Where do you start with an actor like John Cleese? He is one of the funniest actors in the world. The way that he portrays his characters cannot be repeated by others. He first came to fame with Monty Python and their sketch comedy shows and series of movies that followed.
But one other TV show that he is famous for creating is Fawlty Towers. And his character of Basil Fawlty is the brilliance of what makes the shows so popular. Basil is the owner of the hotel in Torquay, and his need to keep the look of an upper class posh hotel, over running the hotel to standards comes into question every episode.
So Basil takes this opportunity to class the place up a bit, without his wife nagging him. He brings out his usual slap-stick and idiotic comedic style with the aid of Manuel (Andrew Sachs), who struggles with the language of English. Even though he is virtually incompetent at running a hotel, he is still in the process of trying to get things done. And in this episode, Sybil keeps calling Basil to make sure that everything that is done on time.
Sybil continues to nag Basil through the phone when it’s time to test the fire alarm.
This scene’s slap stick comedy between Basil and Manuel is laugh out loud. Basil continues to assure things are going good, and trying to keep the guests calm. This draws back to Basil’s need to control every situation he is in.
This is when the Germans come into the story line. Basil is a proud English businessman. He cannot stand the Germans, and this is evident. As stated, Basil believes his hotel is an upper class hotel. So it would be appropriate not to mention the war. Of course this doesn’t happen. Of course he is going to mention the war.
One of Basil Fawlty’s main characteristics is his need to rage at everything, usually waving his face around in anger. This is seen heavily throughout the episode.
Another character that plays a major part in this episode is Manuel. From the standards of Basil, he is dumb, as he does not understand English. But he is just a hard worker, trying to make a life in England.
The episode is famous for a few quotes that are very identifiable of the characters who say them.
I speak the English; I learn it from a book.
‘I speak the English; I learn it from a book’. This quote is said by Manuel when cleaning the front desk. This shows Manuel trying to learn the language, but also struggling to do so. As the Major comes in and confuses Manuel for the moose head, the comedy arises when moose head seems to have a conversation with the Major.
Basil’s interaction with the German family that arrive at the hotel is full of humour as we see him struggle to understand that he is making a bigger mess of it. His attempts not to mention the Second World War just go to show how insensitive he can be towards guests. And he continues to do with lines such as ‘Don’t mention the war. I mentioned it once, and I think I got away with it’, and he then going to blame the Germans for start the war.
Don’t mention the war. I mentioned it once, and I think I got away with it
– Basil Fawlty
Basil doesn’t help himself, by trying to clarify what he is saying. Only making things worse than they already. From his point of view, he believes that if he clarifies what he is saying that people will understand. But the world does not work like that.
Fawlty Towers is an all time classic with memorable characters that are very distinct in their own ways. John Cleese is a comedic genius, and I cannot believe there is only 12 episodes of this.