Benedict Spence

Five TV sitcoms that are ripe for banning

Five TV sitcoms that are ripe for banning
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So we’ve come to it once again: busybodies fretting about what the kids are watching on TV. It’s one of those things that comes around at least once every decade, alongside video games, rap music, pornography and social media — a medium that needs to be strictly controlled, lest it infest the suggestible lesser minds of those who consume it to the detriment of wider society.

This generation’s Mary Whitehouse is a TV writer by the name of Daisy Goodwin, responsible for the twee Downton Abbey tribute act Victoria. Goodwin, in the Radio Times, has called for the BBC to stop showing repeats of the favorite sitcom Dad’s Army, for fear that it promotes eurosceptic views, and the misleading idea that doddering old Britain really can go it alone. According to her, if one hears Corporal Jones talk of “sticking it to Jerry” once too often, it will irreparably alter one’s political outlook. “If you really want to nail the BBC for influencing the nation’s state of mind about Brexit,” Goodwin warned, “you might want to look at how often Dad’s Army has been shown on BBC Two.”

No one, of course, had thought of this before. But it makes such perfect sense. Why wouldn’t we take one look at Private Pike’s ineptitude, Private Godfrey’s incontinence, or Captain Mainwaring’s incandescence, and take it as a cue to leave a political bloc? Clearly, this warped show must be banned forthwith; all mention of the Home Guard should be expunged from the history books, and John Le Mesurier’s minor role as a high court judge in Brothers in Law edited out in case anyone decides to start digging into his past. But we must not stop there if we are to change the views of the Great British public. There are plenty more sitcoms that are ripe for the chop:

Fawlty Towers

Cast members of Fawlty Towers

A particularly galling example of rampant Little Englander xenophobia that is certain to persuade all who watch it that such behaviour is normal and acceptable. It has a typically brash, unfair view of our German friends between the mid 1930s and 40s — calling them “devils” is exactly the sort of thing that will have tricked millions into thinking their car-manufacturers are taking us for a ride. Basil Fawlty’s treatment of his employee Manuel, meanwhile, is despicable, and a perfect metaphor for how Brits view their European counterparts. The violence meted out to Manuel on a regular basis, on the grounds that he is an idiot from Catalonia is disgraceful — only the Guardia Civil should be allowed to do that.

‘Allo ‘Allo

Francesca Gonshaw, Gordon Kaye and Vicki Michelle of British sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo!

Another crass depiction of our continental friends, painting them as a licentious, devious, incompetent closeted bunch of war criminals. On what possible grounds? Frenchwomen are shown as predatory, whilst Frenchmen are degraded as objects of desire. It is truly scandalous, and wholly inaccurate. I have visited many a provincial French town in my time, and try as I might, not once have I been molested by a series of repressed barmaids; I’ve also spent plenty of time in the company of Germans, and (try as they might) never had any of them stuff a large sausage down my trousers. It is these dangerous stereotypes that ‘Allo ‘Allo has peddled to the British public for far too long. Is it any wonder we voted to leave?

Only Fools and Horses

Nicholas Lyndhurst and David Jason attend the National Film Awards on March 29, 2017

This is just the kind of plucky working-class tripe that got us into this mess. The thought of hucksters and opportunists, bordering on criminals, being able to waltz around flouting the rules of the common market for profit, routinely winging plans and scams, and yet emerging out of the mist, like Batman and Robin, to save the day makes my blood boil. People need to be told you can’t live your life like this. Spivs like Dell Boy and David Davis aren’t superheroes. The sooner we stop putting ideas like this in people’s heads, the better.


Another one that takes potshots at the Germans, every single series of Blackadder is deeply problematic. From its trivialising of trans issues with girls named Bob and the dreadful womanising of Lord Flasheart, to its body-shaming of a frenchman hung like a baby carrot and its lack of racial diversity in the 18th century, it also demonstrates, in plain sight, why democracy is such a flawed idea when Baldrick is elected as MP for Dunny-on-the-Wold. But the most puzzling thing about Blackadder is why it ever had a second season commissioned: all the comic masterstrokes of the first series are surely overshadowed by the deeply concerning blast of islamophobia in one particular episode. Brian Blessed bellows: “As the Good Lord said, love thy neighbour as thyself, unless he’s Turkish, in which case kill the bastard.” Just think – had those immortal words never been uttered, Nigel Farage would never have been inspired to weaponize Turkish EU migration. For shame.