Abyss of Silence

Friday, March 16, 2007

Mr. Humphries, gone but not forgotten.

It’s funny how the death of someone you never knew can sadden you so. Yesterday I learned that John Inman died at the age of 71.

His most memorable role was that of Mr. Humphries, the cheeky, light in his loafers, men’s wear shop assistant on BBC’s Are You Being Served? This show was a massive hit in England during the late 70s through the early 80s. It’s also been a public television hit over here over the past couple of decades.

I remember seeing episodes of it, no doubt on public television, here when I was a little kid. My Mom and I used to love watching this show.

The only thing close to this show in the U.S. I can liken it to would be Three’s Company, though that's doing it a bit of a disservice. Set in a department store (in the ladies' & men's wear department), it was a comedy that focused on slapstick and sexual innuendo in a completely innocent way. There was never a serious moment; there was never a “very special” episode; there was never anything mean-natured. The set was not impressive, and the plots were simplistic and yet it totally worked due mainly to snappy dialogue, well rounded characters and marvelous performances.

My and I’m sure almost everyone’s favorite characters were the haughty yet tasteless Mrs. Slocombe played by the inimitable Molly Sugden and of course Mr. Humphries.

I rediscovered this show when I was in college. I worked in the bookstore over the summer and ate my lunch in the mostly vacant (summer) student lounge and happened upon an episode. From that point on you could set you watch by the time I’d take my lunch breaks because I’d take my sandwich into the lounge and watch Are You Being Served?

I can’t watch this sweet, goofy show without smiling. John Inman may be gone but Mr. Humphries’ “I’m Free!” will ring on.


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