John Cleese criticises decision to remove Fawlty Towers episode from UKTV

John Cleese has hit out at the removal of an episode of classic 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers from streaming service UKTV.

The famous "don't mention the war" episode was removed 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 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.

 Fawlty Towers
An episode of classic sitcom Fawlty Towers has been removed from a streaming service because it contains 'racial slurs' (BBC/PA)

"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.

14 PHOTOS
John Cleese
See Gallery
John Cleese
Prince Harry talks to John Cleese backstage at the Wimbledon Theatre, London, after a charity performance in aid of the Prince's Trust charity, one of a number of events to celebrate the Prince's 60th birthday on November 14.
Monty Python stars (L-R) Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, John Cleese and Michael Palin at a photocall in London's Leicester Square, where they reunited to celebrate their 30th anniversary by attending a charity screening of their film Life Of Brian. * ...to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Relief as a tribute to their late partner Graham Chapman who died a decade ago. Eric Idle was notable by his absence following an apparent fall-out.
Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown is joined by comedian John Cleese for a live election call, in London. Mr Ashdown and Mr Cleese spoke to poeple from around the country who sent in their ideas on a postcard to party following questions from Mr Cleese's in a Liberal Democrat broadcast from February. 20/1/99: Mr Ashdown is to stand down as leader of the Liberal Democrats after the European elections in June and as MP for Yeovil at the next general election.
Monty Python stars (L-R) Michael Palin, Terry Jones, John Cleese and Terry Gilliam at a photocall in London's Leicester Square, where they reunited to celebrate their 30th anniversary by attending a charity screening of their film Life Of Brian. * ...to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Relief as a tribute to their late partner Graham Chapman who died a decade ago. Eric Idle was notable by his absence following an apparent fall-out.
Madonna shares a joke with John Cleese as they wait in line to meet Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh at the premiere of "Die Another Day", at the Royal Albert Hall.
Comedian John Cleese with Irish actor Pierce Brosnan after presenting him with the Outstanding Irish Contribution to Cinema, arriving at the Irish Film & Television Awards, at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin.
Monty Python star John Cleese feeds grapes to Colin the red ruffed lemur, during a visit to Bristol Zoo Gardens.
Prunella Scales, John Cleese, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs are seen promoting two Fawlty Towers specials created to commemorate the 30 years Fawlty Towers Anniversary.
(Left-right) Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland, Terry Gilliam and John Cleese announce their new plans for Monty Python at the Corinthia Hotel in London.
John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Graham Norton, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam during the filming of the New Year's Eve Graham Norton Show, at The London Studios, south London, to be aired on BBC One on Tuesday evening.
Michael Palin, Eric Idle and John Cleese are seen on the first day of rehearsals in London, for their new show Monty Python Live (mostly) which is on at the O2 Arena in London on July 1-5, 15, 16, 18-20.
John Cleese, Taylor Swift and Kevin Pietersen appearing on the Graham Norton show, filmed at the London Studios, London, to be aired on BBC One on Friday evening.
John Cleese arriving at Wogan House in London to guest on Zoe Ball's first morning hosting the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show.
Actor and comedian John Cleese speaks to members of the press on College Green outside the Houses of Parliament after he joined the group 'Hacked Off'.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

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."

The removal comes amid a re-energised debate on how best to deal with parts of well-known films and TV shows that are now deemed offensive by portions of modern audiences.

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

Vivien Leigh and co-star Clark Gable in their famous clinch in the 1939 blockbuster Gone With The Wind
Vivien Leigh and co-star Clark Gable in their famous clinch in the 1939 blockbuster Gone With The Wind (PA)

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.

Read Full Story Click here to comment

FROM OUR PARTNERS