We all have our favorite Fawlty Towers episodes, but some bits never lose their ability to make us laugh no matter how often we’ve seen them. It’s those bits that have kept its audience coming back for more. Fawlty Towers celebrated its 40th anniversary this past year, and from all accounts it continues to gain fans year after year. With only two seasons and 12 episodes recorded, it makes it somewhat of a phenomenon.
Another marker on the trail for fans who travel along the Fawlty Towers journey, is the fact that the hotel that inspired the series is scheduled for demolition, and is being torn down shortly after the first of the year. There can never be another. That’s life and there will be no rapid prototyping the old place.
Undoubtedly, a spanking new, modern building will take the place that will be approved by the Torbay Council later in 2016. If you’re looking for a good giggle, here are a few of my favorites quips and video clips.
“A satisfied customer, we should have him stuffed”. . . Basil Fawlty This of course, in front of the customer and from the mouth of someone who should never have been in the hospitality business to begin with.
On more than one occasion a guest has checked into the hotel and not lived to check-out. Not that there was any nefarious activity by way of the Fawlty Towers staff, it’s just that a visitor may have met his or her natural end while staying as a guest. Basil was never one for sentimentality in any form. He replied in the following exchange with his usual self centered concern, and his natural disregard for the dreadfulness of the situation. The thought that it was one less guest to deal with, trumped any other niceties.
Basil: Good morning, good morning.
Recently checked-in Guest: “Oh you’re very cheerful this morning, Mr. Fawlty.”
Basil: Yes, well one of the guest has just died.”
God help the newly arrived visitor if they voiced any concerns about the room.
Guest: “Has it (the room) got a breeze?”
Basil: “Has it got a breeze?’
Guest: “Well, is it airy?”
Basil: Well, there’s air in it.”
With his take it or leave it attitude, despite the reservations or the length of distance a visitor may have traveled, Basil had a knack for summarizing, what was what, and that is that.
Basil didn’t see his comments necessarily as insults as much as he felt it his duty, or we could say his compulsion to point out the flaws of what may have been overlooked by others. When it came to his wife Sybil “Ah, my little piranha fish… my little nest of vipers… the toxic midget… the sabre-toothed tart… rancorous, coiffured old sow.” He never let an opportunity get by without a poke which – to him – states the evident. Basil to Sybil: “Can’t we get you on Mastermind, Sybil? Next contestant – Sybil Fawlty from Torquay. Special subject – the bleedin’ obvious.”
If you’ve been a fan of the series you can hear Basil’s voice and sense the indignation and astonishment of Sybil or the guests. These jabs taken out of context are only appreciated by someone who really knows John Cleese’s sense of delivery and the incontestable personality of his main character.
I can’t do justice to the delivery or the pitch of the voice that watching these clips can give. As a true Fawlty Towers fan I cringe at the thought that my readers would be happy with just my interpretation of a scene. For example, when the hotel has German guests, Basil does his best not to show any prejudices, however it pours out of him like hot tea on a brisk day. In truth, the commentary is a statement to the British public to move on. Let go of the hard feelings from the war and let the healing take place. Cleese and Booth both personally acknowledged that the suffering was not simply one sided, and it was a message to their British viewing audience.
Decide for yourself if there is a message behind the comedy. Perhaps, there isn’t usually a message of any depth with most episodes, just the message of silliness and laughter.