Little Britain removed from streaming services amid blackface criticism

9 June 2020, 21:23

David Walliams and Matt Lucas's comedy first aired in 2003
David Walliams and Matt Lucas's comedy first aired in 2003. Picture: Getty

By Ewan Somerville

Little Britain has been taken down from BBC iPlayer, Netflix and BritBox after concerns that its “blackface” characters are no longer socially acceptable.

The comedy series, starring David Walliams and Matt Lucas, came under attack following the death of George Floyd, an African American man, in US police custody last month.

Thousands have descended on streets for Black Lives Matter protests around the world after the unarmed Mr Floyd was knelt on for nearly nine minutes by a white officer in Minneapolis.

Three series of Little Britain aired on the BBC between 2003 and 2005, watched by an audience of up to 10 million and have attracted fans on streaming services since.

But in a statement, the BBC and Britbox insisted “times have changed”.

"There's a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer, which we regularly review," a BBC spokesperson said.

"Times have changed since Little Britain first aired so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer."

The show has also been pulled from Netflix
The show has also been pulled from Netflix. Picture: Getty

The more recent spin-off by Walliams and Lucas, Come Fly With Me, was also pulled by Netflix on Friday but the company has not commented on the reasons behind it.

The pair have sought to distance themselves from their controversial characters in Little Britain, which saw Walliams black up to play the overweight Desiree DeVere and play Maggie Blackamoor, a persona that threw up whenever coming into contact with a black or gay person.

In 2017, Lucas said: "If I could go back and do Little Britain again, I wouldn't make those jokes about transvestites. I wouldn't play black characters.

"Basically, I wouldn't make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I'd do now."

The move drew a mixed reaction on social media, with some branding it the “censorship of comedy” and “crazy”.

But others said it was “a long time coming” for its “vile” and “bigoted” sketches.

It came as Bo' Selecta, which impersonated black stars such as Craig David, Trisha Goddard and Michael Jackson was removed from the All 4 streaming platform after Leigh Francis, its creator, made a tearful apology for its contents.