Fawlty Towers is a British Sitcom produced by the BBC which ran from 1975 to 1979. The British Film Institute declared it the Best British television programme ever made, in 2000. It is one of the jewels in the crown of British comedy. Although it only ran for two seasons, a total of 12 episodes, it withstands multiple viewings and is eminently quotable thanks to the sharp writing of John Cleese and Connie Booth.
The show never descends into mawkishness at any time and perhaps one of the reasons for its success is to allow horrid human beings to act according to their natures at all times.
John Cleese got the idea for the character of Basil Fawlty when the Monty Python team stayed at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay. The owner of the hotel, Donald Sinclair, fascinated Cleese with his incredibly rude behaviour.
Below is a list of all twelve Fawlty Towers episodes in order of airdate:-
Basil is a manic, rude, misanthrope and is also incredibly snobbish. He is desperate to wheedle his way to a higher social class. He yearns to be a successful hotel manager and sees this as a way to achieve his ambitions, but he is thwarted at every turn by the guests. John Cleese has said that Basil could possibly have achieved his objectives if the guests hadn't got in his way.
The flames of passion between Basil and his wife Sybil died many years ago and now he spends most of his time drawing Manuel and polly into his ridiculous schemes while keeping them secret from his suspicious wife. These schemes, of course, never work.
In The Builders for instance, Sybil is kept in the dark about who is doing building renovations in the hotel. In Communication Problems Basil desperately tries to keep his betting habits secret from Sybil. In both of these episodes, Polly acts as Basil's reluctant conspirator.
Sybil is actually a more effective manager of Fawlty Towers than Basil is. She is the one who makes sure that certain jobs are done and that the hotel runs as smoothly as possible, although she does have a tendency to laziness. Basil thinks that she spends most of her time in the hairdresser's or on the telephone to her friend, Audrey. She has a distinctive braying laugh and has the habit of saying Oooh I knoooow.. when she is on the phone which greatly irritates Basil.
Sybil often looks back to the time when her relationship with Basil was more fulfilling. In the Anniversary, Basil pretends to forget that it is their fifteenth wedding anniversary in order to surprise Sybil with a party attended by all her friends. When this doesn't go to plan, Basil has to revert to embarrassment minimisation, dragging Polly into his chicanery.
Polly Sherman is a waitress and general helper around the hotel. She is probably the most competent member of staff, and it is she who becomes involved in Basil's many pathetic attempts at trying to avoid embarrassment. She does so because of a misplaced sense of loyalty to Basil.
In The Anniversary for instance, Polly ends up impersonating Sybil so that Basil avoids the embarrassment of having to admit to Sybil's friends that he and Sybil had a row and she walked off in a huff. Needless to say, Basil's scheming doesn't go quite to plan.
In the first series it is revealed that Polly is an art student and she tries to sell some of her impressionistic pictures to the guests without much success. Quite how she is still waitressing at Fawlty Towers by the second series with all that she has to put up with from Basil is anybody's guess.
Manuel is the Fawlty Towers bellhop and waiter. He is incompetent and disorganised ( a sort of Spanish Mr Bean ), hails from Barcelona and has a very poor grasp of the English language; hence, many orders from Basil are met with the interrogative Que. It is Manuel who provides one of the show's few catchphrases, He's from Barcelona, which is quoted many times throughout the series by various members of the hotel. He is verbally and physically assaulted many times by Basil, mainly because he is useless at anything involving duties that are expected to be performed by a waiter. He is an enthusiastic chap, grateful for the employment he has been given despite the opprobrium heaped upon him by Basil.
The theme tune was composed by Dennis Wilson. The music was written specially for the show and taped a few days before the recording of the pilot episode. It was performed by Dennis Wilson and a string quartet on Thursday 19 December 1974.
For more on the Guest characters - Fawlty Towers Guest Characters
For more on the minor regular characters - Fawlty Towers Minor Characters
A regular feature of the show is the mixed up hotel sign in the opening credits - Fawlty Towers Signs/Anagrams
For the best Fawlty Towers Quotes - Fawlty Towers Quotes
For more about the Fawlty Towers Hotel - Fawlty Towers Hotel
Another great classic BBC comedy - Keeping Up Appearances
A great Us Classic Sci-Fi site - Classic Sci-Fi Tv
See some of the Fawlty Towers locations at - Find that Location