Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 18:00 UK

Cleese rules out return of Fawlty

Prunella Scales, John Cleese, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs
It is the first time the four main characters have been together in 30 years

By Liam Allen
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

The Fawlty Towers cast will never make another episode because they are "too old and tired", John Cleese has said.

The 69-year-old said "everyone would be excited if we did" but that the "bar has moved so high" that a remake would be "good but not very good".

He spoke as he, Prunella Scales, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs reunited for the first time in 30 years to promote a documentary for TV channel GOLD.

Only 12 episodes of the 1970s sitcom about a grumpy hotelier were made.

The reunited cast of Fawlty Towers on the show's success

Last month, the BBC sitcom was named the most iconic TV comedy show of all time in an online survey for MSN Entertainment.

Cleese, who wrote the tales of Basil Fawlty with ex-wife and co-star Booth, said he had to work for 43 weeks - "writing, performing and filming" - to make each of the two series.

Cleese said: "It took so much energy to do that show.

"I think everyone would be excited if we did it [a new series].

"The problem is, when you do do something that is generally accepted as being very good, a horrible problem arises which is, how do you top it?

John Cleese, as Basil Fawlty, and Connie Booth, as Polly
We both felt we'd done our best and we just knew that, if we did it, it wouldn't be as good
John Cleese on his and Connie Booth's decision to stop writing

"The expectation of what you will do is so high."

Cleese and Booth - who played waitress Polly Sherman - had taken the decision jointly to stop at two series, he said.

"We both felt we'd done our best and we just knew that, if we did it, it wouldn't be as good. It would be good but not very good."

Cleese said it took the pair six weeks to write the script for each half-hour episode of the BBC sitcom, which usually ran to 140 pages - compared with the "average sitcom's 65 pages".

He said that, in modern comedy: "I don't think the writers work as hard as they used to and I think they may lack experience because I don't think the writing is as good as it used to be.

"But I do proudly say that, in the 60s, 70s and 80s, we did have the least bad television in the world and that's quite a claim."

John Cleese on farce

Scales, 76, who played Fawlty's wife Sybil, said Cleese and Booth had been under huge pressure to write more.

"But I think they'd expiated that anger about service in hotels," she said.

"They'd written about 12 aspects of hotel management, very brilliantly and they were under enormous pressure to do more but they refused - they just wanted to leave it there and I respect that very much."

Sachs, 79, said that, when recording Fawlty Towers, "we only had one go with the audience".

Prunella Scales as Sybil Fawlty and John Cleese as Basil Fawlty
Basil and Sybil Fawlty are considered one of the great TV couples

"Regularly I'd come in and think, 'oh, let's do it again one time' and I often feel when I watch it, which isn't often, I'm usually shaking my head."

Fawlty Towers: Re-opened will appear on GOLD on Sunday 10 May at 2100 BST. Fawlty Exclusive: Basil's Best Bits will appear on the channel on Sunday 17 May at 2100.

Print Sponsor

Actor Sachs thanks Ross and Brand
02 May 09 |  Entertainment
Sachs to join Coronation Street
05 Jan 09 |  Entertainment
Weston not so super says Cleese
22 Jul 08 |  Bristol


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific