John Cleese slams decision to remove Fawlty Towers episode

Fawlty Towers

John Cleese has railed at the decision of BBC-owned streamer UKTV to remove the famous The Germans episode of Fawlty Towers from its platform.

He labelled people who failed to see it as a critique of racist attitudes rather than an endorsement of them as “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.”

On its official Twitter account, UKTV said it had “temporarily” removed the final episode of the first season of the short-run but legendary sitcom because it contains “racial slurs.”

The streamer said the episode was under “review” adding “we want to take our time to consider our options for this episode.”

Though no further explanation has been given, it is believed the offending scene is one in which the Major (Ballard Berkeley) uses the N-word three times while regaling hotel manager Basil Fawlty (Cleese) with a story about taking a woman to see a Test match featuring India.

“The Major was an old fossil leftover from decades before. We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them,” said Cleese, who knew nothing of the BBC’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.”

Cleese was critical of BBC management for bowing to pressure to purge its catalogue of “problematic” material in the wake of global Black Lives Matter protests without assessing that material on a more nuanced basis.

“A lot of the people in charge now at the BBC just want to hang onto their jobs,” he said.

“If a few people get excited they pacify them rather than standing their ground as they would have done 30 or 40 years ago.”

He also questioned the wisdom of trying to make past cultural artefacts – Fawlty Towers was first broadcast in 1975 – conform to contemporary moral standards.

“Sir Isaac Newton had shares in the South Sea Company, which indulged in many different types of trading, and some of it, disgracefully, was slavery,” Cleese said.

“So are we going to get rid of Newton’s optics on the grounds that it’s not really sound any more because he held shares in a company that dealt in slaves?”

“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?”

Despite taking issues with moves to cull offending items, Cleese expressed his support for the aims of the Black Lives Matter protest movement. Continue reading

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