Fawlty Towers moments that cant be aired now – racist slurs to arguable quips

Classic sitcom Fawlty Towers was a popular series that catapulted actor and show writer John Cleese into overnight stardom.

First hitting screens on BBC Two in 1975 and then later in 1979, the sitcom only had two series which included six episodes each.

However, despite the fact that it never received rave reviews from critics at the beginning, the programme proved to be a success and was later ranked as number one on a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes, a list created by the British Film Institute in 2000 and in 2019.

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Focusing on a fictional hotel in the seaside town of Torquay, the plots centred on the tense, rude and frustrated owner Basil Fawlty (Cleese) and his wife Sybil.

But although the show offered viewers barrels of laughs, it has gone down in history as one of the most controversial shows to date, with several aspects being removed for modern day viewers.

Daily Star has taken a look at some of the show's most controversial scenes.

The Germans

The sixth episode of series one called, The Germans was first broadcast in 1975, however it has still received backlash until this day.

In the episode, hotel manager Basil offends a group of German guests who stay at the hotel while he deals with the effects of a concussion.

He continues to tell his staff "don’t mention the war" but continues to make multiple references to the Second World War himself and later does an impression of Adolf Hitler while making a Nazi salute.

The controversial episode faced intense backlash when it first aired and Cleese stated his intention was to "make fun of the British obsession with the war".

In 2021, BBC viewers were left stunned when the broadcaster aired the controversial episode once again.

Although a warning was given before, this didn't stop many from airing their grievances on Twitter at the time.

One upset fan wrote: "Are the BBC really showing THIS episode of Fawlty Towers??"

Another argued: "It's just not really appropriate in this day and age."

While a third said: "I’m surprised the BBC showed as much of that episode of Fawlty Towers as they did. Although there were some cuts."

Racial slurs

In the same episode, hotel resident and ex-solider Major Gowen used a racial slur.

Major played by by Ballard Berkeley was known for his foul language and his unawareness to matters that most would consider to be rude.

The character often used the N-word in reference to members of the West Indies cricket team, while also referring to Indians as "w***".

However in 2020, actor and writer Cleese appeared to defend the writing and criticised the removal of the episode from a streaming service.

He said: "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?"

Views on women

Fawlty Towers has also received backlash for the representation and views on women.

Basil's wife Sybil, played by actress Prunella Scales, seemed to be the only one who could handle Basil's outburst and turbulent personality.

However she was often portrayed as being Basil's "stupid" wife and a constant nag.

Conversations regarding women overall being seen as "strange creatures" was also an element of the show that may be met with uproar by modern audiences.


Waiter Manuel played by the legendary Andrew Sachs has also come under fire for the character's portrayal.

Manuel was often the centre of Basil's crude jokes due to eagerness often making him chaotic and disorganised in the hard to manage hotel.

Although willing to please, Manuel, who originated from Barcelona often found it hard to understand and many have later slammed the way in which the character was made to look unintelligent.

At the time, viewers who originated from Spain felt the programme was making fun of them.

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