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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What if ‘Fawlty Towers’ didn’t exist?

John Cleese has revealed that the BBC thought that the script for the first episode of Fawlty Towers — written by Cleese and his then-wife, Connie Booth (who played Polly on the show) was so “dire” that the show would be a disaster. Quoted in the Times of London, Cleese says:

What happened was, Connie and I wrote that first episode and we sent it in to Jimmy Gilbert.

The fellow whose job it was to assess the quality of the writing said, and I can quote it fairly accurately, ’This is full of clichéd situations and stereotypical characters and I cannot see it as being anything other than a disaster’.

And Jimmy himself said ’You’re going to have to get them out of the hotel, John, you can’t do the whole thing in the hotel’.

Whereas, of course, it’s in the hotel that the whole pressure cooker builds up.

What if Fawlty Towers didn’t exist? It seems to me that the series has been so influential, particularly by raising the bar on what sitcoms can do, that without it, we’d never have seen shows like Cheers or The Office. Would workplace comedies have developed on their own anyway? What else might we have lost if Fawlty Towers had never been produced?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)



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