Classic TV Moments: Fawlty Towers – The Germans


His head bandaged from an encounter with an exploding fire extinguisher, a near delirious Basil discharges himself from hospital where his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) is already staying.

Upon his return Basil encounters a group of German guests (Nick Lane, Lisa Bergmayr, Willy Bowman and Dan Gillan) who have just checked in and desperately tries to avoid offending them by mentioning the war, which he increasingly does until his lanky frame is finally seen goosestepping around the lobby.

This episode of Fawlty Towers, which was first broadcast on BBC2 in October 1975, is an example of cringe-making inhospitality at its worst. But it also looks at how people rein in deep rooted feelings. Basil says what others merely think, allowing all his, and the audience’s, darkest thoughts to escape.

It happened not only to the Germans but to all the other guests – the episode where he manhandled a beautiful blonde, leaving an inky hand print on her breast was funny because it was an accident, but also because it was what he dreamed of doing if only such behaviour was not frowned upon.

German guest: ‘Will you please stop talking about the war.’
Basil: ‘Me? You started it.’
Guest: ‘No we didn’t.’
Basil: ‘Yes you did, you invaded Poland.’