I absolutely loved this show when I was a kid in the early/mid 1970s and was interested to see it running on an Australian network several years ago. I imagined it would have dated badly and no longer seem funny, but no, it's still hilarious. The format of Love Thy neighbour was quite simple. It explores the culture clash and constant bickering between bigoted working-class trade unionist Eddie (Jack Smethurst) and his upwardly mobile Black neighbour played by Rudolph Walker. Their wives constantly act as both 'straight men' and referees in the battles between Bill and Eddie. Was it racist? That's the question everyone asks. I'm confident in saying, no. Eddie often refers to Bill as "sambo" or "nig-nog", but then Bill calls Eddie a "white honky" just as often. Either both sides are guilty, or neither, and I don't see anything nasty or 'dark' in these jibes. Eddie's not hostile to Bill because he's Black, he's hostile because he's JEALOUS of him and in 9 out of 10 episodes it's Eddie who comes off worse. I particularly loved the episode where Bill convinces Eddie he's the victim of a voodoo spell and has him dancing - naked - round a tree at midnight yelling "pinky ponky, me white honky". I grew up in a 99% White town and my abiding memory of Love Thy neighbour is how beautiful Nina Baden-Semper was. I had quite a 'crush' on her as a pimply youth. I don't know what became of this lovely talented lady or Jack Smethurst, but Kate Williams (Eddie's wife) and Rudolph Walker remain familiar faces on British TV. They both have current roles in 2 of our most popular 'soaps'. The humour in Love Thy Neighbour was always the stupidity of Bill and Eddie's prejudices, so I think it presents an ANTI-racist message. Sadly, that's not much of a defence in the Britain of 2004. BBC2 recently had a major show in several parts to find "Britain's Favourite Sit-com" and Love Thy Neighbour was completely airbrushed out. To quote the Amon Goeth character in Schindlers List: "It never happened". That's a shame because it was funny and extremely popular at the time. it also showed that Black British characters can be attractive, successful and get the upper hand. we take this for granted now, but it was a brave thing to portray 30 years ago. It's worth watching, IF you ever get the chance to see it.
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