Fawlty Towers

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Fawlty Towers TV Poster Image
Vintage British comedy shows its age but still entertains.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show has fun with the idea of social castes as seen through the eyes of upper-crust-wannabe Basil. His general distaste for anyone other than the highest class often clouds his judgment and causes him to lose the affection of many of his customers, and he never seems to learn his lesson. The show also mines the language and cultural barrier between Basil and his Spanish waiter, who speaks only broken English, for laughs, and Basil and Sybil's marriage is marked by insults and bad blood. On the other hand, the show's female leads come across as level-headed and competent, which contrasts with Basil's ineptitude.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Basil allows his intolerance and attempts to climb the social ladder to interfere with his ability to relate to regular people. This always causes problems for him personally and for his business, and, if not for his highly capable wife, their hotel likely wouldn't survive.


Occasionally a story line involves violence or death of some nature, but the show's comedy keeps things light.


There's more talk than action when it comes to sexuality, but it's often tapped for humor. Innuendo is common, and adults make offhand remarks about "getting lucky" and the like. Basil's intolerance for the subject brings occasions of it into greater focus for comic purposes.


Rarely "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult guests and Basil are often shown drinking wine or mixed drinks during cocktail hour or at dinner, but there are no ill effects.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fawlty Towers is a short-lived 1970s-era British comedy series. Although the comedy is mostly clean-cut, it's an acquired taste for American viewers because of its age and roots in British culture. Expect some playful banter of a sexual nature (mention of "getting lucky" and other hanky-panky) that stands in hilarious contrast to Basil's uptight personality. A Spanish character is steeped in stereotypes -- including the language barrier that leads to plenty of laughable mishaps -- but it's meant to be funny, not hurtful.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMOTD's Danny Murphy September 26, 2019

Not very true to life

I didn’t find it very true to life, or funny. People say Fawlty Towers is the funniest sitcom ever but it only made me smile three times. I can’t even remember... Continue reading
Adult Written byLMPRA September 11, 2018

A fantastic British comedy series

1) Sex and Nudity: A few mild sex references are made throughout the series, though they are unlikely to cause offence. In one episode a women is shown undres... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 17, 2020

Sex and Language

A lot of sexual references, in one episode Basil Fawlty accidentally gropes a woman, Common sense says "rarely 'hell'" for language but that... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bybluebutterfly05 August 10, 2019

Excellent show!

I started watching this show at age 9 and loved it! Only episode I would say that could be offensive to some people is “The Germans” and “The Psychiatrist” has... Continue reading

What's the story?

FAWLTY TOWERS stars John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, a miserly hotel proprietor yearning to elevate his own social standing and to attract a more elite clientele. Unfortunately his efforts to do so often mean he neglects the needs of his average paying customers, much to the irritation of his practical wife, Sybil (Prunella Scales). Also lending a hand in the hotel are Polly (Connie Booth), the maid, and the jovial but mishap-prone Spanish waiter, Manuel (Andrew Sachs). A parade of eccentric guests keeps Basil on his toes with outlandish requests and one calamity after another.

Is it any good?

Fawlty Towers delivers classic British comedy by way of Cleese's delightfully neurotic character, whose attempts to advance his business always backfire in hilarious ways. His brilliance in the role is matched by the acerbic Sybil, who always manages to keep Basil under her thumb and dismantle even his best-laid plans. Their contentious relationship yields funny TV, even as it contradicts the very tenets of marital bliss.

Because this show's laughs generally are byproducts of eccentric characters, exaggerated scenarios, and running jokes about Basil's rudeness, its content will go over the heads of kids and tweens. But if your teens take an interest enough to see past the show's dated feel, rest assured that its content is proper enough that there's nothing to fear in letting them dabble in this classic.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how comedy reflects its time and place. What can this show teach you about British society in the 1970s? How different is the humor from what you're used to? Is it fair to make generalizations based on one example?

  • Is it possible to avoid stereotypes altogether in entertainment? What examples are present here? What are they based on? Have our sensitivities to this kind of content changed over time? If so, is this necessarily good or bad? 

  • Central to this show's laughs is an argumentative marriage between Basil and Sybil. In general, do you find that the shows and movies you watch give an accurate impression of relationships? How would such a relationship play out in the real world?

TV details

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