Fawlty Towers (BBC2, 1975-1979)
This is arguably the most popular and successful British sitcom of its era, and all these years on it is still considered to be one of the best that this country has produced. So once again, just like with Only Fools And Horses, this is one of those sitcoms where it’s rather hard to know what to say about it, because everyone will already be familiar with what it’s about, and people will start to say “get on with it, I already knew that!”.
But I thought that I would like to go on record with the not that too much of a shock revelation that I am a fan of the show too, and this month is also the 45th anniversary of the launch, so that’s as good an excuse as any to get this one over with. After Monty Python’s Flying Circus came to an end (and I’ll review that one soon too), some of the cast went on to individually feature in some excellent comedy shows, and this was John Cleese’s one.
What do I say about Fawlty Towers then? Why does Basil run the hotel in Torquay if he is so ill-equipped to do so? Maybe it’s just the frustration of his surname sounding like “faulty” that has really got to him. The rest of the staff aren’t much use either, including Basil’s wife Sybil, and Manuel, who was often whacked on the head with a spoon, what terrific characters. There were a huge amount of misunderstandings, and Basil also has a lot of contempt for his guests.
Basil often gets very frustrated, and this gives Cleese plenty of opportunity to show off his ability for silly walks! There were only 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers in two series, and I don’t know if the second was smugly promoted as “the final series” as most sitcoms seem to be now, but I suppose we were lucky to get that many really, and they were all of a fabulously high standard.
There have also been a huge amount of repeats, probably not too surprisingly. And yet, even by the fifth time it was shown on BBC2, it was still considered by many to be an event. Everyone has their own favourite moment, as things once again descend into chaos, I remember watching some episodes and laughing like I have at few other sitcoms, that’s the moment I realised that this really was something special.
Fawlty Towers has also been repeated on Gold about a thousand times (and that’s probably not too much of an exaggeration). The show also featured on Christmas tapes, proving that the outtakes were more amusing than the entirety of most sitcoms. There have also been three American adaptations, but they captured little of the original’s energy. The DVD is good value too, featuring lots of extras that offer a fresh take on the very interesting history of the show.