Jeremy Lloyd and his co-writer, David Croft, were the writing duo behind two of the biggest favourites of the golden era of comedy television, Are You Being Served? and ’Allo ’Allo!, both of which brought their quirky brand of British humour to millions of viewers.
Shane Allen, Head of Comedy at the BBC, told The Independent, “Jeremy Lloyd was a goliath of the British sitcom with two enormously popular hit family shows that will continue to be enjoyed for decades to come. His work with Croft blended stand out characters, playful innuendo, hallmark farce and powerhouse ensemble casts and ruled the TV schedules for over two decades.”
“Are You Being Served? remains an evergreen favourite near the top of all time favourite sitcom lists. Watching ’Allo ’Allo! as a kid remains a fond family memory. Its impact and timelessness can be seen as recently as The Sun front page referring to ‘Madonna with the Big Boobies’. Comedy lightning struck twice for Lloyd.”
He was born John Jeremy Lloyd in 1930 at Danbury, Essex. His father, Eric Lloyd, was an army colonel and his mother was a Tiller girl who had danced with Fred Astaire. Lloyd remembered how his father used to introduce him as the “son” of bandleader Joe Loss: “You’ve heard of Joe Loss? Well, this is my son – dead loss”. He was brought up by his grandmother in Manchester and spent his teenage years at a home for the elderly, where he learned to mimic accents.
Leaving school early, he worked in a number of jobs, including road digger and paint salesman, but yearned to write for the cinema. At 23 he turned up at Pinewood and presented a script to the studio chief, Earl St John. The resulting film, What A Whopper, a spoof about the Loch Ness Monster starring Adam Faith, was released in 1961. After appearing in a number of film and TV comedies during the 1960s, including a scene trading dance moves with Ringo Starr in A Hard Day’s Night, he was in the US at the end of the decade, appearing in Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In; American audiences were enthralled by his portrayals of upper-class Englishmen.
Returning to Britain in 1970 he was briefly married to Joanna Lumley, with whom he starred in the sitcom It’s Awfully Bad for Your Eyes Darling. Lumley suggested he should write a show inspired by one of his earlier jobs, in retail. “It was based on my three years at Simpsons of Piccadilly”, he recalled. “I was a junior assistant and it seemed a good basis for a television series. I wrote an outline... sent it to David and he said, ‘Let’s do it’. We started writing the first one right away...” And so Are You Being Served?, based on the banter between staff on the store floor, was born.
A pilot was made but a change of programming in September 1972 caused by the Munich Olympics massacre, led to it being used to fill empty space in a peak schedule; seen by 26 million people, it was followed by five episodes in early 1973, but was up against Coronation Street and gained low viewing figures.
When repeats were shown later in the year, the show, with its high camp and innuendo-laden catchphrases, such as “I’m free” and quips about “Mrs Slocombe’s pussy”, entered the popular consciousness. It gained a huge following, with peak figures of 22 million during its run of 69 episodes through to 1985 and made stars of Jon Inman, whose risqué portrayal of Mr Humphries was initially frowned upon by the BBC, Wendy Richard (Miss Brahms) who went on to fame in EastEnders, and Frank Thornton as Captain Peacock. Lloyd and Croft followed it with a spin-off, Grace & Favour (199293).
The duo’s next major project, ’Allo ’Allo!, was a preposterous concept, based on the adventures of René Artois, a café owner in the French town of Nouvion, during the war. A set of stereotyped national identities included Michelle Dubois, the French resistance fighter, played by Kirsten Cooke, whose memorable catchphrase was “Leesten very carefully – I vill say zis only once”. It ran for 87 episodes between 1984-92, with peak figures of around 17 million.
Lloyd wrote a memoir, Listen Very Carefully, I Shall Say This Only Once (1993), and was also the pen behind Captain Beaky & His Band, in which his poems were set to music by Jim Parker and sung by stars including Twiggy and Harry Secombe. The adventures of this cast of animal characters, including Reckless Rat, Timid Toad and Hissing Sid, delighted children and adults alike. Hissing Sid was the subject of the 1980 hit single by Keith Michell.
Captain Beaky was revived in 2011 for a special performance at the Albert Hall. Interviewed at the time, Lloyd said that Captain Beaky was “...the best thing I’ve done. The most pure. These creatures just appeared in my head, ran down my arm and onto the paper. I think of them as a kind of magic-lantern show.”
John Jeremy Lloyd: writer and actor: born Danbury, Essex 22 July 1930; OBE 2012; married 1955 Dawn Bailey (divorced 1962), 1970 Joanna Lumley (marriage dissolved), 1992 Collette Northrop, 2014 Elizabeth Moberly; died London 22 December 2014.Reuse content