Comedy Classics – Fawlty Towers (or Flowery Twats)
This really should have been one of the first posts on comedy, but sometimes the wait is well worth it. To a lot of people who come to my blog you may never have heard of it (maybe those as Basil himself would say, Trans-Atlantic tripe), but trust me, this is one comedy that everyone must see.
Based on a real life experience by writer (and then Monty Python stalwart) John Cleese, Fawlty Towers is based on the most dysfunctional hotel owner (Basil, played by Cleese) and his cohort of staff and guests. A mix of what the English are best at, wit, sarcasm, and a dash of slapstick, the sitcom was only written for two seasons and 12 episodes (not including the lesser-known “Tatty Revue”). Connie Booth, who played Polly the chambermaid co-wrote the series (and was in fact married to Cleese during the first season).
The sitcom was voted the Greatest British Television Programme by the BFI in 2000…justifiably so. Typically, it came second when the list of best (worldwide) sitcoms to Frasier (very funny, but as good?). Basil was also voted second amongst greatest TV characters (between Homer Simpson and Edmund Blackadder).
While I know this show word for word, and it was easy for me to come up with parts I consider to be the best.
The first is from the last episode of the first series which has Basil injured by a falling moose, sneaks out of hospital and then proceeds (with concussion) serve dinner to a bunch of Germans while trying to hold a fire drill. While the encounter with the Germans has been replayed and quoted so often (“You started it, you invaded Poland!”), it is the fire that is my favourite part with a hint of the slapstick of a bygone era.
My second clip is from the first episode of the second series where Joan Sanderson (remember her from “Me & My Girl“?) playing Mrs. Richards stays at the hotel. She is hard of hearing and as a direct, and indirect result of this affliction, comedy it in its truest form reigns.
My final choice is from what I consider to be the best episode from the entire show, if not the greatest in sitcom history. Basil meets big spending and demanding Americans wanting a Waldorf Salad. This episode from go to ‘woe’ must be considered one of the great comedy moments of all time. Really, you need to watch the whole episode, but hopefully this section will do it justice. Please excuse the sound quality.
Ahhh, the memories of watching this as a kid. What made it more memorable was my father, not the most jovial person in the world would (as Clive James so succinctly phrased it) be retching on the floor in laughter.