Worst Flaw Yet

The heretical Dan Meyers claims Fawlty Towers just isn't funny

Fawlty Towers. One of the greatest British sitcoms of all time, according to just about everyone.

This is what I know about Fawlty Towers. Xenophobic? Yes. Misogynistic? Probably. Regressive? Whatever. I could care less about any of that. The only question that need be asked is... Funny? No. No. No. And if you don't agree I'll beat you around the head with a tree branch. (If you find that image amusing then you are defective, leave here now and go and find a funny accent to laugh at).

Fawlty Towers utterly lacks any sense of wit or finesse. It comes from the school of comedy that teaches shouting is funny and if you can hit someone over the head with tea-tray whilst shouting then you have struck comedy gold my son.

I will accept that Watery Fowls (genius) does have one, maybe two, good lines in it – but one good Poland invasion joke does not a classic sitcom make. I once lasted an entire seven minutes during a particularly energetic bout of love-making but that does not put me in the same league of sexual conquistadors as O'Toole, Best and Hucknall, and neither should it, as my litany of abject sexual failures must also be taken in to account. Fawlty Towers should get off no less lightly.

Let me tell you now that a gangly bloke running about a bit, falling over a bit, molesting women a bit, shouting at foreigners a bit and getting angry a lot (mostly at women, foreigners and his own inability to remain upright) could possibly be funny for about a minute. But 360 of em? Oh come on, is this a joke? If it is, it's a very bad.

Some people even claim that 360 minutes isn't enough, that the scarcity of Fawlty Towers episodes is a contributing factor to its ‘greatness’. Ever heard this argument? ‘Oh yes well there were only two series cos Cleese had the class to quit at the top. He didn't want the quality of what went before to be tarnished.’

Cobblers. Fawlty Towers ended when it did because there is only a finite number of ways one can shout at a Spaniard and fall over. It is utterly without style or class. There is more wit in Frasier's perfectly manicured little finger than there is in the entire output of Farty Towels (how does Cleese come up with them!), and there's still plenty of running in and out of doors and walking in on situations at the most inopportune moment if that really is your thing.

The show was fatally flawed from the very beginning as all the characters are so under-developed. There was just nowhere to go with them. Only Fools and Horses hit its peak in series six, Steptoe and Son spanned 12 years with some of the classic episodes coming in the last two series. Seinfeld ran for nine series and Frasier and M*A*S*H both ran for 11 series, and maintained an excellent standard to the end.

Truly great sitcoms have fully rounded characters and locations that lend themselves to an almost limitless generation of situations and comic potential.

Fawlty Towers doesn't.

Great television is timeless. Steptoe and Son is 47 years old but can still make me laugh and cry in equal measure today. Warty Towels (hold on, didn't he use the towels thing already? oh who cares, it's just tooo funny) is a grubby relic, a tattered seaside postcard wallowing in a, thankfully, bygone age.

But at least there were only 12 episodes and, to give some context, it's not Two Pints of Lager and for that we should be truly grateful.

Don't say Fawlty Towers isn't funny. I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it.

Published: 8 Sep 2009

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