Watery Fowls, Farty Towels, Fatty Owls, Flowery Twats


Watery Fowls, Farty Towels, Flowery Twats, call it what you will – the good news for Fawlty Towers fans is that not only can they still record the trail-blazing series on UKTV on Tuesday mornings, they can now buy a new, digitally remastered set of DVDs featuring all 12 episodes plus interviews with the main characters.

It’s hard to believe the 30th anniversary of the final episode Basil the Rat rolls around on Sunday.

As Prunella Scales, who played Basil Fawlty’s feisty wife Sybil, told reporters last week, the days of Polly, Manuel and company feel much more recent than that. Perhaps it’s a sign that quality TV never really ages, it simply matures.

Certainly the original cast has matured. Co-writer John Cleese, 69, is touring again, apparently to finance the divorce of his third wife.

Scales, 77, is still involved in the theatre, and Cleese’s first wife and co-writer Connie Booth, who played waitress Polly, is now a psycho­analyst in London and refuses to have anything to do with the show.

As for Andrew Sachs, who played the most maligned character, the bumbling Spanish waiter Manuel, he’s now 79 and still accepting guest roles.

It’s a wonder Sachs lived long enough to tell the story.

Cleese once knocked him out with a frying pan during screening of The Wedding Party episode and he later suffered severe burns during the fire scene in The Germans.

The biggest success of Fawlty Towers? Without doubt its ability to endure. Thirty years on, it still seems to have the power to reduce each new generation to hysterics.

It was no different when my two 20-somethings first watched it. They were left helpless with laughter, rocking in the foetal position. They hadn’t laughed as much since Sensing Murder.

Everyone has their favourite episode. Some will point to The Builders, featuring the O’Reilly family as dodgy tradesmen, others will prefer Communication Problems in which the fractious, deaf old bat Mrs Richards starred.

The Kipper and the corpse, Basil the Rat and Waldorf Salad will all have their supporters as well.

Pressed to single one out, I’d struggle to go past The Germans, in which a concussed Basil offends a group of Teutonic guests, leading to the line that has since become immortalised in households and pubs throughout the world: “Don’t mention the war”.

For those with fading memories, one of the most memorable exchanges went something like this:

Basil: Don’t mention the war. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it. So it’s all forgotten now and let’s hear no more about it.

So that’s two egg mayonnaise, a prawn Goebbels, a Herman Goering and four Colditz salads….no, wait a minute…I got confused because everyone keeps mentioning the war.

German: Will you stop mentioning the war?

Basil: You started it.

German: We did not start it.

Basil: Yes you did, you invaded Poland…

The best thing about good TV? Luckily for us it never dies – it just gets digitally remastered.