Guest Author - Karyn Johnson
A BBC Worldwide poll conducted in 2004 showed that Fawlty Towers is the most beloved British sitcom worldwide. Fawlty Towers is a sitcom that has endured for over thirty years, and can still be shown in re-runs all over the world. The odd thing about it, is that only twelve episodes were ever filmed. But what the show lacks in episodes, it makes up for in popularity. And that popularity has extended to the hotel that inspired the show - Hotel Gleneagles in Torquay.
The hotel has a long and turbulent history with the Fawlty Towers series. When John Cleese and the Monty Python crew stayed there during a filming of Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1971, the hotel's owner at the time, Donald Sinclair, threw Eric Idle's briefcase out the window because he was afraid it might contain a bomb, complained about Terry Gilliam's table manners, and was rumored to have thrown a bus timetable at a guest when inquired about the time of the next bus into town. Cleese described Sinclair as "wonderfully rude" and based his character from Fawlty Towers, Basil Fawlty, on Sinclair.
Nobody would have been any the wiser about the origins of Fawlty Towers, until Cleese mention Sinclair's name in an interview. At the time, Sinclair was living in Florida, and was tracked down by a British newspaper. His family had never appreciated the way he was portrayed in the comedy, and when it made its eventual debut as a DVD boxed set, Sinclair's widow had plenty of scathing remarks on the subject.
Whether the family agrees with it or not, Fawlty Towers is a worldwide phenomenon. And it put the name of Hotel Gleneagles on the map. The subsequent owners of the hotel have been grateful for Sinclair's legacy, but his family remains adamant that Cleese's portrayal of him is highly exaggerated.
For more information about British comedies, or British television in general, visit Pam Lawrence's British Television site at BellaOnline.