This gem comes from Shaun Usher over at Letters of Note, a Manchester site dedicated to the seeking out fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. To the British comedy world, there is none more ‘fascinating’ that this accompanying 1974 memo graphic supplied by Sam Ward. While we knew of this story through several interviews with John Cleese during our filming of Fawlty Towers Revisited for PBS several years back, it’s rather chilling to see evidence of it and realize just how close the series came to not be.
As the story goes, in May of 1974, following a now legendary 1972 stay at the Gleneagles Hotel by members of the Monty Python troupe, a pilot script written by John Cleese and his then-wife, Connie Booth, was submitted to the BBC. A clearly unimpressed ‘comedy script editor’ by the name of Ian Main sent the following memo to BBC Television’s Head of Comedy and Light Entertainment.
Luckily for the entire population of the free world, Main’s opinion was ultimately ignored by his superiors and a year later the script, thanks in large part to continued hammering by both Cleese and Booth, had evolved into a program which is, arguably, considered one of the funniest ever to come out of not only the BBC, but television as we know it. The show, or course, was Fawlty Towers. The thought of labeling Sybil, Basil, Polly, Manuel and even the Major as “stock characters”.
Makes you wonder what doesn’t get produced today because of some similar memo….