Which really quite rude phrase was the only full anagram of Fawlty Towers as shown in the titles of the seminal seventies sitcom? It was used in the last but one episode (i.e. the eleventh – this show was all about quality and not quantity), The Anniversary. All of the anagrams used in the title sequences of other episodes were only partial anagrams; that is they didn’t use up all of the letters. So although Flay Otters and Watery Fowls are all well and good, they only use some of the letters – to paraphrase Eric Morecambe, ‘they’ve used some of the letters, but not necessarily in the right order.’
But what of Fawlty Towers itself? It’s reasonably well known, I suppose, that the Monty Python gang were down in Torquay for a film shoot and were staying in the Gleneagles Hotel in the town. Eventually all of the other members of the cast and crew moved out, but John Cleese was so taken by the behaviour of the owner-manager of the Gleneagles, one Donald Sinclair, that he and his wife Connie Booth stayed put. Of course what they witnessed there (or claimed to have witnessed) has now become legend in the 12 half hour episodes that make up the entire Fawlty Towers canon.
As well as writing the series, Cleese and Booth took two of the starring roles in Fawlty Towers, Basil Fawlty (the hotel’s proprietor) and Polly Sherman (maid and of course so much more). Prunella Scales took the role of Sybil, Basil’s wife – a strange mix of a woman, at times domineering, but at the same time long suffering. The fourth and final lead role was that of Manuel, the Fawlty’s Spanish waiter. This was taken by the German born British actor Andrew Sachs. Using his own experience of learning English as a second language enabled Sachs to bring a real sense of Manuel’s vulnerability as a young man struggling to understand what on earth was going on in this most dysfunctional of locations.
But what of the episodes themselves? Well, as I have already mentioned and as is probably very well known, there were only ever twelve episodes of Fawlty Towers. They were shown on a weekly basis on BBC2 in two series of six episodes. The first ran from 19 September until 24 October 1975. The second ran from 19 February to 19 March 1979 with the sixth and final episode postponed until 25 October of that year due to a strike at the BBC. The first series gave us the delights of A Touch of Class; The Builders; The Wedding Party; The Hotel Inspectors; Gourmet Night and of course, The Germans. Series 2 contained Communication Problems; The Psychiatrist; Waldorf Salad; The Kipper and the Corpse; The Anniversary and last but by no means least, Basil the Rat. The best one for me has to be The Germans, a little clichéd perhaps (on my part) but what the heck, they’re all brilliant and one should really have to choose a favourite.