Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Fawlty Towers (TV series 1975, 1979) ***½

NR, 12 30-min. episodes
Director: Bob Spiers
Writers/Creators: John Cleese, Connie Booth
Starring: John Cleese, Prunella Scales, Andrew Sachs, Connie Booth, Ballard Berkeley, Gilly Fowler, Renee Roberts, Brian Hall

After the success of Monty Python, John Cleese moved on to other projects for BBC television. “Fawlty Towers” was his follow up where he plays a put upon hotelier, capitalizing on the popular comedian’s knack for blowing situations out of proportion and physical distress. Cleese is just as brilliant here as he was for the five season’s of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.

Joining Cleese is Prunella Scales as his wife and business partner. Scales’ patience with the overreacting Cleese makes for the perfect counter balance to his through the roof antics. They don’t make the mistake of making Scales perfect next to Cleese’s insanity. She has her moments, however subtler.

It’s nice to see a television show that is played on obvious set pieces, though. The set is something producers have turned into an invisibility in television production. There’s something about how those 70’s set-based studio shows give the viewer the impression of something akin to live theater, however, that somehow makes the comedy more palpable. Comedy is a more immediate genre than drama. Those clunky sets of the original “Star Trek” series work against the notion of plausibility, while with a comedy like “Fawlty Towers”, the naked nature of the actions make its effect more real. Cleese truly is bouncing off the walls; you can see them shaking.

No comments: