Wednesday, March 20, 2013


"Whatever you do, don't open the door
unless it's a young policeman carrying a rolled umbrella."
Mr. Humphries
'Are You Being Served?'

So much of the Toobworld Dynamic is theoretical; unseen links occurring before a show premieres or after it's canceled, perhaps even during the commercial break, but always just off-screen.

I thought of this upon hearing Monday of the death of Frank Thornton, forever to be remembered as Captain Stephen Peacock in 'Are You Being Served?' He was 92 years old.

Captain Peacock was the floor-walker at the Grace Brothers Department Store in London, and he ran the department as if it was a military command. (It's not certain if his own military service record actually exists.)

As a character, Captain Peacock appeared in 'Are You Being Served?', a TV movie set in the fictional location of Costa Plonka, the 'Grace And Favour' sequel, and the show's pilot which was broadcast during the eleventh season of 'Comedy Playhouse'. So he's more than qualified to be in the TV Crossover Hall of Fame.

As such, he wouldn't need to pad out his resume with this theoretical connection, but nevertheless I think it could work.....

In November of 1972, Lt. Columbo of the Los Angeles Police Department was sent by his superiors (among them, Captain Amos Burke) to London to observe police techniques at New Scotland Yard. While being shepherded by Detective Chief Superintendent Durk, Columbo corrected the official findings of accident death for theatrical producer Sir Roger Haversham as being a case of murder.

Just before he helped the Yard in closing the case, Columbo told a rambling story - as he often did to rattle his suspects - about wanting to buy the ultimate souvenir of his trip to Great Britain.

And he decided on an umbrella.....

It was an umbrella, the one belonging to Sir Roger, that was the key to the murder's solution. But it was Columbo's new bumbershoot that caught my attention, O'Bsessed as I am with the trivial details of Toobworld.

Just where in London did Lt. Columbo buy that umbrella?

Why couldn't it have been at Grace Brothers?

'Columbo' had many instances in which the Lieutenant had comedic encounters with store personnel and stuffy functionaries in other fields. So I could see him easily balancing an encounter with Captain Peacock during his investigation. First off, I would imagine his raincoat would make Captain Peacock think Lt. Columbo was a member of the custodial staff in the store, like Mr. Beverley Harman of the packing department. And should Columbo be assigned to Mr. Humphries for service (if he was free), it would surely have yielded a gem of a filler scene as Peter Falk often got with Vito Scotti in his many roles on 'Columbo'.

Because of the state of the world today, I don't think there will be another TV character in the style of Captain Peacock who could be believable as such an officious figure. And it's probably just as well, since the blend of character and actor was so perfect - Frank Thornton was Captain Peacock, and like Peter Falk and Columbo, there will never be another.

Good night, Mr. Thornton, and may God bless......



Hugh said...

Which TV movie featured Capt. Peacock?

Toby O'B said...

It was also called "Are You Being Served?" (1977)

Hugh said...

Was that a TV-movie, or a theatrical film only released in the UK/Europe?

Toby O'B said...

I think it was a TV movie only seen in the UK.....