The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


Over on the BBC Writers’ Room blog, Michael Jacob has posted an analysis/scene breakdown of the Fawlty Towers episode The Kipper And The Corpse. As my own sort-of addendum, here’s how I think the episode was written.

Cleese and Booth would’ve had a list of ‘guest house’ plots; a fire, a hotel inspector, a gourmet night, a thief, visiting foreigners etc. to use (or combine) for episodes. TKATC starts with ‘dead guest’.

Which gives you two key comic areas to look at; discovery of the body, and disposal of the body. How can the body be discovered in the worst possible way? And then, what are the worst possible things that could happen with it being disposed?

Discovery: Basil thinks the death is his fault (hence kippers). Basil doesn’t notice guest is dead.

(Which explains the presence of the old man and the call-girl – it’s to lay a false trail about what the episode will be about).

Disposal: Guest locked in cupboard with corpse. Corpse having to be hidden from guests/corpse’s friends, colleagues and relatives.

(If the corpse is being hidden, it has to be discovered – in the worst possible way.)

This creates more lists and plot problems. You need a reason why they don’t just leave the body in the bed (the room is booked, there are no spare rooms). You need a reason why they don’t call a doctor – because there’s already one staying there.

But the problems solutions create more ideas. How do they move the corpse about? Put it in the laundry basket – which might then get taken away by the laundry men!

The plot doesn’t get going until the guest dies? So take another idea off the wall – guest with dog – and use that for the opening and bring it back as a b-plot.

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