Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why You Almost Weren't Served

The classic BBC sitcom Are You Being Served? has made generations of viewers around the world laugh since it premiered in the early 1970s. It had a long life for a British show- 69 episodes- and is still watched around the world. It must have been obvious that the show would be a huge hit right from the very beginning, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, the show almost never aired at all.

After the original pilot was filmed, the show was initially rejected by the BBC. It’s not unusual for a show to get rejected after the pilot is filmed. In fact, the networks will often produce a ton of pilots, most of which will never see the light of day. Unfortunately for the cast and crew of Are You Being Served? it appeared that their show would be one of those casualties. Until fate intervened.

In the summer of 1972, the world was horrified when terrorists stormed the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany and took the Israeli team hostage, cruelly murdering many of the athletes. While the Olympic Committee struggled with the aftermath of the massacre, the games were suspended. This left the BBC scrambling to find anything to put on the air while the world waited for the Olympic Games to resume.

Enter the team from Grace Brothers. The BBC aired the pilot as filler programming alongside other rejected pilots under the Comedy Playhouse banner. The positive reception changed the minds of the programming staff at the BBC, who promptly ordered a full season of the show and the rest was history.