John Cleese’s iconic sitcom Fawlty Towers returns to television screens in a highly anticipated reboot.
The comedy originally won a whole host of fans when it first hit screens in 1975, following the unfortunate exploits of highly strung Torquay hotelier Basil.
The sitcom ran for two series, each consisting of 12 episodes, until 1979 and saw Cleese’s character Basil constantly berated by his wife Sybil, played by Prunella Scales, as they tried to keep their hotel in Torquay afloat – as well as their marriage.
But despite its popularity, writing the new series could prove to be an arduous task, with many fearing the original’s slapstick humor won’t impress 21st century audiences.
And many of the jokes that proved a hit with fans of the show more than four decades ago are now unlikely to get the go-ahead from TV chefs.
Fawlty Towers originally won a slew of fans when it first hit screens in 1975. Pictured: Basil and Sybil
Below, MailOnline took a look at just a few of the scenes and interactions that Cleese probably won’t get away with this time around.
Major refers to former soldier as a ‘pansy’
Major Gowen discusses his plans to attend a memorial service for a former military colleague and discusses why he is dressed in a brightly colored necktie instead of the traditional black ensemble.
Major, a senile former soldier played by Ballard Berkeley, responds by telling Basil that he didn’t like the man.
Major Gowen (pictured) is a senile former soldier who is played by Ballard Berkeley on the popular sitcom
He says, ‘Oh, I didn’t like that guy. One of those – you know what I mean?’ before using the pejorative term to describe his former colleague.
In March 2021, the BBC announced it would be removing racist and homophobic comments from Major amid plans to rebroadcast the show.
“There’s another one who sniffed it in the night”
After the death of a guest in his sleep at the hotel, Basil worries that the cause was some aging tippers.
As a result, he tries to dispose of the man’s body without warning the other hotel guests.
He does this by hiding in wardrobes, laundry baskets and even behind a coat rack.
In the midst of the chaos, Basil says, “Oh, there’s another one who sniffed it last night.” Another name in the Fawlty Towers Book of Remembrance.”
The scene should probably come with a trigger warning today.
Cleese is said to have based the story on a friend’s anecdote in which they remembered having to discreetly remove a corpse from the Savoy in London.
Goose steps Basil and ‘don’t mention the war’
While his wife Sybil is in hospital for treatment for an ingrown toenail, Basil is left alone to welcome some German guests to the hotel.
Despite staff warnings to ‘don’t mention the war’, Basil himself repeatedly refers to it in front of diners in the dining room.
In response to a food order, he mocks the Germans by saying, “Hors d’oeuvres, which must be followed, beyond any doubt.”
Asked to stop talking about the war, Basil tells the guests that they “started it.”
When the Germans refute his claim, Cleese’s character replies, “Yes, you did, you invaded Poland.”
Constant mockery of Manuel’s accent
Manuel, a Spanish waiter at the hotel, played by German-born British actor Andrew Sachs, is often the target of both physical and verbal abuse due to his limited English.
Such repeated insults and insults to the waiter are unlikely to get past TV chefs today.
Manuel, a Spanish waiter at the hotel, played by German-born British actor Andrew Sachs, is often the target of both physical and verbal abuse
On one occasion, a delivery driver refers to Manuel as a dago, an insulting term to describe a Spanish-speaking person.
Polly, arguably the show’s most tolerant character, also calls him a “dago dodo.”
Basil and the Black Doctor
Basil visits his wife in the hospital while an ingrown toenail is being removed and cringes when approached by a black doctor.
Leaving Sybil’s hospital room, the doctor greets Basil by his last name: “Mr Fawlty.”
But Basil backs up to the door before the medic, played by Gambian-born actor Louis Mahoney, explains the simple procedure she will undergo.
Majors racist diatribe about cricketers
A conversation about women with Basil makes Major remember how he once took a companion to ‘India’, though only to watch them play in a cricket match at the Oval, South London.
But he remembers his companion calling the Indian cricketers ‘n****s’. He then says he corrected the woman by saying, ‘No, no, no,’ I said, ‘the n****s are the West Indians. These people are w**s.”‘
He continues that the woman went to the toilet and never came back, having also stolen his wallet.
The episode was subsequently removed by the BBC, although Cleese labeled the decision as ‘stupid’.
He said the show mocked the Major’s use of the “n-word,” adding, “We didn’t support his views, we laughed at them.”
Basil accidentally gropes a guest while fixing the light
While Basil tries to fix a lamp in a bathroom, an Australian guest leans against the rack in the adjoining room.
It’s all innocent and normal enough, until Basil tries to reach around the door for the light switch and grabs her chest instead.
To make matters worse, his wife walks in, clearly unimpressed.
It’s all innocent and normal enough, until Basil tries to reach around the door for the light switch and grabs her chest instead
Sybil says, “One piece of advice. If you’re going to grope a girl, have the courage to stay in the room with her.”
Later in the same episode, Basil investigates after becoming suspicious that a male guest is smuggling a woman into his room every night.
The suspicions lead to Basil hiding in a closet before jumping out to catch them in the act, but it’s the same Australian dude.
While intended to be innocent, the scene would understandably be perceived differently in the 21st century.
‘You need a plastic surgeon, not a doctor’
After hitting his head, Basil looks worse when he wakes up in a hospital bed with a bandage wrapped around his forehead.
He is in a hurry to get back to the hotel, despite his wife’s protests, but is then also confronted by a nurse.
Basil says to her, “Don’t touch me, I don’t know where you’ve been.” My god, you’re ugly, aren’t you?’
When the nurse replies that she’s going to get a doctor, he replies, “You need a plastic surgeon, honey, not a doctor.”
Basil’s ‘cloth ears bint’ insult to the staff
Basil is always at odds with his wife Sybil throughout the sitcom, to the extent that he often rants about her to Manuel and Polly.
Basil is often verbally and physically abused by Manuel, but in one scene he also calls Polly a “dust earbint” – a derogatory term used to refer to a woman.
During another interaction with his wife, Sybil labels Basil “my little piranha fish.”
Sybil’s run-in with a ‘half-hearted fat Irish joke’
Basil tries to convince an Irish contractor to break through a gap, but is met with resistance when O’Reilly says his men don’t work on Sundays.
But his response is met with anger from Sybil, who tells him he “belongs in a zoo.”
She adds, “He’s nothing but a half-hearted fat Irish joke!”
And when O’Reilly says he’ll do a lousy job, she says, “I’ve seen more intelligent creatures than you lying on their backs at the bottom of ponds.”
“I’ve seen more organized creatures run about barnyards with their heads severed.”