Entertainment TV Fawlty Towers episode pulled from streaming service over racial slurs
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Fawlty Towers episode pulled from streaming service over racial slurs

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An episode of the 1970s BBC series Fawlty Towers has been removed from a streaming service in the UK over its use of racist slurs.

The comedy starring John Cleese ran for two seasons, and remains popular to this day, available to stream in Australia on Stan and Foxtel.

It is the latest in a series of moves by streaming platforms in the past few days to purge content seen as offensive in the wake of a growing movement, online and via the Black Lives Matter protests, to combat racism.

UKTV, which is owned by the BBC, said it was temporarily removing The Germans, the final instalment of the first season, while it worked out what to do with the episode.

UKTV wouldn’t clarify on whether the move was permanent.

“We aren’t commenting on individual titles. However, we regularly review our programs and make edits, add warnings and make schedule changes where necessary to ensure that our channels meet the expectations of our audience,” a spokesperson told The Guardian.

Aired in 1975, The Germans is generally remembered for giving rise to the line “Don’t mention the war”, one of the show’s most enduring quotes.

However, a particular sore point is a conversation between Basil Fawlty (Cleese) and the hotel’s ailing permanent resident, Major Gowen (Ballard Berkeley), in which the Major uses a series of racist slurs in an anecdote about the West Indies cricket team.

The sitcom ran for two seasons in the 1970s.

On Thursday, it was revealed Netflix had removed several TV series containing offensive representations of people of colour.

The streaming service would not specify why it removed shows by Australian comedian Chris Lilley, including Jonah From Tonga and Summer Heights High, or The Mighty Boosh, the British comedy series.

However, both contain the use of blackface, something Lilley has been criticised for employing in his comedy in the past.

Netflix also removed episodes of Little Britain, and the BBC took it off its iPlayer service, with the broadcaster saying that “times [had] changed” since the show first aired in the early 2000s.

The creators of Little Britain, Matt Lucas and David Walliams, each portray characters of various ethnic backgrounds in the show. Each have since said they would act differently if producing the show today.

HBO Max this week said it would temporarily remove the 1939 film classic Gone with the Wind because of its problematic depiction of slavery.

The film, which won 10 Academy Awards, would be restored to the service with “a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those [racist] depictions”, a spokesperson for the service said.

It is not the first time the BBC has acted in relation to the Fawlty Towers episode’s offensive language.

The BBC edited out parts of the same scene in 2013, saying it did so partly so it could air it to a “family audience” at 7:30pm.

“Public attitudes have changed significantly since it was made and it was decided to make some minor changes, with the consent of John Cleese’s management,” a BBC spokesperson told The Daily Mail.

-with agencies