Legendary comedian John Cleese is bringing back one of the funniest sitcoms in the history of the BBC — “Fawlty Towers” — but he says he won’t allow the network to air it because they’ve become too politically correct for the likes of Basil Fawlty.
In a Thursday interview with host Dan Wooton on GB News, the Monty Python icon said, “I’m not doing it with the BBC because I won’t get the freedom.”
“Fawlty Towers” originally aired on BBC Two. Running just two seasons, the first six episodes were released in 1975, with the next six coming four years later, in 1979.
It followed the story of a highly-strung Basil Fawlty (played by Cleese), his bitter wife, Sybil (played by Prunella Scales), and their hotel in the seaside English resort of Torquay. On hand to help was the ever-efficient Polly (played by the show’s co-writer and Cleese’s then-wife Connie Booth) and the always-confused, linguistically-challenged Spanish waiter, Manuel (played by Andrew Sachs).
Though short-lived by today’s standards, “Fawlty Towers” was named in 2019 the greatest BBC comedy ever by a panel of 42 “comedy experts” for the Radio Times.
Fans of the show will tell you, it is hard to imagine any network allowing it to be made today.
Take one of the most famous episodes in which a concussed Basil can’t help but mention the war to a bunch of German guests.
And the treatment of lovable Manuel would make heads explode in today’s woke world.
Back when it originally aired, Cleese recalled on Thursday, the BBC had more of a sense of humor about such things. Today, he says, the network execs are too “frightened of offending others.”
“That was the best time because the BBC was run by people with real personality who loved the medium and who were operating out of confidence, which was okay because there wasn’t so much competition,” he said.
The 83-year-old comedian has long made his aversion to wokeness known.
“And woke people, who can hardly believe how spotlessly moral they are, are mindlessly spiteful towards those who do not agree with them,” he wrote on Twitter in September 2020.
“Like those who give JKR’s book one star ratings without having read it,” he continued, referring to Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling. “It’s pathetic that they wear such dumb viciousness as a badge of honour.”
And woke people, who can hardly believe how spotlessly moral they are, are mindlessly spiteful towards those who do not agree with them
Like those who give JKR's book one star ratings without having read it
It's pathetic that they wear such dumb viciousness as a badge of honour
— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) September 27, 2020
In December 2021, he responded to critics who called Basil’s treatment of Manuel “racist.”
“Latest on the Woke front, about a stage production of Fawlty Towers,” he tweeted. “A young press critic has deemed Basil’s treatment of Manuel as ‘racist’. (She also criticises the director for asking the actor playing Manuel to darken his face. The actor was born with dark skin). Next!”
Latest on the Woke front, about a stage production of Fawlty Towers
A young press critic has deemed Basil's treatment of Manuel as 'racist'.
( She also criticises the director for asking the actor playing Manuel to darken his face. The actor was born
with dark skin)
— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) December 20, 2021
In 2020, Cleese schooled the BBC on humor.
“I would have hoped that someone at the BBC would understand that there are two ways of making fun of human behaviour,” he wrote. “One is to attack it directly. The other is to have someone who is patently a figure of fun, speak up on behalf of that behaviour.”
I would have hoped that someone at the BBC would understand that there are two ways of making fun of
One is to attack it directly.
The other is to have someone who is patently a figure of fun, speak up on behalf of that behaviour
Thank of Alf Garnett…
— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) June 12, 2020
More recently, he went after the BBC for losing its sense of humor entirely.
“While I’m always grateful to receive career advice from a towering talent like [BBC journalist] Nick Robinson, I think it is more important for the British public that the BBC re-discovers its sense of humour,” he tweeted. “Those were the days…”
While I'm always grateful to receive career advice from a towering talent like Nick Robinson, I think it is more important for the British public that the BBC re-discovers its sense of humour
Those were the days…
— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) February 9, 2023
In the reboot of Fawlty Towers, Basil opens a boutique hotel with his newly-discovered daughter, played by Cleese’s real-life daughter, Camilla, who helped develop the project. The duo will deal with problems more modern than a table full of Germans, according to The New York Times.
But in a twist of outstanding irony, the new “Fawlty Towers” is in development with Hollywood’s insufferable King of Woke — Rob Reiner — at Castle Rock Entertainment.
“John Cleese is a comedy legend,” Reiner said, according to The Times. “Just the idea of working with him makes me laugh.”
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