John Cleese has slammed BBC-owned UKTV for removing an episode of Fawlty Towers which featured racist language.
The actor, 80, who played Basil Fawlty, branded the channel ‘stupid’ for not realising The Germans was mocking the Major’s use of the ‘n-word’.
The 1975 episode, fondly remembered for the line ‘don’t mention the War’, is the latest in a series of British programmes to be culled from streaming sites.
Little Britain was removed from Netflix, BBC iPlayer and BritBox and Ant and Dec issued an apology for ‘impersonating people of colour’ on Saturday Night Takeaway.
An episode of Fawlty Towers (pictured) from which the N-word and other offensive terms had previously been cut has been taken down from the BBC’s UKTV player. John Cleese (centre as Basil Fawlty) branded the channel ‘stupid’ for not realising it is mocking racist people
The 1975 episode titled The Germans – fondly remembered for the repeated line ‘don’t mention the war’ – is the latest in a series of British TV shows culled from streaming sites
The episode previously faced criticism for a stream of racist language when long-term hotel resident Major Gowen (right), played by Ballard Berkeley, recalls the time he took a female friend to watch cricket at The Oval. In 2013, the BBC removed the offensive language from future broadcasts on the grounds that public attitudes had ‘changed significantly’, acting with the full backing of writer Cleese (left)
Speaking from his home in LA, Cleese told TheAge: ‘One of the things I’ve learned in the last 180 years is that people have very different senses of humour.
‘Some of them understand 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.’
He added: ‘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?’
Which shows and movies have been pulled so far?
- Little Britain
- Come Fly With Me
- The Mighty Boosh
- League Of Gentlemen
- Gone With The Wind
- Fawlty Towers (The Germans episode only)
The episode previously faced criticism for a stream of racist language when long-term hotel resident Major Gowen, played by Ballard Berkeley, recalls the time he took a female friend to watch cricket at The Oval.
The Major says: ‘The strange thing was that throughout the morning she kept referring to the Indians as niggers.’ He adds: ‘ ‘No, no, no, no,’ I said, ‘niggers are West Indians, these people are w**s’.
‘No, no, no,’ she said, ‘all cricketers are niggers’.’
The show also sees Mr Fawlty appear surprised when he is treated by a black doctor in hospital.
In 2013, the BBC removed the offensive language from future broadcasts on the grounds public attitudes had ‘changed significantly’, acting with the full backing of writer Cleese.
It was unclear last night whether the episode as currently broadcast contained the Major’s racist language.
Cleese today hit out at the BBC for trying to ‘pacify a few people if they get excited’ rather than standing their ground ‘as they would have done 30 or 40 years ago’.
He also weighed into the heated debate around tearing down statues that are linked to the slave trade, following one of Edward Colston being ripped down by Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol at the weekend.
He posted on Twitter: ‘I’m very confused about toppling statues… The Greeks, whose civilisation has long been admired in the West, believed that in the Ancient World, a cultured society was only possible if it was based on slavery So should we be getting rid of statues of Socrates and Aristotle?’
He added: ‘Similarly, the Romans enslaved the British for 400 years. So are we due reparations from the Italians?
‘And Sir Isaac Newton was a shareholder in the South Sea Company, which included slave trading among its activities What do we do about his statues ? It’s rather complicated.’
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.’
It came the same day hit show Gavin and Stacey faced criticism from viewers who demanded its removal from TV schedules.
On Wednesday, Ant and Dec issued an apology to their Twitter followers for ‘impersonating people of colour’ during ‘comedy’ sketches (pictured) on Saturday Night Takeaway +24
Gavin and Stacey has become the latest series to be dragged into a race row as viewers demand its removal from TV schedules+24
The BBC this week removed Little Britain (pictured) and Netflix purged Noel Fielding’s The Mighty Boosh and The League Of Gentlemen following outcry from Black Lives Matter protesters +24
Difficulty: The main bone of contention stems from the nicknames for some characters in the show including ‘Chinese Alan’ (pictured) +24
Issue: Another of the contentions that viewers raised was the description of ‘Seth, the black fella’ +24
The main bone of contention stems from characters described in the show as ‘Chinese Alan’ and ‘Seth, the black fella’.
Social media users have taken to Twitter to call for Gavin and Stacey to be axed, with one writing: ‘With this whole cancel culture I hope @bbc now removes #gavinandstacey from @bbciplayer, @netflix @BritBox_UK.
‘The show is misogynistic, racist, homophobic and guilty of fat shaming.’
Another tweeted Corden to ask: ‘Wondering why none of your characters in #gavinandstacey were played by BAME actors?
‘I can only recall one black character – threesome man with Pete and Dawn in one ep. His race was the subject of several gags. Not cool James!’
A third commenter added: ‘If we’re doing away with Little Britain can we also get rid of Gavin and Stacey.’
Referencing the other programmes that have already been pulled, one user simply wrote: ‘Gavin and Stacey next please…’
But others were quick to defend the show with one social media user commenting: ‘gavin and stacey ?????? now you’ve crossed the line [sic].’
Another added: ‘If Gavin and Stacey gets axed I’m done.’
Tweeting directly to James Corden, a third wrote: ‘@JKCorden don’t you dare apologise for Gavin and Stacey. If it was 100% pc it wouldn’t resonate and depict real life. It’s comedy and if people don’t like it they can change channels.’ +24
Dispute: Critics are calling for the popular comedy, written by James Corden (pictured) and Ruth Jones, to be pulled in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement
Defence: But others were quick to defend the show with one social media user commenting: ‘gavin and stacey ?????? now you’ve crossed the line [sic]’
Gavin and Stacey viewers previously slammed the Christmas special last year for the use of a homophobic slur.
The hotly-anticipated episode saw Nessa and Uncle Bryn sing The Pogues’ popular Christmas song.
The song’s lyrics: ‘You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap-lousy faggot’ , contain a homophobic slur, and viewers were not impressed the offensive word was used.
One social media user said: ‘Well that confirms it. #GavinandStacey is trash. #fairytaleofnewyork.’
Dr Laura Humphreys tweeted: ‘Enjoyed #GavinandStacey – not groundbreaking but good fan service.
‘But the uncensored Fairytale of New York was completely unnecessary and made me feel gross. This is not a show that normally punches down.’
And and user called Bethany, said: ‘not to reignite the annual Fairytale of New York argument, but not feeling great about the gavin and stacey special making teh closeted gay character sing the F word.’
Controversial: It comes after Gavin and Stacey viewers slammed the Christmas special last year for the use of a homophobic slur as Nessa and Uncle Bryn sing The Pogues’ popular Christmas song
But not everyone was offended by the use of the word in the popular Christmas song.
One tweeter said: ‘The entire upset about Fairytale of New York on #GavinandStacey is a bit mad. It’s a song, it’s an old song and that was the lyric used.
‘The lyric was sung by a LGBTQ+ character in a fun and safe way. I didn’t get offended as a gay guy. It’s just a lyric in a scene.’
And Mark Reese said: ‘Just when I thought fairytale of new york couldn’t get any better.’ +24
The BBC has previously defended its decision to air the song in its uncensored version, citing its continued popularity among audiences.
A spokesman said: ‘Fairytale of New York is a very popular, much-loved Christmas song played widely throughout the festive season, and the lyrics are well-established with the audience.’
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell previously told the Times he objected to the BBC’s decision to not censor the slur when played on the radio.
He said: ‘The BBC would not screen a Christmas song with the n-word in it. It would be deemed deeply prejudiced and unacceptable. So why the double standards when it comes to the f-word?’
The controversy comes after a whole host of other shows were pulled including Noel Fielding’s The Mighty Boosh, The League Of Gentlemen and Little Britain.
The Mighty Boosh features a character called The Spirit Of Jazz, portrayed by show creator Fielding, which is meant to portray the ghost of fictional jazz musician Howlin’ Jimmy Jefferson.
The actor and comic, 47, is yet to respond to Netflix’s decision to pull the series from the streaming service. MailOnline has contacted a spokesman for comment. +24
In the bin: The Mighty Boosh joins The League Of Gentlemen and Little Britain in being pulled from Netflix over scenes containing blackface. The BBC comedy show features a character called The Spirit Of Jazz, portrayed by Noel Fielding (pictured)
Shows are being binned from the streaming service following the recent Black Lives Matter protests that have been taking place primarily in the US and the UK.
Fielding – who these days presents The Great British Bake Off – played a black, dreadlocked character in his erstwhile off-the-wall sitcom, which aired from 1998–2009, with a one-off in 2013.
The Spirit Of Jazz has sparked much discussion over racism, with Fielding also finding himself in hot water after a picture emerged of him painted black while dressed as tennis star Bjorn Borg.
The League Of Gentlemen was pulled because of its blackface character Papa Lazarou – and more films and TV shows face removal from streaming services over ‘racist’ stereotypes.
The controversial character was played by white actor Reece Shearsmith. It has been heavily criticised over the years for his painted face. +24
Not so funny: Fielding – who these days presents The Great British Bake Off – played a black, dreadlocked character in his erstwhile off-the-wall sitcom, which aired from 1998–2009, with a one-off in 2013 [he starred alongside Julian Barratt, pictured right]
The show was pulled from Netflix in the UK a week ahead of its expiry date of June 19, alongside Canadian series The Drunk And On Drugs Happy Funtime Hour which also features two characters in blackface.
Netflix has also removed comedian Chris Lilley’s controversial shows Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes, Jonah From Tonga and Angry Boys from the platform in Australia and New Zealand, Deadline reported.
His most recent series Lunatics, which was created in collaboration with Netflix, is still available to stream despite accusations of racism and blackface in Lilley’s portrayal of a trans-racial woman.
Netflix have added a Black Lives Matter section to their streaming service.
In a statement detailing the move, Netflix explained the aim is to highlight ‘powerful and complex narratives about the Black experience’.
The Black Lives Matter section of the site features 47 films and series including Beyonce’s Homecoming, Dear White People and When They See Us. +24
Delete! The League of Gentlemen has been pulled from Netflix for its blackface character Papa Lazarou [pictured]+24
Scrapped! Netflix has also removed comedian Chris Lilley’s controversial shows Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes, Jonah From Tonga and Angry Boys from the platform in Australian and New Zealand
A spokesman for the streaming service explained: ‘When we say Black Lives Matter, we also mean Black storytelling matters…
‘With an understanding that our commitment to true, systemic change will take time – we’re starting by highlighting powerful and complex narratives about the Black experience…
‘When you log onto Netflix today, you will see a carefully curated list of titles that only begin to tell the complex and layered stories about racial injustice and Blackness in America.’
On Wednesday, Ant and Dec issued an apology to their Twitter followers for ‘impersonating people of colour’ during ‘comedy’ sketches on Saturday Night Takeaway.
They took to the micro-blogging site on Wednesday evening, posting: ‘During past episodes of Saturday Night Takeaway we impersonated people of colour in the undercover segment of the show.
‘We realise that this was wrong and want to say that we are sincerely sorry to everyone that was offended. +24
Ant and Dec took to the micro-blogging site on Wednesday evening, posting: ‘During past episodes of Saturday Night Takeaway we impersonated people of colour in the undercover segment of the show’
‘We purposely stopped doing this several years ago and certainly would not make these sketches today
‘We had already taken steps to ensure footage was taken down, and have again recently confirmed with ITV that these segments, and any other historical content that could cause offence, does not appear on either the ITV Hub or the Saturday Night Takeaway YouTube channel.’
Last year, the pair were slammed when old footage of the duo in blackface resurfaced.
During some of their many Ant & Dec Undercover sketches on the hit ITV show, the presenting duo changed their skin colour and wore prosthetics to portray made up characters in an effort to trick their famous friends.
One of the most controversial skits saw them dress up as two fictional Jamaican women, ‘Patty and Bernice’, in an attempt to prank Emmerdale cast members, in 2003.
In an apparent reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests, Netflix pulled the Matt Lucas, 46, and David Walliams, 48, series on Friday, along with the pair’s other comedy Come Fly With Me.
On Monday, the BBC and BritBox both confirmed they had also decided to remove Little Britain saying ‘times have changed’ since the show first aired.
When asked if more shows would be removed, a BBC spokesman told MailOnline: ‘The change only affects Little Britain.’
Gone With The Wind has also been temporarily removed by HBO Max from its streaming platform after it was criticised for romanticising slavery.
The 1939 Civil War epic, starring Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, is based on a novel written three years previously by Margaret Mitchell.
Off-air: Hattie McDaniel, as Mammy, with Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind, which HBO Max removed from its streaming service on Tuesday amid criticism of the content
Reaction: Social media users took to Twitter to discuss the latest round of removals from streaming services
It tells the story of a turbulent romance during the Civil War and Reconstruction period. Hattie McDaniel, who would have been 127 today, won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film, becoming the first African American to win an Oscar.
The film has been viewed through a more critical lens in recent years, with many questioning whether a film that glosses over the horrors of slavery should still be shown.
The League Of Gentlemen, which was created by the BBC, and three of Chris Lilley’s shows are still currently available to watch through the broadcaster’s streaming service.
Stars of The League of Gentleman have previously defended the controversial Papa Lazarou character, with Shearsmith telling the Independent in February: ‘It was not me doing a black man.’
‘It was always this clown-like make-up and we just came up with what we thought was the scariest idea to have in a sort of Child Catcher-like way,’ he added. ‘And I don’t think we ever had any complaints then.’ +24
Stereotypes: Lucas played coffee shop worker Precious Little in Come Fly With Me
The show, which stars Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Shearsmith, follows a number of residents from the fictional town of Royston Vasey. It premiered on BBC Two in 1999.
Its removal from Netflix follows All 4’s decision to axe Bo’ Selecta, which impersonated black stars such as Craig David, Trisha Goddard and Michael Jackson.
It was pulled from All 4 after creator Leigh Francis recently issued a tearful apology. It is, however, still available on Prime Video.
The second round of removals suggests an uncertain future for other popular comedy series which feature similar techniques, though many are still available to watch on streaming sites.
Will these TV shows and films be pulled from streaming services too?
After HBO Max pulled Gone With The Wind and Netflix axed The League of Gentlemen amid the George Floyd protests, attention has turned to other films that now be at risk of removal.
Chiefly among those are several classic Disney movies hosted on the Disney+ streaming service.
They include Dumbo (1941), Swiss Family Robinson (1940 and 1960), Fantasia (1940), Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955), The Sign of Zorro (1958), Jungle Book (1967), and The Aristocats (1970).
Dumbo contains racist stereotypes of African Americans at the time in the form of black crows, who use jive-like speech patterns.
The main bird is even named Jim Crow, a nod to the racist segregationist Jim Crow laws of the time, and is voiced by a white actor.
Disney’s 1941 classic movie Dumbo
Swiss Family Robinson airs on Disney+ with a warning
As of last November, all of the above classics air on the streaming network with the warning that they ‘may contain outdated cultural depictions’ or that it may contain footage of characters smoking.
No further measures have yet been announced as Black Lives Matter protests spread globally, but bosses are expected to turn their attention to other films with the aforementioned Disney films seemingly most at risk.
The service already does not show 1946 film Song of the South because of its dated racial stereotypes.
Disney chairman Bob Iger said earlier this year: ‘It was just not appropriate in today’s world.’
Old Warner Brothers cartoons, such as Tom and Jerry, already air with a warning about cultural sensitivity.
One movie that is not expected to ever be available on streaming is Birth Of A Nation (1915) – the DW Griffith film hailed as the birth of cinema.
Friday’s decision by Netflix to remove Lucas and Walliams’ two series sparked anger from subscribers to the service, who were annoyed when they discovered the two shows had been dropped.
Journalist and former MEP Daniel Hannan was among those to speak out.
He wrote: ‘There is an unbearable smugness in rushing to condemn Ali G, Bo’ Selecta or other shows that were fine until the day before yesterday. As if to say, ‘You all thought this was fine, but look – I’m more sensitive than you’. Hmmm. Maybe you’re just more priggish.’
But the company is understood to have believed it was the right thing to do.
The move is likely to lead to calls for more outdated shows that may be seen as racist to be removed.
Those angered by the move said they were ‘fuming’ and ‘gutted’ at the decision.
Some viewers complained they were in the middle of watching the series.
One viewer said people should be able to make their ‘own choices’.
But others have expressed growing unease about watching sketches which featured the comedians wearing make up to portray different races, amid claims it was offensive.
One viewer said they were ‘shocked’ that it had been available.
In Little Britain, David Walliams wore make up to play health-spa guest Desiree DeVere. In Come Fly With Me, he played ‘passenger liaison officer’ Moses Beacon and airline boss Omar Baba, while Lucas’ characters included coffee shop worker Precious Little.
The BBC’s iPlayer was airing the first series of Little Britain which included a scene where the pair were made-up to look like blackface entertainers. But has now taken the series down.
A spokesman for the BBC said: ‘There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer, which we regularly review. Times have changed since Little Britain first aired so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer.’
BritBox, the streaming service from ITV and the BBC, which had been showing three series of Little Britain, has now also removed the show.
It said last night: ‘Times have changed since Little Britain first aired, so it is not currently available on BritBox. Come Fly With Me has not been available on the service for six months.’
There had been a mixed reaction to Netflix’s decision to remove both Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen from the service.
One user said on Twitter: ‘League of Gentlemen has been removed from Netflix for use of blackface.
‘There are no words.’
Another wrote: ‘Absolutely furious that Little Britain and Come Fly With Me have been taken off Netflix.’
‘Little Britain and Come Fly With Me have both been removed from Netflix….so now I can’t watch these shows because you don’t like it?,’ said a third.
‘I want to live in a free country and make my own choices. Not an oppressive regime where I’m told what I can and can’t watch.’
But another viewer said on Friday: ‘I’m guilty for watching Little Britain and Come Fly With Me and looking past the black face but we all must face up and accept this was unacceptable and it’s still shown on Netflix.’
Another person speaking at the end of last week told Netflix: ‘Take Little Britain down.
‘Please do not endorse a show which perpetuates stereotypes of minority groups and makes a laughing stock of people who have to fight for basic equality within life.’
This comes after comedian Leigh Francis tearfully apologised for impersonating black stars on his show Bo’ Selecta.
He said he had been thinking about his Channel 4 show and had not realised at the time how offensive it was.
A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: ‘We support Leigh in his decision to reflect on Bo Selecta in light of recent events and we’ve agreed with him to remove the show from the All 4 archive.’ Read more:
- Fawlty Towers ‘Don’t mention the war’ episode removed from UKTV | BBC | The Guardian
- Fawlty Towers star John Cleese savages BBC over removal of famous ‘The Germans’ episode