It was while filming for Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1971 that John Cleese and the rest of the team chanced to stay at the Gleneagles hotel in Torquay, Devon. The visit inspired Cleese to create the classic 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers.
The Pythons only stayed at the hotel a night, but Cleese saw the comedic potential of the "wonderfully rude" manager and his domineering wife. Keeping the couple in mind, he wrote them into an episode of Doctor At Large.
Having left the Pythons, Cleese was asked by the BBC if he'd like to come up with a new show. The result was Fawlty Towers, a sitcom based at a hotel in Torquay. Inexplicably the ailing establishment was run by a man who was completely inappropriate for hotel management. Snobbish, angry, frustrated and totally untrusting, Basil Fawlty (Cleese) lacked everything, especially a gentle demeanour and sensitivity towards his guests. His nemesis was his formidable and domineering wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) who - despite Basil's best efforts - cracked the whip at the hotel. Basil was totally under her thumb. In addition, the Fawlty's marriage was crumbling; Sybil was incredibly vitriolic towards her husband and they showed no signs of loving each other whatsoever.
The show was co-written by Cleese's then wife Connie Booth. She played another core character - maid and waitress Polly, who often became embroiled in Basil's madcap schemes. Finally there was the object of Basil's hatred - Spanish waiter and dogsbody Manuel (Andrew Sachs), who took the brunt of Basil's verbal and physical abuse.
Each episode featured different actors, playing guests, hotel inspectors, friends of Sybil's and so on, normally used as plot catalysts. Along with the core characters, there were some regular bit parts, including long-term hotel guest Major Gowen (Ballard Berkeley), scatty Miss Tibbs (Gilly Flower) and Miss Gatsby (Renee Roberts) and, from the second series on, chef Terry (Brian Hall).
Surprisingly there were just 12 episodes made, split into two series with a four-year gap between them. Fortunately Cleese and Booth maintained an extremely high standard for each episode, and the acting quality is universally high. Every episode is a joy; most of them are comedy classics.
An confidence trickster comes to stay at the hotel, just after Basil has taken an ad in a posh magazine to upgrade the clientele.View Scenes
The Fawltys take a holiday and leave Polly and Manuel to run the place just as O'Reilly's builders come to redo the lobby.View Scenes
Basil wants 'none of that' going on in his rooms and suspects some guests and Polly of carrying on.View Scenes
Some inspectors are in town and Basil gets paranoid, so he alternately fawns over and offends his guests.View Scenes
To bring the right type of crowd into the hotel Basil establishes a Gourmet Night.View Scenes
Sybil goes into the hospital for toe surgery, leaving Basil to cope with a fire drill single-handed. After a couple of blows on the head, Basil tells some German guests where Germany went wrong in WWII.View Scenes
A selectively deaf woman named Mrs Richards insists that she has had a large amount of money stolen at the hotel, and against Sybil's wishes Basil puts a fiver on Dragonfly.View Scenes
A psychiatrist and his wife come to stay and Basil thinks Sybil is telling them all about his life.View Scenes
An American and his wife get unsatisfactory service at Fawlty Towers when he orders a Waldorf salad, after the kitchen has closed.View Scenes
Unknown to Basil, a guest dies in the night and he tries to serve him breakfast anyway and an obnoxious woman insists on service for her dog.View Scenes
Sybil leaves before Basil's surprise anniversary party and Basil spends the evening trying to convince their friends she's ill.View Scenes
The health inspector is coming and Basil tells Manuel to get rid of his pet rat, which he later finds out is named Basil.View Scenes