Monday, 29 August 2016

Why I absolutely hated the 2016 remake of 'Are You Being Served' (warning: contains spoilers!)

This is more a rant than a review about the revival of 'Are You Being Served' ('AYBS'), so it contains spoilers; you know where to look if you don't want to know these!

The 'AYBS' revival happened to be on the telly, and I watched it without knowing that it was a remake. The penny dropped when I saw that Mrs Slocombe seemed to have had a facelift, Mr Humphries' voice had changed, and Captain Peacock had put on a few pounds (this, by the way, is what happens when you return to Planet Media after coming off the internet and other news outlets for a while - you don't know that a remake's happening). I decided to stick on out of sheer horror (I LOVE horror stories) at what I perceive to be laziness from the BBC at coming up with new ideas, and out of apprehension on seeing that the remake was set in the 1980s (thus surviving the existential crisis that was triggered by asking myself if I had been imagining that 'AYBS' was set in the 1970s, and I had my fears assuaged when my parents assured me that they were wondering the same, too).

I didn't mind Mr Conway joining the show, but I did wonder where Mr Lucas was. With all the silvers around him, Mr Lucas was the only reason I watched the original, and with the present-day politicking about black and white working-class boys going on, I hoped that poor Mr Lucas hadn't been replaced with Mr Conway out of political correctness, and that what I was supposing existed solely in my head and in the imaginations of the crackpots who remade 'AYBS', and not in real life.

The actor who played Mr Conway, as well as all the other actors, especially the chap who was Mr Humphries, Beta Edition, did a very good job, but it is such a crying shame that their talents were wasted on this. I now, however, have a new respect for actors, and I do wonder that since the original actors made the original 'AYBS' come alive by using certain behaviours and mannerisms which the new actors, in order to pass the remake of 'AYBS' as 'AYBS', had to learn and mimic, doesn't this mean that actors of iconic characters (and their relatives/estate/whatever) should have some sort of right to stop producers and directors from asking new actors to copy behaviours and mannerisms which make characters special? So I am torn, because although I do admire the actors of the remake for their bravery, respect for the original performances and talent, and for tackling the script the way they did, I think that what the BBC has done has been very, very, VERY disrespectful to the original actors. I find this remake not just a huge step backwards in the world of comedy, but an insult to the original actors and their creativity.

Whilst the original 'AYBS' was a 1970s show set in the 1970s, and therefore mirrored real life at the time (that is part of its appeal and charm; you know that you are catching a glimpse of what people were really like back then), this remake is just a story which has nothing to offer. Whatever the BBC has to say about what life was like in the 1980s should have been said in the 1980s; it's 2016 now and frankly, a bit late for that.

Something good did come out of the remake, though. I had been too young back in the day to appreciate the minutiae of the original 'AYBS', and I found myself asking my parents what Mr Grainger had around his shoulders and why (it was a tape measurer, they said, for measuring, and I asked why a measurer and tape measuring were needed back then, which started a whole conversation which could be a sitcom in itself, I guess).

But this saving grace wasn't enough, and I found myself  wondering what else my licence fee is being used for. Frankly, the BBC should and could have given someone a chance to create an entirely new sitcom, which could've been set in the 1970s if that's what was needed but please, leave the established universe of 'AYBS' alone, and let Mrs Slocombe's pussy continue to lie and be the prize-winner it already is.

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