John Cleese’s Nepo Baby Is Helping Him Bring Back ‘Fawlty Towers’
It’s funny how quickly John Cleese’s tired stance of “You could never make any of my legendary projects in today’s woke climate” changed to “I’m rebooting one of my legendary projects in today’s woke climate.”
Earlier today, the Monty Python icon who cried that he had been “canceled” by the BBC just two months ago announced that he is heading a revival of his beloved 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers at the BBC with the help of his daughter Camilla. Cleese and his kid will write a new season of the foundational comedy series about a hotel in a seaside town and its snobbish proprietor with Rob Reiner adding his talents to the project.
Not returning is… well, anyone else at all related with the original series. Most of the original cast and crew are either retired or have passed away in the 44 years since the series went off the air. But don’t worry, the daddy-daughter comedy duo are going to show us how Cleese’s character Basil Fawlty manages to “navigate the modern world,” which means that, in two weeks, Cleese is going to put out a casting call for “young liberal-looking actors with dyed hair willing to oppress an octogenarian millionaire with their PC bullshit.”
Cleese said of the dinner meeting with producer Matthew George that led to the series’ revival, “When we first met, he offered an excellent first idea, and then Matt, my daughter Camilla and I had one of the best creative sessions I can remember,” which likely says more about the 83-year-old’s memory than it does about the “Fawlty Towers but today and also my daughter’s in it” idea that got greenlit. “By dessert we had an overall concept so good that, a few days later, it won the approval of Rob and Michele Reiner. Camilla and I look forward enormously to expanding it into a series,” Cleese continued.
Reiner said of his new creative partner, “John Cleese is a comedy legend. Just the idea of working with him makes me laugh.”
For a series as important to the history of British comedy as Fawlty Towers, it’s telling that The Guardian greeted the revival announcement with the headline, “An Anti-Woke Nightmare! Why the Fawlty Towers Remake Is a Truly Nauseating Idea.” Cleese’s work of late has been exclusively as a professional anti-PC, anti-woke complainer with an upcoming show on GB News (the British equivalent of America’s Fox News) devoted entirely to whining about how silenced he is.
As The Guardian pointed out, Cleese’s last comedic performance of much note was a minor supporting role in the Clifford the Big Red Dog live-action film in 2021. His daughter, with whom Cleese will be co-starring as well as co-writing, has limited professional comedy experience with a handful of guest appearances on shows like @midnight and a couple producer credits. Reiner hasn’t directed anything since his 2017 political drama Shock and Awe, which failed critically and commercially.
All of which is to say that this yet-another-sitcom-revival that’s arriving over four decades after the original show ended with just a single cast or crew member returning ostensibly just to make the series a family business and to complain about “the kids these days” doesn’t sound like a winning formula. Cleese’s history of comedic brilliance will be well in the rearview mirror whenever Fawlty Towers Two premieres, and it seems unlikely that the revival series will reach the heights of the original show — though, if it flops, Cleese may finally achieve his dream of being canceled by the BBC.