Netflix Removes Chris Lilley Shows, But BBC Stands By Comedian — Including N-Word Blackface Sketch

Chris Lilley
Chris Lilley as S.mouse BBC

EXCLUSIVE: Netflix and the BBC were in lockstep over the decision to remove episodes of Little Britain from their libraries after the British comedy featured blackface sketches, but differences of views are emerging over other shows.

In the heat of the Black Lives Matter movement, Deadline can reveal that Netflix has removed four shows from controversial Australian comedian Chris Lilley from its services in Australia and New Zealand.

Angry Boys, Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes, and Jonah From Tonga have all been taken down after featuring characters that have in the past sparked questions over racial discrimination. The shows were originally made by Australian producer Princess Pictures for the ABC.

Angry Boys features blackface character S.mouse, while Summer Heights High and Jonah From Tonga include Jonah Takalua, for which Lilley wore brown makeup. In We Can Be Heroes, Lilley plays Chinese physics student Ricky Wong.

Lilley’s other series, Ja’mie Private School Girl and Netflix original Lunatics, will remain on the service. The latter features a South African character called Jana, which raised further questions about blackface, but producer Laura Walters has previously said that Lilley is “not portraying a woman of colour.”

Netflix declined to comment on the Lilley decision. The BBC, meanwhile, has taken a different view, saying its decision on Little Britain impacts Little Britain alone. It means Summer Heights High and We Can Be Heroes will remain on its streaming service iPlayer.

It also means that standalone Angry Boys clips, featuring rapper S.mouse, will also remain on youth service BBC Three’s website. There are 10 clips of S.mouse, including a music video in which Lilley repeatedly uses the n-word. In another sketch, S.mouse raps about his “big black balls.”

Deadline has contacted Lilley’s representative for comment. While promoting Lunatics last year, Lilley defended his characters, saying he tries to write “clever, layered” creations. He said: “When you meet them, you think, ‘I know that type of person’ but then there is a twist, something crazy… [In] the end you think, ‘Actually, I kinda relate to this.'”

Separately to the Lilley shows, Netflix has also removed British comedy The League Of Gentlemen from its library after it featured the blackface character Papa Lazarou. The League Of Gentlemen remains on iPlayer. It was made by the BBC.

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