To celebrate its 30th anniversary, G.O.L.D. is throwing open the doors of TV’s most famous hotel once more after a lengthy absence, but it’s an absence during which the show has remained as funny, and as watched, as it was when it first aired. So, we thought we’d add our own little anniversary tribute to one of the best sitcoms that’s ever been on TV, but before we do, here’s what the show tonight – and its follow-up shows – are about…
Fawlty Towers: Re-opened gathers the cast and crew together to retrace the history of the sitcom from their ‘insider’ point of view. This one-off special tonight leaves no English Riviera stone unturned in its search for trivia and nuggets of information from the Fawlty Towers guestbook, together with in-depth interviews with John Cleese, Andrew Sachs and Prunella Scales, as well as Connie Booth talking about her memories from the show for the first time in 30 years. Just don’t mention the war…
Plus, on Sunday 17th May at 9pm, G.O.L.D. are airing another Fawlty Exclusive – Basil’s Best Bits – which delves into the Fawlty archives to find some the show’s funniest and best-remembered clips.
Reminiscing about these magic moments, cast and crew are joined by Fawlty fanatics and followers such as Michael Palin, Terry Jones, David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Eddie Izzard and AA Gill who’s the Mayor of Torquay and the owner of Gleneagles Hotel which was the real-life inspiration for Fawlty Towers. With the best clips from the archives, Basil’s Best Bits will relive old memories as well as show a new generation of sitcom lovers why, even today, Fawlty Towers is still comedy gold.
Plus, you can watch the complete Fawlty Towers Series 1 on Monday 11th through to Saturday 16th May at 9pm and double bills of Fawlty Towers Series 2 from Monday 18th to Wednesday 20th May, also at 9pm on G.O.L.D.
And now onto our own tribute to Fawlty Towers, starting with a few facts and bits of trivia about the show…
The exterior shots of the hotel were actually of Wooburn Grange Country Club which was badly damaged by a fire in 1991 and subsequently had to be demolished. Houses have been built on the site now.
The real-life inspiration for the show – and the character of Basil – was an hotelier called Donald Sinclair. John Cleese and the rest of the Monty Python cast stayed there for filming in the area in the ‘70s, and John Cleese described Sinclair as, “The most wonderfully rude man I have ever met.”
Sadly, Mr Sinclair died in 1981 but apparently, when the team stayed at his hotel, Gleneagles, he threw Eric Idle’s suitcase out of the window “in case it contained a bomb” and complained about Terry Gilliam’s table manners, according to a report on BBC Devon’s website. In the same article, the ‘real’ Sybil, Beatrice Sinclair, agreed that her husband was not good with the guests.
“He was a commander in the Royal Navy” Beatrice said, adding, “He liked to have the last word. I don’t think he ever really enjoyed the hotel life.”
Bless him… now a few more facts and bits of trivia…
Andrew Sachs, who of course played Manuel, was paid £700 by way of compensation after having his shoulders seriously burned during the filming of the Kitchen Fire scene in the episode, The Germans, and in another episode, Sachs was left feeling dizzy for two days after being hit on the head with a frying pan by Basil.
Also, a union strike at the BBC during March 1979 caused the filming of the final episode, Basil The Rat, to be delayed. It was eventually aired seven months later in October 1979.
Every episode apparently took around four months and ten re-writes of drafts until everyone was happy with it, and each episode required around 400 camera shots; this equates to a cut being made on average every 4 seconds. That’s a lot of editing!
A repeat airing of the first series in 1985 on BBC2 achieved a viewing audience of 12.5 million for the first episode which, at that time, was the largest single audience ever for a BBC2 show.
The Fawlty Towers videos became one of the biggest selling video collections ever and by 1995, had sold over 1.5 million copies.
John Cleese reportedly received £1000 for the first series of Fawlty Towers which was £500 for the writing and £500 for playing the role of Basil. For the second series, he apparently earned a total of £9000 while Andrew Sachs was paid £150 for the first series and £300 for the second.
During the Gulf War, it was claimed that US President George Bush relaxed by watching Fawlty Towers… which kind of explains a lot vis-à-vis his handling of the whole shebang!
Also, when the show first aired, Richard Ingrams – who was at the time editor of Private Eye magazine – wrote a “scathing review” of the show. Apparently, John Cleese had been a friend of Ingram’s as well as the magazine’s owner, Peter Cook, so he took umbrage at the unflattering review. To get “revenge” for it, he wrote in a character called Mr Ingrams, a hotel guest who Basil discovers blowing up a sex doll.
I’m sure anyone who’s ever watched the show knows this facteroo, but as the show went on, each episode’s opening shot of the Fawlty Towers sign showed rearranged letters; variations included Watery Fowls, Farty Tower, Flay Otters, Fatty Owls, Warty Towels, Flowery Tw*ts and Farty Towels.
And finally for our look at facts and trivia, at one time, there was a plan for a spin-off feature film in which Basil would be invited to Spain to meet Manuel’s family, but it never happened in the end.
Now onto some memorable quotes from the show… there were of course dozens but here are a few of my favourites courtesy of IMDB.com
Sybil: Are you still here Basil?
Basil: No, I went a few minutes ago dear, but I expect I’ll be back shortly.
Basil: I have to put up with… from you people. You ponce in here expecting to be waited on hand and foot, while I’m trying to run a hotel here. Have you any idea of how much there is to do? Do you ever think of that? Of course not, you’re all too busy sticking your noses into every corner, poking around for things to complain about, aren’t you? Well let me tell you something – this is exactly how Nazi Germany started. A lot of layabouts with nothing better to do than to cause trouble. Well I’ve had fifteen years of pandering to the likes of you, and I’ve had enough. I’ve had it. Come on, pack your bags and get out.
Basil: Well, of course it’s a rat. You have rats in Spain, don’t you – or did Franco have them all shot?
Basil: I’ll put an ad in the papers, “Wanted, kind home for enormous savage rodent. Answers to the name of Sybil.”
Sybil: You’re looking very happy Basil.
Basil: Happy? Ah yes, I remember that.
And this one is one of my all time favourite bits of dialogue taken from the episode when Basil’s car won’t start…
Basil: START. Start, you vicious b**tard. Oh my God. I’m warning you, if you don’t start… I’ll count to three. 1, 2, 3, right, that does it.
[Gets out of car]
Basil: Right! I’m going to give you a damn good thrashing…
In this next quote, Sybil had asked Basil to get her blue bed-cover from the drawer. He picks up a pink one…
Basil: This one?
Sybil: Is it blue?
Basil: Well it’s got blue things on it.
Sybil: They’re flowers, and I didn’t ask for the one with the flowers, did I?
Basil: No, no, you didn’t dear, quite right. No, I just picked that one up to annoy you, actually.
And finally, though I could go on with these for about a year, this quote is from the episode where a guest has died and Polly has just accidentally knocked out Miss Tibbs…
Basil: Oh spiffing. Absolutely spiffing. Well done. Two dead, Twenty-five to go.
Excellent stuff! And now, here are a few clips from some of the sadly too few episodes of this fantastic sitcom.
First up is the scene mentioned above where Basil beats his car up with a tree branch… it still makes me laugh even though I’ve seen it about a hundred times!
Here’s a clip from the classic episode with the Germans…
This one shows the deaf Mrs Richards who infuriates everyone…
And now, another clip that relates to the quotes above where a guest dies at the hotel…
And here’s a clip that contains a few of the show’s ‘bloopers’
I can’t wait for the first part of the anniversary show tonight! Will you be tuning in?