A Touch of Class (Fawlty Towers)

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"A Touch of Class"
Fawlty Towers episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 1
Directed by John Howard Davies
Written by John Cleese & Connie Booth
Production code 01
Original air date 19 September 1975
Running time 30:18
Episode chronology
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"The Builders"
List of Fawlty Towers episodes

"A Touch of Class" is the pilot episode in the first series of the BBC television sitcom Fawlty Towers.


The episode introduces Basil Fawlty, the cynical, sharp-tongued owner of the Fawlty Towers hotel; his henpecking wife Sybil; Manuel, the eager but hapless Spanish waiter; Major Gowen, a semi-senile and often whisky-soaked permanent resident; and Polly, a maid/waitress who is the only sane and sensible employee of the hotel.

The episode opens with Sybil reminding Basil of many chores he must do: prepare the bill for some guests in a hurry to depart, hang a painting in the lobby and type the menus for lunch. While Basil is trying to have a snack, Sybil confronts him about an expensive advertisement that he has placed in an upscale magazine, and he explains that he is trying to encourage guests of a higher social class. Basil informs Sybil that Sir Richard and Lady Morris, an aristocratic couple who saw the advertisement, will be arriving that evening. Soon after, a leather-jacketed Cockney guest, Danny Brown, turns up asking for a room, much to Basil's annoyance. Basil – who, it has been revealed, claimed to speak "Classical Spanish" – is further put out when Mr. Brown shows that he can communicate better than he with Manuel, as he speaks fluent Spanish.

While Basil is on the phone to a Mr. O'Reilly (a "cowboy" builder featured in the following episode) complaining about some recent shoddy workmanship, Lord Melbury, a well-dressed aristocrat, turns up out of the blue. Basil immediately becomes infatuated by Melbury's air of class and breeding. Embarrassing incidents follow, where Basil fawns over Lord Melbury and treats him better than the other guests. Basil even asks a family, in the middle of their meal, to move tables for Lord Melbury, but accidentally deposits Lord Melbury on the floor in the process which earns a passing Manuel an angry and totally undeserved blow to his head, primarily as a distraction from Basil's own ineptitude. Basil grovels to Melbury for forgiveness, which Melbury grants him.

After lunch, Lord Melbury emerges from the dining room and Basil immediately begins fawning over him again, apologising incessantly. Lord Melbury dismisses his apologies and claims it was merely an accident and has forgotten all about it. Basil insists that if there is anything he can do to make it up to him, he will. Lord Melbury immediately becomes interested and asks Basil to cash him a "small" cheque for £100. Despite being inwardly aghast at such a large sum, Basil obsequiously asks if that would be enough; he is even more aghast when Melbury takes him up on this and revises his request to £200. Too late to backtrack, Basil agrees to cover this large cheque. Melbury is delighted and Basil hides the act from Sybil. He then confides in Polly and asks her to go to the bank and collect the money for Lord Melbury.

However, when Polly travels into Torquay to withdraw the money, she comes across Danny Brown – who is now revealed as a policeman – and a fellow detective inspector. They explain that they are from the CID, and are watching Melbury, who is in turn revealed to be a confidence trickster pulling off a large scam in town.

Meanwhile, Basil continues to ignore his other guests, the Wareings, a middle-class family trying to order drinks, whilst attending to Lord Melbury in the bar. Melbury offers to take Basil's coin collection to have them valued while dining with the Duke of Buckleigh that evening. Basil is deeply honoured, and agrees.

Polly confronts Basil with the information that Melbury is an impostor, but he refuses to believe her, suggesting Brown is merely spinning tales of intrigue in order to impress her. She then tells Sybil who, despite Basil's fervent protests, takes Melbury's previously surrendered suitcase of "a few valuables" from the safe, and reveals the contents to be simply a pair of house bricks.

Basil finally realises he has been conned, and manic anger begins to brew inside him. In a cruel twist, Sir Richard and Lady Morris arrive to check in, and witness Basil's fury as he abuses and swears at Melbury, who is eventually arrested by Danny Brown and his colleague; but not before Basil takes the money he had given Melbury from Melbury's own pocket, and kicks him while he lies on the floor, winded. Horrified and incensed by all he has seen, Sir Richard and Lady Morris leave in a huff, vowing never to return to such a terrible hotel. Basil hypocritically curses Morris' snobbish behaviour.

A dejected Basil re-enters the hotel and begins finally to hang the picture featured at the outset. Then, a very angry Mr. Wareing (whom Basil moved from his table earlier in the episode) shouts his order, for which he has been waiting in the bar for some time. Basil finally snaps: he smashes Sybil's painting and frog-marches his guest back to the bar to be served at last.


Episode-credited cast:

Also starring:


  • The painting Basil tries to hang up on the wall has no glass covering it, but when Basil throws it on the floor; the sound of glass breaking is heard.


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