John Cleese seems set to bring one of the most iconic sketches of all-time from the legendary Fawlty Towers comedy series up to date for a new advert. Devoted fans will fondly remember the manic imagery as the highly strung Basil Fawlty attempted to beat some sense into his broken down car. Now they can feast their eyes on an updated version of the classic scene, as the former Monty Python star has agreed to rewrite the narrative for a Specsavers opticians’ advertisement.

Only twelve episodes produced

Only twelve episodes were ever created for television over two series, yet Fawlty Towers has often been cited as the epitome of comedy excellence down the years in the eyes of many noted aficionados of the genre.

At the heart of its success was the devotion to detail of Cleese and his co-writer (and fellow actress in the short-lived series) Connie Booth. The pair were also married in real life but had divorced before season two went out in 1979.

Attention to detail

The perfectly-scripted scenes were carefully honed to ensure that the dialogue and action was as close to perfection as was humanly possible. The hysteria of the downtrodden central character, Basil, as he attempted to bring success and credibility to a Torquay hotel was a feast for Television viewers during the 1970s and has endured ever since.

Favourite episodes

Everyone has their favourite scene: ranging from the injured Fawlty insulting a party of Germans in the dining room with his protestations to all and sundry “to not mention the war”; or maybe his infamous conversation with waiter Manual from Barcelona about his “hamster” which turned out to be a rat.

Memorable car breakdown sketch

Yet the distinctive episode from 1975 that allowed the commonly stressed owner to escape the confines of his place of work for a short period of time was particularly memorable. “Gourmet Night” became the fifth episode in series one and centred around Basil’s attempts to raise the profile of his establishment and attract a better class of clientele through its doors.

Filmed on a secluded and quiet close in Harrow, Middlesex, Fawlty is let down by his car just when he needs it the most. His reaction is typically over the top, grabbing a branch and becoming determined to give it a “damn good thrashing” for having the audacity to continually break down on him.

Seeking perfection

Cleese has commented in interviews subsequently that even that seemingly basic action had to be perfect, before the filming could be completed.

He ‘tested out’ a number of small branches before he was content with the size and feel of his weapon of choice. The result was pure comedy genius and perfect improvisation within a basic premise.

The original scene has already won an award based on a poll carried out by NatWest car insurance. In 1999 they determined that it warranted the "most momentous motoring moment.”