Thursday, June 6, 2013

Disastrous Attempt at an American Fawlty Towers

There are / were so many American TV classics that were spawned in England - shows like All In The Family, Sanford & Son, Three's Company, Hell's Kitchen, Life on Mars, The Office - the list is very long. It seems like every hit British show gets an American makeover of some sort.

classic tv blog - bea arthurDid you know Fawlty Towers, surely one of the funniest shows ever on either side of the pond - was remade here as a vehicle for Bea Arthur (Maude) in 1983?

The fiasco was called Amanda's and it may have been a reasonable idea in theory - if you had to remake the show. There was no reason to, of course, the original was perfect.

No doubt Bea Arthur at her peak could probably have pulled off a Basil Fawlty type character, say when she was starring in 'Mame' on Broadway, but the result here was horrible. Some of the best moments in Fawlty Towers were the hilarious battles between Basil and his shrewish wife; Amanda had no henpecked husband but instead a son and daughter-in-law. Not the same dynamic at all.

Even the creator and star of Fawlty Towers himself, John Cleese, noted that a female Basil defeated the entire purpose of the series. Here's what Cleese had to say in an interview with Digital Spy: "I remember at a party I met these chaps from Viacom, who said they were working on a new Fawlty Towers. My ears pricked up at the sound of cash registers and said, 'That's wonderful, are you going to change anything?'. They said, 'Well we have changed one thing, we've written Basil out'. And that's absolutely true, they took Basil and Sybil's lines and gave them all to Bea Arthur. I always thought Peter Boyle could have played Basil well, but sadly he is no longer with us."

Someone has recently uploaded what looks like every episode of Amanda's on You Tube, here's the pilot episode - note how similar the set is to Fawlty Towers, there are similarities in the script as well.

The whole thing comes off like Maude in a hotel. That episode had some great guest stars including David Hedison (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) and Michael Constantine (Room 222).

Amanda's wasn't the first time ABC tried remaking Fawlty Towers. There was a even worse attempt in 1978, a pilot called Snavely starring Harvey Korman with Betty White as his wife. I remember watching it, the production was truly awful, the writers and stars just didn't get the premise - or something. ABC had lured Korman away from The Carol Burnett Show in 1977 with the promise of a hit sitcom but audiences weren't interested in seeing the comic playing the same character week after week. When The Harvey Korman Show bombed in 1978 and Snavely fizzled, his sitcom career was still-born, despite a few more lackluster attempts.

Believe it or don't, Amanda's wasn't the last remake of Fawlty Towers, Payne starring John Larouquette & JoBeth Williams came and went after 8 episodes on NBC in 1999.

Don't mention the war.