BBC censors Fist Of Fun

Cuts ordered to DVD release

The BBC has censored the DVD release of Lee & Herring’s Fist Of Fun.

Nervous corporation chiefs insisted on a number of cuts to the title – including the removal of comments critical of the BBC in one of the extras.

The cult 1996 series had never been released on DVD – but stars Richard Herring and Stewart Lee, and the independent label Go Faster Stripe acquired the rights from the corporation so they could put it out themselves.

However, after protracted negotiations, BBC Worldwide – the corporation’s commercial arm – still insisted on a number of cuts before it could be put out.

One was a scene mocking a (genuine) three-year-old boy whose family were in the news at the time; and another was a discussion about Princess Diana, and how she had done well out of her divorce and how her ‘secret’ charity work was always well-reported.

Go Faster Stripe boss Chris Evans said he ‘understood the thinking’ behind the first cut, but said: ‘The other related to Princess Diana, whom the BBC now have a blanket ban on mentioning in any old comedy DVDs, even if, as here, the mention was unambiguously positive and made before her death anyway.

‘Nonetheless, the Princess Diana cut was also agreed to in order to swiftly facilitate the release of the set.’

The BBC also also made cuts to an episode of Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Podcast, in which Lee was a guest.

They removed references to drug taking; Lee talking of his poor treatment by the BBC; Herring saying Lee would lose his audience if he had sex with a child; mention of their role in the creation of Alan Partridge; and a discussion that it cost them almost as much to buy back the rights for Fist of Fun as they were paid to do it in the first place.

The full podcast remains available online, but because the DVD comes under the BBC banner, it was subject to the same review process as content the corporation’s own output.

Evans added: ‘Obviously it is a difficult, paranoid time for the BBC and we sympathise with their position, but it was a worry that although Go Faster Stripe had already paid for the right to save Fist Of Fun Series 2 from the incinerator, there seemed to be some degree of confusion in exactly how guidelines relating to its content were interpreted.’

He also explained some of the other hoops they had to jump through with the BBC before they even reached agreement on these edits.

‘Initially, some weeks after the deadline for their feedback had elapsed, a lady at the BBC asked for about a dozen cuts to be made, most of which we couldn't understand at all,’ he said.

‘After further delay, we were told that these cuts were completely non-negotiable and that we would have to make them if we wanted the series we had bought off the BBC released in any form.

‘Then, on appeal, another lady dismissed most of these non-negotiable cuts, but insisted on a different dozen or so deletions. This was troubling as obviously this many cuts would decrease the desirability of the package to the fan, and Go Faster Stripe’s entire financial future and commercial survival was staked on its release.’

‘But in the end, the second lady said both sets of non-negotiable cuts were negotiable after all, and they were quickly and easily negotiated down to essentially three cuts, a total of four minutes.’

The BBC also removed the obsolete BBC email, post and web addresses from the end of each episode and the address of the newsagent that co-star Peter Baynham visits.

Despite the cuts, Lee & Herring’s fans will still have plenty to watch on the DVD - which is released as a four-disc set containing the six episodes, commentary from Rich and Stew, and all the studio tapes of outtakes and unused footage.

A BBC Worldwide spokesman said: 'While there is no ban in place, we need to consider the context and time in which jokes are being broadcast. Lee & Herring’s Fist of Fun Series 2 was first broadcast in 1996 and we requested some edits to the original content before the DVD was published this year.'

Fist Of Fun series 2 is available to preorder now from Go Faster Stripe, priced £25.

And here is one of the scenes the BBC didn't want you to see:

Published: 21 Nov 2012

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