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''Fawlty Towers'' is a British television
sitcom A sitcom, a Portmanteau, portmanteau of situation comedy, or situational comedy, is a genre of comedy centered on a fixed set of characters who mostly carry over from episode to episode. Sitcoms can be contrasted with sketch comedy, where a troup ...
written by
John Cleese John Marwood Cleese ( ; born 27 October 1939) is an English actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. Emerging from the Footlights, Cambridge Footlights in the 1960s, he first achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scrip ...
and
Connie Booth Connie Booth (born 2 December 1940) is an American-born actress and writer. She has appeared in several British television programmes and films, including her role as Polly Sherman on BBC Two's ''Fawlty Towers'', which she co-wrote with her the ...
, broadcast on
BBC2 BBC Two is a British free-to-air Public service broadcasting in the United Kingdom, public broadcast television network owned and operated by the BBC. It covers a wide range of subject matter, with a remit "to broadcast highbrow, programmes o ...
in 1975 and 1979. Two series of six episodes each were made. The show was ranked first on a list of the
100 Greatest British Television Programmes The BFI TV 100 is a list of 100 television programmes or series that was compiled in 2000 by the British Film Institute (BFI), as chosen by a poll of industry professionals, with the aim to determine the best United Kingdom, British television pr ...
drawn up by the
British Film Institute The British Film Institute (BFI) is a film and television charitable organisation which promotes and preserves film-making and television in the United Kingdom. The BFI uses funds provided by the National Lottery (United Kingdom), National Lot ...
in 2000 and, in 2019, it was named the greatest ever British TV sitcom by a panel of comedy experts compiled by the ''
Radio Times ''Radio Times'' (currently styled as ''RadioTimes'') is a British weekly listings magazine devoted to television Television, sometimes shortened to TV, is a telecommunication medium for transmitting moving images and sound. The term ...
''.Mattha Busby, 9 April 2019
"Fawlty Towers named greatest ever British TV sitcom"
''The Guardian'', Retrieved 24 May 2019
The series is set in Fawlty Towers, a fictional
hotel A hotel is an establishment that provides paid lodging on a short-term basis. Facilities provided inside a hotel room may range from a modest-quality mattress in a small room to large suites with bigger, higher-quality beds, a dresser, a ref ...
in the seaside town of
Torquay Torquay ( ) is a seaside town in Devon, England, part of the unitary authority, unitary authority area of Torbay. It lies south of the county town of Exeter and east-north-east of Plymouth, on the north of Tor Bay, adjoining the neighbourin ...
on the
English Riviera Torbay is a borough A borough is an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unit,Article 3(1). country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, constituent state, as well as many similar te ...
. The plots centre on the tense, rude and put-upon owner
Basil Fawlty Basil Fawlty is the main character of the 1970s British sitcom ''Fawlty Towers'', played by John Cleese. The proprietor of the hotel Fawlty Towers, he is a Cynicism (contemporary), cynical and Misanthropy, misanthropic snob, desperate to belong ...
(Cleese), his bossy wife Sybil (
Prunella Scales Prunella Margaret Rumney West Scales ('' née'' Illingworth; born 22 June 1932) is an English former actress, best known for playing Sybil Fawlty, wife of Basil Fawlty ( John Cleese), in the BBC comedy '' Fawlty Towers'', her nomination for ...
), the sensible chambermaid Polly (Booth) who often is the peacemaker and voice of reason, and the hapless and English-challenged Spanish waiter Manuel (
Andrew Sachs Andreas Siegfried Sachs (7 April 1930 – 23 November 2016), known professionally as Andrew Sachs, was a German-born British actor and writer. He made his name on British television and found his greatest fame for his portrayal of the comical Sp ...
). They show their attempts to run the hotel amidst farcical situations and an array of demanding and eccentric guests and tradespeople. The idea of the show came from Cleese after he stayed at the
Gleneagles Hotel Gleneagles Hotel is a hotel near Auchterarder, Scotland. It was commissioned by the Caledonian Railway and opened in 1924. The bandleader, Henry Hall (bandleader), Henry Hall, performed at the hotel before the World War II, Second World War d ...
in
Torquay Torquay ( ) is a seaside town in Devon, England, part of the unitary authority, unitary authority area of Torbay. It lies south of the county town of Exeter and east-north-east of Plymouth, on the north of Tor Bay, adjoining the neighbourin ...
,
Devon Devon ( , historically known as Devonshire , ) is a ceremonial county, ceremonial and non-metropolitan county, non-metropolitan counties of England, county in South West England. The most populous settlement in Devon is the city of Plymouth, ...
in 1970 (along with the rest of the
Monty Python Monty Python (also collectively known as the Pythons) were a British comedy troupe who created the sketch comedy television show ''Monty Python's Flying Circus'', which first aired on the BBC in 1969. Forty-five episodes were made over four ...
troupe), where he encountered the eccentric hotel owner Donald Sinclair. Stuffy and snobbish, Sinclair treated guests as though they were a hindrance to his running of the hotel (a waitress who worked for him stated "it was as if he didn't want the guests to be there"). Sinclair was the inspiration for Cleese's character Basil Fawlty. In 1976 and 1980, ''Fawlty Towers'' won the
British Academy Television Award for Best Scripted Comedy British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people British people or Britons, also known colloquially as Brits, are the citizens of the United Kingdom, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Britis ...
. In 1980, Cleese received the
British Academy Television Award for Best Entertainment Performance The British Academy Television Award for Best Entertainment Performance is an award given out by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts at their annual BAFTA Television Awards ceremony. This category has had minor name changes: *From 195 ...
, and, in a 2001 poll conducted by
Channel 4 Channel 4 is a British free-to-air public broadcast television network operated by the state-owned Channel Four Television Corporation. It began its transmission on 2 November 1982 and was established to provide a fourth television servic ...
, Basil Fawlty was ranked second on their list of the 100 Greatest TV Characters. The popularity of ''Fawlty Towers'' has endured, and it is often re-broadcast. The BBC profile for the series states that "the British sitcom by which all other British sitcoms must be judged, ''Fawlty Towers'' withstands multiple viewings, is eminently quotable (' don't mention the war') and stands up to this day as a jewel in the BBC's comedy crown."


Origins

In May 1970, the
Monty Python Monty Python (also collectively known as the Pythons) were a British comedy troupe who created the sketch comedy television show ''Monty Python's Flying Circus'', which first aired on the BBC in 1969. Forty-five episodes were made over four ...
comedy group stayed at the now demolished
Gleneagles Hotel Gleneagles Hotel is a hotel near Auchterarder, Scotland. It was commissioned by the Caledonian Railway and opened in 1924. The bandleader, Henry Hall (bandleader), Henry Hall, performed at the hotel before the World War II, Second World War d ...
in
Torquay Torquay ( ) is a seaside town in Devon, England, part of the unitary authority, unitary authority area of Torbay. It lies south of the county town of Exeter and east-north-east of Plymouth, on the north of Tor Bay, adjoining the neighbourin ...
,
Devon Devon ( , historically known as Devonshire , ) is a ceremonial county, ceremonial and non-metropolitan county, non-metropolitan counties of England, county in South West England. The most populous settlement in Devon is the city of Plymouth, ...
while filming on location in
Paignton Paignton ( ) is a seaside town on the coast of Tor Bay in Devon, England. Together with Torquay and Brixham it forms the unitary authority, borough of Torbay which was created in 1998. The Torbay area is a holiday destination known as the Engli ...
.
John Cleese John Marwood Cleese ( ; born 27 October 1939) is an English actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. Emerging from the Footlights, Cambridge Footlights in the 1960s, he first achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scrip ...
was fascinated with the behaviour of the owner, Donald Sinclair, later describing him as "the rudest man I've ever come across in my life". Among such behaviour by Sinclair was his criticism of
Terry Gilliam Terrence Vance Gilliam (; born 22 November 1940) is an American-born British filmmaker, comedian, animator, actor and former member of the Monty Python comedy troupe. Gilliam has directed 13 feature films, including ''Time Bandits'' (1981), ''B ...
's "too American" table
etiquette Etiquette () is the set of norms of personal behaviour in politeness, polite society, usually occurring in the form of an ethical code of the expected and accepted social behavior, social behaviours that accord with the convention (norm), conve ...
and tossing
Eric Idle Eric Idle (born 29 March 1943) is an English actor, comedian, musician and writer. Idle was a member of the British surreal comedy group Monty Python and the parody rock band The Rutles, and is the writer of the music and lyrics for the Broad ...
's briefcase out of a window "in case it contained a bomb". Asked why would anyone want to bomb the hotel, Sinclair replied, "We've had a lot of staff problems".
Michael Palin Sir Michael Edward Palin (; born 5 May 1943) is an English actor, comedian, writer, television presenter, and public speaker. He was a member of the Monty Python comedy group. Since 1980, he has made a number of travel documentaries. Palin wr ...
states Sinclair "seemed to view us as a colossal inconvenience". Rosemary Harrison, a waitress at the Gleneagles under Sinclair, described him as "bonkers" and lacking in hospitality, deeming him wholly unsuitable for a hotel proprietor. "It was as if he didn't want the guests to be there." Cleese and his then wife
Connie Booth Connie Booth (born 2 December 1940) is an American-born actress and writer. She has appeared in several British television programmes and films, including her role as Polly Sherman on BBC Two's ''Fawlty Towers'', which she co-wrote with her the ...
stayed on at the hotel after filming, furthering their research of its owner. Demolished in 2015, the building was replaced by a new retirement home named Sachs Lodge in memory of
Andrew Sachs Andreas Siegfried Sachs (7 April 1930 – 23 November 2016), known professionally as Andrew Sachs, was a German-born British actor and writer. He made his name on British television and found his greatest fame for his portrayal of the comical Sp ...
who played Manuel in the sitcom and who died in 2016. Cleese was a writer on the 1970s British TV sitcom ''
Doctor in the House ''Doctor in the House'' is a 1954 British comedy film directed by Ralph Thomas and produced by Betty Box. The screenplay, by Nicholas Phipps, Richard Gordon (English author), Richard Gordon and Ronald Wilkinson, is based on Doctor in the House ( ...
'' for
London Weekend Television London Weekend Television (LWT) (now part of the non-franchised ITV London region) was the ITV (TV network), ITV network franchise holder for Greater London and the Home Counties at weekends, broadcasting from Fridays at 5.15 pm (7:00&nbs ...
. An early prototype of the character that became known as Basil Fawlty was developed in an episode ("No Ill Feeling") of the third ''Doctor'' series (titled '' Doctor at Large''). In this edition, the main character checks into a small-town hotel, his very presence seemingly winding up the aggressive and incompetent manager (played by Timothy Bateson) with a domineering wife. The show was broadcast on 30 May 1971. Cleese said in 2008 that the first ''Fawlty Towers'' script he and Booth wrote was rejected by the
BBC #REDIRECT BBC
Here i going to introduce about the best teacher of my life b BALAJI sir. He is the precious gift that I got befor 2yrs . How has helped and thought all the concept and made my success in the 10th board exam. ...
. At a 30th anniversary event honouring the show, Cleese said, Cleese was paid £6,000 for 43 weeks' work and supplemented his income by appearing in television advertisements. He states, "I have to thank the advertising industry for making this possible. Connie and I used to spend six weeks writing each episode and we didn't make a lot of money out of it. If it hadn't been for the commercials I wouldn't have been able to afford to spend so much time on the script."


Production

Although the series is set in Torquay, no part of it was shot in
South West England South West England, or the South West of England, is one of nine official regions of England. It consists of the counties of Bristol, Cornwall (including the Isles of Scilly), Dorset, Devon, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. Cities and ...
. For the exterior filming, the Wooburn Grange Country Club in
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire Bourne End is a village mostly in the civil parishes in England, parish of Wooburn and Bourne End, Wooburn, but partly in that of Little Marlow in Buckinghamshire, England. It is about five miles (8 km) south-east of High Wycombe and three ...
was used instead of a hotel. In several episodes of the series (notably " The Kipper and the Corpse", " The Anniversary", and " Basil the Rat"), the entrance gate at the bottom of the drive states the real name of the location. This
listed building In the United Kingdom, a listed building or listed structure is one that has been placed on one of the four statutory lists maintained by Historic England in England, Historic Environment Scotland in Scotland, in Wales, and the Northern Irel ...
later served for a short time as a
nightclub A nightclub (music club, discothèque, disco club, or simply club) is an entertainment venue during nighttime comprising a dance, dance floor, Laser lighting display, lightshow, and a stage for live music or a disc jockey (DJ) who plays rec ...
named "Basil's" after the series ended, before being destroyed by a fire in March 1991. The remnants of the building were demolished and a
housing estate A housing estate (or sometimes housing complex or housing development) is a group of homes and other buildings built together as a single development. The exact form may vary from country to country. Popular throughout the United States a ...
was built on the site. Few traces of the original site exist today. Other location filming was done mostly around Harrow: firstly the 'damn good thrashing' scene in "
Gourmet Night ''Fawlty Towers'' is a British television sitcom A sitcom, a Portmanteau, portmanteau of situation comedy, or situational comedy, is a genre of comedy centered on a fixed set of characters who mostly carry over from episode to episode. Sitcom ...
" in which Basil loses his temper and attacks his broken-down car with a tree branch. It was filmed at the T-junction of Lapstone Gardens and Mentmore Close (). Secondly the episode "
The Germans "The Germans" (named on some releases as "Fire Drill") is the sixth episode of the BBC Situation comedy, sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. In the episode, while suffering the effects of concussion, Basil Fawlty repeatedly offends some Germans, German ...
", the opening shot is of
Northwick Park Hospital Northwick Park Hospital (NWPH) is a major National Health Service hospital situated near the town of Harrow, North West London, managed by the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust. It is located off Watford Road in the London Bor ...
. Thirdly "Gourmet Night"'s exterior of André's restaurant was at Preston Road (). It is now a Chinese and Indian restaurant ''Wings'' next to a
launderette A self-service laundry, coin laundry, laundromat, or coin wash is a facility where clothes Clothing (also known as clothes, apparel, and attire) are items worn on the body. Typically, clothing is made of fabrics or textiles, but over ...
. Both Cleese and Booth were keen on every script being perfect, and some episodes took four months and required as many as ten drafts until they were satisfied. The theme music was composed by
Dennis Wilson Dennis Carl Wilson (December 4, 1944 – December 28, 1983) was an American musician, singer, and songwriter who co-founded the Beach Boys. He is best remembered as their drummer and as the middle brother of bandmates Brian and Carl Wilson ...
. It was recorded by the highly respected
Aeolian Quartet The Aeolian Quartet was a highly reputed string quartet based in London, England, with a long international touring history and presence, an important recording and broadcasting profile. It was the successor of the pre-War Stratton Quartet. The qua ...
, who were asked by director John Davis to perform the piece badly, although in the end they did not.


Plot directions and examples

The series focuses on the exploits and misadventures of short-fused hotelier
Basil Fawlty Basil Fawlty is the main character of the 1970s British sitcom ''Fawlty Towers'', played by John Cleese. The proprietor of the hotel Fawlty Towers, he is a Cynicism (contemporary), cynical and Misanthropy, misanthropic snob, desperate to belong ...
and his acerbic wife Sybil, as well as their employees: waiter Manuel, Polly Sherman, and, in the second series, chef Terry. The episodes typically revolve around Basil's efforts to "raise the tone" of his hotel and his increasing frustration at numerous complications and mistakes, both his own and those of others, which prevent him from doing so. Much of the humour comes from Basil's overly aggressive manner, engaging in angry but witty arguments with guests, staff and, in particular, Sybil, whom he addresses (in a faux-romantic way) with insults such as "that golfing
puff adder The puff adder (''Bitis arietans'') is a viper The Viperidae (vipers) are a family of snakes found in most parts of the world, except for Antarctica, Australia, Hawaii, Madagascar, and various other isolated islands. They are venomous snak ...
", "my little piranha fish" and "my little nest of
vipers The Viperidae (vipers) are a family of snakes found in most parts of the world, except for Antarctica, Australia, Hawaii, Madagascar, and various other isolated islands. They are venomous snake, venomous and have long (relative to non-vipers), ...
". Despite this, Basil frequently feels intimidated, Sybil being able to cow him at any time, usually with a short, sharp cry of "Basil!" At the end of some episodes, Basil succeeds in annoying (or at least bemusing) the guests and frequently gets his comeuppance. The plots occasionally are intricate and always farcical, involving
coincidence A coincidence is a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances that have no apparent causal connection with one another. The perception of remarkable coincidences may lead to supernatural Supernatural refers to phenomena or entitie ...
s, misunderstandings, cross-purposes and meetings both missed and accidental. The
innuendo An innuendo is a hint, insinuation An innuendo is a wikt:hint, hint, wikt:insinuation, insinuation or wikt:intimation, intimation about a person or thing, especially of a denigrating or derogatory nature. It can also be a remark or question ...
of the
bedroom farce A bedroom farce or sex farce is a type of light comedy, which centres on the sexual pairings and recombinations of characters as they move through improbable plots and slamming doors. Overview The most famous bedroom farceur is probably George ...
is sometimes present (often to the disgust of the
socially conservative Social conservatism is a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the rela ...
Basil) but it is his eccentricity, not his lust, that drives the plots. The events test to the breaking point what little patience Basil has, sometimes causing him to have a near breakdown by the end of the episode. The guests at the hotel typically are comic foils to Basil's anger and outbursts. Guest characters in each episode provide different characteristics (working class, promiscuous, foreign) that he cannot stand. Requests both reasonable and impossible test his temper. Even the afflicted annoy him, as for example in the episode "Communication Problems", revolving around the havoc caused by the frequent misunderstandings between the staff and the hard-of-hearing Mrs. Richards. Near the end, Basil pretends to faint just at the mention of her name. This episode is typical of the show's careful weaving of humorous situations through comedy cross-talk. The show also uses mild black humour at times, notably when Basil is forced to hide a dead body and in his comments about Sybil ("Did you ever see that film, '' How to Murder Your Wife''? ... Awfully good. I saw it six times.") and to Mrs Richards, ("May I suggest that you consider moving to a hotel closer to the sea? Or preferably in it."). Basil's physical outbursts are primarily directed at Manuel, an emotional but largely innocent
Spaniard Spaniards, or Spanish people, are a Romance peoples, Romance ethnic group native to Spain. Within Spain, there are a number of National and regional identity in Spain, national and regional ethnic identities that reflect the country's complex Hist ...
whose confused English vocabulary causes him to make elementary mistakes. At times, Basil beats Manuel with a frying pan and smacks his forehead with a spoon. The violence towards Manuel caused rare negative criticism of the show. Sybil and Polly, on the other hand, are more patient and understanding toward Manuel; everyone's usual excuse for his behaviour to guests is, "He's from
Barcelona Barcelona ( , , ) is a city on the coast of northeastern Spain. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within ci ...
"; Manuel even once used the excuse for himself. Basil longs for a touch of class, sometimes playing recordings of classical music. In the first episode he is playing music by
Brahms Johannes Brahms (; 7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer, pianist, and conductor of the mid- Romantic period. Born in Hamburg (male), (female) en, Hamburger(s), Hamburgian(s) , timezone1 = Central ...
when Sybil remarks, after pestering him asking to do different tasks: "You could have them both done by now if you hadn't spent the whole morning skulking in there listening to that racket." Basil replies, with exasperation, "Racket?? That's Brahms! Brahms' Third Racket!" Basil often displays blatant
snob ''Snob'' is a pejorative term for a person who believes there is a correlation between social status (including physical appearance) and human worth.De Botton, A. (2004), ''Status Anxiety''. London: Hamish Hamilton ''Snob'' also refers to a pe ...
bishness as he attempts to climb the social ladder, frequently expressing disdain for the " riff-raff", " cretins" and "
yobbo Yob is slang in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mai ...
s" that he believes regularly populate his hotel. His desperation is readily apparent as he makes increasingly hopeless manoeuvres and painful faux pas in trying to curry favour with those he perceives as having superior social status. Yet he finds himself forced to serve those individuals that are "beneath" him. As such, Basil's efforts tend to be counter-productive, with guests leaving the hotel in disgust and his marriage (and sanity) stretching to breaking point.


Characters


Basil Fawlty

Basil Fawlty Basil Fawlty is the main character of the 1970s British sitcom ''Fawlty Towers'', played by John Cleese. The proprietor of the hotel Fawlty Towers, he is a Cynicism (contemporary), cynical and Misanthropy, misanthropic snob, desperate to belong ...
, played by
John Cleese John Marwood Cleese ( ; born 27 October 1939) is an English actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. Emerging from the Footlights, Cambridge Footlights in the 1960s, he first achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scrip ...
, is a
cynical Cynicism is an attitude characterized by a general distrust of the motives of "others". A cynic may have a general lack of faith or hope in people motivated by ambition, desire, greed, gratification, materialism, goals, and opinions that a ...
and snobbish misanthrope who is desperate to belong to a higher social class. He sees a successful hotel as a means of achieving this, yet his job forces him to be polite to people he despises. He is intimidated by his wife
Sybil Fawlty Sybil Fawlty is a fictional character from the BBC sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. She is played by Prunella Scales. She is listed as 34 years old as seen on her medical chart in the 1975 episode "The Germans", presumably indicating she was born in 1 ...
. He yearns to stand up to her, but his plans frequently conflict with her demands. She is often verbally abusive (describing him as "an ageing,
brilliantine Brilliantine is a hair-grooming product intended to soften men's hair, including beards and moustaches, and give it a glossy, well-groomed appearance. It was created at the turn of the 20th century by French perfumer Édouard Pinaud (a.k.a. Ed ...
d stick insect") but although he towers over her, he often finds himself on the receiving end of her temper, verbally and physically (as in "
The Builders ''The'' () is a grammatical article in English, denoting persons or things already mentioned, under discussion, implied or otherwise presumed familiar to listeners, readers, or speakers. It is the definite article An article is any membe ...
"). Basil usually turns to Manuel or Polly to help him with his schemes, while trying his best to keep Sybil from discovering them. However, Basil occasionally laments the time when there was passion in their relationship, now seemingly lost. Also, it appears he still does care for her, and actively resists the flirtations of a French guest in one episode. The penultimate episode, " The Anniversary", is about his efforts to put together a surprise anniversary party involving their closest friends. Things go wrong as Basil pretends the anniversary date does not remind him of anything though he pretends to have a stab at it by reeling off a list of random anniversaries, starting with the
Battle of Agincourt The Battle of Agincourt ( ; french: Azincourt ) was an English victory in the Hundred Years' War. It took place on 25 October 1415 (Saint Crispin's Day) near Azincourt, in northern France. The unexpected English victory against the numerical ...
, for which he receives a slap from Sybil, who becomes increasingly frustrated and angry. He continues guessing even after Sybil is out of earshot, and mentions other anniversaries (none of which happened on 17 April), including the
Battle of Trafalgar The Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) was a naval engagement between the British Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by Kingdom of England, English and Kingdom of S ...
and
Yom Kippur Yom Kippur (; he, יוֹם כִּפּוּר, , , ) is the holiest day in Judaism and Samaritanism. It occurs annually on the 10th of Tishrei, the first month of the Hebrew calendar. Primarily centered on Atonement in Judaism, atonement and R ...
, just to enhance the surprise. Sybil believes he really has forgotten, and leaves in a huff. In an interview in the DVD box set, Cleese claims this episode deliberately takes a slightly different tone from the others, fleshing out their otherwise inexplicable status as a couple. In keeping with the lack of explanation about the marriage, not much is revealed of the characters' back-stories. It is known that Basil served in the
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western ...
and saw action in the
Korean War , date = {{Ubl, 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (''de facto'')({{Age in years, months, weeks and days, month1=6, day1=25, year1=1950, month2=7, day2=27, year2=1953), 25 June 1950 – present (''de jure'')({{Age in years, months, weeks a ...
, possibly as part of his
National Service National service is the system of voluntary government service, usually military service. Conscription is mandatory national service. The term ''national service'' comes from the United Kingdom's National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939. The le ...
. (John Cleese himself was only 13 when the Korean War ended, making the character of Basil at least five or six years older than he.) Basil exaggerates this period of his life, proclaiming to strangers, "I killed four men." To this Sybil jokes that "He was in the Catering Corps. He used to poison them." Basil often is seen wearing regimental and old boy-style ties, perhaps spuriously, one of which in the colours of the
Army Catering Corps The Army Catering Corps (ACC) was a corps of the British Army, responsible for the feeding of all Army units. It was formed in 1941 and amalgamated into the Royal Logistic Corps in 1993. History In 1938 Leslie Hore-Belisha, the Secretary of St ...
. He also claims to have sustained a shrapnel injury to his leg; it tends to flare up at suspiciously convenient times. The only person towards whom Basil consistently exhibits tolerance and good manners is the old and senile Major Gowen, a veteran of one of the
world war A world war is an international conflict which involves all or most of the world's major powers. Conventionally, the term is reserved for two major international conflicts that occurred during the first half of the 20th century, World WarI (1914 ...
s (which one is never specified, though he once mentions to Mrs Peignoir that he was in France in 1918) who permanently resides at the hotel. When interacting with Manuel, Basil displays a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish (Basil states that he "learned classical Spanish, not the strange dialect he [Manuel] seems to have picked up"); this knowledge is also ridiculed, as in the first episode in which a guest, whom Basil has immediately dismissed as working-class, communicates fluently with Manuel in Spanish after Basil is unable to do so. Cleese described Basil as thinking that "he could run a first-rate hotel if he didn't have all the guests getting in the way" and as being "an absolutely awful human being" but says that in comedy if an awful person makes people laugh they unaccountably feel affectionate towards him. Indeed, he is not entirely unsympathetic. The " Hotel Inspectors" and "
Gourmet Night ''Fawlty Towers'' is a British television sitcom A sitcom, a Portmanteau, portmanteau of situation comedy, or situational comedy, is a genre of comedy centered on a fixed set of characters who mostly carry over from episode to episode. Sitcom ...
" episodes feature guests who are shown to be deeply annoying, with constant and unreasonable demands. In "Gourmet Night" the chef gets drunk and is unable to cook dinner, leaving Basil to scramble in an attempt to salvage the evening. Much of the time, Basil is an unfortunate victim of circumstance.


Sybil Fawlty

Sybil Fawlty Sybil Fawlty is a fictional character from the BBC sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. She is played by Prunella Scales. She is listed as 34 years old as seen on her medical chart in the 1975 episode "The Germans", presumably indicating she was born in 1 ...
, played by
Prunella Scales Prunella Margaret Rumney West Scales ('' née'' Illingworth; born 22 June 1932) is an English former actress, best known for playing Sybil Fawlty, wife of Basil Fawlty ( John Cleese), in the BBC comedy '' Fawlty Towers'', her nomination for ...
, is Basil's wife. Energetic and petite, she prefers a working wardrobe of tight skirt-suits in shiny fabrics and sports a tower of permed hair augmented with hairpieces and wigs and necessitating the use of overnight curlers. She often is a more effective manager of the hotel, making sure Basil gets certain jobs done or stays out of the way when she is handling difficult guests. Typically when Basil is on the verge of meltdown due to a crisis (usually of his own making), it is Sybil who steps in to clear up the mess and bring some sense to the situation. Despite this, she rarely participates directly in the running of the hotel. During busy check-in sessions or meal times, while everyone else is busy working, Sybil is frequently talking on the phone to one of her friends with her phrase "Oohhh, I knoooooooow" or chatting to customers. She has a distinctive conversational tone and braying laugh, which Basil compares to "someone machine-gunning a seal". Being his wife, she is the only regular character who refers to Basil by his first name. When she barks his name at him, he flinchingly freezes in his tracks. Basil refers to her by a number of epithets, occasionally to her face, including "that golfing puff-adder", "the dragon", "toxic midget", "the sabre-toothed tart", "my little kommandant", "my little piranha fish", "my little nest of vipers" and "you rancorous, coiffured old sow". Despite these nasty nicknames, Basil is terrified of her. The 1979 episode " The Psychiatrist" contains the only time he loses patience and snaps at her (Basil: "Shut up, I'm fed up." Sybil: "Oh, you've done it now."). Prunella Scales speculated in an interview for ''The Complete Fawlty Towers'' DVD box set that Sybil married Basil because his origins were of a higher social class than hers.


Polly Sherman

Polly Sherman, played by
Connie Booth Connie Booth (born 2 December 1940) is an American-born actress and writer. She has appeared in several British television programmes and films, including her role as Polly Sherman on BBC Two's ''Fawlty Towers'', which she co-wrote with her the ...
, is a
waitress Waiting staff (British English), waitstaff (North American English), waiters (male) / waitresses (female), or servers (North American English), are those who work at a restaurant, a diner, or a bar and sometimes in private homes, attendi ...
and general assistant at the hotel with artistic aspirations. She is the most competent of the staff and the voice of sanity during chaotic moments, but is frequently embroiled in ridiculous masquerades as she loyally attempts to aid Basil in trying to cover a mistake or keep something from Sybil. In " The Anniversary" she snaps and refuses to help Basil out when he wants her to impersonate Sybil in the semi-darkness of her bedroom in front of the Fawltys' friends, Basil having dug himself into a hole by claiming Sybil was ill instead of admitting she had stormed out earlier in annoyance with him. Polly finally agrees, but only on condition that Basil lends her money to purchase a car, which he has previously refused to do. Polly generally is good-natured but sometimes shows her frustration, and has odd moments of malice. In " The Kipper and the Corpse", the pampered
shih-tzu The Shih Tzu (, ; literally "Xi Shi, Hsi Shih dog") is a toy dog breed originating from Tibet and was bred from the Pekingese and the Lhasa Apso. Shih Tzus are known for their short snouts and large round eyes, as well as their long coat, flo ...
dog of an elderly guest bites Polly and Manuel. As revenge, Polly laces the dog's sausages with black pepper and
Tabasco sauce Tabasco is an American brand of hot sauce made from vinegar, tabasco peppers (''Capsicum frutescens'' var. ''tabasco''), and salt. It is produced by McIlhenny Company of Avery Island (Louisiana), Avery Island in south Louisiana, having been cre ...
("bangers à la bang"), making it ill and eventually killing it. Despite her part-time employment (during meal times), Polly frequently is saddled with many other duties, including as manager in "
The Germans "The Germans" (named on some releases as "Fire Drill") is the sixth episode of the BBC Situation comedy, sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. In the episode, while suffering the effects of concussion, Basil Fawlty repeatedly offends some Germans, German ...
" when Sybil and Basil are incapacitated. In the first series, Polly is said to be an art student who, according to Basil, has spent three years at college. In "
Gourmet Night ''Fawlty Towers'' is a British television sitcom A sitcom, a Portmanteau, portmanteau of situation comedy, or situational comedy, is a genre of comedy centered on a fixed set of characters who mostly carry over from episode to episode. Sitcom ...
", she is seen to draw a sketch (presumably of Manuel), which everyone but Basil immediately recognises and she sells to the chef for 50p. Polly is not referred to as a student in the second series, although in both series she is shown to have a flair for languages, displaying ability in both Spanish and German. In "The Germans", Basil alludes to Polly's polyglot inclination by saying that she does her work "while learning two Oriental languages". Like Manuel, she has a room of her own at the hotel.


Manuel

Manuel, a waiter played by
Andrew Sachs Andreas Siegfried Sachs (7 April 1930 – 23 November 2016), known professionally as Andrew Sachs, was a German-born British actor and writer. He made his name on British television and found his greatest fame for his portrayal of the comical Sp ...
, is a well-meaning but disorganised and confused
Spaniard Spaniards, or Spanish people, are a Romance peoples, Romance ethnic group native to Spain. Within Spain, there are a number of National and regional identity in Spain, national and regional ethnic identities that reflect the country's complex Hist ...
from
Barcelona Barcelona ( , , ) is a city on the coast of northeastern Spain. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within ci ...
with a poor grasp of the English language and customs. He is verbally and physically abused by his boss. When told what to do, he often responds, "¿Qué?" ("What?"). Manuel's character is used to demonstrate Basil's instinctive lack of sensitivity and tolerance. Every episode involves Basil becoming enraged at Manuel's confusion at his boss's bizarre demands and even basic requests. Manuel is afraid of Fawlty's quick temper and violent assaults, yet often expresses his appreciation for being given employment. He is relentlessly enthusiastic and is proud of what little English he knows. During the series, Sachs was seriously injured twice. Cleese describes using a real metal pan to knock Manuel unconscious in " The Wedding Party", although he would have preferred to use a rubber one. The original producer and director, John Howard Davies, said that he made Basil use a metal one and that he was responsible for most of the violence on the show, which he felt was essential to the type of comical farce they were creating. Later, when Sachs's clothes were treated to give off smoke after he escapes the burning kitchen in "
The Germans "The Germans" (named on some releases as "Fire Drill") is the sixth episode of the BBC Situation comedy, sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. In the episode, while suffering the effects of concussion, Basil Fawlty repeatedly offends some Germans, German ...
", the corrosive chemicals ate through them and gave Sachs severe burns. Manuel's exaggerated Spanish accent is part of the humour of the show. In fact, Sachs's original language was German; he emigrated to Britain as a child. The character's nationality was switched to Italian (and the name to Paolo) for the Spanish dub of the show, while in
Catalonia Catalonia (; ca, Catalunya ; Aranese Occitan: ''Catalonha'' ; es, Cataluña ) is an autonomous community of Spain, designated as a ''nationalities and regions of Spain, nationality'' by its Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 2006, Statute ...
and
France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of Overseas France, overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic, Pacific Ocean, Pac ...
, Manuel is a Mexican.


Other regular characters and themes

* Terry Hughes, played by Brian Hall, appears in only the second series of episodes. He is the sly, somewhat shifty
Cockney Cockney is an accent and dialect of English, mainly spoken in London London is the capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom, with a population of just under 9 million. It s ...
chef at Fawlty Towers. Though apparently a competent chef ("I 'ave been to catering school!"), Terry's cooking methods are somewhat casual, which frustrates and worries the neurotic Basil. He used to work in Dorchester (not at
The Dorchester The Dorchester is a five-star luxury hotel on Park Lane, London, Park Lane and Deanery Street in London, to the east of Hyde Park, London, Hyde Park. It is one of the world's most prestigious and expensive hotels. The Dorchester opened on 18 ...
, as a guest wrongly infers). In " The Anniversary" Terry and Manuel come to blows since Terry doesn't like anyone else cooking in his kitchen, so he proceeds to sabotage the
paella Paella (, , , , , ) is a rice dish originally from Valencian Community, Valencia. While non-Spaniards commonly view it as Spain's national dish, Spaniards almost unanimously consider it to be a dish from the Valencian community, Valencian region ...
Manuel is making for Sybil, leading to fisticuffs at the end of the episode. Cleese himself told Hall to portray Terry as if he were on the run from the police. * Major Gowen, played by Ballard Berkeley, is a slightly senile, amiable old soldier who is a permanent resident of the hotel. He is one of the few guests whom Basil seems to like. This is because he has the
establishment Establishment may refer to: * The Establishment, a dominant group or elite that controls a polity or an organization * The Establishment (club), a 1960s club in London, England * The Establishment (Pakistan), political terminology for the military ...
status that Basil craves. He usually wears the
Royal Artillery The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery (RA) and colloquially known as "The Gunners", is one of two regiments that make up the artillery arm of the British Army. The Royal Regiment of Artillery comprises t ...
jagged-striped tie, and once mentions to Mrs. Peignoir being in France in 1918. He often is introduced as their "oldest resident" and in the episode "Waldorf Salad" Basil reveals that the Major has lived there for seven years. He enjoys talking about the world outside, especially the cricket scores and workers' strikes (the frequent strikes at
British Leyland British Leyland was an automotive engineering and manufacturing Conglomerate (company), conglomerate formed in the United Kingdom in 1968 as British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd (BLMC), following the merger of Leyland Motors and British Motor ...
during the time of the series' original transmission were often mentioned), and is always on the lookout for the newspaper. In the episode "
The Germans "The Germans" (named on some releases as "Fire Drill") is the sixth episode of the BBC Situation comedy, sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. In the episode, while suffering the effects of concussion, Basil Fawlty repeatedly offends some Germans, German ...
" he shows he has trouble forgiving the Germans because of the wars. The best he can say is that German women make good card players. In the same episode, he also demonstrates his outdated racial attitudes when he comments about the ethnic difference between " wogs" and " niggers". Despite his good intentions, the Major can cause Basil's plans to go awry, notably in the episode " Communication Problems" in which Basil tries his best to keep the money he won in a bet a secret from Sybil. * Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby, played by Gilly Flower and
Renee Roberts Irene Roberts (24 September 1908 – 6 February 1996) better known by her professional name Renee Roberts was an English actress who is best remembered for her portrayal of Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby, Miss Ursula Gatsby in ''Fawlty Towers'' in ...
, are the other two permanent residents. Seemingly inseparable, these sweet-natured, dotty spinsters appear to have taken a fancy to Basil, feeling that they need to take care of him. In response, Basil vacillates between
superficial charm Superficial charm (or insincere charm) refers to the social act of saying or doing things because they are well received by others, rather than what one actually believes or wants to do. It is sometimes referred to as "telling people what they w ...
and blunt rudeness during his conversations with them. * Audrey is Sybil's lifelong best friend, and is mostly acknowledged during gossipy telephone calls. Talking with her is a refuge for Sybil. When times get tough for Audrey, who has a dysfunctional relationship with her husband George, Sybil will offer solutions and guidance, often resulting in the catchphrase "Ohhh, I knowwww..." when she tries to commiserate with Audrey's problems. In Audrey's one on-screen appearance, in "The Anniversary", she is played by actress Christine Shaw. Basil tells Major Gowen that he thinks she is a "dreadful woman". * A
running gag A running gag, or running joke, is a literary device that takes the form of an amusing joke or a comedy, comical reference and appears repeatedly throughout a work of literature or other form of storytelling. Though they are similar, catchphrases a ...
throughout the two series is the rearranged letters of the "Fawlty Towers" hotel sign which is shown at the beginning of every episode except "The Germans", when a hospital exterior is used as an
establishing shot An establishing shot in filmmaking and television production sets up, or establishes, the context for a scene by showing the relationship between its important figures and objects. It is generally a long or long shot, extreme-long shot at the beg ...
. The paperboy, though rarely seen, is revealed at the beginning of "The Psychiatrist" in the second series to be the prankster who rearranges the letters on the sign to sometimes crude phrases. * Terence Conoley appears in two episodes as entirely different characters. In "A Touch of Class" he plays Mr. Wareing, and in "Waldorf Salad" he portrays Mr. Johnston.


Episodes

The first episode of ''Fawlty Towers'' was recorded as a pilot on 24 December 1974, the rest of the series being recorded later in 1975. It was then originally broadcast on 19 September. The 12th and final episode was first shown on 25 October 1979. The first series was directed by John Howard Davies, the second by Bob Spiers. Both had their premieres on
BBC2 BBC Two is a British free-to-air Public service broadcasting in the United Kingdom, public broadcast television network owned and operated by the BBC. It covers a wide range of subject matter, with a remit "to broadcast highbrow, programmes o ...
. When originally transmitted, the individual episodes had no on-screen titles. The ones in common currency were first used for the VHS release of the series in the 1980s. There were working titles, such as "USA" for "Waldorf Salad", "Death" for "The Kipper and the Corpse" and "Rat" for "Basil the Rat", which have been printed in some programme guides. In addition, some of the early BBC audio releases of episodes on vinyl and cassette included other variations, such as "Mrs. Richards" and "The Rat" for "Communication Problems" and "Basil the Rat" respectively. It has long been rumoured that a 13th episode of the series was written and filmed, but never progressed further than a rough cut. Lars Holger Holm, author of the book ''Fawlty Towers: A Worshipper's Companion,'' has made detailed claims about the episode's content, but he provides no concrete evidence of its existence. On the subject of whether more episodes would be produced, Cleese said (in an interview for the complete DVD box set, which was republished in the book ''Fawlty Towers Fully Booked'') that he once had the genesis of a feature-length special – possibly sometime during the mid-1990s. The plot, never fleshed out beyond his initial idea, would have revolved around the chaos that a now-retired Basil typically caused as he and Sybil flew to
Barcelona Barcelona ( , , ) is a city on the coast of northeastern Spain. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within ci ...
to visit their former employee Manuel and his family. Of the idea, Cleese said:
We had an idea for a plot which I loved. Basil was finally invited to Spain to meet Manuel's family. He gets to
Heathrow Heathrow Airport (), called ''London Airport'' until 1966 and now known as London Heathrow , is a major international airport An international airport is an airport An airport is an aerodrome with extended facilities, mostly fo ...
and then spends about 14 frustrating hours waiting for the flight. Finally, on the plane, a terrorist pulls a gun and tries to hijack the thing. Basil is so angry he overcomes the terrorist, and when the pilot says, 'We have to fly back to Heathrow' Basil says, 'No, fly us to Spain or I'll shoot you.' He arrives in Spain, is immediately arrested, and spends the entire holiday in a Spanish jail. He is released just in time to go back on the plane with Sybil. It was very funny, but I couldn't do it at the time. Making 'Fawlty Towers' work at 90 minutes was a very difficult proposition. You can build up the comedy for 30 minutes, but at that length there has to be a trough and another peak. It doesn't interest me. I don't want to do it.
Cleese also may have been reticent because of
Connie Booth Connie Booth (born 2 December 1940) is an American-born actress and writer. She has appeared in several British television programmes and films, including her role as Polly Sherman on BBC Two's ''Fawlty Towers'', which she co-wrote with her the ...
's unwillingness to be involved. She had practically retreated from public life after the show finished (and had been initially unwilling to collaborate on a second series, which explains the four-year gap between productions). The decision by Cleese and Booth to quit before a third series has often been lauded as it ensured the show's successful status would not be weakened with later, lower-quality work. Subsequently, it has inspired the makers of other shows to do likewise.
Ricky Gervais Ricky Dene Gervais ( ; born 25 June 1961) is an English comedian, actor, writer, and director. He co-created, co-wrote, and acted in the British television sitcoms ''The Office (British TV series), The Office'' (2001–2003), ''Extras (TV serie ...
and
Stephen Merchant Stephen James Merchant (born 24 November 1974) is an English comedian, actor, director, presenter and writer. Alongside Ricky Gervais, Merchant was the co-writer and co-director of the British TV comedy series ''The Office (British TV series), ...
refused to make a third series of either ''
The Office ''The Office'' is a mockumentary sitcom created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, first made in the United Kingdom, then Germany, and subsequently the United States. It has since been remade in ten other countries. The original series of ...
'' or '' Extras'', citing ''Fawlty Towers' '' short lifespan.
Rik Mayall Richard Michael Mayall (7 March 1958 – 9 June 2014) was an English actor, stand-up comedian and writer. He formed a close partnership with Ade Edmondson Adrian Charles Edmondson (born 24 January 1957) is an English actor, comedian, ...
,
Ben Elton Benjamin Charles Elton (born 3 May 1959) is an English comedian, actor, author, playwright, lyricist and director. He was a part of London's alternative comedy Alternative comedy is a term coined in the 1980s for a style of comedy that makes ...
and
Lise Mayer Lise Mayer (born November 1959) is an American television and film writer, best known as, alongside Rik Mayall and Ben Elton, a creator and co-writer of the BBC #REDIRECT BBC Here i going to introduce about the best teacher of my life b BALAJI ...
, the writers behind '' The Young Ones'', which also ran for only two series (each with six episodes), used this explanation as well.
Victoria Wood Victoria Wood (19 May 1953 – 20 April 2016) was an English comedian A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertainment, entertain an audience by making them laughter, laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or ...
also indicated this influenced her decision to limit '' dinnerladies'' to 16 episodes over two series. The origins, background and eventual cancellation of the series would later be humorously referenced in 1987's '' The Secret Policeman's Third Ball'' in a sketch in which
Hugh Laurie James Hugh Calum Laurie (; born 11 June 1959) is an English actor, comedian, writer, and musician. He first gained recognition for his work as one half of the comedy double act Fry and Laurie with Stephen Fry. The two men acted together in a ...
and
Stephen Fry Stephen John Fry (born 24 August 1957) is an English actor, broadcaster, comedian, director and writer. He first came to prominence in the 1980s as one half of the comic double act Fry and Laurie, alongside Hugh Laurie, with the two starrin ...
present Cleese — whom they comically misname "Jim Cleese" — with a
Dick Emery Richard Gilbert Emery (19 February 19152 January 1983) was an English comedian A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertainment, entertain an audience by making them laughter, laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations ...
Lifetime Achievement Award ("Silver Dick") for his contributions to comedy, then launch into a comical series of questions regarding the show, including Cleese's marriage and divorce from Booth, innocently ridiculing Cleese and reducing him to tears, to a point at which he gets on his knees and crawls off the stage while crying.


Series 1 (1975)


Series 2 (1979)

The second series was transmitted three-and-a-half years later, with the first episode being broadcast on 19 February 1979. Due to an industrial dispute at the
BBC #REDIRECT BBC
Here i going to introduce about the best teacher of my life b BALAJI sir. He is the precious gift that I got befor 2yrs . How has helped and thought all the concept and made my success in the 10th board exam. ...
, which resulted in a strike, the final episode was not completed until well after the others, being finally shown as a one-off instalment on 25 October 1979. The cancelled episode on 19 March was replaced with a repeat of "Gourmet Night" from series 1. In the second series the anagrams were created by Ian McClane, Bob Spier's assistant floor manager.


Reception


Critical reaction

At first, the series was not held in particularly high esteem. ''
The Daily Mirror ''The'' () is a grammatical Article (grammar), article in English language, English, denoting persons or things already mentioned, under discussion, implied or otherwise presumed familiar to listeners, readers, or speakers. It is the definite ...
s review of the show in 1975 had the headline "Long John Short On Jokes". Eventually though, as the series began to gain popularity, critical acclaim followed.
Clive James Clive James (born Vivian Leopold James; 7 October 1939 – 24 November 2019) was an Australian critic, journalist, broadcaster, writer and lyricist who lived and worked in the United Kingdom from 1962 until his death in 2019.The Observer ''The Observer'' is a British newspaper Sunday editions, published on Sundays. It is a sister paper to ''The Guardian'' and ''The Guardian Weekly'', whose parent company Guardian Media Group, Guardian Media Group Limited acquired it in 1993. ...
'' said the second episode had him "retching with laughter." On
Rotten Tomatoes Rotten Tomatoes is an American review aggregator, review-aggregation website for film and television. The company was launched in August 1998 by three undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley: Senh Duong, Patrick Y. Lee ...
, Fawlty Towers has an aggregate score of 100% based on 13 critic reviews. The website’s consensus reads: "''Fawlty Towers'' looms large over British comedy with John Cleese's impeccably hapless performance and an endless array of exuberant slapstick -- making for a supremely stimulating chuckler." One critic of the show was
Richard Ingrams Richard Reid Ingrams (born 19 August 1937 in Chelsea, London, Chelsea, London) is an English journalist, a co-founder and second editor of the British satire, satirical magazine ''Private Eye (magazine), Private Eye'', and founding editor of ' ...
, then television reviewer for ''
The Spectator ''The Spectator'' is a weekly British magazine on politics, culture, and current affairs. It was first published in July 1828, making it the oldest surviving weekly magazine in the world. It is owned by Frederick Barclay, who also owns '' T ...
'', who wrote a caustic piece, condemning the programme. Cleese got his revenge by naming one of the guests in the second series "Mr. Ingrams", who is caught in his room with a blow-up doll. In an interview for the "TV Characters" edition of
Channel 4 Channel 4 is a British free-to-air public broadcast television network operated by the state-owned Channel Four Television Corporation. It began its transmission on 2 November 1982 and was established to provide a fourth television servic ...
's 'talking heads' strand 100 Greatest (in which Basil placed second, between
Homer Simpson Homer Jay Simpson is a fictional character In fiction, a character (or speaker, in poetry) is a person or other being in a narrative (such as a novel, Play (theatre), play, Radio series, radio or television series, music, film, or video gam ...
and Edmund Blackadder), TV critic A. A. Gill theorised that the initially muted response may have been caused by Cleese seemingly ditching his label as a comic revolutionary – earned through his years with
Monty Python Monty Python (also collectively known as the Pythons) were a British comedy troupe who created the sketch comedy television show ''Monty Python's Flying Circus'', which first aired on the BBC in 1969. Forty-five episodes were made over four ...
– to do something more traditional. In a list of the
100 Greatest British Television Programmes The BFI TV 100 is a list of 100 television programmes or series that was compiled in 2000 by the British Film Institute (BFI), as chosen by a poll of industry professionals, with the aim to determine the best United Kingdom, British television pr ...
drawn up by the
British Film Institute The British Film Institute (BFI) is a film and television charitable organisation which promotes and preserves film-making and television in the United Kingdom. The BFI uses funds provided by the National Lottery (United Kingdom), National Lot ...
in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, ''Fawlty Towers'' was placed first. It was also voted fifth in the "
Britain's Best Sitcom ''Britain's Best Sitcom'' was a BBC media campaign in which television viewers were asked to decide the best British sitcom, British situation comedy. Viewers could vote via telephone, Short Message Service, SMS, or BBC Online. This first round ...
" poll in 2004, and second only to ''
Frasier ''Frasier'' () is an American television sitcom that was broadcast on NBC for 11 seasons. It premiered on September 16, 1993, and ended on May 13, 2004. The program was created and produced by David Angell, Peter Casey (screenwriter), Peter Case ...
'' in The Ultimate Sitcom poll of comedy writers in January 2006.
Basil Fawlty Basil Fawlty is the main character of the 1970s British sitcom ''Fawlty Towers'', played by John Cleese. The proprietor of the hotel Fawlty Towers, he is a Cynicism (contemporary), cynical and Misanthropy, misanthropic snob, desperate to belong ...
came top of the ''Britain's Funniest Comedy Character'' poll, held by Five on 14 May 2006. In 1997, "
The Germans "The Germans" (named on some releases as "Fire Drill") is the sixth episode of the BBC Situation comedy, sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. In the episode, while suffering the effects of concussion, Basil Fawlty repeatedly offends some Germans, German ...
" was ranked No. 12 on
TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time Television, sometimes shortened to TV, is a telecommunication medium for transmitting moving images and sound. The term can refer to a television set A television set or television receiver, more commonly called the television, TV, TV ...
. Named in ''
Empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of several territories and peoples, "usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries". The center of the empire (sometimes referred to as the metropole) ex ...
'' magazine's 2016 list of the greatest TV shows of all time, the entry states,


Awards and accolades

Three
British Academy Television Awards The BAFTA TV Awards, or British Academy Television Awards are presented in an annual award show hosted by the BAFTA. They have been awarded annually since 1955. Background The first-ever Awards, given in 1955, consisted of six categories. Until ...
(BAFTAs) were awarded to people for their involvement with the series. Both of the series were awarded the BAFTA in the category Best Scripted Comedy, the first being won by John Howard Davies in 1976, and the second by Douglas Argent and Bob Spiers in 1980. In 1980, Cleese received the BAFTA for Best Entertainment Performance. In a list drawn up by the
British Film Institute The British Film Institute (BFI) is a film and television charitable organisation which promotes and preserves film-making and television in the United Kingdom. The BFI uses funds provided by the National Lottery (United Kingdom), National Lot ...
in 2000, voted by industry professionals, ''Fawlty Towers'' was named the best British television series of all time.


Legacy

John Lennon John Winston Ono Lennon (born John Winston Lennon; 9 October 19408 December 1980) was an English singer, songwriter, musician and peace activist who achieved worldwide fame as founder, co-songwriter, co-lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of ...
was a fan of the show. He said in 1980: "I love ''Fawlty Towers''. I'd like to be in that. t'sthe greatest show I've seen in years... what a masterpiece, a beautiful thing."
Kate Bush Catherine Bush (born 30 July 1958) is an English singer, songwriter, record producer and dancer. In 1978, at the age of 19, she topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks with her debut single "Wuthering Heights (song), Wuthering Heights", ...
stated, "I still think ''Fawlty Towers'' is the best sitcom ever." Filmmaker
Martin Scorsese Martin Charles Scorsese ( , ; born November 17, 1942) is an American film director, producer, screenwriter and actor. Scorsese emerged as one of the major figures of the New Hollywood era. He is the recipient of many major accolades, incl ...
has remarked he is a great fan of ''Fawlty Towers'' and named "The Germans" as his favourite episode. He described the scene with Basil impersonating Hitler as "so tasteless, it's hilarious".


Remakes, adaptations and reunions

Three attempted
remakes A remake is a film A film also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, picture, photoplay or (slang) flick is a work of visual art that simulates experiences and otherwise communicates ideas, stories, perceptions, feeli ...
of ''Fawlty Towers'' were started for the American market, with two making it into production. The first, ''Chateau Snavely'' starring
Harvey Korman Harvey Herschel Korman (February 15, 1927May 29, 2008) was an American actor and comedian who performed in television and film productions. His big break was being a featured performer on CBS' ''The Danny Kaye Show'', but he is best remembered f ...
and
Betty White Betty Marion White (January 17, 1922December 31, 2021) was an American actress and comedian. A pioneer of early television, with a television career spanning almost seven decades, White was noted for her vast work in the entertainment indus ...
, was produced by ABC for a pilot in 1978, but the transfer from coastal hotel to highway motel proved too much and the series never was produced. The second, also by ABC, was '' Amanda's,'' starring
Bea Arthur Beatrice Arthur (born Bernice Frankel; May 13, 1922 – April 25, 2009) was an American actress and comedian. Born and raised in Brooklyn Brooklyn () is a Boroughs of New York City, borough of New York City, coextensive with Kings Count ...
, notable for switching the sexes of its Basil and Sybil equivalents. It also failed to pick up a major audience and was dropped after ten episodes had been aired, although 13 episodes were shot. A third remake, called '' Payne'' (produced by and starring
John Larroquette John Bernard Larroquette (; born November 25, 1947) is an American actor. He is known for his starring roles in the NBC military drama series ''Baa Baa Black Sheep (TV series), Baa Baa Black Sheep'' (1976–1978), the NBC sitcom ''Night Court'' ...
), was produced in 1999, but was cancelled shortly after. Nine episodes were produced of which eight aired on American television (though the complete run was broadcast overseas). A German pilot based on the sitcom was made in 2001, named ''Zum letzten Kliff'' (To the last cliff), but further episodes were not made after its first series. The popular sitcoms ''
3rd Rock from the Sun ''3rd Rock from the Sun'' is an American television sitcom created by Bonnie and Terry Turner, which originally aired from January 9, 1996, to May 22, 2001, on NBC. The show is about four Extraterrestrial life, extraterrestrials who are on an e ...
'' and ''
Cheers ''Cheers'' is an American sitcom television series that ran on NBC from September 30, 1982, to May 20, 1993, with a total of 275 half-hour episodes across 11 seasons. The show was produced by Charles/Burrows/Charles Productions in association w ...
'' (in both of which Cleese made guest appearances) have cited ''Fawlty Towers'' as an inspiration, especially regarding its depiction of a dysfunctional workplace "family". Arthur Mathews and
Graham Linehan Graham Linehan () (born 22 May 1968) is an Irish television writer and anti-transgender activist. He created or co-created the sitcoms ''Father Ted'' (1995–1998), ''Black Books'' (2000–2004) and ''The IT Crowd'' (2006–2013). He has also ...
have cited ''Fawlty Towers'' as a major influence on their sitcom ''
Father Ted ''Father Ted'' is a sitcom A sitcom, a Portmanteau, portmanteau of situation comedy, or situational comedy, is a genre of comedy centered on a fixed set of characters who mostly carry over from episode to episode. Sitcoms can be contrasted ...
.'' ''
Guest House A guest house (also guesthouse) is a kind of lodging. In some parts of the world (such as the Caribbean The Caribbean (, ) ( es, El Caribe; french: la Caraïbe; ht, Karayib; nl, De Caraïben) is a region of the Americas that consists o ...
'' on Pakistan's PTV also resembled the series. Several of the characters have made other appearances, as spinoffs or in small cameo roles. In 1981, in character as Manuel, Andrew Sachs recorded his own version of the
Joe Dolce Joseph Dolce (born October 13, 1947) (, originally ) is an American-Italian singer/songwriter, poet and essayist. Dolce achieved international recognition with his multi-million-selling song, " Shaddap You Face", released worldwide under the ...
cod-Italian song " Shaddap You Face" (with the B-side "Waiter, There's a Spanish Flea in My Soup") but the record was not released because Joe Dolce took out an injunction: he was about to issue his version in Britain. Sachs also portrayed a Manuel-like character in a series of British TV advertisements for life insurance. Gilly Flower and Renee Roberts, who played the elderly ladies Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby in the series, reprised their roles in a 1983 episode of ''
Only Fools and Horses ''Only Fools and Horses....'' is a British television sitcom created and written by John Sullivan (writer), John Sullivan. Seven series were originally broadcast on BBC One in the United Kingdom from 1981 to 1991, with sixteen sporadic Christmas ...
.'' In 2006, Cleese played Basil Fawlty for the first time in 27 years, for an unofficial England
2006 World Cup The 2006 FIFA World Cup, also branded as Germany 2006, was the 18th FIFA World Cup The FIFA World Cup, often simply called the World Cup, is an international association football competition contested by the senior List of men's nat ...
song, " Don't Mention the World Cup", taking its name from the phrase, "Don't mention the war," which Basil used in the episode "
The Germans "The Germans" (named on some releases as "Fire Drill") is the sixth episode of the BBC Situation comedy, sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. In the episode, while suffering the effects of concussion, Basil Fawlty repeatedly offends some Germans, German ...
". In 2007, Cleese and Sachs reprised their roles for a six-episode corporate business video for the Norwegian oil company
Statoil Equinor ASA (formerly Statoil and StatoilHydro) is a Norwegian state owned enterprise, state-owned multinational energy company headquartered in Stavanger. It is primarily a petroleum company, petroleum company, operating in 36 countries with ad ...
. In the video, Fawlty is running a restaurant called "Basil's Brasserie" while Manuel owns a
Michelin-starred The Michelin Guides ( ) are a series of guide books that have been published by the French tyre company Michelin Michelin (; ; full name: ) is a French multinational tire, tyre manufacturing company based in Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergn ...
restaurant in London. In November 2007,
Prunella Scales Prunella Margaret Rumney West Scales ('' née'' Illingworth; born 22 June 1932) is an English former actress, best known for playing Sybil Fawlty, wife of Basil Fawlty ( John Cleese), in the BBC comedy '' Fawlty Towers'', her nomination for ...
returned to the role of
Sybil Fawlty Sybil Fawlty is a fictional character from the BBC sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. She is played by Prunella Scales. She is listed as 34 years old as seen on her medical chart in the 1975 episode "The Germans", presumably indicating she was born in 1 ...
in a series of sketches for the BBC's annual '' Children in Need'' charity telethon. The character was seen taking over the management of the eponymous hotel from the BBC drama series '' Hotel Babylon,'' interacting with characters from that programme as well as other 1970s sitcom characters. The character of Sybil was used by permission of John Cleese. In 2007, the Los Angeles Film School produced seven episodes of ''Fawlty Tower Oxnard'' starring Robert Romanus as Basil Fawlty. In 2016, Cleese reprised his role as Basil in a series of TV adverts for
High Street High Street is a common street name for the primary business street of a city, town, or village, especially in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Br ...
optician An optician, or ''dispensing optician'', is a technical practitioner who designs, fits and dispenses lenses for the correction of a person's vision. Opticians determine the specifications of various Ophthalmology, ophthalmic appliances that wil ...
chain Specsavers. The same year, Cleese and Booth reunited to create and co-write the official theatrical adaptation of ''Fawlty Towers'', which premiered in
Melbourne Melbourne ( ; Boonwurrung language, Boonwurrung/Woiwurrung–Taungurung language, Woiwurrung: ''Narrm'' or ''Naarm'') is the List of Australian capital cities, capital and List of cities in Australia by population, most populous city of the St ...
at the
Comedy Theatre The Harold Pinter Theatre, known as the Comedy Theatre until 2011,
. It was critically well received, subsequently embarking on a successful tour of Australia. Cleese was intimately involved in the creation of the stage version from the beginning, including in the casting. He visited Australia to promote the adaptation, as well as oversee its success. Melbourne was chosen to premiere the adaptation due to ''Fawlty Towers' '' enduring popularity in Australia, and also because it has become a popular international test market for large-scale theatrical productions in recent years, having recently been the city where the revised '' Love Never Dies'' and the new ''
King Kong King Kong is a fictional giant monster resembling a gorilla, who has appeared in various media since 1933. He has been dubbed The Eighth Wonder of the World, a phrase commonly used within the franchise. His first appearance was in the novelizat ...
'' were also premiered. Cleese also noted he did not believe the London press would give the adaptation fair, unbiased reviews, so he deliberately chose to premiere it elsewhere.


''Fawlty Towers: Re-Opened''

In 2009,
Tiger Aspect Productions Tiger Aspect Productions (formerly known as Tiger Television from 1988 until 1993 and also known as Tiger Aspect Films for theatrical films) is a British television and film production company, particularly noted for its situation comedy, situa ...
produced a two-part documentary for the digital comedy channel
Gold Gold is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Au (from la, aurum) and atomic number 79. This makes it one of the higher atomic number elements that occur naturally. It is a Brightness, bright, slightly orange-yellow, dense, s ...
, called ''Fawlty Towers: Re-Opened.'' The documentary features interviews with all four main cast members, including
Connie Booth Connie Booth (born 2 December 1940) is an American-born actress and writer. She has appeared in several British television programmes and films, including her role as Polly Sherman on BBC Two's ''Fawlty Towers'', which she co-wrote with her the ...
, who had refused to talk about the series for 30 years. John Cleese confirmed at the 30-year reunion in May 2009 that they will never make another episode of the comedy because they are "too old and tired" and expectations would be too high. In a television interview (shown in Australia on
Seven Network The Seven Network (commonly known as Channel Seven or simply Seven) is a major Australian commercial free-to-air Television broadcasting in Australia, television network. It is owned by Seven West Media, Seven West Media Limited, and is one of ...
and the
Australian Broadcasting Corporation The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is the Public broadcasting, national broadcaster of Australia. It is principally funded by direct grants from the Australian Government and is administered by ABC Board, a government-appointed boar ...
) on 7 May 2009, Cleese also commented that he and Booth took six weeks to write each episode.


Overseas

In 1977 and 1978 alone, the original TV show was sold to 45 stations in 17 countries and was the BBC's best-selling overseas programme for that year. ''Fawlty Towers'' became a huge success in almost all countries in which it aired. Although it initially was a flop in Spain, largely because of the portrayal of the Spanish waiter Manuel, it was successfully resold with the Manuel character's nationality changed to Italian except in Spain's Catalan region where Manuel was Mexican. To show how badly it translated, Clive James picked up a clip containing Manuel's "¿Qué?" phrase to show on '' Clive James on Television'' in 1982. The series also briefly was broadcast in Italy in the 1990s on the satellite channel Canal Jimmy, in the original English with Italian subtitles. In Australia, the show originally was broadcast on ABC Television, the first series in 1976 and the second series in 1980. The show then was sold to the
Seven Network The Seven Network (commonly known as Channel Seven or simply Seven) is a major Australian commercial free-to-air Television broadcasting in Australia, television network. It is owned by Seven West Media, Seven West Media Limited, and is one of ...
where it has been repeated numerous times.


Home media and merchandise


Audio releases

Four albums were released by
BBC Records BBC Records was a division of the BBC #REDIRECT BBC Here i going to introduce about the best teacher of my life b BALAJI sir. He is the precious gift that I got befor 2yrs . How has helped and thought all the concept and made my success in the ...
on vinyl LP and cassette. These consisted of the original television soundtracks with additional voice-over from Andrew Sachs (in character as Manuel) describing scenes which relied on visual humour. The first album, simply titled ''Fawlty Towers'', was released in 1979 and contained the audio from "Communication Problems" (as "Mrs Richards") and "Hotel Inspectors". The second album, titled ''Second Sitting'', was released in 1981 and contained audio from "Basil the Rat" (as "The Rat") and "The Builders". ''At Your Service'' was released in 1982, and contained the audio from "The Kipper and the Corpse" (as "Death") and "The Germans" (as "Fire Drill"). Finally, ''A La Carte'' was released in 1983, and contained the audio from "Waldorf Salad" (as "The Americans") and "Gourmet Night". The albums were re-released as double-cassette packs under the titles ''Fawlty Towers 1'' and ''Fawlty Towers 2'' in 1988. The remaining four episodes did not get an audio-only release until they were released on audio cassette as ''Fawlty Towers 3'' in 1994. The first CD release of the audio versions was in a box set in 2003, titled ''Fawlty Towers – The Collector's Edition'', which included spoken introductions to each episode by John Cleese, and an interview with Prunella Scales and Andrew Sachs. The four vinyl records were re-released in a limited edition box set, along with the remaining four episodes on vinyl for the first time, for Record Store Day in 2021.


Home media

''Fawlty Towers'' was originally released by BBC Video in 1984, with three episodes on each of four tapes. Each tape was edited with the credits from all three episodes put at the end of the tape. A
LaserDisc The LaserDisc (LD) is a home video format and the first commercial optical disc storage medium, initially licensed, sold and marketed as DiscoVision, MCA DiscoVision (also known simply as "DiscoVision") in the United States in 1978. Its diam ...
containing all episodes spliced together as a continuous episode was released in the U.S. on 23 June 1993. It was re-released in 1994, unedited but digitally remastered. It also was re-released in 1998 with a special interview with John Cleese. ''Fawlty Towers – The Complete Series'' was released on DVD on 16 October 2001, available in
regions In geography, regions, otherwise referred to as zones, lands or territories, are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and t ...
1, 2 and 4. A "Collector's Edition" is available in region 2. The original DVD release contained a slightly edited version of "The Kipper and the Corpse", in which Basil's line "Is it your legs?" (said to Mr Lehman when asking why he wants breakfast in bed) is missing. This line was restored in subsequent remastered releases of the DVDs. Series one of the show was released on UMD Video for PSP. In July 2009, BBC America announced a DVD re-release of the ''Fawlty Towers'' series. The DVD set was released on 20 October 2009. The reissue, titled ''Fawlty Towers Remastered: Special Edition,'' contains commentary by John Cleese on every episode as well as remastered video and audio. All episodes are available as streamed video-on-demand via
Britbox BritBox is an online digital video subscription service, founded by BBC Studios BBC Studios is a British content company. It is a commercial subsidiary of the BBC that was formed in April 2018 through the merger of the BBC's commercial p ...
,
Netflix Netflix, Inc. is an American video on demand#Subscription models, subscription video on-demand Over-the-top media service, over-the-top Streaming media, streaming service and production company based in Los Gatos, California. Founded in 1997 b ...
and
Amazon Prime Video Amazon Prime Video, also known simply as Prime Video, is an American Video on demand#Subscription models, subscription video on-demand Over-the-top media service, over-the-top Streaming media, streaming and Renting, rental service of Amazon (c ...
. Additionally, both series are available for download on
iTunes iTunes () is a software program that acts as a Media player (software), media player, media library, mobile device management utility, and the client app for the iTunes Store. Developed by Apple Inc., it is used to purchase, play, download, ...
. In 2021 all episodes were made available on the
BBC iPlayer BBC iPlayer (stylised as iPLAYER or BBC iPLAYER) is a video on demand service from the BBC. The service is available on a wide range of devices, including mobile phones and tablets, personal computers and smart televisions. iPlayer services del ...
.


Computer game

A ''Fawlty Towers'' game was released on PC in 2000 and featured a number of interactive games, desktop-customizing content and clips from the show.


Books

The original scripts of the series were released in a hardback book by Methuen, titled ''The Complete Fawlty Towers'', in 1988.


Notes


References


Further reading

* Apter, Michael J. (1982), first published online in 2004. "Fawlty Towers: A Reversal Theory Analysis of A Popular Television Comedy Series". ''The Journal of Popular Culture'' (Blackwell Publishing) 16 (3): 128–138. * Bright, Morris; Robert Ross (2001). ''Fawlty Towers: Fully Booked''. London: BBC Books. . * Cleese, John; Connie Booth (1988). ''The Complete Fawlty Towers''. London: Methuen. . * Dalla Costa, Dario (2004). ''The Complexities of Farce: With a Case Study on Fawlty Towers ''. Unpublished Master's thesis, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia. Retrieved from http://research-repository.uwa.edu.au/files/3238761/Costa_Dario_Dalla_2004.pdf * Holm, Lars Holger (2004). ''Fawlty Towers: A Worshipper's Companion''. London: Leo Publishing. . *


External links

* * *
''Fawlty Towers''
at the
British Film Institute The British Film Institute (BFI) is a film and television charitable organisation which promotes and preserves film-making and television in the United Kingdom. The BFI uses funds provided by the National Lottery (United Kingdom), National Lot ...
*
''Fawlty Towers''
at the MBC's Encyclopedia of Television * *
Fawlty Towers Guest Characters
{{Authority control 1975 British television series debuts 1979 British television series endings 1970s British sitcoms 1970s British workplace comedy television series BAFTA winners (television series) BBC television sitcoms English-language television shows Fictional hotels Television series by BBC Studios Television series about marriage Television series set in hotels Television shows set in Devon Works by John Cleese