After his departure from Monty Python following the third series, John Cleese and his then-wife Connie Booth raised the bar for situation comedies immeasurably with Fawlty Towers. It was inspired by a stay the Pythons had at a hotel in Torquay called the Gleneagles. Its proprietor was a small man named Mr. Sinclair and Michael Palin noted in his journal that he viewed his guests as a “colossal inconvenience.”
He eventually became so rude (even thinking Eric Idle’s briefcase had a bomb in it) that the troupe decided to move to another hotel without staying a single night. However, this didn’t stop Mr. Sinclair’s large, domineering wife from threatening to bill the group for a two-week stay.
The memory of Mr. Sinclair stuck with Cleese and he used him to create the monstrous Basil Fawlty, the hotelier who certainly does see his guests as an inconvenience. Well, unless they happen to be of a certain social status that will add a luster to the reputation of Fawlty Towers.
Sadly, only twelve episodes were made, but here’s the inside scoop on all of them.
Series 1, Episode 1: A Touch of Class. Wanting desperately to add a little class to his hotel, Basil is ecstatic when one of his guests turns out to be “Lord ” Melbury. What Basil doesn’t realize is this man is a confidence trickster and guess who’s the latest victim? The sign says: Fawlty Towers.
Episode 2,The Builders: Basil’s desire to save some money on repairs by hiring cheap labor comes back to haunt him when the job is botched and he has to face the wrath of Sybil. The sign says: Fawlty Towers, with the L hanging down.
Episode 3, The Wedding Party: A young couple in town for their wedding cause Basil no end of worry about their alleged pre-marital impropriety. Basil gets on his usual high horse but ends up losing face when caught in a compromising situation with Manuel. The sign says: Farty Tower.
Episode 4, Hotel Inspectors: A visit from hotel inspectors puts Fawlty Towers – especially Basil – into an uproar. Basil thinks he knows who the inspector is (and it’s a man he’d been rude to), but is he the actual inspector or just a very demanding customer? The sign says: Fawty Tower.
Episode 5, Gourmet Night: A new chef has Basil hopeful that he can attract a better clientele with a special gourmet night. As usual, though, things go horribly wrong when the chef gets a crush on Manuel and then hits the bottle. The sign says: Warty Towels.
Episode 6, The Germans: Basil is left with sole care of Fawlty Towers when Sybil goes in to have her ingrown toenail removed. He not only has to deal with a group of Germans, but he also has to hang the moose head that eventually knocks Basil out and leaves him with delusions about the war. The sign is not shown at the beginning of this episode.
Series 2, Episode 1: Communications Problems. Basil is trying yet again to keep something from Sybil, and this time it’s his betting on the horses. Polly even tries to help him out, but Basil makes a big mistake when he entrusts his winnings to the absent-minded Major. Sybil finds out, of course, and Basil has some major ‘splaining to do. The sign says: Fawlty Tower, with the L hanging down.
Episode 2, The Psychiatrist: Guests at Fawlty Towers this episode include a psychiatrist who finds Basil a very interesting case study and a debonair man Basil believes is smuggling women up to his room. The sign says: Watery Fowls.
Episode 3, Waldorf Salad: Basil is forced to deal with the stereotyped pushy American tourist who wants dinner after the chef has gone home. Money speaks, however, but Basil tries desperately to keep this fact from Sybil and find the ingredients for a Waldorf salad. The sign says: Flay Otters.
Episode 4, The Kipper and the Corpse: After a guest passes away in his sleep, Basil panics because he thinks it’s due to the kippers the guest was served at breakfast. Not wanting to alarm the other guests, he tries valiantly to hide the body until it can be taken away. The sign says: Fatty Owls.
Episode 5, The Anniversary: Things go terribly awry when Basil tries to plan a surprise anniversary party for Sybil. She, of course, thinks he forgotten. The sign says: Flowery Twats.
Episode 6, Basil the Rat: Manuel wants to keep his beloved pet mouse (or is it a Siberian hamster?), but Basil knows the health inspector who’s coming to visit will have a very different view of this. The sign says: Farty Towels.
Basil Fawlty…John Cleese
Sybil Fawlty…Prunella Scales
The Major…Ballard Berkeley
Miss Tibbs…Gilly Flower
Miss Gatsby…Renee Roberts