The main cast of Fawlty Towers consisted of characters starring John Cleese (Basil Fawlty), Prunella Scales (Sybil Fawlty), Conny Booth (Polly) and Andrew Sachs (Manuel). Basil Fawlty, the manic English Hotel owner, is intolerant and rude. He runs his hotel constantly under verbal attack form his unhelpful wife Sybil and hindered by the incompetent Spanish waiter, Manuel and the beautiful waitress Polly helps him to get of various hurdles he gets into. Semi regular characters included the down to earth chef Terry, charming elderly ladies Ms. Gatsby and Ms. Tibbs and best of all an eccentric old colonel major Gowen.
The genesis of Fawlty Towers came when John Cleese along with other crew went filming to spend two weeks in Torquay. What inspired them was the rude hotel manager Donald Sinclair who hated all guests who had short-sightedness to stay in Gleneagles. Thus Cleese and Booth made series out of that hotel. The episode ‘The Builders’ was inspired by an incident involving several builders who had come to rebuild Sinclair garden wall. Sinclair was also known for his mistreatment of foreigners as depicted in ‘Waldorf Salad’. The plots were occasionally intricate involving coincidences, misunderstandings, cross purposes and meetings both mixed and accidental. The events that take place are such that they negatively depict Basil’s personality causing his mental state to deteriorate to the point where he has suffered a total breakdown by the end of the episode. Always trying to favor the wealthy, he finds himself forced to serve and help people he sees beneath him. As such his efforts tend to be counter productive with guests leaving the hotel in disgust and his marriage stretching further and further towards breakpoint.
The Series one consisted of episodes A Touch of Class, The Builders, The Wedding Party, The Hotel Inspectors, Gourmet Night, and The Germans. Series two comprised of Communication Problem, The Psychiatrist, Waldorf Salad, The Kipper and the Corpse, The Anniversary, Basil the Rat.
The first series was transmitted on 1975 whereas second on 1979, three and a half years later. Due to an Industrial dispute at the BBC, which resulted in a strike, the final episode was not completed, being finally shown as one-off installments. It was replaces with repeat of Gourmet Night from season 1. Intense work was done in making such episodes which made it so renowned.
But Cleese limited the run of Fawlty Towers to approximately twelve shows because he did not want to diminish its impact. The show won 3 BAFTA awards and one broadcasting press Guild award. It is recognised as one of the greatest British shows ever. It was ranked 5th in British Comedy Guide list. And was voted 1st in the British Film Institute TV100. It was also voted second to Frasier in the ultimate sitcom poll of comedy writers in January 2006. The show was sold to 45 stations in 17 countries and marked best selling overseas program. It is marked by many other great achievements.
Three attempted remakes of Fawlty Towers were started for the American market, with two making it into production. The first, Chateau Snavely starring Harvey Korman and Betty White, was produced by ABC for a pilot in 1978, but the transfer from coastal hotel to highway motel proved too much and the series was never produced. The second, also by ABC, was Amanda's starring Bea Arthur, notable for switching the sexes of its 'Basil' and 'Sybil' equivalents. It also failed to pick up a major audience and was dropped. A third remake called Payne (produced by and starring John Larroquette) was also produced, but was cancelled shortly after. A German pilot based on the sitcom was made in 2001, named Zum letzten Kliff, but further episodes were not made.
In 2001, the new Fawlty Towers DVD set won the ‘Quality Set DVD’ award for being the best comedy on DVD. The series is still shown in United States and surrounding areas, airs all episodes in order on Tuesday afternoon and Saturday nights. In 2009, Tiger Aspects Production produced a two-part documentary for digital comedy channel G.O.L.D. called Fawlty Towers Reopened. All episodes are also available as streamed video on demand via Netflix on Play-stations and other set top boxes. Both series are also available for download on itunes.