This week’s Series Tip is an old one, but a good one. It’s a British sitcom from the 70s and it was ranked as the best British Television Program in the 100 Best British Television Programs drawn up by the British Film Institute in the year 2000. It’s one of my favorite (British) sitcoms and it’s written by John Cleese and Connie Booth. Are there ringing any bells yet? Of course I’m talking about Fawlty Towers. Cleese got the idea for the show, when the Monty Python team (I absolutely adore Monty Python) was staying at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay. Cleese later said that the owner of the hotel was the rudest man he ever met in his life. So the show is based on a true life experience. Unfortunately there are only 12 episodes, but I must have seen them all dozens of times.
What is it about?
The show is set in a small hotel called ‘Fawlty Towers’ in the English seaside town of Torquay. The hotel is owned by the short-fused, rude and tense Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his bossy wife Sybil (Prunella Scales). The story centers on the Fawlty’s, their dependable chambermaid Polly Sherman (Connie Booth) and their clumsy, well-meaning but not so smart, Spanish porter/waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs). The hotel is visited by all sorts of people and nothing ever goes right! Among the (only twelve) episodes made are some true jewels, like the one with the Germans (I simply love this one). When a group of Germans visit the hotel, Basil is set on making their stay as pleasant as possible. Sybil is in the hospital for a few days and instructs Basil to hang up a moose’s head and do a fire drill. Basil gets hit on the head while hanging up the moose’s head and ends up in the hospital with a concussion. However he insists on going home and help out while the Germans are visiting. He instructs his personnel to be as normal as possible to their German guests and he tells them: “Whatever you do, don’t mention the war!” Of course this all culminates in absolute chaos.
What about the actors?
Of course John Cleese is at his best as the rude and ill-tempered Basil. His body acting is great and I love it when he loses his temper (and that happens a lot). For me the absolute star of the show is Andrew Sachs as Manuel (‘Que?’). The on-screen chemistry between Cleese and Sachs is magnificent. I also love Ballard Berkeley as the slightly senile Major Gowen. Major Gowen is a permanent resident at Fawlty Towers and one of the few guests that Basil seems to like. Connie Booth is one of the writers of the show and was married to John Cleese during the first season of the show. She plays the role of Polly, the housemaid. Polly is the most normal member of staff at Fawlty Towers; she often stands up as the voice of reason, which is necessary in the world of chaos that is Fawlty Towers. Prunella Scales is very solid as the bossy and sometimes pretty obnoxious Sybil Fawlty.
Who will like this?
If you like British humor, you will like Fawlty Towers.
How many seasons?
Unfortunately there are only two seasons, consisting of 6 episodes each. The first season was aired on the BBC in 1975. Four years later (1979) BBC aired the second season.