John Cleese as Basil Fawlty and Connie Booth as Polly Sherman

scene from Fawlty Towers

Fawlty Towers is the greatest sitcom, nay, the greatest TV show in the history of British television. And it’s not due to the biased opinion of this writer. Instead, a British Film Institute's poll of television industry professionals in 2000 judged Fawlty Towers as the country’s greatest television show of the twentieth century. 42 years since it first came on air, Fawlty Towers still can leave you gasping for breath while clutching your sides. It is that funny.

Fawlty Towers was co-written by two alumni of the legendary Monty Python comedy group, namely, the then husband and wife team of John Cleese and Connie Booth. The premise of the show was inspired by a hotel in Torquay, Devon where the group once had a memorable stay. According to Cleese, the character of Basil Fawlty was lightly based on the hotel owner, who was the rudest man the former had ever met. And thus was born the rude, uncouth and snobbish Basil Fawlty.

After the first episode was aired, reception from the public and critics were mixed. However, by the second and third episodes, Fawlty Towers won over even its fiercest critics.

However, Cleese needed an able supporting cast that will provide the platform for Basil Fawlty to shine in all his glory, and it came in the form of a verbally abusive wife, Sybil Fawlty (Prunella Scales), ditzy Spanish waiter (Manuel, played by Andrew Sachs) and art student cum waitress cum general worker Polly (played by Cleese’s wife, Connie Booth). There have been too many superlatives used in this article already, but one more is needed now - the casting was just about perfect.

At the end of the second series, at the height of the show’s popularity, Cleese shocked the nation when he declined to continue with the sitcom; he wanted to go out on top. And that is why there are only 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers in existence.


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Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) is probably the rudest hotelier in the world. Along with his gossipy, unhelpful wife Sybil (Prunella Scales), he runs a small hotel in Torquay.

His staff includes Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs) and waitress Polly (Connie Booth).

The permanent residents are Major Gowen (Ballard Berkeley), Miss Tibbs (Gilly Flower) and Miss Gatsby (Renee Roberts).

John Cleese got the idea for this sitcom when he was filming with the Monty Python team and they stayed in a hotel run by a "wonderfully rude" manager.

Series: 2
Episodes: 12
Transmitted: 1975-1979
Channel: BBC2

BBC Television

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