John Cleese blasts 'stupid' decision to remove Fawlty Towers episode

Fawlty Towers Live on Stage photocall - Melbourne
(Image credit: AAP/PA Images)

Cleese has defended Fawlty Towers

John Cleese has blasted UKTV for its controversial decision to remove The Germans episode of Fawlty Towers from its service.

UKTV said in a statement that it had “temporarily removed” the episode because it “contains racial slurs so we are taking the episode down while we review it”.

The statement concluded: "We regularly review older content to ensure it meets audience expecations and are particlarly aware of the impact of outdated language. Some shows carry warnings and others are edited. We want to take time to consider our options for this episode."

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The 80-year-old star believes that UKTV is referring to a scene in the episode in which the Major uses racist language while telling Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) a tale about his time in India.

Cleese told The Age: “The Major was an old fossil left over from decades before. We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them.

“If they can’t see that, if people are too stupid to see that, what can one say?”

John Cleese as Basil Fawlty

John Cleese in his famous role as Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. There were two series of the comedy, running from 1975 to 1979 (credit: PA) (Image credit: PA)

Cleese also said: “One of the things I’ve learned in the last 180 years is that people have very different senses of humour. 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 Germans episode of Fawlty Towers was originally broadcast in 1975.

The Black Lives Matter protest movement has prompted broadcasters to look at their back catalogues and remove some shows, including the David Walliams and Matt Lucas comedy Little Britain.

Cleese wanted to make clear his support for the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

“At the moment there is a huge swell of anger and a really admirable feeling that we must make our society less discriminatory, and I think that part of it is very good.”

David Hollingsworth

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.


Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years on TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 


David started out as a writer on TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.


Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!