Fawlty Towers/Season One
Season One (1975) of Fawlty Towers was conceived during a break John Cleese took from Monty Python's Flying Circus. Cleese did not appear in the fourth and final season of that series, partly because he felt it was taking his time and attention away from his wife, Connie Booth, who was a very talented and funny performer and person in her own right. So he told Jimmy Gilbert, then Director of Light Entertainment at the BBC, he wanted to work with her, and Gilbert agreed.
While filming episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus in the English seaside resort town of Torquay, Cleese and Booth had come in contact with Donald Sinclair, the owner of a hotel called the Gleneagles. Cleese has called Sinclair "the rudest man I have ever met. He was wonderful." Cleese had previously written Sinclair and his wife in as secondary characters in Doctor at Large, and producer Humphrey Barclay reportedly told Cleese, "There's a series in those two." Now with Booth, Cleese set out to make that series.
They recruited John Howard Davies, who had previously worked on Monty Python's Flying Circus, as producer and director. Andrew Sachs, a respected stage comedy actor, had worked with Cleese at his company Video Arts, which produced business training films and industrials. And Davies suggested Prunella Scales, who had gained his attention a decade earlier with her work on the series Marriage Lines.
The first season was built heavily on the tradition of the farce. The show was paced according to television, not to live performance as TV shows were paced at the time, due to the fact that they were filmed in front of audiences. The difference being that live performances pause for laughter, but Fawlty Towers kept moving to allow the next line to be picked up by microphones. As a result, the pace is much faster than most TV shows of that era—particularly British shows of that era. Cleese and Booth also sweated over the scripts, carefully plotting each one out before writing the dialogue.
The initial critical response was lukewarm at best. A review from the Daily Mirror at the time was headlined: "Long John, Short on Jokes." Audience reaction was also flat. The first few episodes aired with very little fanfare and very little attention. A famous BBC memo from the time—now framed and on display in the BBC offices—predicted Cleese's new series "a disaster," doomed to failure. They didn't like the claustrophobic set, they found the characters "clichéd," and worst of all, while Monty Python's Flying Circus was, in Cleese's words "a comedy of ideas," Fawlty Towers was "a comedy of emotion."
But as the first season progressed, the "comedy of emotion" proved to be an asset, not a liability. A wider audience than what Monty Python's Flying Circus had was able to relate to the comedy, and the show garnered more fans with each week. By the time the series was broadcast a second time, audience reaction had changed to become very, very positive, and the BBC realized just what a hit it had on its hands. When it was released internationally, people from all around the world came to know and fall in love with the characters. A cult legend had been born.
|1||1||A Touch of Class||September 19, 1975|
|2||2||The Builders||September 26, 1975|
|3||3||The Wedding Party||October 3, 1975|
|4||4||Hotel Inspectors||October 10, 1975|
|5||5||Gourmet Night||October 17, 1975|
|6||6||The Germans||October 24, 1975|