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"The Germans" (named on some releases as "Fire Drill") is the sixth episode of the
BBC The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a public service broadcaster, headquartered at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London. It is the world's oldest national broadcaster, and the largest broadcasting, broadcaster in the world by ...

BBC
sitcom A sitcom, clipping Clipping may refer to: Words * Clipping (morphology) In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for stud ...
''
Fawlty Towers ''Fawlty Towers'' is a British television sitcom A sitcom, clipping Clipping may refer to: Words * Clipping (morphology) In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of ever ...
''. In the episode, while suffering the effects of concussion,
Basil Fawlty Basil Fawlty is the main character of the 1970s British sitcom '' Fawlty Towers'', played by John Cleese. The proprietor of the hotel Fawlty Towers, he is a cynical and misanthropic snob, desperate to belong to a higher social class. His att ...
repeatedly offends some
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...
guests. Despite warning his staff "Don't mention the war", he keeps ignoring his own advice. His insults culminate in a
goose-stepping The goose step is a special military step, marching step performed on formal military parades and other ceremonies. While marching in parade formation, troops swing their legs in unison off the ground while keeping each leg rigidly straight. The ...
impersonation of
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...

Adolf Hitler
.


Plot

Sybil, in hospital for a few days, instructs Basil on several tasks he must do at the hotel, including running a required fire drill and hanging a
moose The moose (in North America) or elk (in Eurasia) (''Alces alces'') is a member of the New World deer subfamily and is the largest and heaviest extant Extant is the opposite of the word extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of ...

moose
head. At the hotel, Basil has a conversation with Major Gowen, who tells an anecdote about a Test match, in the course of it blithely referring to
West Indian A West Indian is a native Native may refer to: People * Jus soli, citizenship by right of birth * Indigenous peoples, peoples with a set of specific rights based on their historical ties to a particular territory ** Native Americans (disambigu ...
s as "
nigger In the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, includi ...
s" and to
Indians Indian or Indians refers to people or things related to India, or to the indigenous people of the Americas, or Aboriginal Australians until the 19th century. People South Asia * Indian people, people of Indian nationality, or people who come ...
as " wogs". The Major also expresses his dislike of Germans when Basil tells him a German group is due the next day. Basil then has several pratfalls with Manuel while trying to hang the moose head, including many calls from Sybil reminding him to do so. At one point, he leaves the head on the hotel counter to get a hammer, during which Manuel practises his English from behind the counter; a confused Major thinks the moose head is talking. The next morning Basil successfully mounts the head. After another call from Sybil, Basil prepares to start the fire drill, but ends up creating confusion with the guests between the fire alarm and the burglar alarm (with the fire alarm being "a semitone higher" than the burglar alarm). Matters are made worse when Manuel actually causes a fire in the kitchen, setting off the alarm, but Basil, unaware of this, assures the guests it is only a drill. After starting the alarm, he tries to use the extinguisher on the fire, which bursts and sprays him in the face, blinding him. Manuel races out of the kitchen and tries to help Basil, only to accidentally knock him out with a frying pan. Basil wakes up in hospital after suffering concussion, and Sybil attests to Dr Finn that Basil cannot cope with the hotel alone. Basil sneaks out and returns to Fawlty Towers in time to greet the German guests. Despite telling everyone not to "mention the
war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (new ...
", due to a combination of his own animosity and concussion-induced mental confusion, Basil makes numerous WWII references whilst taking their dinner orders and begins arguing with them, calling out
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...

Nazi Germany
and frequently referring to
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...

Adolf Hitler
and others. Polly discreetly calls the hospital to warn them about Basil's behaviour. As one of the Germans breaks down into tears, Basil starts into war jokes and mocks Hitler's goose-stepping. Dr Finn arrives, prompting Basil to try to escape, Manuel giving chase. However, Basil hits the wall where he hung the moose head, which falls, knocks Basil out again, and lands on Manuel's head. As the Germans look on in disbelief, the Major comes out and thinks the moose is speaking to him again. The Germans ask aloud how the British could have won the war.


Production

*Interior scenes of this episode were recorded on 31 August 1975, in Studio TC6 of the
BBC Television Centre Television Centre (TVC) is a building complex in White City, London, White City, West London, that was the headquarters of BBC Television between 1960 and 2013. After a refurbishment, the complex reopened in 2017 with three studios in use for T ...

BBC Television Centre
, before a live audience. *This was the only episode not to begin with an exterior shot of the hotel. Instead, an exterior shot of the
Northwick Park Hospital Northwick Park Hospital (NWPH) is a major NHS hospital situated in the town of Harrow, North West London, managed by the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust is an NHS trust based i ...
in
Brent Brent may refer to: *Brent (name), an English given and surname Place name ;In the United States *Brent, Alabama *Brent, Florida *Brent, Georgia *Brent, Missouri, a ghost town *Brent, Oklahoma ;In the United Kingdom * Brent, Cornwall *Brent K ...
was used. * In the scene where Manuel attempts to put out a fire in the kitchen, firemen were on standby to put out the flames. However, in the next shot where Manuel walks out to alert Basil of the fire, two chemicals were added to his arm, to create smoke. During rehearsal and filming these chemicals soaked into his clothing causing Andrew Sachs second degree chemical burns on his arm and back.


Cultural impact

* In 1997, "The Germans" was ranked No. 12 on ''TV Guide''s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. * This episode popularised the phrase "Don't mention the war". Cleese turned the phrase into
a song ''A Song'' is an in-studio album containing the works of American pop star Neil Sedaka. It was produced by George Martin and released in 1977 on the Elektra Records, Elektra label in the US, marking the beginning of Sedaka's association with Elekt ...
for the
2006 FIFA World Cup The 2006 FIFA World Cup was the 18th FIFA World Cup The FIFA World Cup, often simply called the World Cup, is an international association football Association football, more commonly known as simply football or soccer, is a ...

2006 FIFA World Cup
, the first time Cleese had played Basil Fawlty in 27 years. The phrase was used as a title for a humorous travel book written by Stewart Ferris and Paul Bassett, detailing travels through Germany and other European countries. It is also the title of a book by John Ramsden, published in 2006, which examines Anglo-German relations since 1890, and a 2005
Radio 4
Radio 4
documentary looking at the British perception of Germans. * The episode was one of the most popular of the series in Germany when it was first shown there in 1993. * This episode was voted as number 11 in
Channel 4 Channel 4 is a British free-to-air Free-to-air (FTA) services are television (TV) and radio services broadcast in clear (unencrypted) form, allowing any person with the FTA Receiver, appropriate receiving equipment to receive the signal and ...
's ''One Hundred Greatest TV Moments'' in 1999. *
Gold Gold is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elemen ...
, a channel that regularly shows ''Fawlty Towers'', argues that while "The Germans" is the most famous episode, the best episode is " Communication Problems". * ''
Empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of several territories and peoples, "usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries". Narrowly defined, an empire is a sovereign state called an empire and ...
'' magazine listed this as the best episode of the show in its list of the 50 greatest TV episodes of all time. * In the first episode of the second series of the BBC series ''
The Office ''The Office'' is a mockumentary A mockumentary (a Blend word, blend of ''mock'' and ''documentary'') or docucomedy is a type of film or television show depicting fictional events but presented as a documentary. These productions are often ...
'', David Brent performs an impression of a paper industry figure as Basil Fawlty, quoting the phrase "Don't mention the war", and impersonating the goosestep used by Basil. * The American film director
Martin Scorsese Martin Charles Scorsese (, ; born November 17, 1942) is an American film and television director, producer, screenwriter, and film historian, in addition to occasionally serving as an actor. One of the major figures of the New Hollywood Th ...
has cited this as his favourite episode of ''Fawlty Towers''.


Controversy

"The Germans" has been evaluated by critics in the context of stoking
anti-German sentiment Anti-German sentiment (also known as Anti-Germanism, Germanophobia or Teutophobia) is opposition to or fear of Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital c ...
. Journalist
Mark Lawson Mark Gerard Lawson (born 11 April 1962) is an English journalist, broadcaster and author. Specialising in culture and the arts, he is best known for presenting the flagship BBC Radio 4 arts programme ''Front Row (radio programme), Front Row'' be ...
expressed the view that, "while the show will never win a prize for encouraging Anglo-German cultural understanding, Cleese is comically depicting – rather than politically promoting – fear of 'Fritz' ". In response to critics, John Cleese stated that his intention in writing this episode was to "to make fun of English Basil Fawltys who are buried in the past" and "to make fun of the British obsession with the Second World War". In 2013, the BBC edited the Major's use of racial slurs from a repeat transmission of the episode, prompting some criticism by viewers. The BBC defended its decision: "We are very proud of ''Fawlty Towers'' and its contribution to British television comedy. But public attitudes have changed significantly since it was made and it was decided to make some minor changes, with the consent of
John Cleese John Marwood Cleese ( ; born 27 October 1939) is an English actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. Emerging from the Cambridge Footlights in the 1960s, he first achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe The Edinburgh Festival ...

John Cleese
's management, to allow the episode to transmit to a family audience at 7.30pm on
BBC2 BBC Two is a British free-to-air television network owned and operated by the BBC. It covers a wide range of subject matter, with a remit "to broadcast programmes of depth and substance" in contrast to the more mainstream and popular BBC On ...
." However, on 28 June 2013,
Gold Gold is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elemen ...
transmitted the unedited episode after the
watershed Watershed is a hydrological term, which has been adopted in other fields in a more or less figurative sense. It may refer to: Hydrology * Drainage divide, the line that separates neighbouring drainage basins ** European watershed * Drainage basin, ...
. The episode was removed from the
UKTV UKTV Media Limited, simply known as UKTV, is a British multi-channel broadcaster, wholly owned by BBC Studios BBC Studios is a British content company and commercial subsidiary of the BBC, BBC Group. It was formed in April 2018 through t ...

UKTV
streaming service on 11 June 2020 in the wake of the
George Floyd protests The George Floyd protests are ongoing protests against police brutality Police brutality is the excessive and unwarranted use of force by law enforcement File:CBP female officers going aboard a ship.jpg, upU.S. Customs and Border Prote ...
, with the other episodes of ''Fawlty Towers'' remaining available on the service. Cleese spoke against the removal of the episode due to the Major's use of racial slurs: "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?" On 13 June it was reinstated by UKTV with a warning about "offensive content and language".


Cast

Episode-credited cast: *
John Cleese John Marwood Cleese ( ; born 27 October 1939) is an English actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. Emerging from the Cambridge Footlights in the 1960s, he first achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe The Edinburgh Festival ...

John Cleese
as
Basil Fawlty Basil Fawlty is the main character of the 1970s British sitcom '' Fawlty Towers'', played by John Cleese. The proprietor of the hotel Fawlty Towers, he is a cynical and misanthropic snob, desperate to belong to a higher social class. His att ...
*
Prunella Scales Prunella Margaret Rumney West Scales ('' née'' Illingworth; born 22 June 1932) is an English actress who played Basil Fawlty's wife Sybil in the BBC comedy '' Fawlty Towers''. She was nominated for a BAFTA award for her portrayal of Queen El ...
as
Sybil Fawlty Sybil Fawlty is a fictional character from the BBC sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. She is played by Prunella Scales. She is listed as 34 years old as seen on her medical chart in the 1975 episode "The Germans", presumably indicating she was born in ...
*
Andrew Sachs Andreas Siegfried Sachs (7 April 1930 – 23 November 2016), known professionally as Andrew Sachs, was a German-born British actor and writer. He made his name on British television and found his greatest fame in 1975 for his portrayal of the co ...

Andrew Sachs
as Manuel *
Connie Booth Connie Booth (born 2 December 1940) is an American-born actress and writer. She has appeared in several British television programmes and films, including her role as Polly Sherman on BBC2's ''Fawlty Towers'', which she co-wrote with her then-hu ...

Connie Booth
as
Polly Sherman Polly Sherman is a fictional character in the BBC sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. Played by Connie Booth, she is Fawlty Towers' long-suffering waitress and maid, hotel maid. Personality Polly is the hotel waitress during the series, and one of only t ...
*
Ballard Berkeley Ballard Blascheck (6 August 1904 – 16 January 1988), known professionally as Ballard Berkeley, was an English people, English actor of stage and screen. He played Major Gowen in the British television sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. Life and career ...
as
Major Gowen ''Fawlty Towers'' is a British television British sitcom, sitcom written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, broadcast on BBC2 in 1975 and 1979. Two series of six episodes each were made. The show was ranked first on a list of the 100 Greatest Briti ...
*
Gilly Flower Gilly Flower (26 August 1908 – 17 February 2001) was an England, English actress and model, best remembered as the elderly Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby, Miss Abitha Tibbs in the BBC sitcom ''Fawlty Towers''. Flower played Miss Tibbs in all twelv ...
as
Miss Abitha Tibbs ''Fawlty Towers'' is a British television British sitcom, sitcom written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, broadcast on BBC2 in 1975 and 1979. Two series of six episodes each were made. The show was ranked first on a list of the 100 Greatest Briti ...
*
Renee Roberts Irene Roberts (24 September 1908 – 6 February 1996) better known by her professional name Renee Roberts was an England, English actress who is best remembered for her portrayal of Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby, Miss Ursula Gatsby in ''Fawlty Towe ...
as
Miss Ursula Gatsby ''Fawlty Towers'' is a British television British sitcom, sitcom written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, broadcast on BBC2 in 1975 and 1979. Two series of six episodes each were made. The show was ranked first on a list of the 100 Greatest Briti ...
With: * Lisa Bergmayr as German Guest * Willy Bowman as German Guest *
Brenda Cowling Brenda Rose Cowling (23 April 1925 – 2 October 2010) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieva ...
as Sister *
Claire Davenport Claire Bernice Davenport (24 April 1933 – 25 February 2002) was an England, English Character actor, character actress well known for her large physique. Life and career Davenport was born on 24 April 1933 in Sale, Greater Manchester, Sa ...
as Miss Wilson * Iris Fry as Mrs. Sharp * Dan Gillan as German Guest * Nick Kane as German Guest * John Lawrence as Mr. Sharp *
Louis Mahoney Louis Felix Danner Mahoney (8 September 1938 – 28 June 2020) was a Gambian-born United Kingdom, British actor, based in Hampstead in London. He was an anti-racist activist and long-time campaigner for racial equality within the acting professio ...
as Doctor Finn


References


Further reading

* ''Fawlty Towers: A Worshipper's Companion'', Leo Publishing, * ''The Complete Fawlty Towers'' by John Cleese & Connie Booth (1988, Methuen, London) (the complete text)


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Germans, The Fawlty Towers episodes 1975 British television episodes Germany–United Kingdom relations Race-related controversies in television Television controversies in the United Kingdom