We have elevators, they have lifts. We have lines, they have cues. We have restrooms, they have water closets. And while the English have kept busy maintaining a certain sophistication and a rather dry sense of humor, not everything they do seems pompous and aloof. With BBC programming ranking high in national popularity, their sense of wit has slowly trickled in to the mainstream, perhaps undetected. Certain staples, like “A Fish Called Wanda” or “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” are staples of a cult comedy diet are directly imported from those funny talking, tea-sipping, crumpet munchers.
Unfortunately for the average television conusumer, British comedy takes a backseat to the overbearing and often not funny products of the major network machine. In a “Celebrity Deathmatch” I would take the smart-talking-“Weakest-Link”-bitch over “Greg the Bunny” any day.
But alas, consumer driven America has yet to import anything beyond “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” which ABC took the liberty of subtly changing for the worse. Fortunately the modern technology that brought us the boob tube is bringing another modern advantage into our lives – the DVD collectors set. And with the popularity of re-releasing hard to find television shows a la digital video disk, the future is now – behold the comic genius of John Cleese, now with a place to shine from beneath the shadows of “Friends” and “Baywatch.”
You may recognize his name from the ground-breaking Monty Python, or you may have no idea who this John Cleese fellow is, since his lack of chiseled good looks and sex appeal excludes him from regular media coverage. But what can be guaranteed is his status as a comedic wonder. The proof is in “Fawlty Towers,” in which he plays Mr. Fawlty, the un-coordinated, scatter-brained, sharp tongued and short-tempered owner of the hotel Fawtly Towers. The circumstances of the storyline are simple: Mr. Fawlty, accompanied by his nagging wife, Cyball, barely fluent in English bellhop, Manuel, and airhead maid Polly, pulls himself out of one predicament and into another, of course with humorous consequences. From health inspectors and corpses to visiting Germans and concussions, nothing compares to the trouble Basil Fawlty finds himself in when trying to cover his own ass and keep the fa