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Fawlty Towers

1.06 The Germans


  • BBC 2013
  • DVD
Release: Jun 23, 2020 - Author: Der Dicke - Translator: Muck47 - external link: IMDB
Fawlty Towers was John Cleese's first big success after working on Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1975. The BBC sitcom about the choleric Basil Fawlty (Cleese), his fastidious wife Sybil (Prunella Scales), the unnerved receptionist Polly (Connie Booth, at that time still John Cleese's wife and also involved in the script) and the not only linguistically incompetent hotel valet Manuel from Barcelona (Andrew Sachs) became a crowd puller in Great Britain, which resulted in a second season of six more episodes in 1979.

For decades, reruns on BBC1 and BBC2 thrilled audiences, who regularly voted the series among the Top 3 in polls for the "best British sitcoms of all time", and in April 2019 even to first place. At times Fawlty Towers itself led the list of the best British TV productions compiled by the British Film Institute.

An uncomprehending audience reaction made the news in 2013, when the BBC suddenly presented a 15-second censored version of the episode The Germans.

To describe the reactions to this as "controversial" would be presumptuous. Almost exclusively the British media defended their beloved institution Fawlty Towers and explicitly pointed out that the portrayal of racism by means of fictional characters expressing racist views would of course not amount to racism.

Even though the BBC has not broadcast The Germans since then, in contrast to other equally popular episodes of the series, it is to be credited that it made the episode available uncut via the streaming service UKTV. Until the beginning of June 2020, when this too came to an abrupt end and The Germans disappeared completely from the screen.

Now the now 80-year-old John Cleese also intervened via Twitter and referred to the arguments that had already been put forward seven years earlier by fans, critics and the arts pages:

One is to attack it directly.
The other is to have someone who is patently a figure of fun, speak up on behalf of that behaviour.

In a interview with the Australian The Age, Cleese immediately followed up:

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?

In response to the worldwide protests against racism that immediately preceded the removal of the aforementioned Fawlty Towers episode, Cleese expressed his support for the "Black Lives Matter" 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 [...] It seems to me the best parts of the George Floyd protests have been very moving and very, very powerful.

The next day it was announced that the episode The Germans on UKTV would soon be shown again. It shall then be preceded by a Disclaimer, which - like Now TV, which belongs to the sky group - points to standards and attitudes which viewers may find offensive.

Meanwhile, John Cleese threw a consideration into the round, which had not even been discussed before:

You'd think it might be the Germans who would be offended by the episode when in fact they love it.
Do people feel that Germans can be teased because they don't need to be protected?
Major Gowen:

"And the strange thing was that, throughout the morning, she kept referring to the Indians as niggers."

"'No, no, no, no, no', I said, 'niggers are the West Indians. These people are wogs!'"

"'No, no, no, no, no', she said, 'all cricketers are niggers!'"

With the intercut to a briefly speechless Basil Fawlty, the cut version also resumes.

Total 15 Sec