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Fawlty Towers reboot – the darker side of Basil Fawlty



Fawlty Towers is back in the news, due to the announcement of a US reboot where Basil Fawlty is now running a boutique hotel in the States with his daughter – to be played by Cleese’s real-life daughter, stand-up comedian Camilla Cleese.

One question this raises is how on earth did Basil Fawlty, the cantankerous parochial hotelier in the English countryside, somehow end up with an American daughter? A second question is why are they bringing the show back at all?

Stylistically Fawlty Towers is a farce, which is a genre of comedy built around a series of increasingly absurd, exaggerated and improbable situations.

Sitcom wise, the last great farce was Frasier. But despite the extraordinary stage farce Noises Off being revived for a 40th-anniversary production, rebooting Fawlty Towers as a farce in the 21st century would be a mistake.

That’s because, as a form, the farce has been eclipsed by comedy drama (aka “dramedy”).

Fawlty Towers was released at a time when farce was a dominant cultural form – joined, for example, by Bedroom Farce by Alan Ayckbourn (National Theatre, London 1975) and the works of Ray Cooney. Farces are powered by a lie that gets out of control, the comedy driven by the increasingly desperate attempts of the protagonist to keep the lie going and all the chaos and absurdity this causes.

In a Fawlty Towers plot, for instance, Basil tells an initial lie to get out of a tight spot, then is forced into more and more convoluted lies in order to sustain the original lie, until it all becomes too convoluted and comes crashing down.

In classic stage farces, you’ll often find a lover hiding in a wardrobe of a hotel bedroom. In a nod to this kind of bedroom farce, in the “Kipper and the Corpse” episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil – along with a reluctant waiter Manuel and maid Polly – have carried the deceased guest Mr Leeman’s body out of his room whereupon resident guest Miss Tibbs sees the corpse and becomes hysterical.

On Basil’s urging, Polly slaps her to bring her to her senses but applies too much force and knocks her out cold. In a panic, they manhandle both the unconscious Miss Tibbs and the corpse into a nearby empty bedroom and hide them in the wardrobe. At which point – like the unfaithful wife’s husband – the couple who are staying in the room return and, of course, want to get something from their wardrobe.

Having an unconscious pensioner and a dead body inside is certainly upping the ante on the classic lover “hiding in the wardrobe” scenario.

If the show returned in the form of a farce, it would feel chronically dated alongside today’s best comedies that are a heady mix of comedy and drama. A case in point is the celebrated White Lotus, itself set in a hotel but with a class of guest that Basil could only dream of.

Comedy dramas have all the gloss of big-budget dramas and tackle darker and deeper subjects within their comedic frame than the traditional TV sitcom ever could.

The first season of White Lotus, in a pleasing echo of Basil Fawlty, has hotelier Armond, a tall moustachioed volcano of emotion covered up by a supercilious exterior. Armond, however, goes in directions Basil never would. He’s gay and a recovering addict, who falls spectacularly off the wagon and runs amok – leading to a death with more gravity and consequences than the demise of Mr Leeman.

But like Fawlty Towers, at the heart of the comedy, are lies that spiral out of control. For example, Armond claims to not have found a lost rucksack belonging to two young guests because this bag is his supply of drugs. Armond also continuously lies to cover up his incorrect booking of a room – a lie that spirals spectacularly out of control collides with his drug taking and leads to a grisly finish.

While the style and subject matter changes, the fundamentals of comedy remain the same. So it’s not that the new Basil shouldn’t be a chronic liar losing control of his falsehoods, but rather that stylistically the revival would be better off being in the dramedy mode, like White Lotus. This also opens up the show to the delicious possibility of a much darker and wilder Basil Fawlty.

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Streaming service shift and the award season snubs



Netflix Introduces Changes to Subscription Model, Academy Award Nominations Spark Cinematic Buzz, and the Doomsday Clock Continues its Ominous Ticking.

Netflix is set to discontinue its ad-free Basic subscription in select countries, commencing with Canada and the UK in Q2 2024.

This strategic shift introduces a significant price increase for the baseline entry, signalling potential adjustments to Netflix’s global pricing structure.

Simultaneously, the 96th edition of the Academy Award nominations has stirred cinematic debates, with the prevailing question being whether the upcoming season will be dominated by “Barbie” or “Oppenheimer.” These contrasting narratives set the stage for a fierce competition, highlighting the diverse and compelling offerings in this year’s film industry.

Beyond the realm of entertainment, the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic representation of the likelihood of a human-made global catastrophe, continues its ominous countdown.

Maintained since 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the clock serves as a metaphor for threats arising from unchecked scientific and technological advances. As global tensions, environmental challenges, and technological risks persist, the ticking of the Doomsday Clock serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need to address multifaceted threats to humanity.

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Adidas faces potential $320M Yeezy shoe write-off post-Kanye split



Adidas is contemplating a significant financial blow as it considers writing off $320 million worth of Yeezy shoes following its separation from music and fashion icon Kanye West.

The sportswear giant’s decision to sever ties with West’s Yeezy brand has left a mountain of unsold merchandise, threatening to dent the company’s balance sheet.

The partnership between Adidas and Kanye West, which began in 2013, had been immensely successful, with Yeezy shoes becoming a highly sought-after fashion statement.

However, recent controversies and disagreements between West and Adidas prompted the sportswear company to distance itself from the celebrity designer.

The massive inventory of Yeezy shoes now presents a dilemma for Adidas, as it grapples with finding a solution to deal with the surplus stock. A $320 million write-off could significantly impact the company’s financial performance in the short term.

Adidas is currently exploring various options, including discounting, donating, or repurposing the unsold inventory to mitigate the financial hit.

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Warner Bros discovery warns of Hollywood’s ‘real risk’ post-strikes’



Warner Bros Discovery, has issued a stark warning regarding the ‘real risk’ that Hollywood faces in the aftermath of the recent strikes that have taken a considerable toll on the industry’s financial health.

The strikes, which disrupted film and television production for several weeks, resulted in substantial financial losses for studios, production companies, and countless industry professionals.

Warner Bros Discovery emphasised the necessity for a resilient and adaptable approach to navigate the ongoing challenges and uncertainties facing the film and television sector.

The conglomerate stressed the importance of implementing measures to mitigate such risks in the future, which include fostering better labour relations and contingency planning to safeguard against potential disruptions.

The message underlined the need for the industry to adapt to the evolving landscape of content creation and distribution, particularly in the digital era.

This warning from Warner Bros Discovery highlights the need for the entertainment industry to recognise the ever-changing dynamics and economic challenges, and the importance of preparedness to maintain its prominent position in the global market.

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