John Cleese criticises decision to remove 'Fawlty Towers' episode from UKTV

Julia Hunt
·Contributor
·2-min read
'Fawlty Towers' named the best British sitcom of all time
'Fawlty Towers' (BBC)

Fawlty Towers star John Cleese has hit out at the decision to remove an episode of the show from UKTV over “racial slurs”.

The episode entitled The Germans was recently taken off the service, becoming the latest programme to be the subject of concerns about offensive content.

The instalment showed Cleese – who played hotel manager Basil Fawlty in the 70s comedy – goose-stepping while shouting "don't mention the war" in front of some Germans, and sees the character Major Gowen using offensive language.

Read more: Fawlty Towers named the best British sitcom of all time

However, Cleese told the Sydney Morning Herald that not everybody could see 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,” he said.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 10: In an historic moment, creator and co-writer of Fawlty Towers, John Cleese came together for the first time to rehearse with the actors of Fawlty Towers - Live on August 10, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. The show has its world premiere at the Roslyn Packer Theatre on August 20, 2016 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 10: In an historic moment, creator and co-writer of Fawlty Towers, John Cleese came together for the first time to rehearse with the actors of Fawlty Towers - Live on August 10, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. The show has its world premiere at the Roslyn Packer Theatre on August 20, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

“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?”

UKTV announced this week that the episode of Fawlty Towers had been removed.

A post on Twitter said: “UKTV has temporarily removed an episode of Fawlty Towers, The Germans, from a Gold 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We regularly review older content to ensure it meets audience expectations and are particularly aware of the impact of outdated language.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."

Earlier this week Little Britain was removed from BBC iPlayer as well as other streaming sites BritBox and Netflix.

Read more: Jamie Lee Curtis and John Cleese reunite 32 years after A Fish Called Wanda

The controversial BBC comedy, which aired from 2003 to 2005 and starred David Walliams and Matt Lucas, had been criticised over the years for its use of blackface and stereotyping.

And Bo' Selecta! was removed from All 4 after its star Leigh Francis apologised for playing black characters.