Sunday, December 20, 2020

Sunday Fun: Fawlty Towers Opening


When I hear Mr Fawlty's name called by his trouser-wearing wife, Sybil, I know I've checked into the right hotel.

Like many great concepts, Fawlty Towers was inspired by a real-life equivalent. In the early 1970s the Monty Python gang checked in for three weeks at the Gleneagles Hotel, in Torquay, Devon (England), an establishment owned and 'operated' by a Mister Donald Sinclair. What the gang could not help but notice and ignore was their host's eccentric and irrational quirks: inhospitable behaviour. His guests, his lifeblood, seemed to annoy him to no end by way of existing in one of his suites and periodically in his dining area (and holding one's knife and fork in the wrong hands).

Springboard to a brilliant series. A one of a kind.

The sitcom, a form I generally despise, was created by former Python but always funny John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth (who onscreen would play hotel assistant Polly Sherman).

The always dependable hotel staff provided a steady stream of laughs.

John Cleese played Basil to such perfection that one might think that the actor had a little "Basil" in him. His childish rants and meltdowns were something to behold. Sybil could cut him to pieces, reminding him that he's her husband, not her very young son. "My little nest of vipers" was one of many retorts to his ruling wife; under his breath retorts were about the best he could do.

Manuel, performed to legend by German-born actor Andrew Sachs, was the inn's Spanish waiter. His understanding of the English language was but a step above my understanding of French. One can imagine the potential for errors when diners would place their orders. Basil would sometimes discipline him with a simple cuff to the head. Funny, but not funny, but hilarious.

"He's from Barcelona." Could a television series get away with lines like that today?

Imagine a show today placing an order for an episode like "The Germans". (Nein!) Actually, some furor was generated earlier this year when that classic, and very funny, episode was pulled from the BBC-owned platform UKTV. Imagine. The horror of comedy! The episode was almost immediately returned to the shelf for regular viewing.

By the way, Fawtly Towers lasted just 12 episodes; not through cancellation by BBC2, but due to Mr Cleese's understanding that there is such thing as a series overstaying its welcome.

"Go away."

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