"Fawlty Towers" stars John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, who runs an inn with his wife, Sybil, played by Connie Booth (Cleese's real life ex-wife). They employ an incompetent Spanish waiter, named Manuel, and a young maid, Polly, who usually winds up covering for Basil.
The show is extremely funny, probably the funniest show Britain has to offer. It usually begins with one problem, then another, and in the end, both problems are solved or Basil hits Manuel.
In the final episode of the series (only 12 shows were made) the building inspector comes to Fawlty Towers and is not pleased, so he gives Basil a day of grace. Basil then rushes around trying to set things straight. Basil goes to Manuel's room to get him to remove a pigeon from the water tank and finds Manuel has been hiding something, a rat.
Basil: "What is that?"
Manuel: "Is my hamster."
Basil: "Manuel, that's a rat."
Manuel: "No, no, is hamster."
Basil: "Well, of course it's a rat! You have rats in Spain, don't you? - or did Franco have them all shot?"
Manuel: "No, is hamster."
Basil: "Is rat."
Manuel: "No, I think so too. I say to man in shop, AIs rat.' He say, ANo, no, is special kind of hamster. Is Filigree Siberian hamster.' Only one in shop. He make special price, only five pound."
Basil: "Have you ever heard of the bubonic plague, Manuel? It was very popular here at one time. A lot of pedigree hamsters over on shops from Siberia..."
That's just a typical conversation, and by the end of that show, one of the residents, a WWI veteran is looking for the "hamster" with an elephant gun. And when Basil asks what the Major is looking for, he mumbles "vermin" sounding just a bit too much like "Germans." And unfortunately for Basil, there is a group of German tourists arriving later that day.
Finally, the health inspector returns, gives Fawlty Towers a clean bill of health, and heads off into their dining room. The rat has gotten into the biscuits, unknown to Basil, who is serving the inspector. He holds out the box, uncovers the lid, the rat sticks his head out. Basil nonchalantly asks, "Would you care for a rat? Or...? Just...just the biscuits then? Polly, bring the biscuits." And the inspector just sits there, bewildered, looking back and forth between the biscuits and the rat.
That's a typical episode. It's amazing how many awful situations poor Basil gets himself into, including leaving Manuel in charge.
John Cleese has starred in the Monty Python movies. He also wrote the script and starred in "A Fish Called Wanda," which gave him a Best Screenplay nomination at the Academy Awards.
This show should not be missed, but if you miss a few, Cleese and Booth have written The Complete Fawlty Towers, which are all 12 of the show's scripts in one nice paperback book. "Fawlty Towers" has been seen on WNEH Channel 11, but at the moment it's not on. But if you watch the listings you may be able to catch it. Usually they show the series once or twice a year on Public Television.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.