1 9 9 9 (USA)
3 (10) x 30 minute episodes
After two failed attempts to adapt the classic British comedy series Fawlty Towers for American television – Snavely (1978) with Harvey Korman (which never made it beyond a 30-minute pilot) and Amanda’s with Bea Arthur in 1983 – CBS tried again in 1999 with Payne (surely a spelling mistake!).
John Larroquette took on the John Cleese role as the hotelier afflicted with bottled-up anger and frustration and a sardonic, tyrannical wife (JoBeth Williams). The lead character was rechristened Royal Payne rather than the original Basil Fawlty, and – although the set was almost identical to the one in the original British series – the hotel was now called Whispering Pines and was located along the California cast.
There was no Manuel from Barcelona; instead, there was a cowering bellhop called Mohammed (Rick Batalla) from parts not specified. The US production also toned down some of the manic energy of the original.
The pilot borrowed directly from two Fawlty Towers episodes (and highlighted immediately that Larroquette – struggling to find a way to be both arrogant and funny – was no John Cleese) with original storylines for the subsequent episodes.
The series was cancelled after only three further laughless episodes aired.
Ellen Albertini Dow
Chef Henry Jambon