The episode, deemed to be a classic in the eyes of many comedy fans, sees John Cleese as Basil Fawlty tiptoeing around the Torquay-based hotel while shouting “don’t mention the war” in front of a group of German tourists.
A spokesperson for UKTV initially refused to clarify why the programme had been removed or whether the decision was permanent: “We aren’t commenting on individual titles. However, we regularly review our programmes, and make edits, add warnings and make schedule changes where necessary to ensure that our channels meet the expectations of our audience.”
However, following the publication of this article they confirmed it was under review because the episode “contains racial slurs”.
In a separate scene, character Major Gowen uses offensive language when talking about the West Indies cricket team – a moment which had reportedly already been cut by some broadcasters.
In another scene from the same 1975 episode, Basil displays his horror at being served by a black doctor in hospital – something which had not been edited out by broadcasters previously.
However, actor John Cleese has blasted the decision, calling it “stupid”.
“One of the things I’ve learned in the last 180 years is that people have very different senses of humour,” the writer, actor and founding member of Monty Python said from his home in Los Angeles. “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.”
“The Major was an old fossil left over from decades before. We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them,” said Cleese, who knew nothing of UKTV’s move until this masthead contacted him. “If they can’t see that, if people are too stupid to see that, what can one say?
“Fawlty Towers has given a large number of people a great deal of happiness, why would you want to stop that,” he added “It reminds me of the definition of a Scottish Presbyterian as someone who has a nasty, sneaking feeling that someone, somewhere, is having a good time.”
“A lot of the people in charge now at the BBC just want to hang onto their jobs,” he later said.
“The Greeks in 500 BC felt that culture, or any kind of real civilisation, was only possible because of slavery – does that mean we should take down all the statues of Socrates? Do you say we shouldn’t be looking at Caravaggio’s paintings because he once murdered someone?”
The removal comes amid a 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 in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
A number of service are reviewing their content, with HBO Max pulling Gone With The Wind because of its ‘racial depictions’ as well as BBC iPlayer axing Little Britain, The Mighty Boosh and The League Of Gentleman.
Charismatic, witty, charming, engaging - four things Joshua Rogers will never be. Thankfully, he’s a semi-competent editor, who, after graduating university with two mostly pointless degrees, joined The Hook two years ago. He subsequently honed his writing skills over several features and investigative pieces, arguably letting The Hook audience in on way too much of his personal life.