Why do Brits think Fawlty Towers was funnier than Monty Python?

A while back I saw a BBC interview with God himself,-- well, actually it was John Cleese.

They spent (= wasted) the entire half hour reminiscing about Fawlty Towers, with only an occasional (almost accidental)reference to Monty Python.

Fawlty Towers was an average,routine, very cliche-ridden sitcom. How many times did they repeat worn-out ideas? (such as hiding a dirty kitchen from the health inspector, or disguising a poorly cooked meal for the gourmet client, or accidently insulting a VIP because he dressed informally).

But Monty Python was-truly-something completely different. It only ran for 2 seasons, 30 years ago, but it is still more widely quoted than any other TV series I know of. It was genuinely unique,and very funny. John Cleese must know the difference. (He may have made more money from F.Towers–but we’re talking about pure ART here!)

So what is wrong with the British public? Don’t they know greatness when they see it?

And if you don’t agree with me: you must be six feet under, pushing up daisies, joined the choir invisible, …etc,etc.

Overgeneralizing much? The only poll I remember (Funniest British TV Show) had the series rated #1 and #2. It’s not as if they don’t like Python. It’s just ‘not for some people’ in a way I don’t think Fawlty Towers is.

Average my ass. The ideas were often not new, but the execution was great. And it’s a weirder show than you’re giving it credit for.

I’ve been on the SDMB since 1997, and in that time I’ve been able to categorize common errors in posting.

This particular thread, though well meant, is guilty to two errors. One is common, the other isn’t.

  1. It’s in the wrong forum. This happens all the time and isn’t that big of a deal. It’ll get moved.

  2. It assumes something not necessarily true in its question. This happens more in GQ than Cafe Society, but is frustrating all the same. You have assumed, based on one interview with Cleese, that the Brittish public doesn’t see the genius of Monty Python. My experience has been that they very much do see the genius of Monty Python AND Fawlty Towers. It could be that the interviewer didn’t want to repeat a oft visited topic in his interview with Cleese.

This is not to say that all Brittish like either show.

By the way, there are only 12 FT episodes, so repeat topics are rare. It is the themes(Basil is wrong and prudish, Manuel is incompetant but tries) that are repeated throughout all 12 episodes. Hey, they even threw in one episode(the Psychiatrists) where Basil was right(the dude did have a girl in his room).

Just an observation. I’m not mad or on the attack.

According to this review of Fawlty Towers

I think that’s what I was remembering. I imagine that’s worth as much as the American Film Institute rankings, which are generally considered total garbage - especially around here.

That saved me a bit of typing. I owe you a pint, Mahaloth, and I promise it won’t be Watneys Red Barrel. Chappachula – please don’t quote Python, you’re spoiling it for the rest of us.

I would say that Monty Python, when originally broadcast, was on fairly late at night, definately after 1030pm due partly to its use of nudity and the odd swear word.

Even the repeats, of which there were not enough for this young chap at the time, were also rare, it was not an easy show to watch as parents generally did not like it and would not have it on, and most families only had one tv set at the time, and a lot of those were black and white too.

It’s differant now, most folk have a tv in their bedroom it was not always so.

Fawlty Towers was far more accessible to the average family viewer, it was on much earlier in the evening, around 800pm, it didn’t have much of the issues that caused parents to dissaprove and by the time of its broadcast, very many more familes had second tc sets, actually the old black & white set was often handed down and the main tv set was increasingly a colour one.

The program was far more conventionally structured than MP since it was a sitcom and was thus more readily accessible to mainstream viewing audiences.

Last of all, MP was broadcast a good few years earlier than FT and folk can recall it more easily.

MP tried some innovative things, and some of it was hit and miss, Fawlty Towers was intended for a much larger audience than MP.

Why do Brits think Fawlty Towers was funnier than Monty Python?

I can’t speak for the Brits, but the obvious answer is because it was funnier than Monty Python. MP may have been more intellectually amusing, but FT had a deeper human emotional aspect.

I love Fawlty Towers much more than Monty Python (though I also like Monty Python).

Fawlty Towers is watchable over and over again, while I get tired of much of MP, and/or only find myself enjoying a few sketches out of an eppisode.

Oh, and I quote Fawlty Towers all the time (usually Manuel):

“I speak English, I learn it from a booook.”

“I know… no-thiiing.”

chappachula: P.Off

Trivial point, but it was four seasons, not just two.

The humour is different. Apples and oranges.

Monty Python was groundbreaking stuff in many ways, although it too drew heavily from those who came before it (Tony Hancock, The Goon Show, etc). It was bizarre, or, as the Pythons themselves would have said, silly).

Fawlty Towers was a more traditional comedy in the sense that it was a structured sitcom. What makes it stand out then, from the hundreds of other 70s “Britcoms”, is that it was simply so good. I love (and grew up with) both shows, but Fawlty Towers is the one which I think of more often - the one which will have me quietly grinning to myself on a commuter train on the other side of the world, thirty years after it was made. As has been mentioned before, it’s humanity made it what it is. I think it is the better show.

As a side note, Fawlty Towers is actually also a radio play. You can record the audio from the TV series, and play it it the car. Even a person who hasn’t seen the show will be able to visualise it. Next time you watch an episode, if you pay attention, you’ll notice there are no silences.

This American prefers Fawlty Towers. As someone said, the execution was brilliant. I believe that FT was the funniest thing ever on television.


I’ll second that.

This is the whole point. Monty Python was brilliant. Fawlty Towers, though, took things to the next level.

I love Monty Python. I saw them live at the City Center (You cannot fa la la la la at City Center.) The movies were even better than the show. “We are the knights that say…Neet”

But I never laughed harder at any show than Farty Towels.

Psst. Don’t mention the war.

Monty Python wasn’t the great innovation that people now credit it as. It was a natural progession from stuff that started with the Cambridge reviews Share My Lettuce (1957) and Beyond the Fringe (1961). The Python boys along with the Goodies guys worked on piles of shows and TV programs notably Humphrey Barcley’s Cambridge Circus, I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, The Frost Report and At Last the 1948 Show, which perfected evrything that became Python. Some of the familiar Python sketches are remakes of !948 show sketches.

The Python boys cut themselves plenty of slack by the way the show was put together. Any funny idea was fodder because you didn’t need an organic comedy structure to make the joke - if you had no ending for a sketch a policeman could simply appear and ramble on.

Fawlty Towers is just about a perfect example of sitcom writing. As Cleese said “Shakespeare only got 4 hours out of Hamlet, so I think 6 hours of Basil Fawlty is enough.”

“Is this a bit of your brain?”

Nothing has ever made me laugh harder than that line.

Actually there is one episode where silence and visuals are not only necessar, but make the funniest scene in the series IMHO. The episode with the old lady with the hearing aid who had been annoying Basil the entire time until the end where he acts like he is talking without making any sound. She is going crazy trying to get her hearing aid to work so she can find out what he is saying. Just listening to that scene will not let you know what is going on, since the humor (or humour) comes from what Basil is doing.


I am laughing again just reading it.

Fawlty Towers is also IMHO the best comedy ever made (beating by a clear margin other beauties like Blackadder 2-4 and Yes Minister).

The Python humour was fun. Then. It has not aged very well. And it has suffered from over-quoting.

As one of them pesky Brits I can answer this. Monty Python was occasional gems amid a pile of dross. If you see the actual episodes rather than best ofs, films, live performances etc you’ll soon realise that theit hit rate wasn’t that high.

Fawlty towers never had a week episode.

And people who are interested in computers and role playing games quote MP to bloody death. It saves them having a sense of humour (they have cartoon ties too)

So there you go.