Fawlty Towers episode to be reinstated on UKTV after 'racial slurs' caused concerns

  • london
  • June 12, 2020
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The famous “don’t mention the war” episode of Fawlty Towers is set to be reinstated on UKTV after the streaming service removed it because it contains “racial slurs”.

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

Guidance and warnings highlighting “potentially offensive content and language” will now feature alongside the episode, it added.

The decision was criticised by John Cleese, who played misanthropic hotel owner Basil Fawlty in the 1970s sitcom.

UKTV’s statement said: “We already offer guidance to viewers across some of our classic comedy titles, but we recognise that more contextual information can be required on our archive comedy, so we will be adding extra guidance and warnings to the front of programmes to highlight potentially offensive content and language.

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“We will reinstate Fawlty Towers once that extra guidance has been added, which we expect will be in the coming days.

“We will continue to look at what content is on offer as we always have done.”

The episode first aired in 1975 and sees 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, including the n-word, about the West Indies cricket team.

On Friday, Cleese 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.

Fawlty Towers – In pictures

“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.”

Basil – played by John Cleese – and Andrew Sachs as the long-suffering Manuel (BBC)

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

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 has been removed from iPlayer because “times have changed” since the comedy first aired, according to the BBC.

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

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We already offer guidance to viewers across some of our classic comedy titles, but we recognise that more contextual information can be required on our archive comedy, so we will be adding extra guidance and warnings to the front of programmes to highlight potentially offensive content and language.

“We will continue to look at what content is on offer as we always have done.”