Arts and Entertainment

The form has changed but the impulses remain the same. The quickening of the heart can lie in an inbox too

Play it again, Auntie

There's a hole in the schedules. Time to repeat a 'classic' sitcom. Nothing wrong with that, says W Stephen Gilbert, but what about the rest of our television heritage?

review: Madness is a funny thing to laugh about

It would be easier to like Searching (ITV), Carla Lane's new comedy, if Fawlty Towers wasn't currently being repeated on BBC1. This is, I know, an unfair comparison - like complaining about Castles on the grounds that it isn't Hamlet - but the fact that Prunella Scales is in both programmes can't help but illuminate one of the problems with Lane's particular brand of comic writing. The wonderful thing about Fawlty Towers is that it is a comedy without charm. I don't mean by this that it's entirely charmless - both the Major and Manuel offer something sweet, moments when we are offered relief after shooting the comic rapids. But there is never any sense that the writers have stuck them in as a plea for your good opinion, that dreadful sense that the comedy is frightened that you might not think it's nice. Fawlty Towers took real risks with the likeability of its principal characters - as the unsettled response to the first episodes revealed.

Television / Till sleaze do them part

FLORA MATLOCK comes from good country stock. The kind of stock you get by simmering large jawbones for two or three centuries. At Cambridge she met Duncan, a grammar-school boy, and was attracted by "his intellect, his commitment and his moral base". Wanting a career where he could use all three, Duncan naturally became a Tory MP and Flora became The Politician's Wife (C4).

ARTS: TO HELL WITH BASIL

Is 'Fawlty Towers' the best British television comedy ever written? To mark its return to BBC1 tonight, John Cleese tells Andrew Davidson in a rare interview how Basil and Manuel were created and why he will never write about them again

centrepiece; Breathing lessons

How to Win Playwrighting Awards:

Funny you should ask

At lunch the other day I found myself sitting next to a distinguished writer who also reviews television from time to time. After we had established the ground rules of sitting next to each other, such as which one of us liked salt and pepper more than the other, and who got first wipe of the only available napkin, he opened the conversation by saying: "Tell me, do you like Absolutely Fabulous"?

ARTS TELEVISION In the name of the Father

`Father Ted' is a sit-com with a difference - it's funny. Ben Thompson witnesses a miracle in the making

FISCAL FORTITUDE

Can't pay? Won't pay. That's Major Duncan. Robert Verkaik reports

Life and soul of the Partridge

"Your autobiography... what's that all about?" Thus the world's greatest living sports commentator and chat-show host, Alan Partridge, to his distinguished guest Lord Morgan of Glossop, in the final episode of Partridge's Radio 4 series Knowing M e, Knowing You. Lord Morgan, understandably taxed by such searching queries, died in mid-interview. Demonstrating yet again the resourcefulness and sheer grit that has taken him to the very summit of his profession, Partridge hastily improvised a shroud from his Pringle sweater and ordered the nation to observe a minute of silence.

Heavy metal shapes the good life

moscow days

A view from abroad: Guy Pearce, actor

The first thing I notice about London is the number of people in comparison with Melbourne. It is really jam-packed. And I really adore the architecture - these awesome buildings which are 20 times older than the ones at home. Wow, it's like being in a museum.

TELEVISION / Fact is stranger than fiction - but not as funny

FOR A sustained attack of skin- stripping vitriol, the opening scene from last night's Chef] (BBC 1) would be hard to beat if you chucked a bucket of sulphuric acid over the set.

Letter: Le patron travaille ici

Sir: With regard to Mr T. Hart's letter of 1 September concerning hotel staffing , it has been the experience of my wife and I when staying in French and British hotels of a similar standard that the reason for the different numbers of full-time staff in the two countries is not that wages in France are higher.

View from City Road: Savoy must swallow its pride

From the kitchens, where microwave is a dirty word, to the marketing department, the Savoy group is out of touch.

Letter: Traveller's tale of filtered facts

Sir: Your new travel editor Simon Calder's 'Dear Adele Bliss' letter (5 August) has taught me one home truth at least - that journalist's copy has a lot more in common with tourist brochures than is generally appreciated.
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