Fawlty Towers: German episode withdrawn from UKTV for “racial insults”

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John Cleese, who plays Basil Fawlty, said the decision was “stupid”


An episode of the sitcom Fawlty Towers has been removed from UKTV’s streaming service because it contains “racial slurs”.

The BBC-owned platform said it had made the Germans unavailable while it was conducting an exam.

In the 1975 episode, Basil Fawlty said “did not mention war” around the German guests, while the major used highly offensive language about the West Indian cricket team.

Actor and creator John Cleese called the decision “stupid.”

Speaking to The Age newspaper, he said the episode was clearly a criticism of racist attitudes.

“One of the things I have learned over the past 180 years is that people have very different sense of humor,” he said.

“Some of them understand that if you put absurd words in the mouth of someone you want to make fun of, you don’t spread their opinions, you make fun of them. “

“Public expectations”

UKTV also operates channels, including Gold, and a spokesperson said: “UKTV has temporarily removed an episode of Fawlty Towers The Germans from Gold’s Box Set.

“The episode contains racial slurs, so we take it apart while we review it. We regularly review old content to make sure it meets audience expectations and is particularly aware of the impact of obsolete language.

“Some shows have warnings and others are edited. We want to take the time to explore our options for this episode. ”

Last year, the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Studios, took over most of the UKTV channels and its digital player.

The Germans are still available on Britbox, which is partly owned by the BBC, with a message that it “contains offensive racial language of the time and overwhelming scenes.” He’s also on Netflix, warning about “language, [and] discrimination “.

Journalist and broadcaster Carl Anka described the deletion as “a waste of time”, noting that many people would prefer UKTV and other companies to “just hire black creators”.

This week, many comedy channels and personalities have undertaken to reassess what is acceptable in today’s society, following the mass protests of the Black Lives Matter after the death of George Floyd.

HBO Max temporarily removed Gone With the Wind because of its “racial representations”, and Little Britain was removed from the BBC iPlayer and Britbox because “times have changed”.

Netflix also removed Little Britain, David Walliams and Come Fly With Me from Matt Lucas, as well as The League of Gentlemen and The Mighty Boosh.

Meanwhile, Ant and Dec apologized for usurping the identity of “people of color” in Saturday Night Takeaway, and asked ITV to withdraw the 2003 and 2004 sketches from its remedial service.

Last week, comedian Leigh Francis offered an emotional apology for dressing as black celebrities in the noughties print show Bo ‘Selecta.


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