John Cleese Is Reviving Fawlty Towers, Which Is Either The Greatest Or Worst TV News

Basil Fawlty smiling in hotel restaurant in Fawlty Towers
(Image credit: BBC YouTube)

As evidenced by various examples like Paramount+’s in-development Frasier, or HBO Max’s on-the-way Clone High, or Starz's soon-to-debut third season of Party Down, series revivals are as big of a TV trend as actually keeping shows on the air in the first place. For the most part, the shows in question haven’t been off the air for all that long, but that’s certainly not the case with John Cleese’s legend-status sitcom Fawlty Towers, which last aired a new episode in 1979. Which makes it all the more surprising to hear that he and daughter Camilla Cleese are bringing the shenanigans-fueled hotel owner back, which has the potential to be the best or worst idea ever.

It’s not a case of heightened miscommunication, either. John and Camilla Cleese are indeed reviving Fawlty Towers for today’s TV audiences, with the Monty Python co-founding reprising the role of Basil Fawlty, and the younger Cleese set to co-star. The duo will be co-writing the episodes, with Rob Reiner’s Castle Rock Entertainment as the studio. And yes, that means the This Is Spinal Tap director will indeed be on board as an executive producer, hopefully to help slather comedy genius all over this thing. 

The plot line, according to Deadline, will revolve around the ever-sardonic and judgmental Basil Fawlty coping with modern society (presumably in highly disruptive fashion), and will involve Camilla Cleese portraying a daughter that Basil is only just learning about. Though details aren’t plentiful, the story will reportedly explore their burgeoning parent-child relationship as they make the choice to run a boutique hotel together.

The elder Cleese, who has spent recent years gamefully causing social media backlashes while co-starring in Clifford the Big Red Dog, was apparently all the more enthused to bring this revival to life after meeting Rob Reiner’s fellow producer colleague Matthew George, calling their first meeting “one of the best creative sessions” in memory. So hopefully that’s a good sign that the brain synapses are plentiful and productive when it comes to the development process. 

Because let’s be clear here: Fawlty Towers is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, while Monty Python’s Flying Circus actually does take my top spot. So there’s a sizeable part of me that truly believes another season of Basil Fawlty catastrophes can stand tall amidst the equally brilliant comedies currently airing. It’s hard to lose faith in Cleese’s creative side when he gets behind it and isn’t self-awarely working on projects purely for financial means. And I was 100% behind the latest troupe reunion for Monty Python Live back in 2014, so there’s precedence for returns being fruitful in certain capacities.

But then on the flip side, there are more than enough examples of the latter to properly ignore. And the fact that he so rarely taps back into the writing process makes it that much easier to feel wary about how things could pan out. Which is definitely helped along by Camilla Cleese’s involvement, since she probably knows as well as anyone how to coax the right ideas out of him. Assuming Basil Fawlty himself is a right idea for 2023 and beyond. 

Not mentioned in the announcement were other Fawlty Towers alum such as Sybil portrayer Prunella Scales or co-creator Connie Booth, who also co-starred as Polly. Former co-star Andrew Sachs, who exuded comedic energy as bellhop Manuel, passed away in 2016. Here’s hoping the new episodes will find ways to pay homage to not just them but other characters like The Major and the giggling spinsters. 

Rob Reiner’s Castle Rock Entertainment is also behind the in-the-works sequel to This Is Spinal Tap, which has an equally high potential to exceed expectations or to completely miss all of them. Is it too late for someone to cram-fist those projects together? Maybe have Spinal Tap perform a concert at Basil Fawlty’s new hotel, but the amps that he provides only go up to a 9? Anyone?

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.