fate episode where a bright green flare and comet trail is clearly visible on a highlight on Mr. Rumbold's (bald) head. This is the most obvious video artefact on this disc.
There are some very occasional compression artefacts, usually around close-up sequences with rapid movement. These are brief but distracting. These aside, the compression was handled well.
Other than the problems above, I was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the image. I was half expecting much worse from such old television footage.
This is a dual-layered disc but I could not find evidence of the change point, so it seems to have been (sensibly) placed between episodes.
There are no subtitles.
Ahhhh..... Glorious English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. This disc only excited my centre speaker. The mains, rears and sub-woofer all got the evening off. Of course, this was how the series was recorded, so I didn't find this a problem. I am a bit of a purist in this regard.
Dialogue is the key to this series and, thankfully, it is handled well on this disc. All dialogue is clear and every spoken word can be easily heard. Being dialogue driven, there is no background music, except for the titles and credits, and very little special effect audio, so there was no requirement for the sub to wake up.
There are no audio sync problems, no audio drop-outs, and I was surprised by the lack of hiss. In short, a good clean, if basic, audio transfer. No excitement, but no nasties here, either.
|Surround Channel Use|
This is a bare bones disc. The closest things to extras here is a plot synopsis that is shown at the start of each episode when the episode is selected from the main menu.
The menu is fairly static. There is an animation of a lift indicator and lift doors opening to reveal the menu when it first loads. The menu itself cycles through a series of stills of the main characters. It is full frame.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
I could not find either a Region 1 nor a Region 2 version of this disc. Complete series of Are You Being Served are available in both Region 1 and 2, but it seems this particular compilation is Region 4 only.
If you are a fan of Are You Being Served you will probably want to investigate the DVDs of the entire series rather than this sampling. For those with a passing interest, or just wanting to try few a classic episodes, this does represent a good introduction to the series.
There are plenty of laughs to be had in this selection. The Funny Turns special provides some interesting background, but personally, I would have preferred a sixth episode instead.
An honest, if spartan, collection of acceptable video and audio quality. Nothing exciting technically, but it does nothing drastically wrong either.
|DVD||Toshiba SD-1200Y, using S-Video output|
|Display||Grundig M84-210 80cm. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Richter Wizard fronts, Richter Lynx centre, Richter Hydra rears, Velodyne CT-100 sub-woofer|