Fawlty Towers…TV Draft

This is my second selection in the first round of the SlicetheLife TV Draft. And my choice is Fawlty Towers.

A great BBC sitcom…some have rated it as the best BBC sitcom ever.
The series is quick, well written and well-acted. The show was made in the mid and late seventies after John Cleese left the Monty Python TV series. I watched it when our PBS station carried it in the 80s.

There is not a bad episode of Fawlty Towers. John Cleese and his wife Connie Booth wrote all of the episodes. The scripts are solid and there is some physical comedy blended in with Sachs and Cleese. Cleese and Booth spent two-and-a-half weeks working out each plot before they wrote a single line of dialogue, generally spending the time most sitcom writers used for a whole series on a single episode.

There was a four-year gap between season one and two. That was because Cleese and Booth had divorced. They still wrote the second season together. The first season aired in 1975 and the second season in 1979.

Fawlty Towers centered around Basil… a rude, class-conscious hotel owner with a domineering wife Sybil a commonsense maid Polly, a Spanish waiter Manuel who could not understand English and took Basil’s abuse, and a retired senile military officer Major Gowen.

Cleese and Booth were inspired by the manager of a real Torquay hotel, Gleneagles, where they had stayed while filming Monty Python. They found the manager, Donald Sinclair, to be entertainingly rude. There were only 12 episodes made…two seasons with six episodes each. Instead of milking it dry they stopped at 12 because Cleese and Booth didn’t think they could write anymore up to the standards they set.

My favorite episode is the 6th episode of the 1st season called The Germans. The episode is a classic.

The Characters:

Basil

Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) – Basil seems to spend most of his life alternating between fawning over any guest who he perceives as being worthy of his attention, and then trying to berate them when they didn’t quite have the social standing, he first thought they had. Basil’s trouble is that he thinks his hotel is a higher-class establishment than it really is. The real thorn in his life is his wife Sybil. For all of his bluster, Basil can quickly be brought into line with a curt “Basil!” or two from Sybil. Basil never could stand up to his evidently better half.

Sybil

Sybil Fawlty (Prunella Scales) – She spends her time keeping a tight rein on her husband Basil. She never misses an opportunity to close off an avenue of pleasure for Basil, such as betting on the horses.  She can be domineering and controlling but with Basil you can’t blame her.

Polly

Polly Sherman (Connie Booth) – She probably has more common sense than anyone in the hotel. She struggles to calm down Basil, placate Sybil, and to instruct Manuel.

Manuel

Manuel (Andrew Sachs) – Poor Manuel takes Basil’s abuse constantly. He was the waiter, bell-boy, porter, and all around do anything guy. Basil hired him with the intention of teaching him English because he’s cheap, but due to Basil’s only rudimentary grasp of Spanish it goes wrong.

Major Gowen

Major Gowen (Ballard Berkeley)- A very forgetful retired Major who is a constant guest at the hotel.

Miss Gatsby and Miss Tibbs

Miss Gatsby and Miss Tibbs (Gilly Flower and Renee Roberts,) – They are two sweet natured spinsters who have taken a fancy to Basil, feeling that they need to take care of him.

….

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

29 thoughts on “Fawlty Towers…TV Draft”

  1. My all-time favourite TV show. I have all episodes on VHS (!) DVD and streaming. I know most of the big lines before they are delivered now … but still laugh my socks off every time. There just isn’t another series can make me do that … an I’m right into my TV comedies.

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    1. I just watched all of them again recently…just great funny stuff. Three of my most favorite shows are Fawlty Towers, Dr Who, and Life On Mars.

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  2. Like I put on the other site, this is one of the most amazingly funny shows ever made. You hit the nail on the head with the reason being their craftsmanship and quitting when they were ahead after just 12 episodes. Waldorf Salad, Siberian hamsters, some of the things make me laugh just thinking of them. And most times I go by an O’Reilly auto parts store, I think of it (Manuel telling Basil he had a message from Mr “Orally”). Great pick!

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    1. Oh I love that. I just watched them all yet again. Probably my favorite UK sitcom of all time… Are You Being Served comes in a close seccond…some funny stuff. More obvious humor but good.
      Them taking their time helped.

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      1. My mom used to really like ‘Are You Being Served?’ so I saw it quite a lot in the ’80s, maybe 90s on PBS… it was funny at times, Of course, nowadays totally politically incorrect with all the jokes about Humphreys and such…quite raunchy for its time really! But wasn’t up there with ‘Fawlty Towers’ for clever writing and laughs. (I keep thinking of random bits from FT that still make me laugh like the obnoxious boy who’s mom says he’s “rather high-strung” and Basil drily says “yes, he SHOULD be”)

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      2. “nowadays totally politically incorrect”…yea that makes me like it more lol. They had some fun with the British class system in that one…although by that time I would think it mostly would have been gone…but I don’t know.

        Oh no….like he said…it wasn’t in the same league with Fawlty Towers…the quality wasn’t there but it was good for a laugh.

        It sounds like Cleese and Booth really put their hearts into that show and it showed.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. ‘The Germans’ is probably the most famous episode, but I’ve always like the one where the young couple are staying and Basil is determined to uncover their immoral behaviour. Hilarious, and a genuine insight into a certain type of British person’s attitudes towards sex!

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    1. I just saw that one the other day… it’s not a bad episode of the series…. Now I’m watching Are You Being Served again now.

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      1. I totally agree…they are not in the same league at all. Apples and Oranges…it’s hard to have better writing than Fawlty Towers

        Liked by 1 person

  4. We loved this show whenever WTTW in Chicago played it. There are so many funny scenes in it, but that scene of him goose-stepping around like Hitler has to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen. I almost blew out a lung laughing at it. The cast was absolutely brilliant, the scripts were fantastic, and I can’t think of anything they lacked.

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  5. All you have to do is mention Fawlty Towers and I’m laughing. 😀 My all-time favorite episode is the one where Basil tries to mount a moose head on the lobby wall, enter Manuel and a few other circumstances, and long story short, the Major thinks the moose talks. I think that is The Germans episode. Great addition to the TV draft.

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    1. Oh…I don’t know if you saw it or not but I let a UK blog host my site today…. I picked an article they let me reproduce…I feel so bad about asking you but I thought of you because I thought you might like it. …please forgive me.

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      1. Ok…Of all the people that has followed me…you are the one I thought of. Basically they are hoping to get more USA visitors so I hosted their site Monday and they picked something I did that was very American…skating…I picked their post about the two Keiths to post. They have 70’s memories of the UK and ask for any to post. Colin….saw Badfinger, The Who (with Moon)….so they are very nice. It was a nice exchange. I hoped I helped a little…I really…really appreciate it.

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