Fawlty Towers

BBC Two (ended 1979)



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Fawlty Towers

Show Summary

The genesis of Fawlty Towers came when John Cleese and the rest of the Pythons went filming in the Southwest of England in May 1971. They were scheduled to spend two weeks at the Gleneagles in Torquay, but cut their stay to one night. It all had to do with the "wonderfully rude" hotel manager, the late Donald Sinclair.

Sinclair hated all the guests who had the shortsightedness to stay in the Gleneagles. Worse, Sinclair was only 5'4" and was married to a large, domineering wife.

Cleese turned Sinclair into a character for a Doctor in the House script for the BBC in 1973. This was just after Cleese had finished his TV chores on Monty Python's Flying Circus. Cleese wanted to strike out with his now-separated wife, Connie Booth, so the BBC gave both the offer to do a series.

It didn't take long at all for Cleese and Booth to make the series out of that Torquay hotel, which they named Fawlty Towers. Cleese cast himself as manager Basil Fawlty, who felt that the main nuisances in a hotel were the guests. Wife Sybil Fawlty was Basil's equal and opposite, the competent co-owner who could lash out at Basil and win on the first stroke. ("We reversed the sizes [of manager and wife]," said the 6'4" Cleese.)

Rounding out the regular staff at Fawlty Towers were Andrew Sachs as Manuel, the dumb waiter from Barcelona who could not make sense of Basil's commands (¿Qué?), and Connie Booth as Polly, whose calmness was sorely tested in each of Basil's schemes and cover-ups.

While most sitcom writers spend two weeks turning out an episode, John Cleese and Connie Booth spent six weeks writing each episode of Fawlty Towers. Cleese said each program started with two or three plot threads, which start parallel, but begin to intertwine. The best shows, of course, are those in which the plot threads touch at the end. The production team spent nearly an hour editing each minute of every program, spending up to 25 hours on each show.

With such intense work put into each episode, Fawlty Towers drew raves around the world, exceeding the success of Monty Python's Flying Circus in some countries. But Cleese limited the run of Fawlty Towers to approximately twelve shows. He did not want to diminish the impact Fawlty Towers has had. And there has been plenty of impact. America tried three times to regenerate the show, none of which worked. The best U.S. homage to the show may be a hotel called "Fawlty Towers" in Cocoa Beach, Florida (near Ron Jon's Surf Shop). Its owners have adopted the pseudonyms Basil and Sybil.

The show won 3 BAFTA Awards and one Broadcasting Press Guild Award. Despite being very short - lived and not airing too often, Fawlty Towers is recognised as one of the greatest British TV shows of all time. It was ranked #5 in the British Comedy Guide's list of Top 50 British Sitcoms. Fawlty Towers was voted #1 In the British Film Instuite TV 100. Other awards the show has won are; 'The Royal Television Society Programme Awards'for outstanding creative achievements which went to John Cleese in May 1976, In April 1982, the two episodes of Fawlty Towers that were used as training films won a Queens Award for Export Acheivement, In 2001 the new Fawlty Towers DVD set won the 'Quality Street DVD award' for being the best comedy on DVD, Basil Fawlty was recognised as the most Monstrous Boss on British TV in May 2003 by UK Satellite Channel UK Gold, just beating David Brent from The Office. Fawlty Towers has aired in over 60 countries in places like Tonga, China, Pakistan, Latvia, Malta and Denmark.moreless


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    • Comedic brilliance!

      Probably the most hysterically funny British sit-com in history; if not the best, then certainly amongst the Top 5 for sit-coms, including those produced in America. Sheer brilliance. So many memorable moments are loaded into each episode, it's hard to believe only 12 episodes were created in total. Indeed, many friends (and myself) would have sworn there were 20, perhaps 30 episodes overall since it's unimaginable John Cleese and his co-creator / co-writer / ex-wife Connie Booth could have crammed so much insanity into a mere 12 episodes, but somehow, magically, they did.

      And the casting could not have been more perfect. Cleese, Scales, Booth, and Sachs are complete pros, utterly and insanely funny, unbeatable as a team, with flawless timing, mugging, and line delivery. Even the guest stars (Joan Sanderson as the hard-of-hearing Mrs. Richards anyone???) delivered brilliant performances throughout the dozen episodes. Nope, tt doesn't get any better in the casting department.

      A shame they couldn't have produced a third, or even a fourth, series of 6 additional episodes each, although seeing as only a dozen Fawlty adventures exist, perhaps that's part of the reason this series is so damned special.

      BRILLIANT! Brit-Comedy--nope, scratch that--ALL-Comedy at its best!!!moreless
    • Question - what was Manuel trying to say when he called O'riley's man a big hairy orangutan

      In the episode where the doors are being renovated, Manuel has to relay a message to "the man with the beard" and says that Mr Faulty said to tell you that "you are a big hairy orangutan"

      does anyone know what Basil actually wanted him to say?
    • Is this show fawlty? Hardly!

      This laugh-a-joke comedy is wacky and crazy. Farce at its finest, as we see Basil Fawlty and Manuel Towers run a hotel with wacky results. Will the inspector ever find out about the missing vase?
    • Fawlty towers is a really great show! You can watch it over and over and the jokes are still funny!

      This is a fantastic show! The lines are really clever and funny and it is a great example of British humour. The characters are all really good and my favourites are Basil and Manuel. I would have liked it to go on longer but then it might have spoiled it if it went on too long.

      I think the episode with the Germans is my favourite. I love all the comments he makes about the war and that he thought he got away with it. That episode was what Fawlty Towers would be most famous like who doesn't know about that episode and the walk John Cleese did as an impersonation of a German soldier.moreless
    • A extraordinarily fantastic show.

      With Basil constantly rude, abusing and berating behaviour towards all of the guests and especially Manuel. And Basil's fear of Sybil, the Major with his mind wandering all over the place. While throughout all the going ons of Fawlty Towers hotel of Torquay, there's Penny, about the only sane person in the whole place. All of these combined makes Fawlty Towers the hectic, mad and hilariously funny show it is. The scripts were fantastic with you constantly laughing, no matter how many times you have seen each episode. Even though it only ran for twelve episodes, this show has gone down as one of the greatest comedies of all time - with good reason for it too.moreless

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    short lived series, sight gags galore, sarcastic characters, for geeks, extraordinary situations