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The US Fawlty Towers Remake Needs To Ditch The Comedy And Go Full Horror

They're trying to make a US version of "Fawlty Towers" once again — this time with John Cleese himself in collaboration with Castle Rock Entertainment, and with a focus on an older Basil Fawlty (per Deadline). On paper, at least, it's a pretty neat idea. It's also going to fail miserably.

It's not because the source material is bad. On the contrary, "Fawlty Towers" is one of the best British TV shows of all time. It's just that they've attempted this before. No fewer than three terrible American remakes of the show exist, as a matter of fact. With that track record and considering the quality of the original show, a fourth attempt will also very likely be a no-go, regardless of Cleese's personal involvement. After all, he might be Basil Fawlty, but he's still just one part of what made "Fawlty Towers" tick.

Cleese created the show with his ex-wife Connie Booth, who plays Polly Sherman in the original. They wrote the scripts together in a vast undertaking that took up to four months per episode (via the Museum of Broadcast Communications). Even without the whole exes thing, Booth is extremely unlikely to return for the remake, as she hasn't been active in show business since the mid-1990s. What's more, while the bulk of the show's jokes are clearly at the expense of the haughty Basil, outlets like The Guardian have already pointed out that successfully resurrecting "Fawlty Towers" while keeping it in line with the modern sensibilities may be a monumental task.

So, how to salvage a show that's seemingly doomed before a single episode airs? As it happens, there's one possible way to do it, but the path can be dangerous. Come, friends, sit around the campfire, as Looper holds a flashlight under its face ... and explains why the only way to revive "Fawlty Towers" is to turn it a full-blooded horror show.

It would make all the sense in the world to turn Fawlty Towers into a horror show

"Fawlty Towers" deals with extremely British attitudes that center around haughtiness, stuffiness, stiff upper lip, and barely contained anger, which don't hold nearly as much weight Stateside in this particular form. What does come through is that in the vast majority of the episodes, at least someone (usually Basil) is seething, and Proper English Manners™ are the only thing that stops people from stabbing each other. Cleese himself has referred to the show's general atmosphere as a "pressure cooker."

It's also a fairly established fact that comparatively faithful adaptations of foreign shows rarely work for U.S. audiences (think "The Bridge," "Gracepoint," and what have you). In order to succeed, a show has to figure out what it needs to keep, and adapt the tone to the local market. This is what a little show called "The Office" did to the tune of a highly-decorated nine-season run.

Since "Fawlty Towers" runs entirely on Alien Manners Juice from a U.S. standpoint, the key to adapting it successfully is to focus on the rage and terror bubbling under the (very, very thin) veneer of normalcy. You may recognize this concept as the fuel that fires the flames in recent horror highlights like "Get Out," "X," "M3GAN," and ... who are we kidding, that's every horror movie ever.

Ergo, the correct way to adapt a modernized "Fawlty Towers" to an American market is to reimagine it as a horror series. Here, whatever stuffy Britishness remains isn't enough to act as plot armor against all the repressed rage, so tensions keep building until something snaps and the stabbings commence.

Basil Fawlty would make an excellent horror villain

Approaching the "Fawlty Towers" revival as a comedy would warrant direct comparison to the original, which, let's face it, is virtually impossible to surpass or even match. The horror angle would allow a fresh take on the subject matter, and act as a deconstruction and commentary of the original work ... and its central character. 

See, of course Basil Fawlty has to be the villain, especially since the revival will apparently take place on a Caribbean island hotel. He'll still be the curmudgeon in the middle of it all. Otherwise, would he even be Basil Fawlty? What we have here, then, is the most internally seething man in all of fiction, stuck on a secluded island with a bunch of people who are driving him nuts. You barely need to switch the genre to make Basil a slasher villain — even in the original, he was mocking and manhandling guests and coworkers. "Oh, right," the audience of the revival would just say, watching Basil drown an unfortunate German guest in a bathtub. "Guess he's been slowly unraveling for the last four decades! Makes sense that he was the bad guy all along."

Making Basil the villain isn't particularly far-fetched from a casting standpoint, either. Have you ever seen John Cleese? Even now, he's a mountain of a man, and retains his talent for projecting barely restrained anger in his roles. It's a wonder that he hasn't been playing more bad guy roles. He has the potential to be truly terrifying, John Lithgow-style.

Granted, this is obviously a pretty far-fetched idea, especially since Cleese seems to be in charge of the project, and he's probably unwilling to turn his most famous role into an absolute maniac at this point of his career. Still, it's all too easy to imagine that Basil Fawlty's character evolution could lead him to stop screaming bloody murder, and start committing them instead.