Fawlty Towers/A Touch of Class

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A Touch of Class
I never thought I would live to see the day when a... a pier of the realm entrusts to us a case of valuables, in trust....
Season 1, Episode 1
Airdate September 19, 1975
Production Number
Written by John Cleese &
Connie Booth
Directed by John Howard Davies

N/A
1x02 →
The Builders
Fawlty TowersSeason One


A Touch of Class is the first episode of the first season of Fawlty Towers, and the first episode overall.

Guest Stars: Michael Gwynn (Lord Melbury), Robin Ellis (Danny Brown), Ballard Berkeley (Major Gowen), David Simeon (Mr Mackenzie), Martin Wyldeck (Sir Richard Morris), Terence Conoley (Mr Wareing), Lionel Wheeler (Mr Watson)

Contents

Plot Overview

Basil is having a busy day at Fawlty Towers—snapping at guests, receiving late newspapers, typing up lunch menus, serving breakfast. Sybil is not helping, but she harrasses him to hang a picture which has been sitting in the lobby for a week. When Basil tries to sneak away to eat breakfast, Sybil confronts him with an expensive advertisement he has placed in an upper class magazine. Basil says he is trying to attract "a higher class of clientele" so he can "turn away some of the riff-raff." He says it is working, as they have received a reservation for Sir Richard and Lady Morris.

Just then, Danny Brown—a single, brash, sports car-driving, young Cockney man—checks in, and Basil sizes him up as an example of the riff-raff. Compounding Basil's contempt, Brown speaks fluent Spanish to Manuel after Basil has fumbled through trying to ask Manuel to fetch Brown's bags.

At lunch, Brown tries to read the typo-ridden menu and flirts with Polly. He annoys Basil by confusing him for the waiter, but when Basil asks the real waiter, Manuel, for the wine list, he has difficulty making him understand. In frustration, Basil accidentally smacks Brown's grapefruit out of Polly's hand. He tells Manuel to "throw it away," so Manuel tosses the grapefruit onto the floor.

As Basil tries to serve Brown his wine, he is interrupted by the arrival of a new guest. At first, Basil is rude, but he makes a sharp 180 to fawning when he discovers the guest is Lord Melbury. Basil agrees to deposit a case of Melbury's valuables in the hotel safe. Later, in the middle of dinner, Basil moves the Wareing family to another table so he may give Melbury the window table. But when Melbury tries to sit, Basil accidentally pulls the chair out from under him.

After dinner, Melbury dismisses the incident and asks Basil to cash a £200 cheque. Polly heads into town to cash the cheque, where she runs into Brown, who is staking out Melbury at a jewelry store.

Back at Fawlty Towers, it is time to open the bar for cocktails. When Polly arrives, Basil is too busy to listen to her. The Wareings place their order, but Basil ignores them as soon as Melbury enters. Melbury admires Basil's collection of Old British Empire coins and offers to take them to have them appraised. Polly pulls Basil and Sybil aside and reveals Brown is with the CID, and he has told her Melbury is a con artist. Sybil opens Melbury's valuables and learns they are just bricks.

Shaken from the discovery, Basil attends to the two newly arrived guests, Sir Richard and Lady Morris. While they are in the lobby, Melbury enters. Basil at first taunts Melbury with sarcasm, but when he asks the Morrises, "Any valuables to deposit, Sir Richard? Any bricks or...?" Melbury realizes the jig is up and tries to flee. The police arrive and chase Melbury as Basil—still attending to the Morrises—shouts after him, "You BASTARD!" Polly and Manuel help corner Melbury so Basil can kick him and retrieve his money. The Morrises leave in a huff, so Basil shouts after them, "You snobs! You stupid, stuck-up, toffee-nosed, half-witted, upper class piles of pus!" He returns to hanging the picture, but when Mr. Wareing places his order for the fourth time, the fed up Basil smashes the picture and serves the Wareings.

Notes

The Sign

The sign outside Fawlty Towers is spelled out with a wider, more open font than in later episodes. It reads "FAWLTY TOWERS," and the S is drooping.

Arc Advancement

Happenings

Characters

  • Basil and Manuel: Basil says he hired Manuel because he was cheap, and because Basil claimed to speak Spanish (which he does not—or if he does, he speaks "classical Spanish, not that strange dialect he seems to have picked up"). The irony is the miserliness Basil shows in hiring the staff does not extend to trying to impress the upper class.
  • Polly: Polly is revealed to be an artist who has sold a few sketches for "enough to keep me in waitressing." In the original draft of the script, she was a philosophy student, but Cleese convinced Booth an art student would be stronger, and several minutes of film were re-shot. Polly's art plays a role in several episodes in the series, including 1x02 - The Builders.

Referbacks

Trivia

The Show

  • First Appearance: This is the first appearance of Major Gowen, one of the more notable standing guests at the hotel. It is also the first appearance of the newspaper boy. He is not a major character, but in 2x02 - The Psychiatrist, he is revealed as the one who rearranges the letters of the Fawlty Towers sign to spell out cheeky anagrams.
  • "Qué?": When Basil tells Manuel, "There is too much butter on those trays," Manuel replies, "Qué?" This is the first time in the series Manuel says this line—intended to show he does not understand what someone is saying. Manuel repeats this line so often in the series that it would become a catchphrase for him.
  • O'Reilly: Basil has a phone conversation with an inept builder named O'Reilly, who is not seen in this episode. He will be seen in the next episode, 1x02 - The Builders.
  • The Hanging Connection: Sybil nags Basil to hang up a picture, which he never does. The motif of Basil taking forever to hang something in the lobby is repeated in 1x06 - The Germans, in which Basil spends much of the first half of the episode failing to hang a moosehead.
  • "Basil!": While discussing with Basil and Polly Lord Melbury's true identity, Sybil says Basil's name in a short, sharp hiss as a rebuke to him, so sharp as to make him jump. Over the rest of this series, this becomes a catchphrase for Sybil.

Behind the Scenes

  • Location: The bank Polly exits when she is seen in town was a bank on Cookham High Street near Bourne End in 1975. It is still there, but it now houses a modelling shop, although the building is called "The Old Bank."
  • Same Actor, Different Characters: Terence Conoley appears in this episode as Mr. Wareing, a guest who is moved in the middle of his meal to accomodate Lord Melbury and later has to repeat his drink order several times at the bar. Conoley would return in the episode 2x03 - Waldorf Salad as Mr. Johnston, yet another guest who would receive shameful service at Fawlty Towers.

Allusions and References

  • Johannes Brahms: The music Basil listens to in his office is by the 19th-century Romantic German composer Johannes Brahms. Despite not being a romantic himself, Basil seems to have an attraction to Romantic composers. (See also: 1x03 - The Wedding Party and 2x05 - The Anniversary.)
  • Potato Famine: The Irish Potato Famine was caused by a fungal infection on the potato crops in Ireland from 1845 to 1849, and it devastated the country, as their primary food source was potatoes. Estimates of the death toll go as high as one million, and it was largely responsible for the mass exodus of Irish immigrants into Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the United States. Mr. O'Reilly—as his name implies, and as would be confirmed in 1x02 - The Builders—is Irish.
Basil: Yes, I should have guessed, Mr. O'Reilly, that and the Potato Famine, I suppose.
  • The CID: The Criminal Investigation Department is a division of the British police for plainclothes detectives.
Polly: Mr. Brown's from the CID. They've been watching Melbury because he's pulling some big con trick in the town.

Memorable Moments

  • Seeing Manuel walking out of the kitchen carrying three breakfast trays, Basil tells him "there is too much butter on those trays." When Manuel does not understand, Basil repeats, more slowly, "There is too much butter on... those... trays." Correcting him, Manuel says, "Not 'on those trays.' Uno, dos, tres."
  • Basil finds Lord Melbury's "valuables"—bricks.
  • Basil switches back and forth between serving Sir Richard and Lady Morris and screaming epithets at Melbury.

Quotes

  • Basil: Manuel!
    Manuel: Sí, señor?
    Basil: There is too much butter on those trays.
    Manuel: Qué?
  • Sybil: You would've had them both done by now if you hadn't spent the whole morning skulking in there listening to that racket.
    Basil: Racket?! That's Brahms! Brahms' Third Racket!
  • Basil: (On the phone.) Ah, yes, Mr. O'Reilly, well it's perfectly simple. Ah, when I asked you to build me a wall, I was rather hoping that instead of just, ah, dumping the bricks in a pile, you might've found time to cement them together. You know, one on top of the other in the traditional fashion.
  • Basil: Hello, dear. (Kisses Sybil on the cheek.)
    Sybil: What you doing?
    Basil: I'm kissing you, dear.
    Sybil: Well, don't.
  • Sybil: Basil!
  • Basil: You BASTARD!