Netflix, BBC Pull U.K. Comedy 'Little Britain' Over Use of Blackface

David Walliams (L) and Matt Lucas -HBO Channel 2008 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour -H 2020
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

"Times have changed since 'Little Britain' first aired," said the BBC.

British sketch comedy Little Britain — a hugely popular show in the mid-2000s and one that made household names in the U.K. of its creators and stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams — has been pulled from Netflix, BritBox and the BBC's iPlayer over concerns about racism, in particularly the use of blackface on several characters. 

Netflix confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the show — which first aired in 2003 on BBC Three — had been removed from the platform on Friday alongside Come Fly With Me, the comedy follow-up from Lucas and Walliams (and one also featuring characters using blackface). 

"There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer, which we regularly review,” added a spokesperson for the BBC. “Times have changed since Little Britain first aired, so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer."

Little Britain has been the subject of controversy for some time for sketches portraying transgender and disabled individuals and Thai brides, but it was the character Desiree DeVere, a black woman played by Walliams, that caused the most outrage. This issue was raised again as Black Lives Matter protests took place across the world and question marks were raised over the depiction of race in the media, with the show receiving renewed criticism on social media. 

Speaking to the Big Issue magazine in 2017, Lucas — who is set to join The Great British Bake Off as a co-host — expressed regret about Little Britain.  

“If I could go back and do Little Britain again, … I wouldn’t play black characters," he said. "Basically, I wouldn’t make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I’d do now."