More than three decades have passed since Mr Humphries last trilled ‘I’m free’ and Mrs Slocombe talked about her pussy.
But the much-loved classic sitcom characters are set to return to our screens for a one-off special of Are You Being Served?
As John Inman and Mollie Sugden – who played the pair – and the other primary actors have now passed away, the remake will feature a new cast.
What’s in store: The cast of the new one-off special, including Sherrie Hewson as Mrs Slocombe (5) and Jason Watkins as Mr Humphries (8)
But as our picture shows, the 30-minute episode about the misadventures of hapless staff from department store Grace Brothers will look strikingly familiar.
A BBC source said yesterday: ‘It’s a homage to the original, it’s just moved on a couple of years to 1988 and they’re trying to get the staff up to speed with new technology and having to do everything on computers.
‘It will still have parts of the original in it because that’s what everyone wants – and it will still have some of the famous lines like “I’m free”.’
The original sitcom began on BBC1 in 1972 and ran until 1985. The new episode, due to air next month, is part of the Landmark Sitcom Season celebrating 60 years of comedy on the BBC. Here we meet the new cast:
A brief history: Original sitcom cast with Mollie Sugden, far left, as Mrs Slocombe and John Inman, second from right, as Mr Humphries
1. MR HARMAN
The mouthy maintenance man and shop steward was originally played by Arthur English. Comedian and writer Arthur Smith takes over. English later played Arthur, Alf Garnett’s mate, in In Sickness and in Health, from 1985 to 1990. He died aged 75 in 1995.
2. MISS CROFT
Mr Rumbold’s secretary is a new character played by Hollyoaks actress and former I’m A Celebrity star Jorgie Porter.
Miss Brahms, the cockney Ladies Junior, was immortalised by Wendy Richard
3. MISS BRAHMS
The cockney Ladies Junior was immortalised by Wendy Richard and is now played by Niky Wardley, best known for playing Lauren ‘am I bovvered?’ Cooper’s friend Lisa in The Catherine Tate Show. Richard went on to play Pauline Fowler in EastEnders before her death from cancer at 65 in 2009.
4. MR RUMBOLD
The manager of the Ladies and Gents Departments was known for wielding his authority – and his big ears earned him the nickname ‘Jug Ears’. Justin Edwards, star of political comedy The Thick Of It, takes over the role first played by Nicholas Smith. Smith, who voiced vicar Clement Hedges in Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, died aged 81 last year.
5. MRS SLOCOMBE
The queen of the Ladies’ Department with ever-changing hair colour is played by Sherrie Hewson, known for roles in Benidorm and Coronation Street. The BBC yesterday would not confirm whether Mrs Slocombe would still refer to her cat as her ‘pussy’ as Mollie Sugden did originally. Seven years after the end of the show, Sugden was among five original cast members to appear in spin-off Grace & Favour. From 1971 to 1979 she also appeared in sitcom The Liver Birds. She died at 86 in 2009.
Mrs Slocombe – the queen of the Ladies’ Department with ever-changing hair colour – was played by Mollie Sugden in the original series
6. YOUNG MR GRACE
Harold Bennett originally played the store’s elderly owner and chairman, known for telling staff ‘You’ve all done very well’ – and for the attractiveness of his nurses and secretaries. Matthew Horne, one of the stars of Gavin and Stacey, plays Young Mr Grace’s grandson. Bennett died aged 81 in 1981.
7. CAPTAIN PEACOCK
John Challis, ‘Boycie’ in Only Fools And Horses, revives the role of the pompous department floorwalker with a roving eye for the ladies. Original actor Frank Thornton, who appeared in Grace and Favour and played Herbert ‘Truly’ Truelove in Last of the Summer Wine, died aged 92 in 2013.
Mr Humphries was originally played by John Inman and is best known for his much-mimicked ‘I’m free’ catchphrase
8. MR HUMPHRIES
Jason Watkins, who won a BAFTA for playing the title role in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies and was in W1A, a comedy about the BBC, plays the camp menswear assistant role originally played by John Inman and is best known for his much-mimicked ‘I’m free’ catchphrase. Inman went on to play pantomime dames before his death aged 71 in 2007.
9. MR CONWAY
The newest recruit and first black member on the floor is played by newcomer Kayode Ewumi. A similar young character called Mr Lucas was played by Trevor Bannister from 1972 to 1979. Theatre veteran Bannister died at 76 in 2011.
10. MR GRAINGER
Former Coronation Street star Roy Barraclough plays the straight-laced longest serving senior of the Men’s Department. Arthur Brough, who first played him, died in 1978.