Are You Being Served faced backlash after pilot was ‘shelved’ by BBC

Are You Being Served pilot was ‘shelved’ reveals expert

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During the pilot episode of Are You Being Served? The Grace Brothers Department Store sees numerous funny follies and disputes over the men’s department having to now share the floor with the women’s department. Directed by Bernard Thompson, the beloved sitcom became a staple part of British TV. However, despite leaving its audience in stitches, the programme almost didn’t make it to BBC screens at all. 

In Are You Being Served? A Very British Comedy, which aired on Channel 5, the 90-minute documentary detailed the trials and tribulations which had occurred prior to its huge success.

After watching the pilot episode of the show, everybody involved believed they had a sure-fire hit on their hands – apart from the BBC. 

TV critic and long-time fan of the show Nina Myskow explained: “Are You Being Served? was shelved, the BBC didn’t want it.

“I could see that at the time they would be, sort of, wary of screening something that was really quite broad.”

However, during the Munich Massacre attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September, took nine members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage, after killing two more.

Moreover, it was then reported that the BBC were desperate to fill air time after being left with blank screens following the attack.

After reaching to their shelf with a range of tapes to choose from, Are You Being Served? was the one to hand. 

Being described as “fabulously fun and gloriously risky”, the light-hearted comedy was the much-needed content required by members of the public following the horrific events in Munich.

While all episodes were in colour, the pilot had originally survived only in black-and-white as a film transfer from the original colour source.

However, it was restored into colour using a colour restoration technique and was aired on BBC Two in 2010.

After the series had come to an end after 10 seasons back in 1985, it had later been picked up for a revival by the corporation in 2016. 

Top writer Derren Litten, was hired to pen new scripts and told it would be back for a full series, so he finished three instalments.

But after just one episode had aired, BBC bosses backtracked and pulled the plug on the show.

Sherrie Hewson, who played Mrs Slocombe in the revival, was upset by the decision.

She said: “When Derren wrote it, they said they were going to go for a series. 

“But at the time there were a lot of comedy shows being brought back.”

“The criteria was that if you got four or five million viewers, you would go to a series. 

“We got seven million for our pilot. But they took Porridge to a series instead,” she told Daily Star.

Although it hasn’t been confirmed by the BBC, it’s reported by it dropped the series over fears it would offend viewers.

Are You Being Served? A Very British Comedy is available to stream on My5.

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