One of the staples in my household is on Saturday nights turning the TV to the local PBS station to watch British comedies from the BBC- also known as Britcoms. Here I have watched the shows “Keeping Up Appearances ” “The Victor of Dibley,” “BlackAdder,” “Red Dwarf,” Waiting For God,” and of course “Are You Being Served.”
“Are You Being Served?”was a long-running British sitcom broadcast from 1972 to 1985. The show centered on a fictional store in London called Grace Brothers and the workers of it’s men’s and women’s department. The show made great fun of the British class system and included recurring characters such as the effeminate Mr. Humphries; Captain Peacock, the haughty floorwalker who fought in World War: the boisterous Mrs. Slocombe with her ever-changing hair color and whose jokes about her cat help make the show; and the lovely Miss Shirley Brahms, a sales representative with a heavy Cockney accent.
Miss Brahms was played by Wendy Richard who has taken her Final Taxi. Richard played that role through the entire run of the series and also appeared in the Are You Being Served? sequel Grace & Favour in 1992 and 1993. (This was repacked in the US as Are You Being Served Again?)
Richard was first seen on BBC TV in a 1960 soap opera, The Newcomers. She has also appeared in Dad’s and in two of the British comedy films series Carry On (Carry On Matron and Carry On Girls) What really surprised me recently is that I purchased the newly digitally reworked version of The Beatles movie Help! (1965) and in the special features DVD was a scene that was not in the original movie that starred our own Wendy Richard. It was a treat being a fan of The Beatles and of Richard.
Richard breathes a life of her own into the Miss Brahms character. She was one of the few members of the cast who was sexy and attention grabbing which means she was always getting advances and flirted with. This was not only by members for the staff but customers as well. Many of the innuendos thrown at her went over her head as she had a “dumb blonde” nature. It is what made the character so well loved.
After the gaiety of Are You Being Served? Wendy Richard joined the cast of the BBC soap opera EastEnders playing the role of played the long-suffering matriarch Pauline Fowler. She played this role from the first episode in 1985 until the character’s death at Christmas of 2006. It was a part she played for over 22 years.
In 2007, Richard was awarded a British Soap Award for ‘Lifetime Achievement’ for her role in Eastenders. In October 2008 it was reported that she was suffering with an aggressive cancer. She died at a clinic in London with her husband John Burns by her side. She was 65.