Shropshire Star

Is John Cleese really the right man to pen a Fawlty Towers comeback?

There has understandably been a ripple of concern in enlightened circles at the news that Fawlty Towers is to make a television comeback.

A new Fawlty Towers - is it really a good idea?

Fawlty Towers, starring John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, was a sitcom made in the dark decade of the 1970s relying on offensive stereotypes and insulting scenarios that no person in their right mind would find at all amusing in the 21st century.

To bring such a show back for modern audiences will require sensitive scriptwriting and I'm not sure Mr Cleese, a product of the 1960s and 1970s, is the right man for the job.

I am happy to lend a hand with a series of hilarious screenplays which may at least ensure that the show lasts more than one broadcast episode, and avoid being banned amid letters from outraged MPs demanding public apologies and sackings.

The backdrop. In the 21st century version Basil and his husband Sidney are running a boutique hotel somewhere in the Black Country.

Episode One: The Transgender Guest.

With the arrival of a biologically male guest in a wig who self identifies as a woman, Basil is keen to ensure that he treats the guest in an approved and correct way, but is a little unsure on some points, so rings the SNP helpline and speaks to a helpful lady called Nicola.

"If they say they are a woman they are a woman and must be treated as a woman," Nicola advises, before adding "except in circumstances when they are not treated equally."

Puzzled Basil asks for clarification. "Well," says Nicola, "is the individual a sex offender?"

"I'll find out," says Basil.

The hilarious denouement sees him trying to find a subtle way to ask the individual (as Nicola says the guest must be addressed, rather than he or she, until the point is definitively settled) whether they are a sex offender.

Episode Two: The Spanish Waiter.

Having lost the services of the ever-loyal Manuel from Barcelona many years ago, Basil seeks to find a replacement.

He tears his hair out and bangs his head on the foyer in frustration when he realises that the end of free movement of EU labour presents him with insuperable problems.

"Brexit has been such a disaster!" he wails, amid cheers, clapping and laughter from the studio audience.

Just then, a party of Brexit-supporting over-65s walk in and ask for a room.

"You morons!" screams Basil, before pouring a tin of minestrone soup over them.

Cue more cheers, clapping, and laughter from the live audience.

Episode Three: Motor Mouth Meets His Match

A famous TV presenter arrives to check out the hotel as a potential base for filming a motoring programme on location by the Tipton canal and, during dinner, to the discomfort of the clientele, loudly voices unacceptable opinions about some members of the royal family.

Basil "trips" while serving him soup, splashing his shirt, and while turning to grab a dirty cloth "accidentally" elbows him in the head. What follows is classic slapstick in the style of Chaplin, Keaton, and Bean, with the sketch ending with Motor Mouth ordering a pavlova for dessert. You can guess what happens next.

Episode Four: The Germans Come To Dinner.

A German family arrive for a special meal and the humour revolves around their embarrassment on finding their host is English. "Don't mention the economy," they whisper to each other. It all goes wrong when one of them gets a bang on the head and starts doing a Liz Truss impression.

Episode Five: Paying The Tax Person.

Basil and Sidney make an innocent mistake in their tax affairs. Riproaring comedy and farce ensues. The final scene has Basil protesting that all has been in order as he writes out a very large cheque to meet a penalty payment.

Episode Six: Reparations Night.

Racked by guilt for his previous admiration of the British Empire, a contrite Basil decides to make amends. In a series finale which is compared with that of Blackadder for its poignancy, he invites representatives from all parts of the community to an evening soiree where he makes a formal apology for imperialist crimes before lowering the Union Jack down the Fawlty Towers flagpole and handing out vouchers for a free meal deal at McDonald's.

There is a spontaneous standing ovation from the studio audience.

It is a fitting end to the run which has received rave reviews from the critics.