BBC censors 'racist' Fawlty Towers

MICHAEL IDATO
Last updated 14:28 25/01/2013
Fairfax Australia

The BBC removes a racial slur from the classic comedy series Fawlty Towers.

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In the annals of comedy history, Fawlty Towers is considered one of the greatest television programs ever produced. And from among its episodes, The Germans, in which hotelier Basil Fawlty clashes with visiting German tourists, is one of its most-loved.

And yet in an act which many will see as political correctness gone mad, if not actual cultural vandalism, the venerable BBC has censored a scene in which racist language is used.

In the scene, a hotel regular, the elderly Major Gowen (Ballard Berkeley), relates a conversation in which he corrected someone for using a particular racist slur, by suggesting they use another, equally racist, slur.

In the context of the episode, the line is clearly intended to mock the old-school British upper class for their inherent racism. In that sense, the joke is on Major Gowen, as it were, and not aimed at racial minorities.

In a curious twist, though, other culturally insensitive jokes in the episode - such as Basil Fawlty goose-stepping in front of the German tourists, saying ''sieg heil'' while using a finger to simulate the moustache of German dictator Adolf Hitler and referring to a German tourist as ''a stupid Kraut'' - were not cut.

A perceived sensitivity to potentially offensive material has seen some classic British comedies and comedians effectively shelved. Love Thy Neighbour, which ran from 1972 to 1976 and focused on the feuding husbands of a black and white couple who lived next door to each other, is rarely seen in Britain.

In one sense, the BBC is caught between a rock and a hard place. The episode was cut to be broadcast at 7.30pm and had they not made the cuts, the same British newspapers feigning outrage at censorship would be feigning outrage over the broadcast of ''racist'' comedy in family TV viewing time.

''Not funny? You're joking. You have absolutely no sense of humour, do you,'' Basil Fawlty shrieks at the horrified German tourists in the episode.

''Who won the bloody war anyway?''

-Sydney Morning Herald

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