John Cleese hits out at BBC on Twitter after Fawlty Towers episode is pulled from UKTV

12 June 2020, 17:32

Fawlty Towers was pulled from streaming service UKTV
Fawlty Towers was pulled from streaming service UKTV. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

John Cleese has issued an angry response aimed at BBC bosses after an episode of Fawlty Towers was pulled from streaming service UKTV.

Cleese wrote online today: "I would have hoped that someone at the BBC would understand that there are two ways of making fun of human behaviour.

"One is to attack it directly. The other is to have someone who is patently a figure of fun, speak up on behalf of that behaviour Thank of Alf Garnett..."

The famous "don't mention the war" episode was removed from UKTV, which is owned by the BBC, because it contains "racial slurs".

UKTV, which is owned by BBC Studios, said it had temporarily made The Germans unavailable while it carries out a review.

Cleese earlier told The Age newspaper that "if you put nonsense words into the mouth of someone you want to make fun of you're not broadcasting their views, you're making fun of them.

"The major was an old fossil left over from decades before.

"We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them.

"If they can't see that, if people are too stupid to see that, what can one say?"

He said there was a "really admirable feeling that we must make our society less discriminatory" but said: "A lot of the people in charge now at the BBC just want to hang on to their jobs.

"If a few people get excited they pacify them rather than standing their ground as they would have done 30 or 40 years ago."

The episode first aired in 1975 and sees Cleese's misanthropic hotel owner Basil Fawlty goose-stepping around while shouting "don't mention the war" in front of a group of visiting Germans.

It also contains scenes showing the Major Gowen character using offensive language about the West Indies cricket team.

According to reports, Major Gowen's scenes had already started to be edited out by some broadcasters.

A UKTV spokesman said: "UKTV has temporarily removed an episode of Fawlty Towers The Germans from Gold's Box Set.

"The episode contains racial slurs so we are taking the episode down while we review it.

"We regularly review older content to ensure it meets audience expectations and are particularly aware of the impact of outdated language.

"Some shows carry warnings and others are edited.

"We want to take time to consider our options for this episode."

As the Black Lives Matter movement has returned to prominence following the death of George Floyd, broadcasters and streaming services have reevaluated their content.

HBO Max temporarily removed 1939 civil war epic Gone With The Wind because of its "racial depictions".

Little Britain had been removed from iPlayer because "times have changed" since the comedy first aired.

The series, starring David Walliams and Matt Lucas, has come under fire recently because of the use of blackface in some sketches.