Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sitcoms Worth Rewatching - Fawlty Towers

I discovered Monty Python’s Flying Circus in the Seventies, when it was still a fairly obscure TV show that aired late on Sunday nights on a local PBS affiliate. I soon became one of those idiots who quote long excerpts from various skits. Fortunately I got over it.

It was a pretty strong ensemble, I thought, without any weak links. But it always seemed that one of the members stood out a bit – that being John Cleese. When the circus left town he went on to co-create, write and star in Fawlty Towers, a British sitcom that was closer to a mini-series in terms of length, airing just six episodes each in 1975 and 1979.

The premise of Fawlty Towers is a very simple one. It pits hotel owner Basil Fawlty against the people who irritate him. Which is pretty much everyone on Earth. Basil is clearly the star of the show but is aided by an able supporting cast who portray the hotel’s staff and guests and his wife Sybil , who is perhaps the biggest thorn in his side.

Some of the key facets of Basil’s personality are his intolerance of just about everyone, whom he feels are beneath him, and the need to ingratiate himself with those few members of the upper crust that he feels are deserving of his respect. Which serve as his motivations and drive most of the plots, which typically start out as calm as a lazy summer afternoon and steadily build to a hurricane of slapstick and silliness.

Most of the 12 episodes are worth a look, although there are a few lesser ones and some really great ones. If you’ve never had the pleasure then you might as well start with The Germans.

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