Royal Payne and his wife Connie run a Whispering Pines Inn, not so glamorous hotel somewhere near coast in California. Their guests are sometimes quite eccentric, but not as eccentric as Royal himself.
Royal Payne and his wife Connie are the... almost proud owners of Whispering Pines Inn, not so glamorous hotel somewhere near coast in California. Apart from the few regulars, like two older ladies, who are permanent residents, Whispering Pines is not as popular as their competition. And not as modern. Not as well staffed. Not really well furnished. Not to mention Royal Payne is hardly a typical host. Yes, he does attend the needs of his guests, when he has to, but often he just leaves everything in the hands of his skeleton crew: chambermaid Breeze and hotel boy Mo. His wife helps a bit... When she is around, which does not happen often.
Third, and hopefully last, attempt of American TV to adapt British classic Fawlty Towers for their local audience. This effort wasn’t actually that bad, John Larroquette does what he does best, being obnoxious and sarcastic, JoBeth Williams opposite him was good enough to keep the atmosphere of the show, Julie Benz was quite competent as Breeze, Rick Batalla wasn’t bad. So far so good, right? All they needed beside a good enough cast were good enough scripts and... I guess you know what happened.
Let’s just say that the two creators, John Peaslee and Judd Pillot, done to the Fawlty Towers what happened to Ned Beatty’s character in Deliverance. Yes, they have done the unspeakable atrocities. First of all they took few of the original characters, which built the atmosphere of the show and... changed them. Royal Payne is acerbic and sarcastic, but was lacking any sort of depth. Basil Fawlty was similar, but his not so happy marriage, constant feeling of being tired and overworked while the money are not that good was behind his personality. Royal Payne is being a-hole, because he is.
Sybil Fawlty was domineering, sarcastic, bit scary, charismatic, all of which was behind why Basil Fawlty was trying to keep his small scams hidden from her. Connie Payne on the other hand has none of those characteristics. Royal is trying to hide his little scams from her... because he does. Connie is perhaps moody, but on the other hand strangely forgiving woman, which changes completely chemistry between two main characters.
Breeze is just a background, a nagging conscience that reminds Royal from time to time that he does something wrong, comparing to Polly in Fawlty Towers, who was witty, caring and knew how to stand up to Basil. Mo is even more in the background, Rick Batalla was given a very little chance to show any sort of character, while Manuel in Fawlty Towers was perhaps not that bright, but at least consistent. Mo sometimes acts like complete imbecile and sometimes makes quite witty remark and while times have changed and a lot of physical comedy Manual and Basil Fawlty have done would not be shown in today TV, but removing most of that physical comedy made them both look bland.
And then there are the scripts. When John Cleese wrote Fawlty Towers he already had about 15 years of experience writing for Footlights Revue, The Frost Report, The Dick Emery Show, I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, At Last the 1948 Show, Doctor in the House, Doctor at Large and of course Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He co-wrote it together with his wife, Connie Booth, and based it all on his own experiences from real hotel owner in Torquay meticulously building the characters.
So who would be the best choice to adapt his masterpiece for American market? Two gentlemen with experience in The Coach and few less successful productions. Doesn’t sound scary so far, right? The problem was that the episodes were actually written by people, who mostly had very little or no experience in comedy series. Only the first of the episodes, which was used as pilot, Pacific Ocean Duck, was actually based on original scripts and even that one was... let’s be generous and say average at best.
Rest of the episodes, even if took some small elements from original series, were written from scratch. And that was the problem - instead of using well built stories people with very little experience, hired to write a single episode, were trying to write better episodes than John Cleese. And, what a surprise, they failed. There were jokes, some of them not bad, but overall the episodes were too simple, too predictable, seemed under-developed and not using the full potential of the characters.
Payne wasn’t the worse idea in the world, on its own merit it would be an average sitcom, on the same level as f.e. The Nutt House, with its own style, its own type of humour. But once you realize it is "adapted" from Fawlty Towers it is hard to look at it differently than as a flop. The creators made the same stupid mistake as in other adaptations of British sitcoms - took a well written original material, ignored it completely and tried to make a similar show, but in completely different style, which makes no sense at all. Even such simple thing as the main character name, Royal Payne, which is so "in your face" joke that lacks subtlety and at the same time kills any sort of credibility that character might have had. From a get-go you know it is not a person, it is a joke.
If you are trying to create something based on successful sitcom, yet you decide you know better how it was suppose to be written, what is the point of using original sitcom as a basis in a first place? If you have brilliant idea, make this into sitcom, but if you are using somebody else’s work then... literally use their work! They knew what they were doing, they were successful, they usually even have fans of their work, so if you undermine all of their effort put into their sitcom you really start to tread on thin ice.
Summary: if Payne was made as sitcom completely on its own, it would be just another average show with decent cast, but since the creators claimed they were adapting Fawlty Towers they were panned from the start because their show was not even close to the level of John Cleese original work.
|3 / 10|
|3 / 5|
|3 / 5|
|3 / 5|
|1999 Season 1|