September 19 marks the 40th anniversary of John Cleese and Connie Booth’s Fawlty Towers, that evergreen BBC comedy series about quite possibly the worst hotel in all of Western Europe and certainly the worst on the so-called “British Riviera.” Anglonerd, a blog devoted to “British (and Irish) TV and comedy, geared toward Americans,” is celebrating the show’s ruby anniversary by bringing some 21st century technology to quaint little Torquay, specifically via a series of Instagram selfies of the four main characters. Anglonerd has a whole Instagram account devoted to cartoon selfies of Britcom heroes, including characters from The IT Crowd, The Thick Of It, and Not Going Out, but this week, Anglonerd author Jaime Pond says she is “spending the week with Polly,” referring to the harried young chambermaid and art student portrayed on Fawlty Towers by co-creator Connie Booth.
Most of Anglonerd’s Fawlty selfies appear to have been taken by Polly. This is appropriate, since if the series were being made today, the inquisitive college student would be the most likely among the show’s main characters to be obsessed with Instagram and smartphones. It is difficult to imagine her boss, John Cleese’s clumsy, short-tempered innkeeper Basil Fawlty—who once had considerable difficulty mounting a taxidermic moose head to a wall—even getting the hang of modern technology without numerous temper tantrums and considerable property damage. Far more apt, then, to have Polly use her camera to clandestinely capture her boss’ epic incompetence, as he breaks into impromptu Hitler impersonations or tries to smuggle a dead body out of the building with the weekly laundry. One can easily imagine Polly sharing these pictures with her friends, who delight in Basil Fawlty’s many misfortunes. And when Basil himself finally gets his respective close-up, he gives one of those strained, “everything’s perfectly all right” smiles which indicate that something is probably on fire just out of frame.