Category Archives: Fawlty Towers

Rocks In The Attic #544: Fawlty Towers – ‘Second Sitting (O.S.T.)’ (1981)

rita544Andrew Sachs, the actor who played long-suffering Fawlty Towers waiter Manuel, died last week. He was such an iconic character, and possibly my favourite when I was growing up in the early ‘80s, that I can’t imagine the show without him. He’s all over this record, providing a well needed in-character narration, that was missing on the show’s first LP.

I wonder if a character like Manuel – which could be read as a racist stereotype – would be accepted on today’s television sets. The comedy comes not from Sachs’ portrayal as a Spaniard, but from his poor grasp of English, something that might have struck a chord in the late ‘70s as package holidays to the Mediterranean started to become popular for British holidaymakers.

In later years, Sachs became infamous for his stoush with the BBC after a prank call on Radio 2’s  Russell Brand Radio Show went slightly wrong. Brand and his guest, Jonathan Ross, left messages on Sachs’ voicemail indicating that Brand had had sex with Sachs’ granddaughter Georgina Baillie, a burlesque dancer.  After an Ofcom inquiry, Russell Brand and the controller of Radio 2, Lesley Douglas, both resigned, and golden boy of the BBC, Jonathan Ross was suspended for just twelve weeks.

Sachs had suffered from dementia and was living in a nursing home in the years preceding his death. Fittingly, the day after his funeral, the BBC aired the Fawlty Towers episode Communication Problems in his memory.

“Manual, there is too much butter on those trays…”

Hit: The Rat

Hidden Gem: The Builders

Rocks In The Attic #521: Fawlty Towers – ‘Fawlty Towers’ (1980)

RITA#521.jpgI went to see David Brent: Life On The Road the other night. A major disappointment, the film didn’t really go anywhere past its initial premise. In fact, it would have made a much better hour-long TV special.

Even since The Office finished after two series, Ricky Gervais has claimed to be following John Cleese’s model with Fawlty Towers: two six-episode runs, leaving the public wanting more, but killing the show off before standards start to slip. A couple of lukewarm Office Christmas specials muddied the water slightly, but it did look like Gervais had left the show behind ever since.

Unfortunately, the latest appearance of David Brent is a failed attempt to hark back to the early 2000s success of The Office. The absence of Gervais’ writing partner Stephen Merchant could be to blame, but I just think too much water has passed under the bridge. The mockumentary concept – never original, merely forgotten by the time The Office first aired – is now a staple of television comedy. It’s so ubiquitous that shows don’t even bother alluding to the format anymore (see Parks & Recreation, Modern Family), and audiences don’t even question the way that talking head interviews to camera break up the narrative.

The most annoying aspect of Life On The Road was Brent’s high-pitched laugh – a sound used sparingly in the television show, but rolled out seemingly after every other line in the film. Still, the damage that Gervais has done to the Brent legend is nothing next to the awfulness of John Cleese recently rolling out Basil Fawlty for a Specsavers commercial. How the mighty have fallen…

Hit: “Mrs. Richards” Scene 2: Mrs. Richards’ Room

Hidden Gem: “Hotel Inspectors” Scene 2: Dining Room At Lunchtime