Fawlty Towers named greatest ever British TV sitcom

John Cleese in Fawlty Towers

Comedy experts position series set in a chaotic hotel above Father Ted and I’m Alan Partridge

Fawlty Towers has been named the greatest ever British TV sitcom once again by a panel of comedy experts compiled by the Radio Times.

The comedy series set in a chaotic Torquay seaside hotel managed by an incompetent and highly strung hotelier played by John Cleese, was ranked above Father Ted, which chronicled the lives of three dysfunctional Irish priests and their housekeeper, and I’m Alan Partridge, in second and third place respectively.

Although Fawlty Towers ran for only two series, the popularity of its 12 episodes has endured and it is often re-broadcast, with the co-writer, Connie Booth, saying the show succeeds because it allows “infantile rage and aggression” to flourish even within “well-mannered English society”.

Basil Fawlty’s one-liners have gone down in comedy folklore. In one episode, a hotel guest complained that he was not satisfied, to which he replied: “Well, people like you never are, are you?”

During another, a guest asked if anywhere serves French food. Fawlty retorted: “Yes, France, I believe. They seem to like it there. And the swim would certainly sharpen your appetite. You’d better hurry, the tide leaves in six minutes.”

In a thinly veiled jibe at the broadcaster’s current management, Cleese said he was lucky to be working at the BBC when decisions were taken by people who had actually made programmes and paid tribute to his co-stars and producer, John Howard Davies, who directed the first six episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

“I’m proud we are up there with Porridge and Only Fools and Ab Fab and Blackadder and The Office and Reggie Perrin and The Thick of It,” he told the Radio Times.

Fawlty Towers co-writer Connie Booth told the magazine: “It’s unique in being a farce, with all the plot surprises and precision that the style requires. And it doesn’t hurt that the star of the show is a six–foot-five comic genius; if he was shorter I can’t imagine how it would have worked.”

Richard Curtis and Ben Elton’s historical sitcom, Blackadder, starring Rowan Atkinson, was fourth on the list, with Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s 80-episode, half-century-old Dad’s Army in fifth.

Only Fools and Horses, featuring Peckham wheeler-dealers the Trotter family, was named sixth best sitcom of all time, ahead of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’s prison-based comedy drama, Porridge, in seventh.

Fawlty Towers was also named the best British sitcom of all time in a survey of comedians, comedy writers and actors in 2017.

Source: Fawlty Towers named greatest ever British TV sitcom

Fawlty Towers stars John Cleese and Connie Booth salute Andrew Sachs

John Cleese ‘He left me weak with laughter’:

The first time I set eyes on Andy Sachs was at the Lyric Theatre, London, in the autumn of 1973. Andy was appearing with Alec Guinness in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus, an exquisitely crafted sex-farce about a respectable family in Brighton in the 1960s. Andy was playing a piano tuner, but the magnificent Margaret Courtenay mistook him for the man who was coming to measure her for a custom-made bra. When Andy started on the standard pianist’s hand-and-finger stretching routine, she began to register anticipation of nameless carnal delights, producing one of the funniest farcical moments I have ever seen. Weak with laughter, I managed to open my programme and underline his name [ . . . ]

Source: Fawlty Towers stars John Cleese and Connie Booth salute Andrew Sachs | Television & radio | The Guardian