WORLD EXCLUSIVE: John Cleese says he WON'T allow BBC to screen new series of Fawlty Towers

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: John Cleese says he WON'T allow BBC to screen new series of Fawlty Towers
Cleese full
Paige Creaney

By Paige Creaney


Published: 09/02/2023

- 22:25

Updated: 09/02/2023

- 23:54

Comedy legend tells Dan Wootton on GB News that he's finished with corporation

John Cleese has revealed he will NOT allow the BBC to screen the new series of Fawlty Towers.

Castle Rock Entertainment announced this week that it had secured a deal with Cleese to bring back the comedy, which originally ran for two series on BBC Two in 1975 and 1979 following the lives of Torquay hotelier Basil and his wife Sybil as they attempted to keep their business and marriage from failing.


But in a bombshell revelation in an interview with Dan Wootton on GB News, the actor, comedian and writer announced he would be finding a new home for the sequel which will be written alongside his daughter Camilla Cleese.

He said: "I’m not doing it with the BBC because I won’t get the freedom.

"I was terribly lucky before, because I was working for the BBC in the late Sixties, Seventies, and the beginning of the Eighties.

"That was the best time because the BBC was run by people with real personality who loved the medium and who were operating out of confidence, which was okay because there wasn’t so much competition.

"Then John Birt came in and said if the BBC didn’t match the viewing figures that the commercial channels were getting they’d get their license revoked.

"So then they started going for the biggest audiences and tended to go for the lowest common denominator while always denying they were doing that.

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"If you look at a paper now from 1985 and looked at the TV shows available that evening and compare what they are now - basically in Britain we’ve gone from what was a middle-class culture with all its failings to a tabloid culture and that is why there is so much of this screaming at people."

He added: "I want to deal with subjects that get people upset but I want to get sensible people with a sense of humour who will listen to each other and who will trade arguments rather than simply making speeches."

When Fawlty Towers was originally broadcast in the 1970s, it won several Baftas, including for best scripted comedy, with Cleese also picking up the award for best entertainment performance.

But Cleese admitted he was going to have to shake things up a bit. "My daughter and I have been writing together for 16 years – which people don’t know – and she met a guy and they chatted briefly and we were all in Las Vegas together because I was doing a show with her and we had dinner and we suddenly realised that if we do a sequel, first of all it’s interesting.

"Secondly, it doesn’t rely upon Manuel – dear Andy Sachs who’s not with us anymore, and Prue Scales who has difficulty remembering stuff - and certainly almost everyone else is dead.

"When I look at old clips now all these wonderful English character actors aren’t with us anymore, so suddenly we thought that if the only continuing character is Basil, then we can come up with something surprising.

"Then we thought, 'Where?” Not in a small English town, but somewhere more fun and much more different - say a Caribbean island or something like that with a small bijou hotel with a few rich people coming to stay!'

Dan replied: "So a bit of a White Lotus vibe?" to which Cleese responded: "That’s what my wife was saying to me yesterday. If you put it in the Caribbean, it becomes very multi-racial.

"People in the hotel business come from everywhere, so you can bring lots of different people together. The characteristic of Fawlty Towers was the pressure cooker atmosphere created in the hotel.

"The guy who commissioned the show, after the very first show, he said: 'John, you‘re going to have to get them out of the hotel more'.

John Cleese played the character of Basil Fawlty in the British sitcom
John Cleese played the character of Basil Fawlty in the British sitcom
BBC

"Well, he was completely wrong. But I didn’t listen to him anyway. I don’t tend to listen to people in charge."

GB News confirmed today that Cleese will host a new series on the channel later this year.

The programme will feature John in conversation with his choice of guests on a wide range of areas that interest him.

"There’s this huge argument about wokery," he said. "Some of it springs from a very good idea, which is “'let’s try to be kind to people.'

"But I believe it’s become far too dominated by people who are frightened of offending others.


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