First Episode of Fawlty Towers
The 19th of September 1975 AD
Monty Python had finished by 1974, and for the last few shows John Cleese ’s involvement was only partial. The seeds for his next major project had though already been sown during a hotel stay with the other Pythons in Torquay in 1970 where the owner of the establishment had been incredibly rude to his guests. From that experience came Fawlty Towers, written with his wife (from 1968 to 1976) Connie Booth, who also appeared in the show.
The first episode, as of course intended, set the tone for the subsequent 11: Basil displays his gullibility and idiocy in his snobbish fawning over a conman posing as a member of the aristocracy, treating his other guests – including the undercover detective who saves Fawlty’s bacon – with rudeness and even ill-disguised contempt.
When the idea was permeatng through the BBC hierarchy it was much criticised, Head of Light Entertainment Bill Cotton thinking it unfunny; and another executive less than perceptive suggested the scene be shifted out of the hotel. But it was made, just 12 perfectly honed episodes. More than three decades later it is still regarded as one of the best ever British sitcoms, a classic in the theatre of embarrassment where we are not just laughing at Basil but at a bit of ourselves.
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