Fawlty Towers: The Complete Collection Remastered
(BBC; US DVD: 20 Oct 2009; UK DVD: 19 Oct 2009)
After re-watching the entirety of the ‘70s BBC comedy Fawlty Towers on the new Fawlty Towers: The Complete Collection Remastered DVD box set, it becomes clear that iconic characters like George Castanza, Leslie Knope and David Brent (or Michael Scott) would never have existed if it were not for another abrasive, hopelessly un-self-aware oddball: Basil Fawlty. Basil, as played by Monty Python’s Flying Circus alumni John Cleese, is one of the most awkward characters in the history of television. And one of the funniest.
Having all the episodes collected together may remind the buyer that it was probably a good idea to end the show when it did, (a marathon-viewing-session pretty quickly reveals that the show’s formula only allows it to go in so many directions before it starts repeating itself) but the ability to watch classic episodes like “The Germans” or “Basil the Rat” whenever one feels like it is a prize well-worth the cost of purchase. The DVD collection also comes with a long list of bonus features, ranging from interviews with the surviving cast and crew to a documentary about the Gleneagles Hotel and it’s manager, Donald Sinclair, who inspired the character of Basil. Even better, every single episode comes with newly recorded commentary tracks from both the directors and Cleese himself.
Cleese’s narration is especially interesting, as he is not afraid to point out the aspects he is particularly proud of, while relentlessly nit-picking the parts he wishes he could change. He also waxes rhapsodic about the cast and crew, praising Booth for what he feels are her unrecognized contributions to the show as a writer and vocally admiring the physical attributes of the many female guest stars. Overall, he’s pretty pleased with what he and Fawlty Towers accomplished, as well he should be.