The Mail on Sunday reports that “BBC chiefs” blocked plans to bring back The Fast Show's coughing Bob Fleming “over fears his affliction may offend Covid sufferers”. The character was cut from last year’s Christmas special of Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing. “A production source” told the paper:
A decision was taken to drop the sketch. It is important to remember Covid was really rampant at the time.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.
I suspect one of Bob Fleming's colleagues, Jed Thomas, would have summed this up perfectly: