Classic television comedies will carry health warnings to avoid offending the sensibilities of modern audiences.
BritBox, a new subscription streaming service featuring shows from the BBC and ITV back catalogues, will flag up content which might upset some viewers.
Programmes such as Till Death Us Do Part and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum will not appear at all, having been deemed racist.
Fawlty Towers is to be screened on the broadcasting platform albeit with health warnings to avoid offending modern audiences (pictured)
Others, including Fawlty Towers and Only Fools and Horses, will be shown, but with advance warnings that they contain language which some people may find offensive.
An ITV executive said: ‘We recomply everything that goes on BritBox to modern viewing standards.’
The heart sinks.
Surely the whole point of subscribing to a service screening classic TV shows is that they don’t comply with modern viewing standards.
BritBox, a new subscription streaming service (pictured) featuring BBC and ITV shows, will flag up content which might upset some viewers. it seems history is being rewritten to satisfy prejudices of today’s intolerant guardians
Till Death Do Us Part, starring Warren Mitchell as the foul-mouthed, racist, working-class Tory docker Alf Garnett (left)
Most BBC and ITV drama these days drives me mad. Even those set in the past are obsessed with current concerns such as diversity and homophobia.
History is constantly being rewritten to satisfy the prejudices of today’s noisy, intolerant, self-appointed moral guardians.
The popularity of repeats channels such as Gold, Yesterday, Talking Pictures and ITV4 is precisely because they provide an escape from the ‘woke’ agenda of present day dramas.
One of the great joys of watching, say, Steptoe And Son, is spotting something that’s slipped under the censor’s radar and chuckling: ‘They’d never get away with that these days.’
Even so, some of the old shows are routinely preceded by warnings about possible offensive content. And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched classic episodes of The Sweeney or Minder only to discover that some dialogue has been deleted and entire scenes have been edited out altogether.
I suppose that’s just about acceptable on free-to-air TV, or even satellite and cable during daytime when children may be watching.
But BritBox is an internet-only service, which boasts about giving viewers the freedom to choose what to watch. So why not let us decide what is, and what isn’t, offensive? How many millennial snowflakes are going to be paying £5.99 a month to watch 30-year-old TV shows, anyway?
Our Friends In The North series, which aired in 1996, was considered quite radical, ripping apart the Thatcher years. But today, it struck me that some of the language and material would be frowned upon and that’s the trouble with trying to view the past through the wrong end of a modern-day telescope
Fawlty Towers (pictured) will include viewer warnings and simply wouldn’t work without Basil’s deranged bigotry and the Major’s crusty, colonial attitudes
Look, I can understand why BritBox might not want to showcase The Black And White Minstrel Show. And Love Thy Neighbour, a so-called ‘comedy’ about a black family moving in next door to a white bigot, wasn’t funny when it was made in the 1970s.
But I’ve always failed to see how anyone could object to It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, the adventures of an Army concert party stationed in India during World War II.
Jimmy Perry, who wrote it based on his own experiences, was mystified when the show was subsequently banned by the BBC. Perry and his collaborator David Croft — they also wrote Dad’s Army — would never knowingly have set out to offend anyone.
OK, so Michael Bates blacked up for his role and some of the Indian characters were one-dimensional figures of fun. And the Sergeant Major, played brilliantly by Windsor Davies, was forever calling his platoon a ‘bunch of poofs’. But the show was harmless enough, especially when it was first screened in 1974.
Frankly, I never found it particularly amusing. But given that the only people likely to watch the repeats are those who enjoyed it first time round, why ban it?
It Aint Half Hot Mum (cast pictured in 1977) has been deemed racist and will not be available for streaming. An ITV executive has said: ‘We recomply everything that goes on BritBox to modern viewing standards’
Till Death Us Do Part is another bete noire of the diversity commissars, who are horrified by Warren Mitchell’s portrayal of the foul-mouthed, racist, working-class Tory docker Alf Garnett. But writer Johnny Speight — who, like Mitchell, was Jewish and didn’t have a racist bone in his body — always insisted that the purpose of the programme was to laugh at Garnett, not with him. It was a point made vigorously by Mitchell, too, whenever anyone in the street called him ‘Alf’.
Sadly, these subtleties are lost on today’s censors, who take an almost erotic delight in banning anything of which they disapprove. One of the other problems is that the sands of what is and isn’t acceptable are constantly shifting.
For instance, I’ve recently been rewatching Peter Flannery’s superb Our Friends In The North, a drama starring a young Daniel Craig, about the fortunes of a group of Geordies spread over three decades.
When it was broadcast in 1996, it was considered quite radical, ripping apart the Thatcher years in particular. But today, it struck me that some of the language and material would be frowned upon and would have to be excised before it could be broadcast.
That’s what’s wrong with trying to view the past through the wrong end of a modern-day telescope.
At least BritBox is planning to screen Fawlty Towers and Only Fools, two of Britain’s best-loved comedies, albeit with health warnings.
Fawlty Towers simply wouldn’t work without Basil’s deranged bigotry and the Major’s crusty, colonial attitudes. Even back then, John Cleese seemed aware that the world was changing and there were some things you couldn’t say in polite company. That was the genius of it.
‘Don’t mention the war. I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it.’
These days there’s all manner of things, and people, you can’t mention. Since his conviction for sex crimes, Rolf Harris, once one of TV’s most popular entertainers, has been written out of the script. I doubt we’ll be seeing him on BritBox any time soon.
I shouldn’t think there’s any chance of Jim’ll Fix It making the cut, either.
But I’m pleased that Only Fools is being shown, hopefully in its entirety, even though viewers are being advised some of its language might offend.
I’m looking forward to watching again the scene in which the lads take part in a seance at the Nags Head, conducted by Uncle Albert’s lady friend Elsie Partridge.
Elsie makes contact with someone from the spirit world she describes as having ‘long blond hair, fingers covered in rings of ruby and gold, bracelets adorn the wrists…’
‘You know who that is, don’tcha?’ says Del Boy.
‘Sounds like Jimmy Savile,’ says Trigger.
There’s one episode that’s definitely going to need a Trigger warning.
A woman from Sussex has been left paralysed after suffering a stroke during a sumo wrestling match at a wedding.
We wish her a speedy recovery. But just run that by me again.
I know there’s a long and noble tradition of weddings ending in a good punch-up. But sumo wrestling? When did that become an acceptable form of entertainment at a wedding? Dad dancing is dangerous enough.
And I once went to a wedding reception where the somewhat tipsy mother of the groom had to be stretchered off after attempting a cartwheel during Jeff Beck’s Hi Ho Silver Lining.
She ended up spread-eagled on the deck with her underpinnings on full display. Maybe sumo wrestling would have been safer.