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.