And now for something completely different, except for the parts that are exactly the same. In a case of either long overdue or before it’s too late, the BBC announced that John Cleese will star in his first series for the broadcaster since he said he’d never do it again 40 years ago. The Monty Python trouper with the funniest walk will appear alongside Alison Steadman in the sitcom Edith.
It’s been two generations since Fawlty Towers ended in 1979 and Cleese vowed never to work with the BBC again but the comedy legend knows when words are funny.
“These are the most enjoyable scripts I’ve been sent in the last 100 years,” Cleese said in the BBC statement. “It will also be particularly nice to work with Alison again since we joined forces in Clockwise all that time ago.”
Edith’s words come from Oscar-nominated Brazil writer Charles McKeown, who collaborates with Python cartoonist-turned-master director Terry Gilliam. McKeown appeared on Fawlty Towers and in Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Cleese co-wrote Fawlty Towers with American actress Connie Booth, his then-wife who played Polly, the hotel chambermaid. It ran for 12 episodes on the BBC between 1975 and 1979.
“It’s also a huge pleasure to welcome John Cleese back to the land of BBC sitcom – his last one did all right,” Shane Allen, the BBC’s comedy commissioning controller, said in a statement.
Edith will be directed by Sandy Johnson. The six-part series will also star Bafta-winning actor Jason Watkins, Jessica Hynes, Anne Reid, Rosie Cavaliero, James Cosmo and Peter Egan.
Steadman plays the title character, a widow. Cleese plays an old boyfriend named Phil who lives across the street. They’re about to take off to the tropics when Edith’s 50-year-old son, played by Watkins, moves back home after quitting his job.
We’re only joking about the lie-down. Cleese has been steadily working in a vast variety of roles that almost outnumber the parts he took in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Produced by George Harrison’s Handmade films, the religious satire was banned by most countries, only to have its reputation resurrected to son of godlike status.
Cleese indulged in dirty language in A Fish Called Wanda (1988), which was nominated for three Oscars and won one. He reunited with Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin for Fierce Creatures (1997). Cleese also appeared in two Harry Potter movies and two James Bond films. He appeared on American sitcoms Will & Grace, 3rd Rock From the Sun, and Entourage.