Little Britain has returned to BBC iPlayer for the first time since 2020 after it was removed for several sketches pertaining to blackface and other offensive characters and stereotypes. In June 2020, a spokesperson for the BBC said: “There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer, which we regularly review.”
The decision came just a month after the killing of George Floyd, which triggered international debate about trivialised racism in comedy and television. Speaking shortly after the removal, creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams apologised, and said in a joint statement: “Once again we want to make it clear that it was wrong and we are very sorry.”
However since it returned online, viewers have spotted that although a large portion of offensive material was omitted, several sketches that target race and minorities still remain. A scene in which Walliams speaks to an Aisian student caused particular outrage.
Dressed as a woman, Walliams’ character describes the student in front of him to an unknown character on the phone. He says: “Um, how can I describe him? He’s got straight black hair, yellowish skin, slight smell of soy sauce. That’s it, the ching-chong Chinaman.”
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Remarking on that scene, Daily Telegraph arts and entertainment editor Anita Singh tweeted: “So Matt Lucas and David Walliams have cut the blackface from Little Britain to “reflect the changes in the cultural landscape” (and get it back on iPlayer) yet this has stayed in.”
Lynsey Verrillo wrote: “Comedy shouldn’t ‘punch down’ on a group already subject to discrimination and abuse, it reinforces the schoolyard behaviour that is incredibly isolating for a minority.”
Marcusjdl said: “They talk about “changes in cultural landscape” like it was broadcast in 1965 instead of 2003.”