John Cleese to Star in His First BBC Series Since ‘Fawlty Towers,’ by ‘Brazil’ Co-Writer Charles McKeown


It’s been four decades since John Cleese has starred in a British TV series — which means, yes, it’s been 40 years since Fawlty Towers unleashed the shrill cries of hotel guests subjected to all forms of nonsense by the world’s worst bed and breakfast owners. Today, BBC announced the sardonic septuagenarian comedian’s return to the small screen (in the U.K., as he’s appeared on numerous American series) in an upcoming sitcom called Edith. BBC One aims to air it sometime before 2018, and it’ll likely film this summer.

He’ll be starring alongside Alison Steadman, known for her work in Mike Leigh’s Life Is Sweet, and seemingly half of all of British television. The two are re-teaming after having appeared together as a married couple 31 years ago, in Clockwise, and in this new series they’ll be playing, per BBC, “old flames” who’ve “rekindled [their] romance.” Their characters decide to get married and leave the country, but their plans for the perfect life are stymied when Steadman’s 50-year-old son moves in with them.

Edith hails from Charles McKeown — which is reason alone to keep an eye out for it. McKeown co-wrote Brazil alongside Tom Stoppard and Terry Gilliam (and has collaborated with Gilliam numerous times since — he also co-wrote The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and the other, lesser Gilliam movie whose title sounds exactly the same.) Cleese told BBC, “[McKeown’s] are the most enjoyable scripts I’ve been sent in the last 100 years.”

Cleese had not long ago proclaimed that he’d never work with BBC again. He said in an interview with the magazine Shortlist in 2015, “There’s no way I want to work in TV, especially at the BBC. I have a nasty feeling a large proportion of the commissioning editors have no idea what they’re doing.”

But now a certain comedy commissioner at BBC is excited about Cleese’s return to the network. The Guardian quotes BBC’s Shane Allen as saying, “It’s also a huge pleasure to welcome John Cleese back to the land of BBC sitcom — his last one did all right.”

Prior to Fawlty Towers, Cleese was of course one of the ensemble members in the BBC sketch comedy show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.