John Cleese reveals Fawlty Towers was almost rejected by BBC with unearthed letter: ‘It’s dire’
John Cleese has shared a scathing letter from a former BBC script editor who branded Faulty Towers “dire”.
Although only 12 episodes were made of the beloved 70s sitcom, the show has become legendary, often noted as one of the broadcaster’s best comedies.
Despite the acclaim, Cleese revealed that not everyone was a fan of the show back then and took to Instagram to share a letter, dated May 29th 1974, from Iain Main, who was the Light Entertainment Comedy Script Editor for the BBC at the time.
The note, which was sent to Main’s superior, the head of comedy and light entertainment, reads: “I’m afraid I thought this one as dire as its title.
“It’s a kind of ‘Prince of Denmark’ of the hotel world. A collection of cliches and stock characters which I can’t see being anything but a disaster.”
Fortunately for Cleese, the powers that be ignored Main’s comments and the show was greenlit.
Writing alongside a snap of the letter, Cleese penned: “Fawlty Towers Rejection Letter. The man who commissioned the series told me, after the first episode ‘You’ll have to get them out of the hotel more’.
“After two shows, the Daily Mirror announced, ‘Long John short on jokes’ and the Spectator went on and on hating it... My greatest successes began with rejections.” (sic)
The TV star’s social media post comes as he revealed he’s killed off Basil Fawlty’s wife Sybil in the Fawlty Towers reboot.
It was announced in February that the BBC show would make a return more than 40 years after it went off screen with the 83-year-old and his comedian daughter Camilla, 39, writing new episodes.
Cleese starred as Basil in the sitcom while actress Prunella Scales, now 90 and living with Alzheimer’s, portrayed his on-screen wife, Sybil.
In anticipation of the revival, the comedic actor has shared several details about it, notably revealing that Sybil, who was often at the receiving end of his character’s insults, has died.
He also confirmed that the series will be set in the Caribbean and will introduce viewers to Basil’s daughter, who is the product of an affair with a hotel guest.
He told The Sun: “The new one starts with Sybil’s death and Basil’s daughter getting a text message from her father saying, ‘Sybil did’.
“She texts back, ‘Sybil did what?’ Basil is about to deliver the eulogy and says what an absolutely wonderful woman Sybil was. And then the camera pans around and you see that behind his back he has his fingers crossed.”
Cleese added: “Sybil dies and Basil goes to see his daughter because it was all part of a naughty affair that he once had with a guest at the hotel.
“My daughter will probably be a hotelier who’s running this small hotel. It’s going to be a sort of slightly posh boutique hotel in the Caribbean with a multicultural staff because that’s the world of hotels. And there’ll be no one in except Basil.”