Fawlty Towers. Image shows left to right: Basil Fawlty (John Cleese), Polly (Connie Booth). Credit: BBC
Comedy Classics: Fawlty Towers

Comedy Classics: Fawlty Towers

  • TV documentary
  • Channel 5
  • 2023
  • 1 episode

A celebratory documentary investigating the success of Fawlty Towers. Features Christopher Biggins, Hal Cruttenden, Michael Palin, Robert Ross, Robin Ince and more.

Fawlty Towers. Image shows from L to R: Sybil Fawlty (Prunella Scales), Basil Fawlty (John Cleese), Polly (Connie Booth), Manuel (Andrew Sachs). Copyright: BBC

Key details

Channel 5
Christopher Biggins, Hal Cruttenden, Michael Palin, Robert Ross, Robin Ince, Matthew Sweet, Emma Kennedy, Jeremy Vine and more
Sean Doherty, John Quinn, Mandy Pulling and Nigel Alred

Many shows lay claim to be the best TV comedy of all time, but surely Fawlty Towers was it. In just 12 episodes, across two series, four years apart, it set the bar for immortal characterisation, devilishly constructed plots, perfect casting, and some of the most iconic lines of comedy dialogue over uttered on screen.

But don't just take our word for it. The Radio Times asked a panel of comedy experts to select their favourite in 2019 and it topped their list of greatest British sitcoms. The BFI ranked it first on its list of Greatest British Television programmes in 2000. That's No 1 - of all UK shows ever made. And yet it nearly never happened.

John Cleese and then-wife Connie Booth were inspired to create Basil as far back as 1970, when the Monty Python group stayed in a Torquay hotel and were mesmerised by the rudeness of the owner - the couple even stayed on afterwards to conduct more research! But, crazily, for all their meticulous crafting, a BBC exec's response to the first sample episode was: "This is full of clich├ęd situations and stereotypical characters and I cannot see it as being anything other than a disaster."

Well, happily they gamely persevered, to give us myriad unforgettable moments - thrashing a car, insanity with Germans, losing a rat, hiding a corpse, insulting the real hotel inspector, accidentally stalking an Aussie, Old Major mistaking a moose's head for Manuel the waiter... and it was all utterly priceless.

In this 90-minute celebration, we tell the whole story, celebrate the show's phenomenal success and acclaim - and enjoy all its finest moments, with a host of fans and experts, as well as some of the supporting cast, for their take on what makes Fawlty Towers the classic comedy we all know and love.


Additional details

Also known as
  • Fawlty Towers: Funniest Moments And More
  • Fawlty Towers: Fifty Years Of Laughs (Billed title)

Broadcast details

First broadcast
Saturday 6th May 2023 at 9:15pm on Channel 5
Episode length
90 minutes
All previous repeats
  • Saturday 3rd February 2024 at 9:10pm on C5

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