Andrew Sachs 7.4.30 – 23.11.16


Andrew Sachs, who played Manuel in Fawlty Towers, has died.

The long and varied career of Andrew Sachs was defined by the TV comedy Fawlty Towers.

His performance as the well-meaning but inept Spanish waiter Manuel was one of the highlights of the series.

In a state of constant confusion, and with a tenuous grasp of English syntax, he was invariably the target of Basil’s rages.

But it was just one role in seven decades of acting that spanned comedy, classical and dramatic roles.

He was born Andreas Siegfried Sachs on 7 April 1930 in Berlin. His insurance broker father was Jewish while his mother, who worked as a librarian, was a Catholic of part-Austrian ancestry.
Nazism was already on the rise in Germany.

His father was arrested by the authorities in 1938, but later released after intervention by a friend in the police.

The incident was enough to persuade the family to flee Germany, and they moved to London. . .


Racist character or racist programme?


The BBC has censored Fawlty Towers for racism.

But is it the episode which is racist or the character?

The offending lines are at about 5:40.

They could be racist if they encouraged us to laugh with the Major but most of us would laugh at him.

At about 7 minutes the Major also says he hates Germans; throughout the clip there are lots of insults addressed at women and there’s the running gag of  Manual from Barcelona but the censors must have kept their senses of humour when listening to them.

Fawlty Towers


Happy birthday Prunella Scales – 78 today.

Fawlty Towers


It’s Prunella Scales’ birthday which is a wonderful excuse to rewatch a little Fawlty Towers:



The cast of Fawlty Towers have met for the first time in more than 30 years to promote a couple of documentaries about the series.

John Cleese took the opportunity to give his views on modern televions:

If you go back to television in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s we did have the least bad television in the world. That’s quite a claim,” said Cleese.

“I don’t think it’s true any more. The main problem now is it’s run on the basis of money and the audience is too broken up. Ultimately it does take a bit of money, not a lot, but a bit, and they don’t want to pay writers and that’s what it’s down to. They don’t want to pay writers. . .

There were only 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers and all were a lot better than less bad. The series was so good it’s still being screened and several lines have become part of the language, among them: Don’t mention the war; ¿Qué? and He’s from Barcelona.

Although, while Manuel was from Barcelona, the actor who played him wasn’t even from Spain. Andrew Sachs was born in Germany and moved to Britain with his family when he was eight.

It’s difficult to pick a favourite episode,  but even had I not encountered the difficulties of an English speaker grappling with Spanish, this scene would still make me laugh:

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