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Tuesday, February 17, 1998 Published at 19:46 GMT


Fawlty Towers goes west
image: [ Where the action took place ]
Where the action took place

Fawlty Towers, the classic British TV comedy series, is to be remade for American television.

A spokesman for John Cleese, the ex-Monty Python star who co-wrote the cult sitcom with his former wife Connie Booth, confirmed that a "changed format deal" has been agreed with CBS though he said nothing has yet been written.

A changed format arrangement means that the 'theme' of the show is purchased. CBS will be free to write their own scripts and characters. The same has been done with other hit shows like Absolutely Fabulous, One Foot in the Grave and Cracker.

It is not the first time the evergreen hotel-based comedy has tried to cross the Atlantic. The format was sold to the United States in the 1980s, eventually appearing as Amanda By The Sea, but the American version did not inspire the huge popularity enjoyed by the original Fawlty Towers among British audiences.

John Cleese came up with the idea for the show after spending a night in a Torquay hotel with his colleagues in the Monty Python team. The owner of the hotel, described by John Cleese as "wonderfully rude", complained about Terry Gilliam's manners and threw Eric Idle's briefcase into the street, believing that it contained a bomb.

The incident inspired an episode of an earlier comedy series in 1973 but it was another two years before it appeared as Fawlty Towers. The series was first screened in 1975 and won British Academy of Film and Television Awards for best comedy series in 1975 and 1979.

[ image: Basil and Sybil in full flow]
Basil and Sybil in full flow
John Cleese played the repressed and hen-pecked hotelier Basil Fawlty, Prunella Scales played his domineering wife Sybil, Connie Booth was cast as the maid, and Andrew Sachs played the inept waiter who was most often the focus of Basil's wrath.

Only 12 episodes of the often-repeated series were ever made but some of the catchphrases and sketches have become part of British popular culture.

Fawlty Towers may appear to be a perfect example of zany British humour but the series has enjoyed enormous success outside the UK and has been shown in more than 60 countries.

It spawned some unforgettable sketches and catchphrases including 'He's from Barcelona', 'Don't mention the war' and 'They're vermin Fawlty'.

Some of the most memorable moments include Basil Fawlty thrashing his car with a branch after it refuses to start, the efforts to hide Manuel's rat from the guests and Fawlty asking what view a dissatisfied guest expected from a Torquay hotel window - he suggests the hanging gardens of Babylon or herds of wildebeest.

Another source of amusement were the partial anagrams in the opening titles of every episode. Among others, Fawlty Towers was corrupted into watery fowls and farty towels.

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Internet Links

BBC's Fawlty Towers site

Fawlty Towers Episode Guide

Art LaVigne's Fawlty Towers Page

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