Television Revision: Fawlty Towers – Season 2

Television Revision: Fawlty Towers – Season 2Starring John CleesePrunella Scales, and Andrew Sachs. Rated PG. By Andrew Williams.

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Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).

Now, this is a story all about how Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) is still managing the world’s worst hotel; sniping at his wife (Prunella Scales) and physically abusing his Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs). Another year of guests provides no relief whatsoever.

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Happy days? No-one would have blamed writers John Cleese and Connie Booth if the second season of Fawlty Towers hadn’t lived up to the first; it was three-and-a-half years between the two seasons and the husband and wife writing team hadn’t been husband and wife for about a year. Luckily for them (and, more importantly, for us) divorce proved no barrier whatsoever to their genius. Season Two of Fawlty Towers is fantastic; stuffed full of withering ripostes, ingenious slapstick, and dark, farcical plots.

I imagine one reason Fawlty Towers has remained so incredibly popular is that the series contains only the barest hint of serialisation. You could pick any episode from the entire twelve-episode run and be almost guaranteed a classic; there’s no need to start at the top, or jump in after a few lacklustre early episodes. Cleese, Booth, Scales, and Sachs simply pick up where they left off and were all the better for it.

The final frontier: The sequel is just as good as the original: it’s an all-time classic.

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Top three episodes: 1) Communication Problems. All Basil wants to do is have a bet on a horse without Sybil knowing about it, but a hard-of-hearing guest, a hard-of-comprehending Manuel, and circumstance conspire brilliantly against him. 4) The Kipper and the Corpse. A hilarious episode features some of the series’ blackest humour and a superbly dry guest turn by Geoffrey Palmer. 6) Basil the Rat. Fawlty Towers closes out the series with a wonderfully titled episode to savour.

Worst episode: 5) The Anniversary. I’m splitting hairs, but the most frustrating Fawlty Towers episodes tend to be the ones predicated on Basil acting like a complete and utter moron; on this occasion he goes to such ridiculous levels to cover up something that could have been easily explained and understood, it’s hard to really invest.

Season MVP: Andrew Sachs plays possibly the most controversial character on Fawlty Towers, what with the physical abuse and line-skirting references to his nationality, but he plays him expertly. Once you’ve laughed yourself silly on the first watch, check out Fawlty Towers again and observe the level of physical commitment he brings to every scene: not just in the big moments, but the small ones as well. He’s outstanding.

5/5

Fawlty Towers – Season 2 is available on DVD. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix PLAY.

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