Fawlty Towers (1975)

It was while filming for Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1971 that John Cleese and the rest of the team chanced to stay at the Gleneagles hotel in Torquay, Devon. The visit inspired Cleese to create the classic 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers.

The Pythons only stayed at the hotel a night, but Cleese saw the comedic potential of the "wonderfully rude" manager and his domineering wife. Keeping the couple in mind, he wrote them into an episode of Doctor At Large.

Having left the Pythons, Cleese was asked by the BBC if he'd like to come up with a new show. The result was Fawlty Towers, a sitcom based at a hotel in Torquay. Inexplicably the ailing establishment was run by a man who was completely inappropriate for hotel management. Snobbish, angry, frustrated and totally untrusting, Basil Fawlty (Cleese) lacked everything, especially a gentle demeanour and sensitivity towards his guests. His nemesis was his formidable and domineering wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) who - despite Basil's best efforts - cracked the whip at the hotel. Basil was totally under her thumb. In addition, the Fawlty's marriage was crumbling; Sybil was incredibly vitriolic towards her husband and they showed no signs of loving each other whatsoever.

The show was co-written by Cleese's then wife Connie Booth. She played another core character - maid and waitress Polly, who often became embroiled in Basil's madcap schemes. Finally there was the object of Basil's hatred - Italian waiter and dogsbody Manuel (Andrew Sachs), who took the brunt of Basil's verbal and physical abuse.

Each episode featured different actors, playing guests, hotel inspectors, friends of Sybil's and so on, normally used as plot catalysts. Along with the core characters, there were some regular bit parts, including long-term hotel guest Major Gowen (Ballard Berkeley), scatty Miss Tibbs (Gilly Flower) and Miss Gatsby (Renee Roberts) and, from the second series on, chef Terry (Brian Hall).

Surprisingly there were just 12 episodes made, split into two series with a four-year gap between them. Fortunately Cleese and Booth maintained an extremely high standard for each episode, and the acting quality is universally high. Every episode is a joy; most of them are comedy classics.

Genre: Sitcom

Production Year: 1975

Rating:
5/5 Stars

Classification: PG Certificate

Production Country: UK

Main Cast

Image for John CleeseJohn Cleese...Basil Fawlty
Connie Booth...Polly Shearman
Ballard Berkeley...Major Gowen
Image for Andrew SachsAndrew Sachs...Manuel
Image for Prunella ScalesPrunella Scales...Sybil Fawlty
Gilly Flower...Miss Abitha Tibbs
Renee Roberts...Miss Ursula Gatsby
Brian Hall...Terry
Elizabeth Benson...Mrs. Heath, Mrs. White
Terence Conoley...Mr. Johnston, Mr. Wareing
Richard Caldicot...Mr. Twitchen
Michael C. Gwynne...Lord Melbury
Robin Ellis...Danny Brown
Allan Cuthbertson...Col. Hall
Betty Huntley-Wright...Mrs. Twitchen
AndrĂ© Maranne...André
Tony Page...Master Heath
Martin Wyldeck...Sir Richard Morris
Steve Plytas...Kurt
David Simeon...Mr. Mackenzie