Fawlty Towers, one of Britain’s most beloved sitcoms, will be making its return to the small screens after four decades away, in a move that has split fans of the original comedy classic.
But for John Cleese the decision to write new episodes with his daughter Camilla, 39, is likely to be more pragmatic than sentimental – with the 83-year-old forced to repeatedly revisit past glories after a series of expensive divorces.
Fawlty Towers was remade three times in the US – in 1979 as Chateau Snavely, in 1983 as Amanda’s, and in 1999 as Payne. But all failed, and in 2009 a 69-year-old Cleese said the cast would never try another reboot because they were ‘too old and tired’.
In the latest reboot, the comedian will once again play Basil Fawlty with Camilla appearing as the hotelier’s daughter. The pair decide to reenter the industry and open up a boutique property, only for things to inevitably end in disaster.
So will it finally be fourth time lucky for the Monty Python star? Fans of the original show aren’t sure, with many fearing the slapstick humour will fail to impress 21st century audiences, going the way of its doomed US remakes.
Classic comedy Fawlty Towers saw John Cleese play inept hotel manager Basil Fawlty. He’s pictured alongside Polly Sherman (Connie Booth) and Manuel (Andrew Sachs)
The comedian has revisited his back catalogue in recent years after a series of expensive divorces. He’s seen here in 2014 with Michael Palin doing the famous ‘Dead Parrot Sketch’ during a Monty Python live show at the 02 Arena
Cleese famously travelled the UK, Europe, Australia and South Africa with his Alimony Tour in 2011 to raise cash for his settlement with ex wife Alyce Faye Eichelberger
Lovers of the iconic original- which ran for 12 episodes – took to social media, with some begging for Cleese not to remake the show.
Adam Salkie said: ‘The very reason that this is held to be one of, if not, the greatest sitcom of all time is that there were only 12 episodes. 12 episodes of genius. Might be best to leave it there.’
Another user on Twitter agreed, saying: ‘It was a classic. The characters, the way Fawlty said things, his mannerisms.
‘They way he treated [Manuel]. It was funny at a time when we could actually have a laugh. Now we have a generation of people who get shocked and easily offended. Leave it as a classic.’
A third lambasted comedy remakes, insisting they never worked, saying: ‘These reboots or remakes of British comedy shows are often terrible.
‘They lack the writing and energy of the originals and often the returning actors fail at getting back into the role and the new characters lack any sort of substance.’
While a fourth person on Twitter simply wrote: ‘Oh, no. Leave perfection as it is.’
Cleese is said to be worth £8million. But he’s frequently spoken about the need to replenish his savings after splitting from his third wife, psychotherapist Alyce Faye Eichelberger, in 2008 after 15 years together.
The divorce ended up costing him a staggering £12million after alimony payments of £650,000 a year.
He made his final payment to Eichelberger in 2015 but is still suffering a financial hangover, as he revealed last year.
‘There are so many books I want to read, but the divorce did absolutely clean me out because I never had the sort of money that people who worked in American television had,’ he told LBC’s Full Disclosure podcast.
‘It cleaned me out so I’m still working and I’m nearly 83. And I’m still working and I don’t really have any savings.’
The comedian described himself as ‘comfortably well off’ before divorcing Eichelberger, but has previously said he believes she is now richer than he is.
‘I was comfortably well off before I got divorced from Alyce Faye Eichelberger. I never knew how much I really had – I was just comfortable,’ he told German magazine Spiegel in 2016.
‘But now I’ve been working for seven years to pay off the alimony. She’s far better off than I am. So you could sit around being bitter about that. Or you can just think it’s completely ridiculous.’
Cleese famously travelled the UK, Europe, Australia and South Africa with his Alimony Tour in 2011 to raise cash for his settlement with Eichelberger.
He also admitted the divorce bill was one of the main motivations for him to rejoin the Pythons for a series of live shows.
In 2021 he starred in Clifford the Big Red Dog movie playing Mr Bridwell.
His other work includes a 2010 advertising campaign with AA, where he played a man who believed the company couldn’t help him after a series of disasters including water pouring through the ceiling.
The star got remarried in 2012 to Jennifer Wade, who he is pictured with during an event at Tiffany & Co in London in 2013
The star was wed to his Fawlty Towers co-star Connie Booth from 1968 to 1978 and then to American actress Barbara Trentham from 1981 to 1990
Cleese split from his third wife, American psychotherapist Alyce Faye Eichelberger, in 2008 after 15 years together. They’re pictured together in LA in 2004
John has teamed up with his comedian daughter Camilla Cleese, 39, to write the new Fawlty Towers episodes (she’s pictured in 2018)
‘The AA? For faulty showers?’ he said.
In 2013, Cleese starred in Israeli crime comedy Hunting Elephant and that same year appeared as himself in filmmaker Gracie Otto’s 2013 documentary film The Last Impresario.
He joined with Eric Idle in 2015 and 2016 for a tour of North America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand,
He’s also written a series of plays, including Big Bang! – an adaptation of Georges Feydeau’s French play Monsieu Chasse!.
This year, Cleese will appear in Roman Polanski’s film The Palace, and he recently signed up to present a news show on GB News alongside the journalist Andrew Doyle.
He is likely to use the show to make further attacks on ‘woke’ culture, which he blames for stifling creativity.
The star got remarried in 2012 to Jennifer Wade in the exotic location of Mustique, and despite her being 28 years his junior, he still worries about losing touch with what’s relevant as he ages.
He said: ‘One of the things about getting old is that you lose touch with the contemporary scene. I find it rather amusing that I’m still managing to earn a living despite the fact that I have no idea why anybody would use Facebook.’
Cleese was married twice before his union with Eichelberger.
He was wed to his Fawlty Towers co-star Connie Booth from 1968 to 1978 and then to American actress Barbara Trentham from 1981 to 1990.
Cleese’s recent comments suggest money remains on his mind, with the star joking with photographers last year about the cost of a meal he’d had to celebrate a friend’s 80th birthday.
‘The food was good but it is very expensive,’ he said while getting into a taxi outside trendy private members’ bar Oswald’s in London’s Albemarle street in August.
Fawlty Towers was remade three times in the US, including in in 1979 as Chateau Snavely
Amanda’s, a second Fawlty Towers remake that appeared in 1983
Payne, which aired in 1999, was the final reboot but like the other two it failed
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