Your need-to-know guide to television’s greatest sitcom – and get tickets for a live ‘Faulty Towers’ experience inspired by the comedy classic
It’s been 38 years since BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers bowed out, but fans of the show can relive the hijinks with a new interactive production where you, the audience, are the diners. Refresh your memory and your funny bone with our list of Fawlty Towers facts...
1. There weren’t as many episodes as you think
Amazingly, there were only 12 episodes ever produced. Though from the amount of times they’ve been repeated, it seems like there are three times as many. John Cleese decided that enough was enough after just two series of six episodes.
2. Basil Fawlty was based on a real person
John Cleese first encountered Donald Sinclair when the Monty Python team were staying at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay. During their stay, Sinclair lambasted American Terry Gilliam's table etiquette and chucked Eric Idle's briefcase out of a window because he thought it contained a bomb. Cleese called him "the rudest man I've ever come across in my life”.
3. It’s been remade various times
There have been a number of foreign adaptations of Fawlty Towers, though none have matched the success and acclaim of the original. There was even one that recast Basil as a woman– retitled Amanda’s.
4. Basil Fawlty first appeared on a different show
A prototype version of Basil Fawlty was road-tested by John Cleese in an episode of the ITV sitcom Doctor at Large in 1971. ‘No Ill Feeling’, written by Cleese and fellow Python Graham Chapman, featured an aggressive and incompetent hotel manager played by Timothy Bateson. Obviously the idea stuck....
5. The Major had a very famous best friend
Ballard Berkeley, who played the lovably dotty Major Gowen, was 71 when Fawlty Towers made him a star. Yet he’d been acting for over half a century before that, and was close friends with Hollywood legend Cary Grant, even sharing a flat with the Bristol-born actor.
6. Basil was revived for a TV ad
In 2016, John Cleese reprised his role as Basil in TV advert for Specsavers, paying tribute to one of Fawlty Towers’ most famous scenes. You can watch it below:
7. John Cleese and Andrew Sach reunited in 2008...
...As a much older Basil and Manuel in a short sketch for We Are Most Amused at the New Wimbledon Theatre. Check it out here:
8. Andrew Sachs once recorded a novelty single
Andrew Sachs once recorded, in character as Manuel, a cover version of Joe Dolce’s 1980 novelty hit, Shaddap You Face. It wasn’t a hit.
9. The BFI loves it
The BFI (British Film Institute) drew up a list, with the help of industry professionals, of the best British television series of all-time. Fawlty Towers came first.
10. The real Fawlty Towers burned down
The building used as the exterior (the interiors were all recorded at BBC Television Centre in London) wasn’t actually a hotel at all, but a golf club in Buckinghamshire. Sadly, Wooburn Grange Country Club burned down in 1991 and was demolished soon after.
11. Connie Booth is now a psychotherapist
Connie Booth’s contribution to Fawlty Towers is often overlooked. Apart from playing Polly, she was the co-writer, alongside her then-spouse John Cleese, of all 12 episodes. She ended her acting career in 1995 when she qualified as a psychotherapist and is now married to the writer John Lahr (whose father, fact fans, played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz).
12. Some in the BBC didn’t like the show
Writing in his book Fawlty Towers: The Story of Britain's Favourite Sitcom, author Graham McCann described how some BBC executives weren’t too enthusiastic about the show:
“Several producers who had gained a glimpse of a script had pronounced themselves distinctly underwhelmed by the quality of its contents (‘Oh dear,’ one of them had been overheard lamenting about John Cleese in the BBC bar, ‘Why did he ever leave Monty Python?’). One executive had gone so far as to distribute a memo complaining: ‘This is a very boring situation and the script has nothing but very clichéd characters. I cannot see anything but a disaster if we go ahead with it.’”
13. Each series of six took 42 weeks to produce
Cleese has said that each script took six weeks to write, five days to rehearse and one evening to record in the studio – that’s a total of 42 weeks to produce each series of six episodes.
14. Andrew Sach was injured during one episode
In the episode ‘The Germans’, the script included a scene where Manuel starts a fire in the kitchen. Andrew Sachs’ jacket had been sprayed with chemicals beforehand, in order to keep the fire from reaching his skin, only it didn’t work and Sachs ended up with second degree burns. "I did get £750 compensation though,” he recalled years later.
15. TV’s original Poldark is in the very first episode
Remember the undercover cop in the first episode in 1975, the one who ends up nabbing the con man Lord Melbury? That’s Robin Ellis who found fame that same year as Ross Poldark in the BBC’s first adaptation of Winston Graham’s books. If you’ve never seen the original, you may know him as Reverend Halse in the BBC’s new adaptation of Poldark, alongside Aidan Turner.
Find out about the Faulty Towers The Dining Experience here and save money on tickets if you’re a Boundless member