BBC chiefs blocked plans to bring back The Fast Show’s coughing Bob Fleming

BBC chiefs blocked plans to bring back The Fast Show’s coughing Bob Fleming… over fears his affliction may offend Covid sufferers

Hapless, cough-prone broadcaster Bob Fleming was one of the most popular characters on 1990s comedy The Fast Show.

But the BBC last year blocked plans to bring him back for a one-off special over fears his affliction may offend Covid sufferers.

Comedian Charlie Higson had recreated his role as Fleming for last year’s Christmas special of Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing – the hit angling show presented by his former Fast Show co-star Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer. In the sketch, the genial Fleming stumbles across the pair while they are fishing on a riverbank – and, of course, he can’t stop coughing.

Higson, also a successful novelist, revealed in an interview at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate how the scene had been ‘cut’ from the show by the BBC because of sensitivities about Covid. A production source said last night: ‘A decision was taken to drop the sketch. It is important to remember Covid was really rampant at the time.

Hapless, cough-prone broadcaster Bob Fleming was one of the most popular characters on 1990s comedy The Fast Show.

Hapless, cough-prone broadcaster Bob Fleming was one of the most popular characters on 1990s comedy The Fast Show.

‘A lot of viewers would have found the sight of a man persistently coughing unfunny and upsetting.

‘Consequently, both the production company and BBC decided not to go ahead with the sketch.

‘It was very disappointing as the whole production were thrilled to have Charlie Higson join them on location. But under the circumstances, it was the right decision.’

Fleming, who was from Norfolk, was one of The Fast Show’s most recognisable characters as he tried to host his Country Matters programme through fits of coughing.

Hitting out at the decision, Steve Bennett, editor of the Chortle comedy news website, said: ‘I’m sure more people would have liked to see Bob Fleming than would have been upset by someone coughing on TV.

A patient is seen above in hospital. A production source said last night: ¿A decision was taken to drop the sketch. It is important to remember Covid was really rampant at the time'

A patient is seen above in hospital. A production source said last night: ‘A decision was taken to drop the sketch. It is important to remember Covid was really rampant at the time’

‘I wonder if the BBC will now ban Tony Hancock’s blood donor sketch for fear of offending haemophiliacs, Only Fools And Horses in case any viewers ever hurt themselves falling through bars, or Monty Python’s Flying Circus to avoid upsetting anyone who might be mourning the death of their emotional-support parrot.’

Dame Maureen Lipman, one of the country’s best-loved comedy stars, joked: ‘I think they should ban Bake Off and MasterChef because it is offensive to people who lost their sense of taste due to Covid.’

But bestselling novelist Kathy Lette said: ‘Post-Covid, does anybody find coughing fits all that funny? Surely, we’ve all had enough coughing to last a lifetime.’

The BBC declined to comment last night, while Whitehouse, Mortimer and Higson were all unavailable.

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