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Headscratchers / Fawlty Towers

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  • Like all BBC sitcoms of the time, the interior sets were built at television centre in London, while the exteriors were all done on location in the west country (Devon). The designers did quite well in matching the interior sets with the real-life building used for the exterior of the hotel — stuff like the wine bar and the dining room are pretty close. But they still didn't quite get it right. The kitchen, in particular, seems to exist in a place where it simply could not be on the real life building. Its a niggling thing, but it just bugs me.
    • The hotel is bigger on the inside.
    • Really, the much worse problem is that when you're looking outside from inside via the open front door there's a walkway immediately outside with all sorts of plants about four feet away at the most, whereas whenever you see the actual exterior in a shot from the outside there's a stairway, no walkway, and no plants in front of the door.
  • If Manuel is from Barcelona, wouldn't his first language be Catalonian rather than Spanish? That could mean that when Basil said he learned "Classical Spanish" he was actually meaning he learned "Castillan Spanish" and that Manuel is speaking Catalonian, possibly the dialect Basil refers to, despite the fact that the pair of them speak Castillan (Basil doing it very badly, i.e. not using proper vocabulary like "mucho mantequilla" instead of "demasiado mantequilla" and poor pronunciation e.g. "valisa" instead of "balisa).
    • The average British viewer has only a vague understanding of the divisions within Spain. The writers were either unaware of the mistake or didn't care.
      • At that point in time, the concept of Catalonian nationalism was not as well developed. People may not even have seen themselves as "Catalonians" at that point.
      • Catalonian nationalism, and indeed all provincial nationalism in Spain, was very much repressed under Franco and took a very long time to return to the country. The extent to which this is true is shown by the fact that Spanish as a language is just more often referred to within Spain as Castellano (Castillan) and as Español (Spanish) outside of the country. Even so, most Catalonians speak better Spanish than Catalan (which is the actual name of the language, not Catalonian) and many don't speak it at all. And Catalan nationalism took longer to emerge than, for example, its Basque equivalent.
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    • Not to mention that Andrew Sachs' Spanish pronunciation was pretty hideous itself.
    • Um...
    • Basil never said "mucho mantequilla", he said "mucho burro" (much donkey). His problems went way beyond poor pronunciation; he would mix in French words ("sports car" became "auto sportif"). I think it's clear Basil's Spanish was just half-remembered school lessons, and "classical Spanish" was an excuse he made up on the spot.
    • Being from Barcelona doesn't mean you have to be of Catalan extraction at all. The city is a prominent trade and industrial hub and as a result received a lot of immigrants from other parts of Spain (most notably Andalusia) between the 1840s and 1960s. In fact, both modern Catalan and Basque nationalisms originated in the 1880s as a reaction of urban, nativist middle class people against those job-seeking immigrants of poor extraction, even if they later absorved previous rural attitudes towards "outsiders" and used them for their advantage. This is also why Catalan and Basque nationalisms are way older and more stretched than, say, Galician nationalism, since industrialization took place in Galicia a lot less and a lot later than in any of those places, and Galicia was in fact a source of emigration rather than immigration during the 1840s-1960s period.
  • That guy in Waldorf Salad has the single most atrocious generic American accent I've ever heard anywhere. I mean, it's hard to appreciate the episode at all, that voice is so grating! Except for the last scene, anyway, where he hardly speaks. But that's the funniest scene regardless. "You ponce in here expecting to be hand waited on hand and foot, well I'm trying to run a hotel here!"
    • Which is pretty funny, as the guy was actually Canadian.
      • I don't see what makes that funny. Canadian accents are nothing like any American one, except maybe for the stereotypic North Dakota-Minnesota accent like you hear in Fargo. Although that accent is used in only some parts of that area, and it sounds nothing like the generic alien-attempting-a-human-voice one that actor was pulling.
      • I've never been able to tell the difference between American and Canadian actors, they tend to sound very similar to me. Then again, perhaps my Australian accent doesn't sound terribly different from, for example, a New Zealander to your average American, despite sounding nothing alike to me.
      • Without wishing to speak for the previous troper, he or she may also have simply been suggesting that a Canadian actor might have been able to imitate an American accent more effectively seeing as Canada is right next door to America.
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    • For what it's worth, as an American I've met a couple other real Americans with very similar accents to his. Make of that what you will.
      • I'm an American, and I thought he sounded great. I know men who talk like that. He sounded like a smarmy used car salesman, which fit the character perfectly. He wasn't just doing an American accent, he was doing a character voice.
      • I've finally learned to get past it. You know how? By telling myself to assume that they were having him do it on purpose as Britain's way of getting back at America for Dick Van Dyke's Cockney in Mary Poppins. Well, you have to admit, it's a possibility.
      • Perhaps he was meant to be a parody of a stuck-up Eaglelander tourist or something like that?
      • Most likely.
      • Back when I used to work in an internet cafe in Cambridge I met several American tourists who sounded extremely similar to that actor.
      • Used to have an American teacher who sounded like that.
      • I remain convinced that American accents grow stronger when on holiday- I live in a tourist area, and I hear accents ten times as wild as this one, which I don't hear anybody using in the US.
      • I actually agree with that theory. When I studied in Galway, I found myself exaggerating my own accent to avoid slipping into the prevailing accent around me, lest it should come across as mocking. ...It didn't really work when I was drunk or tired.
  • Why does Polly always allow herself to be dragged into Basil's daft schemes, instead of shopping him to Sybil at the next available opportunity? Is she THAT scared of 'never waitressing in Torquay' again?
    • My guess is that she simply feels sorry for Basil, and stays with Fawlty Towers mostly out of loyalty.
    • Money, Dear Boy. Polly's a poor art student who needs the income, and she seems to get board as part of the deal as well. Presumably she deems putting up with Basil's insanity a fair enough price for an otherwise sweet arrangement.
  • Perhaps most importantly: how the hell did the hotel manage to stay open?
    • Nobody had the guts to tell Sybil that it was going to be closed? More seriously, Rule of Funny, and apparently the real hotel stayed open for many years afterwards- it still is open, but it's obviously been seriously renovated.
  • In the "fire" scene in "The Germans," Manuel tries to convey that he accidentally started a fire in the kitchen to Basil. Since the hotel is coincidentally undergoing a fire drill, Basil thinks Manuel is just acting and tells him to get back to work, shoving him back into the kitchen. But in this scene, Manuel's clothes are clearly burnt and smoking, and Basil is looking into the kitchen as he pushes Manuel back into it. How did Basil not realize that the fire was real?
    • Basil really is that oblivious. Throughout the series, he repeatedly fails to notice anything that would challenge his preconceived notions.
  • I know opposites attract and all but Sybill and Basil have so little chemistry, how do you suppose he courted her in the first place?
    • A mixture of things. He clearly married up, was probably more handsome as a younger man and, well, confidence can be very attractive. Basil is nothing but confident. By the time you realize he is also a prat it is presumably too late.
    • John Cleese was very handsome in the early seasons of Monty Python's Flying Circus, stands to reason the younger Basil was just as handsome.
    • Word of God says that Sybill was a hairdresser originally and she was attracted to Basil because of his upper-class pretensions. Basically, she thought she was marrying up and it was only too late that she realised Basil was never going to be a success. Neither of them ever considered a divorce presumably because they were old-fashioned enough to honour the "til death us do part" bit of the wedding vows.
  • Why didn't the Waldorf Salad guy just understand the kitchen was closed? American tourists who go to English bed and breakfasts do so because of the quaintness involved.
    • It's not so much that he didn't understand it was closed as much as he's just a very pushy and demanding guy who clearly expects the world to jump to his every command. He understands the concept that the kitchen might be closed, but wants a cooked meal despite arriving late and so basically makes a lot of noise until he gets his way. In his way, he's clearly just as unreasonable as Basil is.


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