Based on John Cleese’s real-life experience with ill-mannered hotel owners, Fawlty Towers is the result of a creative mind making the most of an unfortunate and amusing situation. Cleese plays the uptight and ever-belligerent Basil Fawlty, who is a caricature of a hotel owner in Cleese’s experience as the patron of a Torquay hotel while traveling to film Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The show ran from 1975-79 but ranks high on any list of acclaimed comedy.
Fawlty Towers owner Basil Fawlty is a miserable soul, anguished by his perceived ineptitude of Manuel (his poor bellman, who’s just come from Spain and can barely speak intelligible English) and the antics of his wife and “ridiculous and uncouth” guests. In reality, they’re all normal and Basil borders on maniacal. There is a sort of reverie in the nearest to normal character, Polly, the chambermaid and waitress, who tempts the possibility of becoming a full-time artist, but she too often restores sanity to Fawlty Towers on an hourly basis to ever leave.
This festival of self-inflicted chaos is absolutely politically incorrect, so no pansies or easily offended allowed in the audience. It’s good ol’ quirky British humor. It’s a field day of misunderstandings, as well; Basil pretends to forget his anniversary to play a joke on his wife, so she ends up leaving; Manuel spends a whole episode thinking his rat (also named Basil) has been used in the day’s soup; and Basil hires incompetent builders who close off whole rooms and put doors where they are not needed; Basil comes up with a flashcard system to tell Manuel what to do; and Sybil is the only one who can competently run the reputable hotel without the others. It’s terribly topsy-turvy and nothing’s ever logical in the mind of Basil.
Anyone who smells of annoyance (especially Germans and undercover hotel inspectors), Basil ponders kicking out on the basis of the room being already booked and often quickly regrets his rudeness due to embarrassment or for the sake of the hotel’s reputation, but his general lack of courtesy is renewed with each episode. All 12 episodes are split into 2 seasons and are available on Netflix.
Available on Netflix
Time Commitment: 2 Seasons
Why It’s Worth the Binge: John Cleese in his natural habitat; British humor; blend of lovable characters; memorable minor characters