Fawlty Towers, League of Gentlemen and Chris Lilley join TV removals
James R | On 12, Jun 2020
Fawlty Towers, The League of Gentlemen and clips of Chris Lilley have joined Little Britain in the list of TV shows being reappraised and removed from streaming platforms due to concerns about racially inappropriate content.
“The Germans” episode of the John Cleese hotel comedy, Fawlty Towers, has been removed from UKTV Play so that it can be reviewed over its “racial slurs”. The episode is famous for Basil Fawlty declaring “don’t mention the war”, but its removal has nothing to do with the Germans of the title, but the elderly character the Major’s use of offensive language to describe the West Indies cricket team.
“We regularly review older content to ensure it meets audience expectations and are particularly aware of the impact of outdated language,” said UKTV in a statement. “Some shows carry warnings and others are edited. We want to take time to consider our options for this episode.”
The League of Gentleman, meanwhile, has been removed from Netflix UK just over a week earlier than it was due to expire, due to its inclusion of Papa Lazarou, played by Reece Shearsmith in dark make-up. The show remains, however, on BBC iPlayer, alongside The Mighty Boosh, which has also been the subject of debate due to its portrait of “The Spirit of Jazz”, also performed by a white actor in dark make-up.
“We constantly are looking at what’s appropriate and reassessing, and coming to a balance between what we think people want to watch or what reflects the times [when] those pieces were made, and what feels right now,” BBC director general Tony Hall told Radio 4’s Front Row.
The BBC has also removed clips of Australian comedian Chris Lilley from its website, featuring him playing the character “S.mouse” in his comedy Angry Boys. Two of Lilley’s other shows, Summer Heights High and We Can Be Heroes, are still available on BBC iPlayer.
In the USA, meanwhile, Paramount has cancelled its crime reality series Cops, which ran for 32 seasons.
Little Britain removed from streaming platforms due to blackface concerns
9th June 2020
Little Britain has been removed from BBC iPlayer and subscription streaming platforms in the UK, due to concerns about the show’s use of blackface.
The sketch show, created by David Walliams and Matt Lucas, first aired back in 2003 on BBC Three and went on to be broadcast by BBC One. Narrated by Doctor Who star Tom Baker, and starring Walliams, Lucas, Anthony Head and Ruth Jones, the show became known for characters such as Daffyd Thomas, “the only gay in the village”, and Vicky Pollard, a working-class chav.
But the show has long been a controversial topic, because of its numerous politically incorrect characters, such as “Thai bride” Ting Tong, plays by Lucas, and Desiree DeVere, a black woman played by Walliams. As the prominent Black Lives Matter protests across the globe have prompted renewed consideration of representation and race in the media, Little Britain has once again been highlighted by viewers as inappropriate – only weeks after Walliams and Lucas reunited for a mini-Little Britain skit on BBC One’s charity revue Big Night In (one that notably avoided its dated characters).
Now, BBC iPlayer, Netflix UK and BritBox UK have removed the show entirely from their platforms, along with Walliams and Lucas’ follow-up Come Fly with Me, which also featured dubious characters.
“There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer, which we regularly review,” a BBC spokesperson told The Daily Mail. “Times have changed since Little Britain first aired so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer.”
Lucas, who will soon be seen as the host of The Great British Bake Off, previously admitted that he regretted some of the show’s jokes and characters. Speaking to The Big Issue in 2017, he 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.”
BritBox told the Mail: “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.”
A Netflix spokesperson told The Guardian that it had “no comment” but confirmed that it had “removed both titles on Friday last week”.