Fawlty Towers fury: How TV producers ‘wrote Basil out’

FAWLTY TOWERS writer and star John Cleese revealed that TV show producers tried to phase out his notorious hotelier Basil Fawlty in a proposed adaptation of the once popular show.

At one point, Fawlty Towers was considered one of the finest shows to feature on the BBC. It centred around Basil Fawlty, played by John Cleese, who was known as the worlds worst hotelier due to his penchant for humiliating and enraging guests. This week, the show has come under fire for racial slurs that featured in the episode The Germans, which led to it being “temporarily” removed by UKTVs streaming service. John defended the show and blasted the move as “stupid”, despite backlash from a US and UK movement to eradicate all forms of perceived racism and symbols related to the mistreatment of people of colour. The comedian revealed that this isnt the first time people have tried to censor his popular show in unearthed accounts and stated that US producers planned to scrap his character altogether.

John Cleese and his wife-of-the-time Connie Booth, who played the maid in the popular BBC show, co-wrote Fawlty Towers and submitted the shows pilot back in 1974.

Despite producers doubts about the script, poor viewing figures and media reviews claiming it wasnt funny, the sitcom would become a national success in later years.

John likened the uncertainty to that experienced when Monty Python sketches aired for the first time, which he believed was due to them being ahead of their time.

But by the end of series two in 1979, audiences were hungry for more episodes and longed for another instalment.

Despite the demand for more than the 12 episodes that had already been released, John refused to write more because he feared it wouldnt live up to expectation.

In the documentary Fawlty Towers: Reopened, which aired on G.O.L.D in 2009, he said: “We just knew that if we made more, it wouldnt be as good.

“When you do something that is generally accepted as very good, how do you top it?”

While there was no intention of rebooting the series, John flirted with the idea of a one-off special where Basil and wife Sybil, played by Prunella Scales, travelled abroad.

The plot would follow their journey to Spain to visit their “useless” and relentlessly ridiculed waiter Manuel, who Andrew Sachs portrayed in the series.

He envisaged the plane being hijacked mid-flight and for Basil to become so enraged at the thought of having to return to London‘s Heathrow Airport that he stepped in and hijacked the plane himself.

While the concept never took off, producers in the US planned to adapt the programme themselves but with one big change.

In one of the two prospective shows, John recalled his shock upon being told that they had “written Basil out”.

They both fell through but John claimed the hit US sitcom Cheers was born instead – a sitcom based on a similar idea except for it being set in a bar in Boston, Massachusetts.

John claims to barely watch TV today because he believes the “golden age” of British comedy is long gone.

He vented: “I dont think the writers work as hard as they used to, and I think they may lack experience, because the writing isnt as good.

“I do proudly claim that in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties we had the least bad television in the world. I dont think thats true any more.”

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