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Series / Fawlty Towers

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"Please allow me to introduce myself. I am the owner of Fawlty Towers. And I would like to welcome your war, your wall, you all..."
Basil Fawlty

A classic Britcom, created by John Cleese and Connie Booth and originally airing on BBC2 for one series in 1975 and another in 1979, which centres on Basil Fawlty, a bad-tempered snob who runs "the crummiest, shoddiest, worst-run hotel in the whole of Western Europe".

One of the all-time great TV comedies, Fawlty Towers benefited greatly from its cheerful willingness to create utterly horrible human beings and let them act according to their nature at all times; the show takes a particular joy in never allowing the viewer to forget what a despicable person Basil is — he hardly ever gets a Pet the Dog moment, and even when he does, it's quickly undone by multiple Kick the Dog moments in rapid succession.

The series was intelligent, effervescent and daring, and the only real complaint one can make is that there wasn't enough of it (only 12 episodes were ever made). It also benefits from a terrific Ensemble Cast, including Cleese as Basil; Prunella Scales as his calmly domineering wife, Sybil; Booth as the hotel's thanklessly levelheaded maid and waitress, Polly Sherman; and Andrew Sachs as the cheerful but bungling Spanish waiter Manuel.

In 2000, the British Film Institute declared it the best British television programme ever made. A few years ago, it was voted best UK sitcom ever in a poll, and J. Michael Straczynski said in a book on screenwriting that if an aspiring writer watches Fawlty Towers and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, they will have had the best possible grounding in how to write comedy.

There were three attempts to adapt the series in the U.S., none of which proved successful. The first was Snavely, a 1978 pilot starring Harvey Korman and Betty White that aired on ABC but failed to get picked up as a series. Then there was Amanda's in 1983, also on ABC, which starred Bea Arthur as a female Fawlty expy and was pulled after ten episodes. Finally, in 1999 CBS attempted to refashion the premise into a John Larroquette vehicle called Payne (after Larroquette's character, "Royal Payne"); it only lasted nine episodes.

In 2023, it was announced that Cleese was working on a revival of the show, with plans for him to write and star in it opposite his daughter Camilla, with Rob Reiner attached as a producer.

Among the show's many fans are Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis, who declared Fawlty Towers the be-all, end-all accomplishment in Britcoms set in contemporary times, which convinced them to make their own acclaimed Britcom a period piece.

Came fifth in Britain's Best Sitcom.

See also "Fawlty Towers" Plot.

Fawlty Towers provides examples of:

  • Absent Animal Companion: In the final episode "Basil the Rat": as well as Manuel's pet rat who was unknown to Basil and Sybil until this episode, the unnamed black cat, which appears to live in the kitchen, and wanders in and out, as if it has always been there.
  • Accidental Pervert:
    • Basil Fawlty became this in the episode "The Psychiatrist", in which his efforts to prove that one of his guests broke the rules by sneaking his girlfriend into a room lead him into one Not What It Looks Like after another.
    • Also happens in "The Wedding Party" when Basil keeps getting caught by the guests in Not What It Looks Like situations with Manuel.
  • Accidental Rhyme: In "Gourmet Night", Basil makes an impromptu rhyme to make light of the very drastic situation with his drunken chef, and that there is only one menu option available.
    Colonel Hall: What do you do if you don't like duck?
    Basil: If you don't like duck... you're rather stuck.
  • Accidental Ventriloquism: In "The Germans", Basil buys a stuffed moose head to use as decoration, and then leaves it on the front desk while he ran some errands. Manuel comes in for something and crawls under the desk to look for it. The Major walks in, Manual pops up from the desk, sees the Major, calls out "Hello!" and then ducks back under the desk to resume looking. The Major looks around and thinks that the room was empty except for a stuffed moose head. He assumes the moose head has said "Hello" to him. He begins having a conversation with the moose head, with Manuel keeping up his side of it, unaware that the Major doesn't know he is there.
  • Acquired Error at the Printer: In "Basil the Rat", Basil tries to invoke this trope while trying to cover up why veal is off the menu, in front of the health inspector. He tells a guest that "veal" is a misprint, and it should say, er, "eel".
  • Actor Allusion: Basil's goose-stepping in "The Germans" is deliberately reminiscent of Cleese's "Ministry of Silly Walks" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus. The applause it gets from the live audience shows that it was intentional.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Basil calls his wife Sybil things like "my little piranha fish" and "my little nest of vipers" in a tone that mocks the sweetness with which people call others by actual affectionate nicknames. Sybil doesn't seem to notice or care.
  • Affluent Ascetic: In "A Touch of Class": although Lord Melbury looks and sounds posh, his suitcases are very scruffy. This is one of the first signs that he is not who he says he is. Basil does not care, and applies Insane Troll Logic to justify this.
    Sybil: I've never seen such tatty cases.
    Basil: Of course you haven't! It's only the true upper class that would have tat like that, it's the whole point! Oh, you don't know what I'm talking about, do you?
    Sybil: No I don't.
  • All Just a Dream: Subverted. As Basil is in the middle of one of his many mental breakdowns while changing a menu, he says that perhaps today is all just a dream. Basil proceeds to bang his head on a book a few times before declaring "No, it's not a dream; we're stuck with it!"
    • Also used as a Blatant Lies excuse in The Wedding Party. It works because Sybil ignores it.
  • The Alleged Car: Basil's Austin 1100 Countryman. When it refuses to start, Basil proceeds to scream at his car before giving it a "damn good thrashing" with a tree branch. note 
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Basil's viewpoint in "The Psychiatrist" is that all psychologists talk about sex all the time. This leads to a moment of One Dialogue, Two Conversations where the doctor is talking about holidays, but Basil thinks he's talking about sex.
  • All There in the Script: The scripts reveal that un-named or one-shot characters — such as hotel guests only appearing and speaking briefly — are given names of ancient kings like "Xerxes", "Darius", "Nebuchadnezzar", etc. John Cleese thought this was more fun than calling them "Father", "Mother", "Man In Restaurant" or "Boy Complaining About Chips".
  • Amusingly Short List: Subverted in "Gourmet Night", when in an emergency with the chef being drunk, the replacement menu for the posh guests has an extremely limited choice.
    Col. Hall: (Reading the menu) Duck with orange; duck with cherries; duck surprise.
    Mrs Hall: What's duck surprise?
    Basil: That's duck without orange or cherries.
    Col. Hall: And what do you do if you don't like duck?
    Basil: If you don't like duck... you're rather stuck.
  • And Another Thing...:
    • In "The Wedding Party", Basil berates Polly for wearing skimpy clothes around the hotel; and just as she is leaving, he then he calls her back to make a further request.
      Basil: I know these drawings may be considered decent at art school, but would you please not leave them lying around on display at reception?
    • In "Basil the Rat", Mr Carnegie makes a closing comment to Basil, echoing Basil introducing him to Sybil as a gourmet scavenger:
      Mr Carnegie: The only gourmets you'll find scavenging in this kitchen will be kamikaze ones.
  • Annoying Laugh: Sybil. A combination of the Machine-Gun Chuckle with a Donkey Bray finish. According to her husband, it sounds like "somebody machine-gunning a seal".
  • Argument of Contradictions: This happens twice.
    • In "Gourmet Night", with Basil's disapproval of Polly's hand-drawn menus:
      Sybil: Polly can do the menus.
      Basil: No she can't.
      Sybil: Yes she can.
      Basil: No she can't.
      Sybil: Yes she can.
      Basil: No-
      Sybil: She can!
    • In "The Germans", Basil argues with the guests about the sound of the fire alarm, compared to the burglar alarm.
      Basil: It doesn't sound like the fire alarm.
      Guests: (In unison) It did.
      Basil: It didn't.
      Guests: It did!
      Basil: No it didn't! The fire bell is a different sound; it's semitone higher!
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In "Communication Problems", Basil thinks he has got away with betting on the horses behind Sybil's back, when Polly covers for him, claiming that the large wad of cash is hers, that she won on the horse. However, Sybil then asks her extremely casually "What was the name of the horse?". Polly cannot answer this, which brings on a hilarious scene of Basil trying to mime the name to Polly, from behind Sybil's back.
  • Aside Glance: The series is been fairly good at avoiding this, but it does occur once in "The Wedding Party" when a drunk Manuel knocks Basil over and exclaims "I love you" a guest who stumbles across them at just this moment looks at the screen in horror before running off.
  • Ass Shove: The implication of Basil's threat to O'Reilly that he will "insert a large garden gnome in you" if O'Reilly doesn't fix a wall.
  • As You Know: In "Waldorf Salad", Sybil explains the name of the salad.
    Basil: What is a waldorf anyway, a walnut that's gone orf?!
    Sybil: No, Basil. It's the Waldorf Hotel, in New York.
  • Atomic F-Bomb: When his car dies, Basil screams "Start, you vicious BASTARD!" at the car. It fails to comply.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Basil and Sybil. The two never seem to agree, constantly insult one another, and appear to only be together as victims of circumstance than a husband and wife. Basil thinks of Sybil as a shrill harpy who is capable of destroying a man at ten paces with a Death Glare, whereas Sybil thinks Basil is a hopeless idiot who couldn't tie his own shoes without help. Basil typically blames problems with the hotel on Sybil whenever he thinks he can get away with it, and Sybil takes the default stance that Basil is going to screw up whatever she asks him to do. In "The Germans", Sybil repeatedly calls Basil to get him to test the fire alarm, even though he's in the middle of it. And when Basil tells Sybil this, he either calls her a "stupid woman" or screams at the top of his lungs at her to get her to leave him alone.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Subverted in "Communication Problems":
    Basil: [takes Sybil's hand] Seriously, Sybil, do you remember when we were first... manacled together? We used to laugh quite a lot.
    Sybil: [pulling her hand away] Yes, but not at the same time, Basil.
    Basil: That's true. That was a warning, I guess. Should have spotted that, shouldn't I?
    • Interestingly, he does seem to get jealous if Sybil flirts with male guests, or male guests flirt with her, such as "The Psychiatrist."
    • Also in "The Psychiatrist", Sybil is actually quite nice to Basil when she is trying to calm him about the presence of the psychiatrist, although she turns nasty later when she believes Basil is seducing the attractive guest Raylene Miles.
    • And in "The Wedding Party", when he thinks Sybil is away and an attractive guest is coming to seduce him, he frantically tries to stop it from happening. Of course, he winds up locking Sybil out of the room, but...
    • In "The Anniversary", Sybil is shown crying when she thinks Basil has forgotten their wedding anniversary again (and actually he hasn't). Moreover, Basil was actually planning something nice for her, arranging for all their friends to come round for a surprise party. If only she'd waited just another few minutes...
      • Also in the same episode, when Sybil left Basil thinking he forgot their anniversary, he was quite upset.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In "The Psychiatrist", Basil declares to Sybil that he is going to get the girl that Mr Johnson smuggled into his room; and immediately afterwards, a knock is heard at Mr Johnson's door. However, it is Mrs Abbott who then enters the room, to return Mr Johnson's guide to Torquay. Basil then accidentally ambushes Mrs Abbott with a broom.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: In "The Waldorf Salad", as Mr. Hamilton chews out Basil Fawlty on how poorly-run his hotel is, Major Gowen seems to spring to his defence:
    Mr. Hamilton: What I'm suggesting is that this place is the crummiest, shoddiest, worst-run hotel in the whole of Western Europe!
    Major: NO! No, I won't have that! There's a place in Eastbourne...
  • Based on a True Story: When John Cleese was still a member of Monty Python, the group had gone on nationwide tour by bus, and the bus broke down in Torquay. Because they couldn't have their bus fixed that day, they had to stay at the local hotel - the Torquay Gleneagles, owned by one Donald Sinclair - overnight. About an hour after checking in, all the Pythons except John Cleese left and walked to the next town to find another hotel because of how abrasive, rude, and just plain insulting that Sinclair treated everyone. Cleese? He stayed with a pen and paper and wrote down everything he saw, getting a loose outline of Basil Fawlty from that one night.
    • In particular, Basil's treatment of his US guests in "Waldorf Salad" is based on Sinclair's treatment of Terry Gilliam. The man supposedly attacked Gilliam's accent and claimed his table manners were too American.
    • He also apparently threw a timetable at a guest who asked about a bus, and tossed Eric Idle's suitcase over a wall because he thought it contained a bomb (actually an alarm clock).
    • Sinclair's family complained that he wasn't as bad as the show made him out to be, saying that Sinclair had simply taken a disliking to the Python members in particular. However, a former waitress from the hotel claimed that Sinclair was even worse than Cleese had made out.
    • "The Kipper and the Corpse" was based on a story told to Cleese by hotelier Andrew Leeman. The dead guest was named in his honour.
  • Beehive Hairdo: Sybil sports a beehive hairdo, or "rat's maze" as Basil calls it. This hairdo is a wig, as revealed in the episode "The Anniversary".
  • Behind the Black: This is once used to conceal the walls of the set wobbling. In "The Psychiatrist", Sybil storms into the bedroom, and slams the door. The camera zooms in on Basil just before this, and the door is heard slamming. The outtakes video shows the wall wobbling considerably, followed by Basil (remaining in character) testing the wall, as he did earlier in the episode.
  • Berserk Button: Whenever anyone suggests that Basil is incapable of running a hotel, his behaviour goes from rude to insanely vindictive.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Both in "The Germans" when Basil says there's a fire, but also in "Gourmet Night":
    Colonel Hall: Waitress!
    Polly: Yes?
    Colonel Hall: There's a hair in my mousse.
    Polly: Well don't talk too loud, everybody will want one!
    Colonel Hall: WHAT?!
  • Big "SHUT UP!": An occasional one from Basil, especially this one in "The Builders":
    Basil: Shut up.
    Manuel: ¿Qué?
    Basil: Shut. Up.
    Manuel: Ah yes, I understand.
    Basil: So will you please shut up?
    Manuel: Si si, I shut up.
    Basil: Now, while we're away...
    Manuel: I shut up.
    Basil: SHUT UP!
  • Bizarrchitecture: An extreme parody of real-life examples: Fawlty Towers is modeled after a cheaply converted manor house, and has all of the layout issues of its inspirations, exaggerated to extremes. Come in the main door, turn left, go straight ahead into the kitchen, turn left again out the back door. Return to the kitchen and leave the way you came in, turn right up the stairs. Halfway up, there's a 180-degree turn to the right, and at the top you have to turn right 90 degrees onto the first floor. There are plenty of rooms on either side of the wide landing, and if you go past the two on the right, there's a little passage that leads to the next flight of stairs up with another turn right, which means by now you're somewhere over the car park. From the outside it looks like a perfectly normal ex-stately homenote .
  • Black Comedy: "The Kipper and the Corpse", which has an entire scene devoted to Basil being overjoyed that the dead body he finds wasn't due to his own incompetence.
  • Blatant Lies: Basil throws these around like confetti in the vain hope that some of them will stick. One of the best was in "Waldorf Salad", wherein he tries to charm the attractive lady at the desk while pointing out the obnoxious American tourist as typical of the "rubbish" they usually get. When the lady introduces the American as her husband, Basil acts like he was talking about a random piece of paper on his desk the whole time.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Basil has to deal with an obnoxious little boy in "Gourmet Night", who complains that his chips are in the wrong shape and calls the mayonnaise puke. Basil ends up "accidentally" smacking him on the head.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: During the Major's racist tirade in "The Germans", Polly poses a question for him and gets a rather non-sequitur answer:
    Major: Hate Germans, love women.
    Polly: What about German women?
    Major: Good card players!
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The hotel's health and safety report is fairly Squick all the way through, but the last item in the Long List is definitely the punchline:
    Mr. Carnegie the Health Inspector: Lack of proper cleaning routines. Dirty and greasy filters. Greasy and encrusted deep fat fryer. Dirty, cracked, and stained food preparation surfaces. Dirty, cracked, and missing wall and floor tiles. Dirty, marked, and stained utensils. Dirty and greasy interior surfaces of the ventilator hood. Inadequate temperature control and storage of dangerous foodstuffs. Storage of cooked and raw meat in same trays. Storage of raw meat above confectionery, with consequent dripping of meat juices onto creme products. Refrigerator seals loose and cracked, icebox undefrosted, and refrigerator overstuffed. Food handling routines suspect. Evidence of smoking in food preparation area. Dirty and grubby food handling overalls. Lack of wash hand basin — which you gave us a verbal assurance you'd have installed at our last visit, six months ago — and two dead pigeons in the water tank.
    Basil: Otherwise okay?
  • Brick Joke:
    • Perhaps a literal brick joke in "A Touch of Class". Basil accuses the builder Mr O'Reilly of just dumping the bricks in a pile, instead of cementing them together. Later, Lord Melbury deposits a case containing a few "valuables", which turn out to be... bricks. Maybe the bricks came from Basil's pile.
    • In "A Touch of Class", Basil keeps ignoring a guest's drink order because he is too busy sucking up to a noble. Over the course of the episode much chaos ensues as the noble turns out to be a con man, and the episode ends with his former customer waltzing angrily into the lobby and shouting his order one last time. Basil shouts "Right!" and runs off, presumably to make the drinks.
    • In "The Builders", after Basil discovers the aftermath of O'Reilly's first botched job on the hotel lobby, he orders him to come straight back to the hotel to put his work right otherwise he will "insert a large garden gnome" in him. Later, after O'Reilly's attempt at fixing it is found to have left the hotel in imminent danger of structural failure, Basil is seen purposefully walking out the front door carrying said garden gnome.
    • Said lawn gnome is a Brick Joke in itself, as it gets delivered while Basil and Sybil are away, and is left behind the front desk by Manuel. After Polly persuades Basil to call O'Reilly, he trips over it.
    • Basil is confounded by a drawing of Polly's that he believes to depict a trash heap over a smart collar and tie. Polly shrugs innocently and hangs it up at reception. A few minutes later, Manuel walks in, notices the sketch, and says, "Oh, is Meester Fawlty!"
    • "Gourmet Night" begins with Basil tinkering under the bonnet of his car, rather than taking it to a garage to be fixed. Later, the car completely refuses to start, leading to the iconic scene of Basil beating the car with a tree branch.
    • Also in "Gourmet Night", Basil goes to collect a cooked duck from André, in a covered serving dish. While Basil is distracted, a waiter swaps Basil's dish with a similar covered one, which Basil then takes. When he arrives back at the hotel, he triumphantly lifts the lid to reveal not a duck, but a huge ornate trifle.
    • In "The Kipper and the Corpse", Dr Price repeatedly asks for sausages for breakfast. By the end of the episode he's in the kitchen cooking them himself.
    • Mrs Richard's reason for not using her hearing aid all the time is that the battery runs down. Later, when she speaks to Polly:
      Mrs Richards: Are you blind? My glasses were on my head all the time. Didn't you see?
      Polly: Yes.
      Mrs Richards: Didn't God give you eyes?
      Polly: Yes, but I don't use them, because it wears the batteries out.
  • British Brevity: Two series of just six episodes each (made four years apart, no less). Which, of course, makes its continued popularity since 1975 all the more impressive.
  • British Stuffiness: Basil, played mainly for comedic effect as he tries to be this but his constant run of bad luck leads to less desirable results, especially in "The Wedding Party". "You know something? You disgust me. I know what people like you get up to, and I think it's disgusting!" In "The Psychiatrist", he suspects a young couple of sharing the same room together despite his rules on keeping unmarried people separate. He even tries to spy on them to catch them red handed.
  • Broomstick Quarterstaff: In "The Psychiatrist", Mr Johnson smuggles a non-paying girl into his room. Basil suspects this, and when he thinks he has them cornered, he leaps out of a cupboard brandishing a broom, saying "Right! The game's up." Unfortunately, he has ambushed Doctor and Mrs Abbott instead, and covers by sweeping the floor and the wall, saying "a bit of game pie got stuck up there".
  • Brutal Honesty: Basil in "The Germans" due to his concussion:
    Basil: [to his nurse] My God, you're ugly, aren't you? Mind-boggling.
    Sybil: Basil?
    Nurse: I'll... I'll get the doctor!
    Basil: You need a plastic surgeon, dear, not a doctor.
  • Bullying the Disabled: Played for laughs in "Communication Problems", with the deaf and demanding Mrs Richards. Basil mouths some words, causing Mrs Richards to bark "What?", and turn up her hearing aid. He keeps doing this until she turns it right up, then he yells into it, causing Mrs Richards to jump and bang her head on a shelf behind her.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: Manuel often gets dragged into whatever mad scheme someone else at the hotel has cooked up.
  • Busman's Holiday:
    • "The Waldorf Salad" ends with Basil booking into his own hotel.
    • In "The Psychiatrist", Basil is terrified that the psychiatrist Dr Abbott who is a hotel guest is analysing everything he does, even though Sybil tries to reassure him that Dr Abbott is there on holiday. At the very end of the episode, when Basil is hopping about in agony with his jacket pulled over his head, Mrs Abbott looks to her husband for professional advice, who replies "I'm on holiday".
  • Butt-Monkey: Basil, of course. Manuel to a lesser extent.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: In "The Kipper and the Corpse", Miss Tibbs starts moaning from inside a wardrobe: Polly and Manuel moan and sing to hide the noise.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Most episodes begin this way, although the horrible consequences tend to be a result of Basil choosing the worst possible course of action over and over again when dealing with the results of the original act. Most plots could pretty easily be resolved with a bit of honesty or humility, both of which are quite beyond Basil.
  • Captain Obvious: Lampshaded:
    Basil: Could we get you on Mastermind, Sybil? Next contestant Sybil Fawlty from Torquay, special subject; the bleedin' obvious!
  • Cassandra Truth: Basil's tendency to lie about anything at all that might get him in trouble (see Blatant Lies above) causes most people to not believe him when he is telling the truth. Of note, he tries to explain to his wife that he wasn't peeping on a a female guest, but rather trying to bust another guest for sneaking someone in. His wife's reaction?
    Sybil: You've had eight hours to think of something, is that really the best you could come up with?
  • The Cat Came Back: In "The Psychiatrist", the titular psychiatrist Dr Abbott keeps appearing every single time Basil is up to something awkward: when he listens at Mr Johnson's door, when he sneaks into Raylene's room, when he tries to peer through Mr Johnson's window (and accidentally looks into the Abbotts' room instead), when he drops Mr Johnson's champagne bottle, when he shakes Manuel upside down in the corridor, when he tries to accost Mr Johnson's illicit guest by brandishing a broom.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "¿Qué?"
    • "I'm so sorry, he's from Barcelona."
    • "Oh, I knoooooow, I knooooooow."
    • "Thank you so much."
  • Catchphrase Interruptus: In "The Builders", Basil finally tires of O'Reilly's constant references to The Good Lord.
    O'Reilly: I tell you, if The Good Lord...
    Basil: mentioned once more, I shall move you closer to him.
  • Cathartic Chores: In "The Wedding Party", when Basil is frustrated by Sybil having her very long and loud "Ooh, I knoooow" telephone conversation, he mutters "I'll go and clean the roof, or something". The front doorbell then rings, and he seems quite glad of a reason to leave the room.
  • Censorship by Spelling: Sybil says they might have to put Manuel's rat 'to S-L-E-E-P,' to which Manuel responds, 'Spleep?'
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • In the first episode The Major wasn't nearly the Cloudcuckoolander he became later in the series. Only from the second episode onward—in which, for instance, upon hearing that "the dining room door seems to have disappeared" he takes the statement literally and reassures Basil that it will surely turn up somewhere, because after all "these things happen, you know"—does his status as a member of the trope really begin to emerge. By the end of the first season he has really wandered off into his own little world, thinking that the moose head is talking to him, and therefore must have been made in Japan.
    • There's a slight, but noticeable change in most of the characters in series 2. Basil becomes less obsessed with moving his hotel up a social status and more concerned with just managing the day-to-day running, Polly stands up for herself more and Manuel has more of a grasp of English (but still gets hopelessly confused by most situations).
  • Chekhov's Gun: Quite often. Things that appear early on in the episode will appear to hilarious effect later on.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Manuel and the Major.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Were Basil a normal human being, we'd feel so sorry for him. Of course, if he were a normal human being, he wouldn't be in these situations in the first place.
  • The Comically Serious: Many of the hotel guests played this role.
    • He's a doctor. And he wants his sausages!
    • The Abbotts in "The Psychiatrist."
    • Mr. Hutchinson in "Hotel Inspectors."
  • Commedia dell'Arte: The series is a stripped-down version of this - notably, without any innamorati.
    • Greedy, bad-tempered, class-conscious manager Basil Fawlty is a rare protagonist version of Pantalone (albeit an unsympathetic one) with elements of Brighella that come out around high-status guests.
    • Sybil Fawlty blends the traits of Signora and Ruffiana: she is vain, gossipy, and at times very cruel, but not stupid, and far better than her husband at handling guests.
    • Underpaid, out-of-his-depth Manuel is clearly a nonromantic version of Pierrot, right down to the black-and-white waiter's uniform he typically wears, though his cheerful attitude gives him elements of Harlequin as well.
    • Polly, the most reasonable staff member, is a classic Colombina.
    • Terry, the resourceful, level-headed, but self-interested cook, is a minor Brighella.
    • The Major, a long-term guest at the hotel, is a Dottore figure: a somewhat-senile, rather racist old man with a pompous attitude and an inflated view of himself.
    • One-off hotel guest characters often fit these archetypes, too. The domineering and unreasonable Mrs. Richards is a Strega figure (with elements of Ruffiana), for example, while the pompous, annoying American guest Mr. Hamilton was a Capitano - though a rather blameless one, since everything that went wrong in his episode was Basil's own fault. Lord Melbury was a Brighella, since he was actually a con man trying to steal Basil's antique coin collection and not really Lord Melbury at all.
    • "Gourmet Night" has the role of cook filled by Kurt, a more classic Pierrot, given his unrequited crush on Manuel.
  • Constantly Changing Name: Played With. Each episode began with an establishing shot of the titular hotel, with the letters on the sign either partially missing or rearranged into something nonsensical like "Farty Towels" or "Flowery Twats".
  • Continuity Nod: Zig-zagged throughout the series. There are many small mentions of details from previous episodes, and occasionally there is a Call-Forward to what might happen in a future episode. However, sometimes the layout of the hotel is inconsistent with previous episodes, especially in the bedroom numbering, and positions of upstairs rooms; "The Psychiatrist" features a broom cupboard not shown in other episodes.
    • In "A Touch of Class", Basil speaks to the inept builder O'Reilly about the unfinished wall. The wall is still unfinished in the next episode, and O'Reilly appears in the episode.
    • The lobby changes significantly in "The Builders", and this is consistent with the previous episode "A Touch of Class", and all future episodes. In "The Wedding Party", Basil refers to the recently made kitchen door.
    • The timescales of the seasons being about three years apart is referred to. In "The Hotel Inspectors" from the first series, Basil implies that he and Sybil have been together for twelve years. In some episodes from series 2, such as "Waldorf Salad" and "The Anniversary", fifteen years is mentioned.
    • In "The Builders", O'Reilly mentioning that Basil will have a stroke before he is fifty is a possible Call-Forward to Basil being dragged away unconscious at the end of "Basil the Rat".
    • In "The Germans", Manuel mishears "hammer" as "my hamster", possibly foreshadowing his pet hamster in "Basil the Rat".
    • At the beginning of "Basil the Rat", Sybil rants about the mystery of their getting together, possibly in a reference to the previous episode "The Anniversary".
    • In "Basil the Rat": When the Major says "vermin", Basil mishears this as him complaining about "Germans", in a reference to the Major expressing his dislike of Germans in the previous series.
  • Contrived Clumsiness: When Basil 'accidentally' elbows a bratty kid in the back of the head for saying that the mayonnaise looked like puke.
  • Control Freak: Sybil regularly micromanages Basil, especially when she is away in hospital in "The Germans", constantly checking up on him by telephone. Basil is a control freak as well, screaming and ranting that he is needed at the hotel when he himself is in hospital.
    Basil: (On the phone) Yes, I picked it up. No I haven't, I've been at it solidly ever since I got back. Yes I will, yes. No I haven't yet, but I will, yes. I know it is, yes. Anything else, I mean, would you like the hotel moved a bit to the left? Enjoy the operation, dear, let's hope nothing goes wrong. (Slams phone down) I wish it was an ingrowing tongue.
  • Conveniently Timed Distraction: Basil's old war wound keeps flaring up whenever he needs a distraction, accompanied by the phrase "a bit of gyp from the old leg".
  • Copycat Mockery: The main characters imitate each other at various points:
    • In "The Wedding Party", Basil imitates Sybil's annoying laugh, which startles the old ladies, who think he's unwell, because he's getting taller.
    • In "The Kipper and the Corpse", just after Basil has loudly insulted Mr Leeman who is out of earshot, Basil imitates Sybil saying "Basil!" and slaps his own wrist.
    • Also in "The Kipper and the Corpse", Manuel imitates Basil's pose of deep thought, when Basil is asked where the dead man is.
    • In "Basil the Rat", Basil imitates Polly saying she'll take Manuel's rat to her friend, saying "Oh, I've got a friend who'll look after him, Mr Fawlty!" in a high voice.
  • Couch Gag:
    • The "Fawlty Towers" sign. At first, the letters are just skewed; later they're rearranged into humorous anagrams (eg. "Farty Towels", "Flowery Twats", "Fatty Owls"). In one episode, the paper boy is seen rearranging them.
    • Showing the word "twat" on TV is something they would never in a million years get away with on American TV in the '70s.
  • Creature of Habit:
    • The Major, who always has his evening drink in the bar at six o' clock. In a case of All There in the Script, the script mentions that as it is exactly six o' clock, Basil does not need to turn and see who has entered the bar.
    • In "A Touch of Class", Basil tells a family that when Lord Melbury visits, he always sits at their table, and orders the family to move, in the middle of their meal.
  • Cringe Comedy: John Cleese has said in interviews how he felt like a little god, looming over these characters and thinking up of new ways of making them suffer. Of course, the character who suffered the most was always his own.
  • Crooked Contractor: O'Reilly, a criminally lazy construction manager who Basil only hires because he's cheap. By the time he's done, there's a door in front of the stairwell, and no door to the dining room. On another occasion he was contracted to build a wall in the garden. He dumped a load of bricks and mortar there and then just left them.
  • Crying Wolf:
    • Basil works so hard to set up a fire drill and gets into a spat about it (you have to see the whole conversation to understand), where Manuel is supposed to yell "Fire!" and then they all calmly walk out. Then Manuel screws it all up by starting not one, but two real fires in the kitchen. Basil then calmly ushers Manuel back into the burning kitchen as he tries to explain that it's just a drill.
    • Basil's compulsive lying also leads to a huge problem in both "The Anniversary" and especially "The Psychiatrist", wherein he actually is in rare situations involving maintaining a farcical-sounding position that happens to be the exact truth.
  • Cultural Translation: Most adaptations try tailoring the comedy to an American audience, which is the reason that they have all fallen flat on their face in comparison to the original. People don't appreciate condescension.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon:
    • Basil once threatened Polly with "I'll ruin you! You'll never waitress in Torquay again!"
    • When Basil finds that a shoddy builder has removed the door to his dining room, Basil tells the builder "No, no, I don't want to debate. If you're not over here in twenty minutes with my door, I shall come over there and insert a large garden gnome in you. Good day." And at the end of the episode, he walks off with the garden gnome to do just that.
    • "I shall sneak into your room in the middle of the night and shove a bat up your nightdress!"
    • In "Communication Problems", Basil tells Manuel "I'm going to sell you to a vivisectionist".
  • Cutting Corners: Basil's philosophy is that if a job's worth doing it's worth doing as cheaply as possible. This causes him no shortage of misery, but he wouldn't be Basil Fawlty if he could learn from his mistakes.
  • Dead Man's Chest: "The Kipper and the Corpse".
  • Deadpan Door Shut:
    • In "The Anniversary", Basil has spent the whole episode convincing his guests that Sybil is ill in bed. Just as the guests are about to leave, Sybil suddenly enters. Basil calmly leads her into the kitchen, completely ignoring Manuel and Terry who are fighting on the floor, and locks Sybil in a cupboard. He then goes back out, closing the kitchen door behind him, and says goodbye to the guests as if nothing has happened.
    • A downplayed version also happens in "The Kipper and the Corpse". Basil is in the kitchen, frantically preparing sausages for Doctor Price; and seen through the kitchen door, Miss Tibbs sounds the reception bell, asking for a word with Basil, which he does not want to deal with just then; so he quietly closes the kitchen door, and ignores it.
  • Delayed Reaction: Basil sometimes has a delayed reaction to an imminent catastrophe.
    • In "The Hotel Inspectors", Sybil tells Basil that three hotel inspectors are in town. Basil is unhelpful to the fussy and demanding guest Mr Hutchison, until Mr Hutchison mentions that he has a wide experience of hotels, and in his professional activities later revealed to be spoon sales, he is in constant contact with them.
      Mr Hutchison: In my professional activities, I am in constant contact with hotels.
      Basil: (Unimpressed) Are you, really?
      Mr Hutchison: Well, is it possible for me to hire a television set to view the programme in the privacy of my own room?
      (Basil's face changes, as he realises that Mr Hutchison might be an inspector; he then becomes much more polite)
    • In the same episode, he has a similarly delayed reaction when another guest Mr Walt mentions in passing that he is there with a couple of colleagues, thinking that he might be one of the three inspectors. Finally, at the end of the episode, he subjects Mr Hutchison to a Humiliation Conga, then beams at three new arrivals; and screams in horror as he realises they are the inspectors.
    • In "The Kipper and the Corpse", it takes a while for the gravity of the situation of a dead guest to dawn on Basil, especially as he then mistakenly believes that the guest died from eating kippers for breakfast.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Major's casual explanation on the proper use of the racist terms 'nigger' and 'wog'.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Happens just about every episode, even more than the "Fawlty Towers" Plot.
  • Door Focus: In "Waldorf Salad", Basil takes almost no time to ask the chef if he knows how to make Waldorf Salad.
    Mr Hamilton: Just go out there and see if he knows how to fix me a Waldorf Salad!
    Basil: Of course. (Goes into kitchen, reappears almost at once) He's not absolutely positive, he's almost got it. Lettuce and tomato, walled in with...
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Played for laughs: Sybil is frequently violent towards Basil, especially in "The Builders" and "The Psychiatrist". Basil is face-slapped (once so hard he falls over), kicked in both shins, has a heavy cash box thrown at him, and is whacked with a golfing umbrella (before Sybil then starts on O'Reilly, the idiotic builder). Basil and Sybil know that this is the status quo. To be fair, Basil does kind of bring it upon himself with his incompetence and stupid actions.
    Sybil: I cannot abide cruelty to living creatures.
    Basil: I'm a creature, you can abide it with me.
    Sybil: You're not living.
  • Double Take:
    • A marvellous one in "The Builders". When Basil comes back to find that O'Reilly has completely filled in the door to the restaurant, he walks as if to go through it, stops and looks around as if he's taken a wrong turn, and then does a magnificently over-the-top, full-body double take when realization dawns.
    • Basil also does a Double Take in "Hotel Inspectors" when he places two previously ordered drinks on a table, only to find that (thanks to Manuel) a completely different guest is sitting there.
  • Dramatic Drop:
    • In "Communication Problems", when The Major lets slip to Sybil that Basil has been betting on horse races behind her back, Basil drops the £75 antique vase he was holding.
    • Polly seems to pick up on Basil's tendency for this, as in "Gourmet Night", she tells him to put down a bottle before she tells him about Kurt's inebriation.
    • Happens in "Basil the Rat", when Basil drops a bottle of wine, in the presence of the health inspector. Twice, in quick succession.
  • Driving Question: How did Basil and Sybil get together when they appear to hate each other so much, and why did they open a hotel?
    • Both of these questions are briefly alluded to in the final episode, "Basil the Rat". Sybil says that her mother says it's black magic how they got together. Later, when Basil tries to talk Manuel out of being depressed, Sybil hints at depression being Basil's reason for opening a hotel.
      Basil: (Gravely) Manuel, my wife informs me that you are depressed. Well, let me tell you, depression is a very bad thing. It's like a virus. If you don't stamp on it, it spreads throughout the mind, and one day you wake up, and you can't face life any more.
      Sybil: And then you open a hotel.
    • A lesser mystery is: in "Communication Problems", what happened when Basil previously bet on a horse?
  • Dude, Not Funny!: The Germans don't find Basil's Adolf Hitler imitation funny.
  • Eagle Land: Although he does turn out to be the hero of the tale who puts Basil in his place, the American visitor in "Waldorf Salad" is still one of the biggest American stereotypes you'll ever see. Then again, almost everyone on the show is some kind of national stereotype.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: The first two episodes "A Touch of Class" and "The Builders" have incidental music between scenes, which is dropped from later episodes.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: Invoked in the quote up top. Note that Basil's emphatic insistence that nobody mention the war (when no one in their right mind would anyway) and his propensity to do so himself are both due to him having a concussion, causing him to act even weirder than normal.
  • El Spanish "-o": Basil's usual way of trying to make Manuel understand:
    Basil: Por favor, el perro microscopico.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Major. His last name is Gowen, but no-one really uses it.
  • Exiled to the Couch: In "The Psychiatrist", Sybil suspects that Basil has been peering through a window at a pretty young guest, and banishes him from the bedroom, not caring where he sleeps that night. He is seen going into a broom cupboard, and the next morning, is found at the top of the stairs.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: "The Anniversary" has its action be almost continuous. Most plots in the show's episodes are wrapped up in a couple of days, at most.
  • Eye Scream: Manuel suffers a nasty looking poke when Basil gets especially fed up in "The Kipper and the Corpse." The director then says on the commentary that he wishes he'd put in some kind of squishy sound effect.
  • Faceplanting into Food: In "The Hotel Inspectors", Mr Hutchison faints into his cheese salad, after Basil Fawlty has handgagged him for a long time to stop him ranting loudly and furiously.
  • Failed Dramatic Exit: In "Waldorf Salad", Basil storms out of the hotel after a lengthy The Reason You Suck rant at the guests. Outside it is pouring with rain (about which Basil had previously yelled to a guest "you should have thought of that before"), and he ends up coming back in, soaked through, smiling genially.
  • Faint in Shock:
    • In "Communication Problems", Basil is robbed of his gambling winnings by Mrs Richards, then she's complaining it was "ten pounds short". When a man enters the hotel carrying a vase she bought the previous day and asks Basil if he knows her. He is so immensely frustrated that even the mention of her name makes him faint. (He does get straight back up though).
    • At the end of "Basil the Rat", he also faints from the pressure.
  • Fake Aristocrat: The con-man who persuades Basil that he is a member of the nobility, and charms him into a personal loan, leaving a briefcase full of "valuable jewels" as surety for repayment. Basil is conned and fawning... until the case is opened and shown to contain only bricks.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: Trope Namer. A good number of episodes feature Basil starting a small lie, only to have it completely spiral out of control with someone Pulling the Thread, or through a string of bad luck. Whatever the reason, Basil's schemes and webs of lies always came crashing down on his head at the worst possible moment, much to his horror and to the audience's amusement.
  • Fooled by the Sound:
    • Played for laughs in "The Germans". Just before a fire drill, Basil accidentally sets off the burglar alarm, which the guests believe is the fire alarm. Basil furiously demonstrates the difference between the alarms (the fire bell being a semitone higher), and insists that the guests only leave the hotel when the fire alarm is sounded; and then only when it sounds for the actual drill, not merely the demonstration of what it sounds like.
    • Played with in "The Kipper and the Corpse". When Miss Tibbs shrieks from inside a wardrobe, Manuel imitates it and begins singing. Later, when Miss Tibbs is heard screaming loudly in the distance, Basil says to the puzzled Dr. Price "I'll turn the radio down".
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "The Germans" has Basil asking Manuel to fetch a hammer, and Manuel misunderstands and thinks he is asking for Manuel's pet hamster. In "Basil the Rat", we meet that "hamster"...
    • In the very first episode, Basil takes a phone call from a Mr O'Reilly about a wall O'Reilly was supposed to build. The very next episode revolves around O'Reilly's incompetent and lazy brand of construction work.
  • Filling the Silence: In the first episode "A Touch of Class", there is a scene without dialogue where Polly is in the town, and meets Danny who is watching Lord Melbury from a car. During this scene, a jaunty version of the theme tune is heard. In this episode and the second episode "The Builders", there are bursts of music between the scenes, but this is dropped in subsequent episodes.
  • Forgotten Anniversary: In "The Anniversary", Basil plans a surprise anniversary party for Sybil (possibly the only nice thing he does for her over the whole show), but pretends that he's forgotten it to torture her a bit. She angrily storms off, leaving him to try and maintain a facade of normality in front of the party guests.
  • Food Slap: In "Communication Problems", Basil manically shakes a charity collection box upside down. Sybil yells at him, and then throws a cup of coffee over him (accidentally splashing the Major who is nearby), making Basil freeze.
  • Foul Flower: In "The Germans", Basil dislikes real flowers, preferring artificial ones.
    Basil: Polly, what's that smell?
    Polly: Flowers. I just got them from the garden.
    Basil: What are you stinking the place out with those for? What's happened to the plastic ones?
    Polly: They're being ironed.
  • Frantic Object Concealment: Basil sometimes hides an object frantically, with hilarious results.
    • "A Touch of Class": When Sybil comes in, Basil hides the cheque he is about to write for Lord Melbury, and distracts her by kissing her, to her annoyance.
    • "The Kipper and the Corpse": Both of the titular items have to be hidden frantically. Basil tries to dispose of the kipper out of the bedroom window, but cannot open it; he resorts to hiding it inside his jumper, but the smell gives it away. As for the corpse, it ends up being hidden in a wardrobe, and in a laundry basket.
    • "Basil the Rat": In the presence of the health inspector, Basil suddenly sees a box of rat poison on the fridge. As he grabs it, he drops a wine bottle which is in his hand.
  • Freudian Slip: In "The Wedding Party", Basil is annoyed by seeing Polly making out with her boyfriend and wearing a low-cut top. When he picks up the phone, he says "Hello, Fawlty Titties." He doesn't seem to notice it.
  • Freudian Slippery Slope: The quote up top is a good example. Basil also experiences several in the episode "The Psychiatrist".
  • The Friends Who Never Hang: In the whole series, Sybil rarely interacts with Manuel, perhaps reflecting what she believes to be Basil's poor choice of staff. An exception is in "Basil The Rat", when Sybil treats Manuel with genuine kindness, when he has to give up his pet rat.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • In "A Touch of Class": when Basil is outside the hotel pleading with Sir Richard and Lady Morris to stay, the "Fawlty Towers" sign is just above his desperate face.
    • In "Hotel Inspectors", one man continually gets the wrong meal, including the same Spanish omelette twice. When Basil takes it away, he crumples it up and slips it onto the Major's table, who then proceeds to eat it in the background while an argument goes on in the foreground.
    • In "The Kipper and the Corpse": while Mrs Chase's dog is yelping in the dining room, Basil is lurking in the background rubbing his hands, just after he has said "I'll go and hit some guests".
    • In "The Anniversary", Manuel and Terry have quarrelling about Manuel making a paella throughout the episode. In the final scene when Basil leads Sybil through the kitchen, Manuel and Terry are fighting on the floor, completely ignored by Basil and Sybil.
    • In "Basil the Rat", Basil tries to get his namesake out of Quentina's handbag while Polly distracts her. Basil gets bitten for his trouble but keeps his agony silent.
  • Funny Foreigner: Manuel can speak In-gul-eesh! He learned it from a boo-ook!
  • Funny Spoon:
    • Twice, Basil raps Manuel on the head with a spoon ("Hotel Inspectors", and "Gourmet Night").
    • In "The Hotel Inspectors", Mr Hutchison whom Basil mistakes for a hotel inspector is in fact a salesman who specialises in spoons. The comedy of the word "spoon" is thus demonstrated:
      Basil: Spoons, eh?
      Mr Hutchison: I'm sorry?
      Basil: (blowing a raspberry) Sppppppppppppppppppppoons!
  • Fun with Homophones: A passing example in "Waldorf Salad", concerning Mrs Arrad's plaice. Polly also quips that she will have plaice re-placed.
    Mrs Arrad: Excuse me! There is sugar in the salt cellar.
    Basil: Anything else?
    Mrs Arrad: I've put it all over the plaice.
    Basil: All over the place? What were you doing with it?
    Mrs Arrad: All over the plaice.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Basil has a moment of this in "The Builders", when he telephones O'Reilly to ask him to put right the shambolic building work, which sounds even funnier after Basil's earlier hysterical reaction.
    Basil: (silkily) Ah hello, Mr O'Reilly, how are you this morning?... Oh I do beg your pardon. Basil Fawlty, you remember, the poor sod you do jobs for? How are things your end?... Oh good! Well, how would you like to hear about things my end?... Oh well, up to your usual standard, I could say: a few holes in the floor, the odd door missing, but nothing you couldn't be sued for.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man:
    • In "The Builders", Basil breaks down when confronted with a construction snafu with Sybil returning any minute. Polly slaps him and he recovers enough sense to ask her for two more.
    • In "The Kipper and the Corpse", Miss Tibbs becomes hysterical when she sees the eponymous dead body. Basil tells Polly to slap her; she does, but Miss Tibbs faints instead of recovering.
  • Get Out!: In "Waldorf Salad", when the guests have tried his patience one time too many, Basil orders them all, not just the especially demanding visiting American couple, to leave:
    Basil: I've had fifteen years of pandering to the likes of you, and I've had enough! I've had it! Come on, pack your bags and get out!
    Mrs. Hamilton: They're packed!
    Mr. Hamilton: Order ten taxis, will ya? I'll pay for 'em!
    Basil: Come on! Come on!
    Guests: What? What?
    Basil: Out! Everybody out! Go on upstairs, pack your bags! Adios! Out!
    Mr. Johnston: But it's raining!
    Basil: Well, you should've thought of that before, shouldn't you? Too late now! Come on, out! Raus! Raus! RAUS!
  • Godwin's Law: This trope is older than the Internet: "You ponce in here expecting to be hand-waited on hand and foot, well I'm trying to run a hotel here! Have you any idea of how much there is to do?! Do you ever think of that?! No, of course not: you're too busy sticking your noses into every corner, poking about for things to complain about! Well, let me tell you something: this is EXACTLY how Nazi Germany started!"
  • Granny Classic: The two loyal and dotty old ladies, Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby, who live at the hotel, and almost take a grandmotherly role towards Basil. This is especially noticeable in "The Builders", when they talk very sweetly to Basil, holding his hands. In "Communication Problems", they try to be helpful to the irascible Mrs Richards.
  • Gratuitous French:
    • Basil often says "Bon Appetit" to a guest about to eat, usually sarcastically.
    • In "A Touch of Class", Basil is enraptured by the presence of Lord Melbury, and says happily "I don't know what". The Major then says "Je ne sais quoi".
    • In "The Wedding Party", he makes an effort to speak French to the flirtatious French guest Mrs Peignoir, when offering her coffee.
      Basil: Et maintenant, un peu de café?
      Mrs Peignoir: Ah, oui, s'il vous plaît, café au lait. note 
      Basil: Café what?
      Mrs Peignoir: Au lait.
      Basil: Ah, Café! Olé!
  • Gratuitous Spanish:
    • Manuel, being from Barcelona, speaks an almost incomprehensible mixture of Spanish and English.
      • Interestingly, his native tongue is standard Spanish (castellano), not Catalan. This is explicable : Manuel would have grown up under Franco's regime, which outlawed the regional tongues, so his school environment would have been entirely castellano-speaking, and his parents probably made him speak castellano at home, as that would be more use to him than Catalan in the Spain of the time.
    • Basil Fawlty's "classical Spanish", meanwhile, is utterly dire. His attempt to tell Manuel there's too many pats of butter on a tray is "Hay mucho burro allí." A literal translation back to English would be "To [sic] a lot of donkey there." It's even more nonsensical in Spanish. Some of the "Spanish" words Basil alights on are Italian.
  • Grudging "Thank You": Basil frequently says "Thank you so much", sometimes genially, sometimes furiously.
  • Hand Gagging: In "The Hotel Inspectors", Basil handgags the loudly complaining guest Mr Hutchison, causing him to faint.
  • Henpecked Husband: Sybil spends a lot of time nagging Basil, and he usually does what she says (if he can't weasel or bluster his way out of it). On one occasion after being rude to a guest, he even glances around for her, and responds to her absence by slapping himself and saying "Basil!"
  • Heroic BSoD: "Heroic" may not be quite the right word, but in "Waldorf Salad"; when Basil actually gets angry enough to scream "ASS!" instead of 'arse', you know he's finally snapped.
  • Hidden Depths: Polly works as a simple domestic in Fawlty Towers, probably to help fund her college degree, but as well as being proficient in art, she is able to pick up foreign languages extremely well and knows karate.
  • The Hilarity of Hats: In "The Builders", Basil prowls around looking for his cap, which is on his head. When he goes out, he puts another cap on top of it.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: Basil was based on a real hotel owner named Donald Sinclair. You might think his flaws were exaggerated for comedic effect, but at least one of his former employees says he was even worse than Basil.
  • Holding Both Sides of the Conversation: In "Waldorf Salad", Basil pretends to have a shouting match in the kitchen with Terry the chef, to pretend to Mr Hamilton that Terry is there.
    Basil: (as Terry) I was making another Waldorf salad.
    Basil: (as himself) Making another Waldorf salad?! What are you making another Waldorf salad for?
    (Basil takes his hat off and beats the fridge)
    Basil: (as Terry) Careful, Mr Fawlty! I'm only a little fellow.
    Basil: (as himself) What do you think Mr and Mrs Hamilton must think?
    (He suddenly notices that Mr Hamilton has entered the kitchen, and is staring)
  • Holding the Floor:
    • In "The Wedding Party", Basil goes to absurd lengths to protect Mrs Lloyd from what he believes is adultery from her husband. He distracts her by telling her about the kitchen door being installed, cracks on the wall, Manuel being in the laundry basket, and finally that another room is much nicer than hers (it is in fact identical to hers), and that they could have a discussion about moving rooms.
    • In "Gourmet Night": during the very long wait for the duck, Manuel, Polly and Sybil take turns to entertain the waiting guests: Manuel by twanging a guitar, Polly by singing badly, and Sybil by telling a silly story.
  • Hollywood Darkness: In "The Wedding Party", the studio lights take time to fade down when Sybil switches off the lights in the lobby. Also in "The Psychiatrist", there is clearly a light shining on Raylene, when Basil creeps into her dark room.
  • Home-Early Surprise: As Basil regularly tries to do things when Sybil's back is turned, there are several occasions when his lies are turned upside down when Sybil returns earlier than expected.
    • In "The Builders": in Sybil's absence, Basil has the building work done on the cheap. He tries to get the cowboy builder to put right the shambles before Sybil returns, but she returns early, and sees the damage for herself.
    • Played with in "The Wedding Party": soon after the French guest Mrs Peignoir has been flirting with Basil in Sybil's absence, he hears a knock at his bedroom door. Believing it to be Mrs Peignoir again, he calls out that his wife has returned unexpectedly, and even stages an imaginary conversation with her. But actually, it is Sybil knocking, who really has turned up unexpectedly.
    • The plot of "The Anniversary" centres around a rare Pet the Dog moment by Basil, in which he has arranged a surprise party for their wedding anniversary, after he forgot their anniversary last year. But before the guests arrive, Sybil believes he has forgotten, and flounces to the golf course. In desperation, Basil tells the guests that Sybil is ill, and goes to great lengths to convince them. Unfortunately, Sybil returns while the guests are still there.
  • Honour Before Reason: In "The Waldorf Salad" Basil has just convinced Terry to stay on to cook for the Hamiltons, but when he finds out that Terry isn't missing a karate lesson, but only a date with his girlfriend, he decides to cook the meal himself and tells Terry to go. Had he just swallowed his pride (and his prudishness) and kept the chef on, the evening probably would have gone a lot better.
  • Hotel Hellion:
    • The kid who changes the sign.
    • Also the kid who complains that his chips are the wrong shape.
  • The Inspector Is Coming: Basil hears that three Hotel Inspectors are in town, and immediately begins fawning over a guest with an officious manner and a vast professional experience of hotels. He then finds out that his target sells spoons. When another guest mentions he has two colleagues, Basil switches to fawning over him and even resorts to attempting bribery for a favourable report after he witnesses Basil's fight with the first guest. This one is in town for the regatta, though, at which Basil brightens up considerably, and disappears. He appears minutes later to thoroughly humiliate the first guest (who's leaving in disgust), in full view of the real inspectors who have just arrived.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Basil towers over his extremely petite wife, Sybil. Of course, this is mostly because John Cleese really is just that tall; he also towers over his own extremely petite wife, Connie Booth (Polly ... ex-wife, by the second season).
  • Humiliation Conga: Once an Episode. At least.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: In "A Touch of Class":
    • Basil's words after Sir Richard and Lady Morris have left.
      Basil: You snobs! You stupid, stuck-up, toffee-nosed, half-witted, upper-class piles of pus!
    • When Polly finally gets Basil's attention so she can tell him something really important, he bombards her with a flurry of words to show his impatience:
      Basil: Yes, yes, all right, yes, right, yes, well, yes, yes, what is it???
  • Hypocritical Humour:
    • In "A Touch of Class", Sir Richard Morris and his wife are so shocked and disgusted at Basil's antics that they decide to leave Fawlty Towers only moments after arriving. Basil angrily shouts and yells at them for being stuck-up snobs, despite constantly ranting about the riff-raff and lower classes at the hotel for pretty much the entire episode.
    • In "The Wedding Party", while Basil is reading, Sybil disturbs his concentration with her repeated drawl of "Oooh, I know!" on the phone to Audrey. Later, when Basil is grappling in the corridor with Manuel, she complains that she is trying to read, while Manuel loudly proclaims his love for Basil.
    • After violently attacking Mr. Fawlty, Mr. Hutchinson says "I am not a violent man, Mr. Fawlty."
      Basil: [on the floor] Yes, you are!
    • In "The Germans", Polly sticks her tongue out when Basil mutters that there always has to be a panic and argument about everything, he himself being the main culprit. And later in the episode, he famously mentions the war to some German guests.
      Basil: (to Polly, in a stage whisper) Don't mention the war. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it all right.
    • In "The Psychiatrist", Basil is nervous of the titular psychiatrist analysing everything he and his wife say, and he tries to tell her to take it easy, to the amusement of Terry the chef.
      (Sybil takes his arm to calm him; he jumps)
      Sybil: Oh Basil, why are you so nervous?
      Basil: I'm not nervous, I'm just saying "take it easy".
      Sybil: What's got into you?
      Basil: (Frantically) Nothing's got into me, I'm just saying take it easy. All of us, just take it easy. (With increasing mania) Can't I say take it easy without starting a panic?
      Terry: (Amusedly) Mr Fawlty, take it easy.
      Basil: Look, let's get one thing straight. You don't tell me to take it easy. I don't pay you to tell me to take it easy. I pay you to take it easy. No, I pay you to tell you to take it easy, so take it easy, right?
  • Hysterical Woman: In "The Kipper and the Corpse", the elderly Miss Tibbs screams hysterically when she sees the dead Mr Leeman, and eventually faints.
  • Ignorant About Fire: In "The Germans", Manuel accidentally starts a fire in the kitchen. He tries to beat it out, but sets fire to his oven gloves, and spreads the fire round the kitchen. When filming this, his actor Andrew Sachs was badly burned, and was paid compensation.
  • Ignore the Disability: The short woman in "Gourmet Night" and her husband the Colonel, who has a prominent facial tic, which makes things awkward when Basil introduces him to Mr. and Mrs. Twitchen.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
    • In "Gourmet Night", the chef Kurt drinks bottle after bottle when Manuel rejects his advances, leaving him incapable of cooking for the venerable guests. It is hinted at that this has happened before.
    • In "The Anniversary", Basil goes to the bar to fetch an ashtray; and in his desperation, he grabs a bottle and swigs from it. At the same moment, Manuel plucks Basil's arm, causing the drink to go all over him.
  • Indignant Slap: Sybil does this to Basil, as the lesser of the physical punishments she inflicts on him: in "The Psychiatrist" when she believes he has been spying on a pretty guest, and in "The Anniversary", when she believes he has forgotten their anniversary. It is implied that she does this frequently.
  • In Name Only: Slightly averted case: In the 1980s, an American production company approached John Cleese with the intention of remaking the show for an American audience. When he asked them about it, they told him they'd only made one slight change from the original; they'd removed the character of Basil Fawlty. They end up making it, without the Basil Fawlty character, but changed the name right before air. It was called Amanda's and it starred Bea Arthur.
  • The Inspector Is Coming:
    • "The Hotel Inspectors": Basil hears that three Hotel Inspectors are in town, and immediately begins fawning over a guest with an officious manner and a vast professional experience of hotels. He then finds out that his target sells spoons. When another guest mentions he has two colleagues, Basil switches to fawning over him and even resorts to attempting bribery for a favourable report after he witnesses Basil's fight with the first guest. This one is in town for the regatta, though, at which Basil brightens up considerably, and disappears. He appears minutes later to thoroughly humiliate the first guest (who's leaving in disgust), in full view of the real inspectors who have just arrived.
    • "Basil the Rat" features a surprise visit from the health inspector; Basil initially does not recognise him and thinks he is sniffing the raw meat in the fridge because he is a scavenger.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: A sedate string piece which ironically counteracts the farcical hilarity of the show.
  • Is There a Doctor in the House?:
    • In "The Kipper and the Corpse", Dr Price happens to be staying at the hotel, so Sybil gets him to examine Mr Leeman after he dies in the night.
    • Played with in "The Anniversary". When Basil is telling a web of lies about Sybil being seriously ill in bed to cover for her absence, Basil improvises that a dentist staying in the hotel examined her. Basil and Sybil's friend Virginia then insists on examining Sybil; Basil desperately tries to talk her out of this, as Virginia reminds him that she's a nurse.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Mr. Hamilton, the American guest in "Waldorf Salad" is loud, curses a lot, and is very demanding. But because he's loud and demanding, he actually stands up to Basil's poor service and treatment, and inspires the other (British) guests to do so (they were shown at the beginning of the episode being dissatisfied, but didn't want to complain because they didn't want to be seen as rude). In the 2009 commentary on the DVD, John Cleese said that he agreed with Mr. Hamilton, and that sometimes you have to complain before things can get better.
      • Mr. Hamilton is also shown to be well aware of how much he is asking for, and, to his credit, is willing to tip generously for the added trouble. This makes Basil's big show of making giving Mr. Hamilton what he wants - a Waldorf salad - while cutting every corner possible all the more craven and despicable.
    • Basil himself does have a point when he complains about the guests, as some of them really are as obnoxious and unpleasant as he is. Then again, it's part of his job to put up with difficult people. This means that while Polly, Manuel, and even Sybil usually agree with Basil that some of the guests are awful people, they can't find themselves on Basil's side because of his schemes for petty vengeance.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Basil typically has the opportunity to do the right thing and come clean, but will always build webs of lies that come crashing down on him at the worst possible moment if he thinks there's a shred of possibility that he can get away with it. The few attempts to dig deeper beneath the surface with Basil — his anniversary, a few tender moments with Polly, and his friendship with the Major — show that Basil really is just as petty and shallow as he appears to be. However, the show takes great pains to keep knocking him down a few pegs for this behaviour.
  • Jingle the Coins: In "Communication Problems'', Basil says "We'll have a whip round!", and furiously shakes a charity collection box upside down. The money is only heard, and not seen.
  • Jump Scare:
    • In "The Wedding Party", a drunken Manuel gives one to Basil, by knocking on Basil's bedroom door, then hiding around the corner, before jumping out and shouting, knocking Basil to the floor.
    • In "Gourmet Night", Manuel and Polly try to entertain the guests who are waiting a long time for their dinner. When Polly performs her song very badly, Manuel cheers loudly, startling Mr and Mrs Twitchen.
  • Kick the Dog: Basil is systematically cruel to the well-meaning Manuel, who tries really hard to do a good job despite his lack of English, and is very grateful to be employed. In "The Wedding Party", Manuel tries to read a prepared speech to Basil "Since coming here from Spain, leaving my mother...", but never gets to finish it, with Basil tearing up his speech, and later trying to strangle him.
  • Landline Eavesdropping: In "The Hotel Inspectors", Sybil tells Basil that she listened in on Mr Hutchison's phone call, presumably by picking another extension, and finds out that Mr Hutchison is merely a spoon salesman, not a hotel inspector.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The ending of "The Kipper and the Corpse". Sybil, who spends the series dishing off all the complaints on to Basil at will, finds herself having to explain the whole situation. Meanwhile Basil, who runs away from and complicates all his (usually self-made) problems, finds himself trapped in a laundry basket on a truck after doing that very thing.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: A concussed Basil tries it in "The Germans", but only makes it worse: "Now, would you like to eat first or would you like a drink before the warrrr...ning ... that trespassers will be tied up with piano wire?"
  • Leaning on the Furniture:
    • In "The Psychiatrist", Basil casually puts out a hand to lean on a bedroom door, but the door is opened, causing him to fall into the room.
    • In "The Kipper and the Corpse", some visitors arrive asking for Mr Leeman. Basil casually sits on a large laundry basket, while he tries to think of an answer to the fact that the man they are looking for is dead, and in the same basket. Manuel imitates Basil's pose of deep thought, putting his foot on the basket.
  • Less Embarrassing Term: In "Basil the Rat", where Manuel buys a rat from a pet shop under the premise that it is "a Siberian hamster."
  • Let Me at Him!: In "A Touch of Class", Basil longs to thump Lord Melbury, who has conned him; a policeman holds him back, and Basil has to take out his anger on a flowerpot instead.
    Basil: Just one! Just one!
    Policeman: (restraining him) Sorry, Mr Fawlty.
  • Long List: In "The Psychiatrist", Sybil lists her mother's fears to Mr Johnson, with her habit of talking at guests.
    Sybil: Rats, doorknobs, birds, heights, open spaces, confined spaces, it's very difficult getting the space right for her... footballs, bicycles, cows, and she's always on about men following her. I don't know what she thinks they're going to do to her; vomit on her, Basil says... and death.
  • Lost Voice Plot: In "The Anniversary", Sybil flounces just before all her and Basil's friends arrive for an anniversary celebration. To explain her absence, Basil tells them one lie after another, including that she has completely lost her voice, possibly wishful thinking on Basil's part.
  • Malicious Misnaming: In "The Wedding Party", Basil interrupts Polly kissing a young man, whom she introduces as Richard Turner. Basil then says casually "Please don't go on my account, Mr Turnip". In the same episode, he also forgets Jean's name, calling her "er".
  • A Man Is Always Eager: When Basil locks a woman in a cupboard with a dead body, her biggest worry was that he could spontaneously spring back to life and grope her.
    Sybil: Well, he was dead, dear.
    Miss Tibbs: A man is a man!
  • Meaningful Name: Fa(u)lty Towers
  • Metaphorgotten: "My dear woman, a blow like that to the head... is worth two in the bush."
  • Miming the Cues: There are two moments of this.
    • In "Communication Problems" Basil is trying to give Polly the name of a horse he won money on (Dragonfly), since she's holding it for him and they have to quickly convince Sybil that she bet on the horse instead. Sybil knows the name, so Polly needs the right one. Basil makes flapping motions and points to Sybil, because he refers to her as a dragon sometimes, but Polly incorporates other "pet" names first, leading to "flying tart" and "birdbrain". (She does get it eventually.)
    • In "Waldorf Salad", Terry tells Basil that he cannot stay late because he has his karate class; but Polly gives him away by mentioning Terry's Finnish girlfriend. Terry briefly tries to mime karate to Polly, but Basil realises what Terry is up to.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Three times in one episode ("The Wedding Party").
  • Mistaken from Behind: In "The Psychiatrist", Basil seizes a young woman from behind, believing her to be a non-paying guest. It is in fact Raylene, with a different outfit and hairstyle from when he saw her previously.
    Basil: I'm sorry, I thought you were somebody else.
  • Mondegreen Gag: Twice in "The Kipper and the Corpse", Polly claims to have misheard something, to divert from the death of Mr Leeman.
    Polly: When he said Mr Leeman was dead, I thought he said "he's still in bed".
    Guest: We've come to collect Mr Leeman, and take him to a meeting.
    Basil: Oh I see, Mr Leeman!
    Polly: We thought you said the linen.
    Basil: (to himself, a little too loudly) Brilliant!
  • Monochrome Casting: Accurately represents 1970s Torquay with its almost 100% white casting. The black doctor in "The Germans" is the only person of colour to appear in the entire series, and Basil is visibly freaked out by him.
  • Moving The Goal Posts: Mrs. Richards in "Communication Problems" is never satisfied, and constantly shifts her position so she'll have something to be querulous about. For one example, she initially complains that the room she's been given doesn't have a bath. When Basil opens the door to her bathroom and points out the bath that is actually there, she switches her complaint to it not being big enough.
  • My Car Hates Me: The very pinnacle of this trope.
    Basil: START!! Start, you vicious BASTARD!!!
  • Mythology Gag: In "The Builders", Basil explains to Miss Gatsby and Miss Tibbs that they have to go to the Gleneagles for their dinner due to the construction work. The Gleneagles and its manager is what gave John Cleese the inspiration for Fawlty Towers.
  • National Stereotypes:
    • The Major and Basil are both English stereotypes.
    • O'Reilly, the lazy, corner-cutting, hard-drinking Irish builder, played by David Blake Kelly, possibly the most Irish man alive.
    • The flirtatious French Mrs Peignoir in "The Wedding Party".
    • The crass, loud, demanding American in "The Waldorf Salad", although in a twist, he's presented as being almost entirely in the right, and ends up the hero of the story.
    • Completely averted with the Germans in "The Germans"; they are completely normal, and the joke is how Basil reacts to them.
    • In "Gourmet Night", when Basil learns that Kurt, who is Greek, is gay, he grumbles "Well, they invented it."
  • Necktie Leash: Downplayed in "Waldorf Salad". After the customers have made it clear they are not satisfied, Mr Hamilton yanks Basil's tie, and leaves it sticking up scruffily; this is swiftly followed by Basil's rant at his "demanding" guests.
  • Never My Fault:
    • This is basically the core of Basil's entire personality.
      Basil: [muttering] I'm so sorry I made a mistake, I'm so sorry I made a mistake...
      [opens door to guest's room]
      Basil: I'm so sorry, my wife made a mistake.
    • "The Builders" is a carnival of blame-shifting between the titular builders who screw up the job, Manuel who instructed and oversaw them, Polly who left Manuel in charge and went for a nap, and Basil who hired the inept builders despite past experience and Sybil's express instructions not to.
    • The one time Basil does take responsibility - for a couple who didn't get the alarm call they asked for - he is still truculent and defensive as ever.
    Because I forgot. I'm not perfect.
  • Newhart Phonecall: Done by various characters, mostly Sybil gossiping with Audrey.
  • No Accounting for Taste: Basil and Sybil, frequently bordering on The Masochism Tango. In "Basil the Rat", Sybil says that none of her friends understand how did they ever get together. "'Black magic,' my mother says."
    Basil: Well she'd know, wouldn't she? Her and that cat.
    • On the DVD, Prunella Scales recalls that after reading the pilot script, she immediately asked Cleese why Basil and Sybil got married in the first place.
  • No Animals Allowed: Inverted in the "The Kipper and the Corpse": Mrs Chase has a little lap dog in the dining room, which sits on a chair at the dining table, eats sausages, and ends up biting both Manuel and Polly.
    Mrs Chase: If dogs are allowed in the dining room, at least the staff should know how to handle them.
  • No Fame, No Wealth, No Service: Basil is like this. In accordance with sitcom rules, trying to attract a better class of clientèle never works for him. In fact, even the classist bias behind it backfires for him, allowing him to be taken in by a con artist.
  • Noodle Implements: Sybil's side of her telephone conversation in "The Hotel Inspectors":
    Sybil: " all started with that electrician, didn't it... a real live wire he was... I'd heard that, with her mother in the same room... Oh no! Who saw them?... 19? Well, the last one was only 22 - he was!... No, no, no, the Maltese one... No, no, dear, he was an Arab!"
  • Noodle Incident: A couple involving Basil and Sybil:
    • In "Communication Problems":
    Sybil: If I find out the money on that horse was yours, you'll know what I'll do Basil?
    Basil: You'll have to sew 'em back on first!
    • In "The Anniversary":
    Sybil: I didn't think he'd forget our anniversary this year, not after what happened when he forgot last year.
  • No Peripheral Vision: In "Waldorf Salad", Basil is in the dining room, busily reading out a fabricated letter from the chef, failing to notice smoke pouring out between the doors leading into the kitchen.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: In "The Psychiatrist", Basil is delighted to welcome Doctor Abbott (and his wife, Doctor Abbott) to the hotel - until he learns that Doctor Abbott is a psychiatrist.
  • Not What It Looks Like: In "The Wedding Party", in which Basil is caught once with a female guest and twice with Manuel; Manuel was drunk the first time and had accidentally knocked him over, and Basil mistakes him for a burglar the second time. Meanwhile, Basil accidentally walks in on two of the wedding guests embracing (they're related and it was perfectly innocent), and discovers Polly hurrying out of the lovers' room buttoning up her dress after hearing some weird noises (Polly was trying on one of the girl's dresses (they're old friends); the girl was giving her boyfriend a massage).
  • The Noun and the Noun: The episode "The Kipper and the Corpse". Most of the other titles take the form of one noun.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • "The Germans" implies that Manuel's English isn't actually quite as bad as he lets on, and that he pretends to speak barely any English so that Basil won't expect too much from him. At the same time his English isn't really as good as he believes it to be, but he speaks it well enough to hold a conversation with the Major (who believes himself to be talking to a moose head).
    • The "I know nothing" scene in "Communication Problems" can be read the same way. It's the only time Manuel says "I am from Barcelona", as opposed to Basil saying it to call him a stupid foreigner.
    • In "A Touch of Class", it's clear that Mr. Brown is doing this, as while he acts like a jack the lad and can't appear to read well, he can speak Spanish fluently. He turns out to be an undercover police officer.
    • It's also implied that Mrs Richards can hear more than she lets on.
  • Oddly Small Organization: The entire hotel seems to be run by Mr and Mrs Fawlty (Managers), Polly (Waitress - officially, everything else - unofficially) and Manuel (Porter/Waiter). The second series introduces us to Terry (Chef), although dialogue throughout Series 1 makes clear they do in fact have a chef, who simply functions as The Ghost. In the Series 1 episode "Gourmet Night", we do meet a chef, Kurt, but he's established as new, and gone by the end of the episode. The first episode of Series 2 also mentions another girl who's being employed but can't start until Monday, and we never meet her. In "The Germans", the Major refers to a former girl Elsie, who left a couple of years ago.
  • Oh, Crap!: Basil's unfortunate addiction to the Indy Ploy and Batman Gambit, coupled with his ineptitude at carrying them out, meant that many of his best moments were these. One example is in "The Builders". Stubbs, the conscientious builder who Basil has rejected in favour of the cheap-but-incompetent O'Reilly, inspects the new doorway Basil had O'Reilly built, and remarks that it looks very good. He then asks Basil what kind of lintel he used: RSJ (known to US viewers as an I-Beam)? When Basil replies that it was 2x4, and therefore basically a wooden plank, Stubbs points out 'But that's a load-bearing wall', whereupon Basil delivers this trope (and Sybil in a more subdued form with an angry "What").
  • One Cast Member per Cover: The twelve episodes were on four VHS cassettes, each with a picture of one of the four main characters.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Employed throughout, notably Basil thinking the psychiatrists are talking about sex when they're actually asking about his and Sybil's holidays ("my wife doesn't see how you can manage it at all!"). "Communication Problems" also centres around the trope.
  • One Head Taller: Basil towers over Sybil, but hilariously, he still jumps a mile whenever she barks "BASIL!" at him. John Cleese's height is the source of a lot of very good physical comedy throughout the series.
  • Only Sane Man: Polly. Basil seems to think it's him; needless to say, he's the only one thinking so. Sybil is capable of taking this role, but usually can't be bothered.
    • In the second series, Terry seems to be this too, mostly. In one episode, he lampshades this by commenting to Polly that the two of them practically run the place. Only mostly, though, since he still has a few insane moments, like his jealous rage over letting Manuel make an authentic paella.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: The old ladies Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby are normally shown to be inseparable, and very sweet and helpful. "The Kipper and the Corpse" is the only episode where they are seen apart, and after Miss Tibbs's hysterical reaction, she is very angry and assertive, even towards Basil.
  • Overly Long Gag:
    • In "Gourmet Night", Manuel puts Mr and Mrs Hall's plates down the wrong way round. Basil's attempts to get them the right way round keep being foiled, and eventually the guests swap places.
      Basil: Change the plates!
      Manuel: Oh, is dirty, I change them. (Starts to take them away)
      Basil: No no, change the plates. (Demonstrates changing them over)
      Manuel: Change the plates. (Changes them back)
      (Basil whispers to Manuel, and the guests change their plates themselves)
      Manuel: Sorry, sorry, wrong. (Changes the plates again)
      (Basil sees the plates and slaps Manuel, and the guests change them again)
      Basil: I'm sorry, he's from Barcelona. (Changes the plates)
      (The guests look at each other, then get up and swap places)
    • In "The Psychiatrist", after Basil leaves to show the "three doctors" (both of them!) to their rooms, we get possibly the longest Basil-less scene in the series, focusing entirely on Mr. Johnson's gradually increasing annoyance at the Character Filibuster tendencies of Sybil Fawlty, who has an obvious crush on him which she is very clearly only avoiding addressing more directly than roundabout dancing around the point and rambling blather about meaningless minutiae because her Awful Wedded Life to Basil is far too traditionalist. This is, of course, intentionally designed to irritate the audience (as most examples of this gag are), so one can really feel to annoyance of Mr. Johnson, who not only doesn’t reciprocate the attraction (and even if he did he has a girlfriend), but is also uninterested in the literal topics of conversation as well, PLUS is trying to hold a phone conversation as Sybil talks at him.
      Sybil: My mother has these morbid fears. Rats, doorknobs, open spaces, confined spaces, it's very difficult getting the space right for her... footballs, bicycles, cows... as she's always on about men following her. I don't know what she thinks they're going to do to her; vomit on her, Basil says.
    • There is a similar scene at the beginning of "Waldorf Salad": while the dining room is extremely busy, Sybil is ignoring the confusion around her, talking at a seated guest, who is merely trying to eat his meal.
    • The fire drill in "The Germans". Just before the fire drill, Basil accidentally sets off the burglar alarm, which the guests mistake for the fire alarm: he stops the guests leaving, telling them the fire drill is not for a couple of minutes. After arguing at length with the guests, and the Major terrified that there are burglars about, Basil sounds the alarms for comparison: the only difference is that the fire alarm is a semitone higher. When the guests start to leave, Basil yells at them that the drill hasn't started yet: this is just to show what the bell sounds like, not helped by Manuel yelling "Fire! Fire!". Basil then stops the alarm and waits for exactly thirty seconds before having the fire drill. While he does this, Manuel sets the kitchen on fire, unknown to Basil. After telling the guests that the fire drill is over, he then sees the fire, and has to sound the fire bell AGAIN; only this time, he has lost the key to start the alarm.
      Basil: Obviously, if there was a fire, you'd all be standing down here like this in the lobby. I don't know why we bother, we should let you all burn.
  • The Patient Has Left the Building: In "The Germans", Basil discharges himself from hospital when the doctor is not looking, because he is certain the hotel cannot function without him. The doctor pursues him to the hotel, before saying "Mr Fawlty, you'll be all right; come with me", with a hypodermic needle ready.
  • Percussive Therapy:
    • At the end of "A Touch of Class", Basil tries for the fourth time to hang the picture, and is interrupted yet again. He then hurls the picture on the floor, with the sound of breaking glass.
    • The iconic "damn good thrashing" scene in "Gourmet Night", where Basil takes out his frustrations on his broken-down car with a tree branch.
    • In the same episode, Basil violently throws the damaged duck at the unconscious chef. In the bar, he also thumps his fist down and catches a light metal tray, which jumps in the air and lands loudly, startling the guests.
    • In "Communication Problems", Basil is so frustrated at losing his money that he opens the till by banging it with his head.
  • Pest Episode: "Basil the Rat". Subverted as Basil and the hotel staff all desperately hunt for Manuel's pet rat which gets loose during a visit by the health inspector.
  • Pet Rat: Manuel has one (he insists it's a "Siberian Hamster") named Basil.
  • Pet the Dog: Basil occasionally shows genuine gratitude when one of the staff comes up with a solution to a crisis. In Gourmet Night, he kisses Polly when she suggests that Andre does the cooking (and then he tries to kiss Manuel). In Basil the Rat, he says "well done, Terry" when he thinks they have sorted out the problem of the poisoned veal. Similarly, the episode of Basil and Sybil's anniversary is perhaps one of the nicest things he's ever done for his wife, not just remembering her anniversary but throwing a surprise gathering..
  • Phoney Call: In "Communication Problems", the phone rings just as Basil has a horrified realisation that Sybil might find out from Polly about the money he won on a horse. Basil answers the phone, stealthily hangs up, and continues to talk, saying that he will fetch Polly, as if the call is for her. Afterwards, Sybil checks the phone, hears that nobody is there, and warns Basil about what she will do if she finds out the money on the horse is his.
  • Phrase Catcher: People are constantly excusing Manuel's incompetence, or alternatively a mistake they're pretending he made, with the phrase "He's from Barcelona."
  • Pie in the Face: In "The Hotel Inspectors", Basil takes revenge on Mr Hutchison for being the fussiest guest ever, by squashing a squidgy pie in Mr Hutchison's crotch, and another in his face. He also instructs Manuel to pour cream into Mr Hutchison's briefcase.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Some of Manuel's misunderstandings are due to him missing one single word.
    • In "The Hotel Inspectors:" Mr Walt asks Manuel for a table, for one. Manuel thinks he wants table number one. After Mr Walt is seated, Manuel checks a list, and moves Mr Walt to another table, which turns out to be Mr Hutchison's table, which leads to a whole series of misunderstandings about which food Mr Hutchison ordered.
    • In the appropriately named "Communication Problems": Mrs Richards demands some paper from Polly, neglecting to tell her that she means lavatory paper. Polly, really trying to help, keeps accidentally offending Mrs Richards with helpful questions. Soon afterwards, Polly tells Manuel to get some loo paper, for twenty-two. She means room twenty-two, but Manuel takes this to mean twenty-two rolls, and he is seen carrying a huge stack of loo paper.
      Mrs Richards: Girl! There's no paper in my room. Why don't you check these things? That's what you're being paid for, isn't it?
      Polly: We don't put it in the rooms, we keep it in the lounge.
      Mrs Richards: In the lounge?!
      Polly: I'll get you some. Do you want plain ones, or ones with our address on it?
      Mrs Richards: Address on it?!
      Polly: How many sheets? (Mrs Richards looks appalled) Well, how many are you going to use?
  • Popcultural Osmosis Failure: In "The Builders", the inept builder O'Reilly fails to grasp Basil's reference to Hadrian.
    Basil: (On the phone) We've been waiting for that wall about as long as Hadrian... No, Hadrian, the emperor Hadrian. He had a wall... doesn't matter, I'll explain later.
  • The Pratfall: Manuel would sometimes perform these when Basil was physically abusing him.
  • Primal Chest-Pound: In "The Psychiatrist", Basil beats his chest like Tarzan, saying he is just enjoying himself; he does this soon after Sybil has mentioned that monkeys know how to have fun and enjoy themselves. He does this in the presence of the titular psychiatrist, although Basil does not yet know this.
  • Properly Paranoid: Basil is convinced that Mr Johnson has smuggled a girl into his room. He has, but Basil's attempts to prove it fail because no one believes him and Sybil thinks he's just trying to get close to the pretty Australian woman in the next room.
  • Pull the Thread: Basil's eternal bane in the series is someone applying even the slightest bit of logic to his wacky schemes.
  • Reaching Between the Lines: Played with in "The Builders", when Basil telephones the hotel, and Manuel answers. Basil instructs Manuel to say to a bearded builder "you are a hideous orang-utan"; the builder then punches Manuel, which presumably was the effect Basil intended, as his voice is heard from the phone saying "well done Manuel".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In "Waldorf Salad", Basil gives one to all of his guests, especially a particularly demanding visiting American family, when they push him too far with their demands and he orders them to leave:
    Basil: This is typical. Absolutely typical... of the kind of... (turns sharply to the guests) ARSE I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH FROM YOU PEOPLE! You ponce in here expecting to be hand... waited on hand and foot, while I'm trying to run a hotel here! Have you any idea of how much there is to do?! Do you ever think of that?! Of course not! You're all too busy sticking your noses into every corner, poking about for things to complain about, aren't you? Well, let me tell you something — this is exactly how Nazi Germany started! A lot of layabouts with nothing better to do than to cause trouble! Well, I've had fifteen years of pandering to the likes of you, and I've had enough! I've had it! Come on, pack your bags and get out!
  • Refuge in Audacity: In "Basil the Rat", said rat turns up in a tin being presented to the health inspector. Basil's immediate reaction is to ask the inspector, "Would you care for a rat?"
  • Revenge Before Reason: All Basil had to do was let Lord Melbury leave the hotel. He'd be quietly arrested, Basil would get his money back, and Sir Richard and Lady Morris would be none the wiser. Instead, he decides to toy with the con man before letting slip that he's onto him. The police swarm the hotel, Melbury takes a chair to the crotch, Basil gives him a good kick and then pulls his money right out of his pocket - and the aristocrats he had hoped would raise his reputation leave in disgust.
  • Ridiculous Procrastinator: Basil often procrastinates about mundane things which need to be done, leading to frequent nagging from Sybil.
    • This is a Running Gag in "A Touch of Class", in which Basil procrastinates hanging the picture, typing the menu, and serving drinks to Mr Wareing; because he would rather relax in the office, chat to the Major, and fawn over Lord Melbury. When he does try to do one of these tasks, he is interrupted by a guest, the telephone, or Sybil nagging him to do something else.
    • In "The Germans": Although Sybil is away in hospital, she frequently checks up on Basil by telephone, nagging him to hang the moose's head among other tasks.
      Sybil: It's been sitting there for two weeks, Basil.
  • Rock Star Parking: In "Gourmet Night", Basil can easily park just in front of André's restaurant, twice.
  • Rummage Fail: In "Waldorf Salad", Basil frantically rummages in a large cardboard box, flinging vegetables across the kitchen.
    Basil: Easier to find a packed of sliced hippopotamus in suitcase sauce than a walnut in this bloody kitchen.
  • Running Gag:
    • In "A Touch of Class", Mr Wareing gives his drinks order four times, twice just after Basil has snarled "I'm talking to Lord Melbury!"
    Mr. Wareing: A gin and orange, a lemon squash and a scotch and water PLEASE!
    • Across the series, Basil suddenly has a spasm of pain from his old war wound when he needs a distraction.
    • In most episodes, the Major asks if the newspapers have arrived, sometimes oblivious to the chaos around him.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Basil drops into it at the slightest provocation. E.g. in "Communication Problems";
    Mrs Richards: [counting money] It's ten pounds short.
    Basil: [rather annoyed, having just seen £75 slip through his fingers] It's not! TEN POUNDS SHORT?! Oh, My God! Don't worry! We'll have a whip 'round!
    [starts shaking out the charity collection tin]
  • Sarcastic Confession: Another way Basil avoids responsibility.
    Mrs. Tibbs: You're very cheerful this morning, Mr. Fawlty!
    Basil Fawlty: Yes, well, one of the guests has just died!
  • Say My Name: "BASIL!", whenever said by Sybil, immediately puts him in his place and under her thumb.
  • Self-Plagiarism: John Cleese previously wrote the Doctor At Large episode "No Feeling", which involved a badly-run hotel and its brusque, henpecked owner. Producer Humphrey Barclay suggested to the writer that a series could be spun out of the premise.
  • Series Continuity Error: In "The Anniversary", Basil announces he's off to find a broom. He then runs right past a door "The Psychiatrist" revealed leads to the broom closet, instead preferring to head for the stairs to the first floor.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Mr. Hutchinson in "The Hotel Inspectors":
    Mr. Hutchinson: There is a documentary on BBC2 this evening about Squawking Bird, the leader of the Blackfoot Indians in the 1860s, now this starts at 8:45 and goes on for approximately three-quarters of an hour-
    Basil Fawlty: I'm sorry, are you talking to me?
    Mr. Hutchinson: Indeed I am, yes, now, is it possible for me to reserve the BBC2 channel for the duration of this televisual feast?
    Basil Fawlty: Why don't you talk properly?
  • Sexless Marriage: The one between Basil and Sybil, probably. They sleep in separate beds, and once, when he kisses her on the cheek (to throw her off), she tells him not to. In "The Psychiatrist", Basil claims that they have sex two or three times per week, but he's probably lying to appear normal.
    • In an interview Cleese said that he reckons the last time Basil and Sybil had sex was somewhere around the time of the Second Punic War.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Major Gowen, who appears in every episode, and is always wearing a smart suit.
  • Short-Distance Phone Call: In "The Builders", Polly attempts to cover for Basil hiring the builder O'Reilly by pretending to call from Stubbs's firm. She does this from the hotel drawing room, pinching her nose to disguise her voice. Sybil is not fooled, goes to find her, and speaks to Basil through the phone.
    Polly: (holding her nose) So you see we couldn't possibly manage it for at least three weeks, but if you want it done straight away, I suggest you try someone like... what's his name...
    Sybil: (entering the room) O'Reilly?
    Basil: (through the phone) Bravo Polly, well done, girl. But where are you speaking from?
    Sybil: (taking the phone) She's in here with me, Basil.
  • Shout-Out: Basil's exaggerated mock goose step is quite blatantly Cleese's "ministry of silly walks" stride from Monty Python's Flying Circus. Note the huge applause for it.
  • Shown Their Work: In "The Builders", the mention of the RSJ (I-Beam). John Cleese mentioned that including such details can make comedy more real, as long as you get them right.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: This happens to the Major a lot.
  • Silent Conversation: In "A Touch of Class": When Polly is in town, she gets into a car with Danny, who shows her an ID card. No dialogue is heard, but a jaunty version of the theme music is played instead.
  • A Simple Plan: Basil frequently comes up with ways to get something around his wife, or to make a quick buck. Inevitably, the plan spirals completely out of control and lands back on his head.
  • Sitcom: Considered one of the finest of all time.
  • Sleeping Single: Basil and Sybil, probably because they can't stand each other. In the same episode, Basil refuses to let a young unmarried couple have a room with a double bed, but is overruled by Sybil.
  • Smack on the Back: In "Basil the Rat", Basil claps Manuel on the back when trying to cheer him up. As Manuel is used to being slapped around regularly, he does not take it well.
    Manuel: Don't hit me! Always you hit me.
  • Sneaking Snacks: In Gourmet Night, Basil is constantly eating savouries, including from a pile of them on the engine of his car, when he is trying to mend it himself. In the kitchen, Sybil catches him at it, and neatly confiscates the plate with "are you at those again?".
  • Sneaky Departure: At the end of "The Kipper and the Corpse", the episode ends in chaos with Basil telling all the guests in the lobby that Sybil will give them an explanation. While they crowd round the reception desk complaining noisily, he hides in a large laundry basket, which is taken away and loaded into a van.
    Basil: Ladies and gentlemen, there have been a lot of cock-ups this morning. You all deserve an explanation, and I'm happy to say that my wife will give it to you.
  • Speak in Unison:
    • In "The Germans", the guests reply in unison "It did!" when Basil insists that the burglar alarm does not sound like the fire alarm.
    • In "Waldorf Salad", Misses Tibbs and Miss Gatsby reply in unison when Basil asks if they are satisfied.
  • Spoiled Brat: That obnoxious boy from "Gourmet Night" who says his meal is awful just because it looks different to what he normally eats.
  • Spoonerism: In "The Anniversary", Basil yells "It's perfectly Sybil! Simple's not well. She's lost her throat and her voice hurts."
  • Standard Snippet:
    • An in-universe example in "The Builders": Basil switches on a cassette player playing "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" just before Sybil arrives, to see the completed building work. He also plays "Brahms' Third "Racket" in "A Touch of Class", and Chopin piano music in "The Wedding Party".
    • In "Basil the Rat", as Manuel sadly carries his pet rat away from the hotel, accompanied by Polly, a few bars of Rodrigo's "En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor" is heard.
  • Stealth Insult: In "The Hotel Inspectors", Polly delivers one to the demanding Mr Hutchison.
    Polly: You're not by any chance the Duke of Kent, are you?
  • Stepping Out to React: Downplayed in "The Hotel Inspectors" when Basil tastes the wine which is corked and has gone bad, and then turns into the corner to cover his reaction; more about the cost of the wine than the bad taste.
  • Stereo Fibbing: In "Basil the Rat", Basil tries to justify to two customers why another customer had just been given veal when Basil has just said that the veal is off. He claims that the veal is "veal substitute".
    Basil: It got held up in the boat on the way over from...
    Polly: Japan.
    Basil: Norway. It's a sort of Japo-Scandinavian imitation of the veal substitute and I'm afraid that's the last slice anyway.
  • Styrofoam Rocks: Certain props are clearly lighter than they should be, such as suitcases which Basil or Manuel carry upstairs. Several other examples occur in "The Builders":
    • The enormous garden gnome, which Basil bangs on the desk, showing it to be much lighter than a garden statue of that size would be.
    • The cup of tea which Polly gives to O'Reilly, which is probably empty.
    • The wall which has replaced the dining room door, which wobbles when Basil bangs Manuel's head into it.
  • Suddenly Shouting: In "The Psychiatrist":
    Basil: Be quicker to train an APE!
  • Take That!: one of the few critics to pan the show in its first season was Richard Ingrams writing in The Spectator. Flash forward to a second season episode in which a guest named Mr. Ingrams is caught with a blow-up doll in his room.
  • Talking with Signs:
    • In "The Hotel Inspectors", Basil shows off an attempt to communicate with Manuel, holding up a series of cards showing a suitcase, an up arrow, and the number seven to instruct Manuel to take a guest's case up to room 7. Manuel then produces a card saying "OK" right back at Basil.
    • In "Communication Problems", Basil tries to tell the irritable deaf Mrs Richards to turn on her hearing aid. He finally writes "turn it on" on a piece of paper, which she can't read without her glasses, which are propped up on her forehead. Basil tries to point this out by writing another note, before realisation dawns.
  • Terrified of Germs: In "The Hotel Inspectors", the fussy guest Mr Hutchison asks Basil to book a taxi for him, because he never uses the telephone if he can avoid it: risk of infection. When he later receives a telephone call, he complains that the earpiece was very greasy, and he has wiped it out.
  • Thanks for the Mammary: In "The Psychiatrist", Basil once mistakes a guest's breast for a light switch as he was trying to turn on the light from the other side of the door. Naturally, Sybil walks in at just the right moment. Later in the same episode, Basil accidentally gets his hand covered in black paint just before he leaps out of a storage room intending to catch a girl who he believes has snuck into the hotel to spend the night with a male guest. He doesn't catch the girl he's expecting, but he does grab the same female guest from earlier, and he has just planted a black print of his entire hand on her breast. Once again, Sybil comes along just in time to see Basil's unfortunately placed hand print.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Some of the guests address Basil as "Fawlty", including the Major, Mr Hamilton in "Waldorf Salad", and Lord Melbury in "A Touch of Class". At first, Basil is fawning over Lord Melbury and does not mind at all, but when he has found out that Melbury is a con man, Basil says "Mr Fawlty to you, Lord Melbury.".
  • Title, Please!: The series originally aired without episode titles, and when other media (such as the scripts book and the soundtrack LPs) used titles, they were inconsistent (for example, the S2 opener went through a period of being titled "Mrs Richards" before settling on the now-standard "Communication Problems"). Eventually the titles settled down and at some point the episodes were edited to add the episode titles on-screen. However, the current remastered DVDs have gone back to how they were originally.
  • Tongue-Out Insult: In "The Germans", Polly sticks her tongue out after Basil's Hypocritical Humor, when he snaps "What's the panic? There always has to be an argument about everything!".
  • Too Desperate to Be Picky: Played for laughs in "The Kipper and the Corpse". Dr Price orders Basil to have the kitchen scrubbed before any more food is prepared there, as a dead body has been in the kitchen. However, as he is desperate for his own breakfast, he adds "sausages excepted, you may cook them immediately, I'll take the risk".
  • Training from Hell: Manuel spends the series learning how to wait and how to speak English. Rarely a single episode goes by where he isn't physically assaulted by Basil with various kitchen implements.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent:
    • There were three separate attempts to do an American adaptation. 1978's Snavely, despite the promising pairing of Harvey Korman and Betty White as the Basil and Sybil expies, never made it past the pilot stage. Another future Golden Girl, Bea Arthur, was subject to a Gender Flip as the Basil expy in Amanda's in 1983, then in 1999 there was Payne, with John Larroquette in the Basil slot. Despite the British Brevity of the original, it still outlasted all of the remakes.
    • In many ways, Newhart was like a Pragmatic Adaptation, as a farce about a small inn, but taking the different path of making the owner the Only Sane Man and Audience Surrogate. The similarities in the two shows were a coincidence, but they still work as companion pieces.
  • Translation by Volume: Basil often addresses Manuel, the Spanish waiter and bellboy by shouting at him, along with lots of Gratuitous Spanish (which is as often as not French, Italian or As Long as It Sounds Foreign) and slapstick violence. See this clip.
  • Trauma Button: In "The Kipper and the Corpse", Miss Tibbs is traumatised by the sight of the dead Mr Leeman. Three times she sees him, screams hysterically, and faints.
  • Troubled Foetal Position: At the end of the "The Psychiatrist", Basil pulls his jacket over his head and hops about in agony, before rolling on his side in the foetal position. The titular psychiatrist says "I'm on holiday" when his wife looks to him for professional advice.
  • Truth in Television:
    • John Cleese said that he based the idea of the character of Manuel on his own experience in restaurants where the owners are too cheap to hire anyone but desperate immigrants who don't speak one single word of English, "so that the chances of you getting what you've ordered are literally about one in six".
    • For modern viewers, it may seem odd that the Major and the two old ladies all appear to live at the hotel. At the time, it was common for British pensioners to sell their homes and move into a seaside hotel once they retired.
  • Tuckerization:
    • In "The Builders", Basil tells the old ladies that they will have to stay at Gleneagles for their dinner, after the Gleneagles hotel, from which John Cleese drew his inspiration for the series.
    • In "The Kipper and the Corpse", the dead man is called Mr Leeman, after a hotel owner who told John Cleese that the most difficult thing is getting rid of "the stiffs", i.e. guests who die in the night.
    • Also in "The Kipper and the Corpse", Basil bursts in on a guest Mr Ingrams inflating a sex-aid doll, named after a Caustic Critic.
  • TV Telephone Etiquette: Justified in "The Germans", as throughout the episode, Sybil is constantly phoning to check up on Basil. At first, he starts and finishes the calls normally, but as this goes on, he does not bother to check who is calling; at one point he picks the phone up, yells into it, and immediately slams it down again.
  • Twisted Echo Cut: One of these occurs in "Communication Problems", when Basil and Sybil enjoy their own indulgences.
    Basil: (To Manuel, in a whisper) I want you to put money on this little horse Dragonfly, but big secret! Sybil, no know...
    (In the next scene, Sybil is on the phone, discussing a wig on a stand)
    Sybil: No no, it's lovely, it's just a bit buttery with my skin.
  • "Ugly American" Stereotype: An American guest staying at the hotel complains about how bad travel is in the UK compared to the United States. He also criticises the menu for not having certain foods. And towards the end, he tells Basil that the hotel is a disgrace to Western Europe (although many of the patrons do agree).
  • The Unfair Sex: Played for laughs; in "The Psychiatrist", Sybil hits the roof when Basil finds himself inadvertently getting into all sorts of compromising situations surrounding an attractive young Australian guest. However, she has spent much of the very same episode shamelessly flirting with an attractive male guest, and she has frequently done so with other male guests in the past as well. Though Basil did appear to be repeatedly groping and making advances towards the woman while Sybil never went beyond flirting.
  • Unsatisfiable Customer: Mrs. Richards. Most of the other guests, even especially demanding ones like Mr. Hamilton, probably could have been satisfied if Basil would just try, but Mrs. Richards is simply beyond all reason and logic. She initially complains that the room she's been given doesn't have a bath. When Basil opens the door to her bathroom, she switches her complaint to the bathtub not being big enough. She even complains about the view of Torquay and the weather in the area, as if those were things that Basil had the power to change.
  • Unseen No More: Audrey, with whom Sybil often gossips on the phone, finally puts in an appearance near the end of "The Anniversary" - and what is Sybil saying to her? "I know!"
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Basil desires to move up in social standing and attract a better class of customer to his hotel. But he's also verbally abusive to the help, only superficially nice to his guests, and his Hair-Trigger Temper and persistent zany schemes built on webs of lies keep getting him into all kinds of trouble. Were Basil simply more honest and able to keep his temper in check, most of his problems would resolve much quicker. But any attempts to dig beneath the surface with Basil show how petty and shallow he is, and any lessons he learns are quickly forgotten. Creator John Cleese has said that were Basil a good person, Fawlty Towers would be the greatest tragedy ever made. But because he's such a jerk, the audience is intended to laugh at his pain.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In "The Builders", the Major is totally unperturbed by the sight of Basil carrying Manuel across the dining room, and they even manage the usual "Morning, Fawlty" "Morning, Major" exchange.
  • Villain Protagonist: Basil, in some episodes, is the cause of most of the episode's problems. It makes the audience able to delight in his failures due to being such a jerk, though. In some episodes, he's attempted to lie to inspectors about the state of the hotel, tried to hide how obviously prejudiced he is towards some German guests, and automatically assumes the worst about an American for the same reason.
  • Visible Boom Mic: "The Psychiatrist" has the shadow of a boom mic on the back wall during one shot.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: So discreet it's confusing. In "Gourmet Night", Basil is asking inebriated chef Kurt how to prepare the mullet ("do we fry it? Just go 'ungh'"). We barely see Kurt's head move, the camera cuts to Sybil, while the audience howls with disgust. According to the director's DVD commentary, Kurt vomited on the plate, but the BBC wouldn't even let them show enough to properly suggest it.
  • Weather Report Opening: "The Wedding Party" begins with the Major commenting on how warm the weather is that evening, setting the scene for Polly and some of the guests being scantily clad.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Manuel names his pet "hamster" (actually, a rat) Basil.
  • When It Rains, It Pours: In "Waldorf Salad", the American guest Mr Hamilton is very wet when he arrives, and mutters about British weather. Basil defends the weather, saying he likes it, as it is very mild all year round. At the end, he has a furious rant at the guests, and ends up storming out of the hotel, straight into the pouring rain which he was so keen to defend.
  • Who's on First?: In "Communication Problems":
    Mrs. Richards: Now, I've reserved a very quiet room, with a bath and a sea view. I specifically asked for a sea view in my written confirmation, so please be sure I have it.
    Manuel: "¿Qué?"
    Mrs. Richards: What?
    Manuel: "¿Qué?"
    Mrs. Richards: "K"?
    Manuel: Si.
    Mrs. Richards: C? K.C.? K.C... What are you trying to say?
    Manuel: No, no no, no. "Qué": "what".
    Mrs. Richards: K. Watt?
    Manuel: Si. "¿Qué?": "what".
    Mrs. Richards: C. K. Watt??"
    Manuel: Yes.
    Mrs. Richards: Who is C.K. Watt?
    Manuel: ¿Qué?
    Mrs. Richards: Is he the manager?
    Manuel: Ah! Manager!
    Mrs. Richards: He is.
    Manuel: Ah, Mr. Fawlty!
    Mrs. Richards: What?
    Manuel: Fawlty!
    Mrs. Richards: What are you talking about, you silly little man?! [to Polly] What's going on here? I ask [this man] for my room, and he tells me the manager is a Mr. Watt, age forty.
    Manuel: No, no, no. Fawlty.
    Mrs. Richards: Faulty? What's wrong with him?
    Polly: It's all right, Mrs. Richards, he's from Barcelona.
    Mrs. Richards: The manager's from Barcelona?
  • World's Shortest Book: Johnson in "The Psychiatrist," says the guidebook about interesting things in Torquay must be "one of the world's shortest books," like "The Wit of Margaret Thatcher" or "Great English Lovers."
  • Wrong Insult Offence: An unfortunate example occurs in "The Germans" when the Major tells a story about how he took a woman to a cricket match, and she kept referring to the Indian players by the wrong racial slur.
    The Major: And the strange thing was... throughout the morning she kept referring to the Indians as niggers. "No no no," I said, "the niggers are the West Indians. These people are wogs." note 
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Basil struggling to get his story straight in "The Anniversary".
    Basil: "She only began to puff up about an hour ago."
    Roger: "But you said the doctor came first thing this morning."
    Basil: "Yes, that's right. That was for the throat. The puffing up started after he'd gone, okay?"
    Virginia: "After?"
    Basil: "Yes, after. Are you taking notes? (Virginia makes to leave) Where are you going?"
    Virginia: "I'm going to see her. There is something very peculiar about all this. I won't stand here while an old friend like Sybil..."
    Basil: "Look, it's perfectly Sybil - simple's not well. She lost her throat and her voice hurt. The doctor came and said it was a bit serious. Not a lot - a bit. He went away, she started to puff up, he's coming back later this afternoon, and it's best for her to be on her own. Now what is so peculiar about that?"
  • You Get What You Pay For:
    • Basil hired Manuel because he's cheap.
    • In "The Builders", Basil hires the cheap (and inept) O'Reilly to do some renovation work at the hotel instead of Sybil's choice, the more expensive (but competent) Stubbs, with predictable results.
    • Basil's attempts to fix the car himself, rather than pay a professional to fix it, contribute to the chaos in "Gourmet Night".
    • In "The Germans", the moose's head is clearly cheap (twelve pounds) and badly made, as an antler sags just after it has been mounted.


Video Example(s):


"I'll do the funny walk"

In an attempt to cheer up a German guest who he upset, Basil Fawlty performs "the funny walk" which is actually a goosestep.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / SillyWalk

Media sources: