Originally broadcast on Friday 24th October 1975 as the last episode in the sitcom’s first series, The Germans is perhaps the most celebrated episode of the comedy and sees a German family arrive to stay at the eponymous hotel.
When Basil, the irascible owner-manager, receives a blow to the head, his last iota of restraint and decorum is lost, and he berates the Germans with undiplomatic quips about the Second World War, before goose-stepping around the building in a mad daze.
However, the episode’s deletion is due to the racist terms used by the hotel’s elderly, doddering resident Major Gowen in relation to a cricket match. Despite even the argumentative, short-tempered Fawlty calling him out on his use of the language – outdated even by the time of the programmes mid-70s production – the scene has often been cut from broadcasts of the episode in the last decade.
The network explains in a statement: “UKTV has temporarily removed an episode of Fawlty Towers The Germans from a Gold Box Set. The episode contains racial slurs so we are taking the episode down while we review it. We regularly review older content to ensure it meets audience expectations and are particularly aware of the impact of outdated language.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.”
Speaking to an Australian newspaper, John Cleese says: “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 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?