John Cleese remaking Fawlty Towers cannot work now that he's become Basil Fawlty
Don’t mention the woke. I think he’s mentioned it one hundred times, but…
‘You couldn’t make Fawlty Towers these days because of the woke PC mob’ is a popular talking point among the sort of family members who are never willingly invited to weddings.
And yet, it was announced this week that they are indeed going to make Fawlty Towers these days.
What’s Fawlty Towers?
First airing in September 1975, Fawlty Towers has become one of Britain’s most beloved sitcoms, against which the likes of Only Fools And Horses and The Office are measured. Indeed, the latter’s co-creator Ricky Gervais has cited Fawlty Towers bowing out after just 12 episodes as a major influence on his show, which comprised 12 episodes and two Christmas specials.
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Created and written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, the show is set in a fictional Torquay hotel and focuses on its grumpy, perpetually harassed owner Basil Fawlty. In 2000, it topped a British Film Institute poll of the 100 greatest British television programmes.
And it’s coming back?
John Cleese has signed up to appear in a high-profile 1970s comedy, and on top of his GB News show he’s also going to be remaking Fawlty Towers.
Over 43 years since its final episode, he confirmed that production has begun on a revival.
What’s the premise?
Fawlty teams up with his daughter to run a boutique hotel.
Which acclaimed comedy performer will be playing his daughter? Kathy Burke? Rebecca Front? Julia Davis?
She’s got the same surname as John Cleese.
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Is there an argument against bringing the show back?
It’s extremely hard to create a successful sitcom. That success depends on writers and cast operating at the peak of their powers.
In the year of Fawlty Towers’ first episode, Cleese co-wrote and starred in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In the year of its final episode, he co-wrote and starred in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. With the best will in the world, there is little in Cleese’s recent output to suggest that the 83-year-old is capable of recapturing that form.
Fawlty Towers depends on the difference between the perspectives of the show and the main character. Cleese and Booth knew Fawlty was a fool. We were invited to laugh at his crankiness and intolerance, as both the writer and the viewer understood these were ridiculous positions that should be mocked.
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In 2020, Cleese addressed one character’s racism, telling Australian newspaper The Age that “the Major was an old fossil left over from decades before. We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them.”
In 2023, Fawlty’s misanthropic, out of touch worldview is indistinguishable from that of Cleese.
Is there an argument for it?
It’ll give Cleese something to do other than yelling at clouds about the woke mob.