Last updated: Sun, 14 Jun 2020 -1:00
End date: Oct 1979
Network(s): BBC2 (UK)
Run time: 30 ~ 35 min
Episodes: 12 eps
|1.||1-1||19 Sep 75||A Touch of Class|
|2.||1-2||26 Sep 75||The Builders|
|3.||1-3||03 Oct 75||The Wedding Party (a.k.a. Sex)|
|4.||1-4||10 Oct 75||The Hotel Inspectors|
|5.||1-5||17 Oct 75||Gourmet Night (a.k.a. Gourmet's Paradise)|
|6.||1-6||24 Oct 75||The Germans|
|7.||2-1||19 Feb 79||Communication Problems (a.k.a. Theft)|
|8.||2-2||26 Feb 79||The Psychiatrist|
|9.||2-3||05 Mar 79||Waldorf Salad|
|10.||2-4||12 Mar 79||The Kipper and the Corpse (a.k.a. Death)|
|11.||2-5||26 Mar 79||The Anniversary|
|12.||2-6||25 Oct 79||Basil the Rat (a.k.a. Rats)|
Fawlty Towers, the missing episode
by John Lavalie
For as long as I’ve been online (Jan 1994) the rumor of a missing/lost/unaired episode of Fawlty Towers has flourished on the Internet. Since we occasionally get queries about it, I’ve decided to put the issue to rest. E-mail me at the address below if you have more information.
Here are the most often heard rumors:
Rumor: John Cleese wrote a pilot 4 years before Fawlty Towers featuring a different cast.
Fact: The 30 May 71 episode of Doctor at Large (known as Doctor in the House in the US) called “No Ill Feeling!” featured a rude hotel owner and his bossy wife. The episode was written by John Cleese.
Comments: The Monty Python cast filmed in Torquay in 1971 where they stayed in a hotel with a very rude owner. This event became the basis for this episode. Producer Humphrey Barclay suggested to John Cleese that this episode could become a series. The episode was repeated in the early 1990s, which may have contributed to the rumor.
an extra 2nd series episode
Rumor: There was an extra episode broadcast months after the series finished.
Fact: There were 6 episodes. However, the last 2 were delayed due to industrial action.
Comments: Episode 11 “The Psychiatrist” was delayed by one week to 26 Feb 79. Episode 12 “Basil the Rat” was delayed seven months to 25 Oct. This is the most likely source of the rumor. Someone in the UK may have remembered seeing an episode months after the rest and passed on this information leading to conclusions that this was an extra episode.
The delay was due to a strike at the BBC that caused the tape to become lost. The tape was unmarked and was later recovered by accident and received a great deal of media attention the night it finally aired.
Rumor: The delay was due to a strike at the BBC that caused the tape to become lost.
Fact: The outside broadcast technicians and rigger drivers settled their week-long strike on 14 Mar.
Comments: While their strike cancelled live broadcast England’s selection for The Eurovision Song Contest, it seems unlikely that this strike would have affected a videotaped program. The Times and ITV were both on strike in 1979 which may have contributed to this rumor.
Basil’s phone call
Rumor: There’s a extra episode in which Basil calls someone requesting a “cheap, tatty revue.”
Fact: In 1979 John Cleese appeared in the pilot of the BBC sketch comedy Not the Nine O’Clock News . The episode began with the Fawlty Towers title sequence from “The Anniversary” (at this point, the most recent episode). He appeared on the set receiving a phone call from BBC executives. The transcript follows, reproduced without permission:
Nope. No. Nope. No, I’m sorry, but no. No. No. Nope. Now listen. I’m not going to do it this week. No, I’m sorry. The series ended last week. There was supposed to be six but there was a strike and that wasn’t my fault. Well you’ve got to have something. What about edited motocross highlights? Horse of the year show or intercounties basket weaving or something. Well, how about a cheap, tatty revue? All right, that suits you. Cheap, tatty revue, then. Standby and ... cue.
Cuts to Not the Nine O’Clock News ’s title sequence.
Comments: Although the pilot still hasn’t be shown in its entirety, the Cleese segment was added to the compilation shown 4 Nov 86 as part of BBC TV’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Since Not the Nine O’Clock News included topical skits, the BBC has chosen to air compilations rather than repeat entire episodes. The Cleese segment has probably been included in at least one compilation cand been seen since.
“The series ended last week” suggests that the pilot was shot shortly after 26 Mar 79. Episode 1 (not the pilot) was shown 16 Oct 79. The fact that both series were being shown on BBC2 in Oct 79 may have contributed to the rumor.
Rumor: A Christmas episode was made but never shown.
Fact: In the late 1970s and early 1980s the BBC VT department compiled blooper tapes to show at their Christmas parties. The 1979 edition features a Fawlty Towers outtake.
In researching this article (see bibliography below) I have uncovered even more conflicting information.
McCall, Johnson and Perry give “No Ill Feeling&quo;’s airdate as 3 Feb 73. Ross, Down and Lewisohn give 30 May 71. Since Down had access to official LWT documentation as a member of Kaleidoscope I consider this to be the official airdate. However, the default airdates for his book come from the ATV region. It is possible that the episode didn’t run in London until 73. Even ITV-made shows aired on different days (and sometimes in a different order) in different regions.
The date of the Python’s trip to Torquay has been given as 71 (Lewisohn) May 71 (McCall) 12 May 71 (Ross) and 72 (Cornell). Without access to official BBC documents it would be hard to disprove Ross’ claim, although his book lists Fawlty Towers’ episodes 11 and 12 as airing 19 and 26 Mar so his data is not above suspicion. McCall’s May 71 lends credibility to Ross’ exact date, but McCall also says “No Ill Feeling” was written in 1972, which is possible only if his 73 airdate is correct which is contradicts Ross’ information.
If the trip was 12 May 71 and the airing was 30 May 71, Cleese’s idea made it to the screen in a speedy 18 days. Possible, considering the Doctors series employed a team of writers. But likely? And why were the Pythons in Torquay in 71? McCall says they were filming segments for Monty Python..., but there were no episodes until Oct 1972.
MYSTERY SOLVED, in 2006 Michael Palin published his diary entries written during The Python Years (1969 – 1989) and he states that they were in Torquay filming during May of 1970.
- Cornell, Paul. The Guinness Book of Classic British TV. 2nd ed. Guinness Publishing, 1996. 0-85112-628-6.
- Down, Richard and Chris Perry. The British Television Comedy and Light Entertainment Research Guide, 1950-1995. Kaledidoscope Publishing, 1995. 1-900203-01-4.
- Johnson, Kim Howard. Life Before and After Monty Python. St. Martin’s Press, 1993. 0-312-08695-4.
- Lewisohn, Mark. Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy. BBC Worldwide, 1998. 0-563-36977-9.
- McCall, Douglas L. Monty Python: a Chronological Listing .... McFarland, 1991. 0-89950-559-7.
- Palin, Michael. Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1979 - The Python Years. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006. 0-297-84436-9.
- Perry, George. The Life of Python. Running Press, 1995. 1-56138-568-9.
- The Daily Telegraph. London.
Corrections and additions can be sent to John Lavalie.