Fawlty Towers

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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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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Question - what was Manuel trying to say when he called O'riley's man a big hairy orangutan

    8.5
    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!

    9.5
    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!

    9.0
    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.

    10
    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
  • An hysterically funny comedy from some of the guys who brought you Monty Python.

    10
    John Cleese is a brilliant comedian. The show 'Fawlty Towers' is rife with sarcastic wit and will leave you teary-eyed. I was very disappointed to see it end after a relatively short amount of episodes (I think this was due to the marital relationship b/t Connie Booth and John Cleese, though I'm not certain). I'd suggest this show to anybody of any age group or comedic taste. You will find the protagonist, Basil Fawlty, placed in flawlessly hopeless scenes of dramatic irony which he himself induced. These episodes usually leave his hotel guests (he runs a hotel after which the show is named) viewing Fawlty as either a lunatic or an owner of the most insanely backwards hotel in the whole of Western Europe.moreless
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    More Info About This Show

    Categories

    Comedy

    Themes

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