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In these rampantly politically correct times, it's easy to forget that Love Thy Neighbour was actually a hugely popular sitcom in its heyday, largely because it made bigotry seem funny. Eddie Booth, a Labour-voting slacker, gets the shock of his life when a sympathetically portrayed black couple, Bill and Barbie Reynolds, move in next door. Eddie isn't a black-hater, just a dim-witted, blinkered bigot who sees nothing wrong with firing off mild racist colloquialisms, completely oblivious to whoever's feelings he might be hurting. Plus, he has the hots for Barbie. Naturally, the two wives get on wonderfully, further highlighting the ridiculous rivalry between the two men. The tit-for-tat banter, the shamefully funny situations and the spirited acting - plus the elderly barfly Jacko's "I'll have half!" catchphrase - made Love Thy Neighbour a ratings winner and a popular export around the world. And thanks to repeats on satellite and cable, modern-day audiences can see for themselves that it wasn't as offensive as the thought police would have you believe.
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.
A controversial, yet classic sitcom from the 70's. Based around the
lives of Eddie (the proud British unionist), his wife Joan, Bill (the
proud black ethnic tory)and his lovely wife Barbie. Often stereotyped
by those who have never really watched the series as 'racist', Love Thy
Neighbour was far removed from such a stereotype. Looking at the
lighter side of the attitudes at the time, Eddie's and Bill's
disagreements were perfectly balanced with friendship (who could forget
the episode when Eddie drags Bill out on the town?!).
Eddie and Bill's characters are presented as equals, and both have different views on life (whether it'd be labour, tory, or black power!) but more often than not, when they argue and bicker, both come out looking as bad as each other.
Anybody faulting Love Thy Neigbhour for it's views should take a closer look at the series first. A show that positioned Bill (Rudolph Walker) in such a prominant powerful role, and presented him as such a strong upstanding character was way ahead of it's time (when other shows were still presenting ethnic minorities as 'comedy' characters).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Love Thy Neighbour' has become a byword for all that was bad about
British television comedy of the '70's. When B.B.C.-2 screened 'I Love
1972' in 2000 ( as part of its ongoing 'I Love The '70's' series ),
presenter David Cassidy prefaced an item on the show with the words:
"Watch...and cringe!". Viewers were being instructed to hate the show
before they had seen so much as a clip. I think its sad that
'Neighbour' has been so misunderstood. People who were not even alive
in the '70's will tell you with absolute authority that it was 'racist'
and 'should never be shown again'. How many of them have actually seen
'Neighbour' was about a racist - Eddie Booth - but it was no more an endorsement of his ridiculous views than 'Fawlty Towers' a televisual guidebook on hotel management. It was written and created by Vince Powell and Harry Driver ( then by Powell alone following Driver's death ). It drew heavily on an earlier show they created - A.T.V.'s 'George & The Dragon' which starred Sid James and Peggy Mount as warring domestic staff. The writers decided to replicate the formula, but added a new ( potentially explosive ) ingredient - racial tension. Eddie ( Jack Smethurst ) and Joan Booth ( Kate Williams ) live in Maple Terrace, Twickenham - he is a chain-smoking, beer-swilling slob, she an overworked housewife. Into the house next door move a young, upwardly mobile black couple, Bill ( Rudolph Walker ) and Barbie Reynolds ( Nina Baden-Semper ). Immediately there is conflict. Bill gets a job at the same factory Eddie works in, and joins the same Social Club. In addition to the childish name calling, there is also rivalry going on. In one episode, Bill buys a car, so Eddie follows suit. When Eddie tries to purchase a bedroom suite, Bill also wants it. Their hatred formed the core of the comedy.
Occasionally, they were seen drifting towards friendship ( such as the episode where they went out on a double date with two local girls ), but something always happened to restore the natural balance. There would have been no show otherwise.
'Neighbour' was a smash hit, running to seven seasons, a movie version, and a stage play. Australia even made a spin-off featuring Eddie starting a new life Down Under.
Jack Smethurst was superb as 'Booth', a walking contradiction of a man who purports to be socialistic, yet his attitudes are pure Enoch Powell. Likewise Rudolph Walker made 'Bill' sympathetic. Kate Williams replaced Gwendolyn Watts as 'Joan', and her rows with Eddie were often the best part of the show. Nina Baden-Semper's 'Barbie' complemented the cast perfectly ( she even recorded a vocal version of the title theme! ). Also popular in their own right were Eddie's drinking pals 'Arthur' ( the late Tommy Godfrey ) and the slow thinking 'Jacko' ( Keith Marsh ), whose catchphrase 'I'll have 'arf!' caught the public imagination.
The show became a victim of the Political Correctness trend, meaning it has not had the repeats it deserves. Thankfully, it is all out on D.V.D. so we can make our own minds up. I used to live in a neighbourhood where there were many West Indian families, and you should have heard the laughter coming out of their houses when the show was on. Before condemning it outright, critics should take the trouble to watch it and see who comes out on top every week. It certainly isn't Eddie. If anyone was foolish enough to laugh along with him, that was their fault, not the show's.
Remembering this as a kid, I seem to recall finding it very funny with
strong characters and a memorable them tune. From an age when situation
comedy was far funnier than its modern counterparts.
Listening to people talking about it today, you would think it was racist - the main complaint that you laughed with Eddie Booth rather than at him. However, i always remember his black neighbour coming out on top most of the time. So I'm not so sure it really did reinforce those stereotypes. At least it was a depiction of how some white working class people felt at the time.
Maybe it was a little over the top and certainly wouldn't be shown in our present PC times. But you've got to take it as a period piece. For me it was very memorable and at least broke one mould for me in having the first black actress I fancied in the shape of Nina- Bade Semper - She was gorgeous.
It would be interesting to see a couple of episodes again to see if it really was that offensive and perhaps to gauge how we have moved on as regards to race relations.
I have just tonight starting watching this, since my childhood. Now I
was only young when I was first allowed this, I think maybe around
thirteen. At that time it was all about the phrases " I'll hav alv" "
sambo" "nignog" " honkey" "snowflake" etc.
As so rightly stated often by other reviews, it is not racist in the slightest. Eddie did tend to come off worse, but always came across as ignorant and bigoted. Did it make me racist, not all. In fact this show perhaps embedded the pointlessness of being racist and the stupidity of racist people. It is also not so far fetched as one might imagine. It's set up in the north of England, I lived up north, Yorkshire, in a town with a large Asia population. They was a lot of prejudice about. One example, when the holidays came, a lot of the kids would go what they called " paki bashing". Even my dad was a racist, though I would rather prefer to say ignorant, perhaps still is. I am thankful of this show, it showed me that people are people and race and skin shade should not be a barrier. There's good and bad in everyone. Actually I think the powers that be, need us to have prejudice against each other.
* not word for word but was a line Bill said in series 1 episode 3. Eddie had been his normal ignorant self.
This would have gone over my head in my youth, although I might not have seen it before.
Still funny as I remembered, but perhaps for very different reasons this time around.
This is far from being racist and I remember this series as an
adolescent in Sydney Australia. It was such a popular show it was
discussed in school and role plays created.
I would love to see something like this now with a typical Muslim family and white Christian family. Something that is in your face and not politically correct. This type of shows destroys the myths that keep people apart in the first place.
Look at the problems around the world now because people are afraid of what they do not understand.
This was a great show and a great message.
Most of these PC fools are worse than Nazis.
This show has to be taken and viewed in the context it was written in.
As a black man born in the early 70's, this show is funny for all the people of my parents age I mentioned it to. 'Political Correctness' is more about white people feeling comfortable with what other white people say in their presence, than making black people feel comfortable about whats said to them by white people. Eddie Booth takes the brunt of nearly every episode as his ignorance shows him to be the fool so often. His bigoted ways always showed him up to be the narrow minded, unintelligent idiot he is and regularly needed his wife's help to set him straight.
Fair enough, its not everyones cup of tea, but it is funny and to think it got shelved from being re-run because of our over protective PC fanatics thought it would re-ignite racism in our streets is a shame. News is that racism hasn't gone and will never go and considering racism is a learnt behaviour, if parents want to educate their young children to be racist, they will just get the DVDs at home and let them watch it that way. ted00043 from Australia just doesn't get the show. Its like a die-hard Columbo viewer watching Bablyon 5; it messes with their head.
If your going to do it, do it properly. Ban it all together (from our shelves, TV and archives) or let it be seen by everyone, everywhere.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like 'On The Buses', 'Love Thy Neighbour' ran on ITV for almost half a
decade, yet is hardly remembered now. It starred Mancunian actor Jack
Smethurst as racist Eddie Booth and West Indian born Rudolph Walker as
his equally bigoted next-door neighbour Bill Reynolds. The comedy
stemmed from the pair's frequent attempts to get one over on each
other, which more often than not would see Eddie coming off the worst.
Despite the fact that it is obvious that the show's intention is to
poke fun at bigotry rather than glorify it, its use of racial language
alone has insured that repeats have been blocked, which is a shame as
'Love Thy Neighbour' is to my mind one of the best sitcoms of the
Would-be Socialist Eddie Booth lives in Maple Terrace, Twickenham and is happily married to his lovely wife Joan ( Kate Williams ). One day, his idyllic lifestyle is shattered when Bill Reynolds and his wife Barbie ( Nina Baden Semper ) move into the house next door. Eddie, being insufferably bigoted, does not take well to this at all and attempts in vain to force them out. During the show's run, Eddie and Bill were to be seen squabbling over the most trivial of things. When Bill boasted about how good he was at limbo dancing, Eddie tried to one-up him by claiming he was far better at it, even though he hadn't the faintest idea how to limbo dance and when Bill bought a new car, Eddie had to follow suit and buy one. Joan and Barbie, however, got on rather well, though they too had their moments of childish bickering.
'Love Thy Neighbour' ran for seven series and ( for the most part ) made for excellent viewing. One thing detractors should take note of is that on a number of occasions, Bill and Eddie got on well and were sometimes to be seen looking out for and depending on one another. When Eddie accidentally smashed another neighbour's window, Bill took the blame for it. When the electricity board threatened to cut off Bill's supply due to an unpaid bill, Eddie confronted the board manager and demanded he correct the error.
Vince Powell and Harry Driver wrote the scripts initially but when Driver died in 1973, Powell wrote the scripts alone until new writers such as Adele Rose and H.V. Kershaw came aboard. A feature film went on release in 1973 and in the early '80's a remake was made for Australian television in which Eddie went to work down under.
Jack Smethurst was wonderful as Booth, a man so stupid and ( to an extent ) snobbish as to make Alf Garnett look like the Ark Angel Gabriel. Rudolph Walker's Bill got a lot of laughs as he frequently made his neighbour come a cropper. It was Kate Williams who made the biggest impression on yours truly as Eddie's put-upon wife Joan. This fine actress has comedy in her blood ( watch her in 'Holiday On The Buses' and 'May To December' if you don't believe me ). Also hilarious in their own right were Tommy Godfrey and Keith Marsh as Eddie and Bill's friends Arthur and Jacko ( ''I'll have 'alf!'' ). Paul Luty was also impressive as Nobby, the barman of Eddie's local club. I found Nina Baden Semper's character annoying but all the same without her the show would not seem as complete.
In the era of Frankie Boyle and Sacha Baron Cohen, I fail to see how anyone can be offended by this. Trust me, compared to the two aforementioned, it is tame. Now that it is all out on DVD, you can watch it for yourself and make up your own mind about it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember watching this and enjoying it as a funny comedy show, when
it was first aired there was no such thing as the PC brigade, there are
comments from both male characters in this show and at the end of every
show it is Randolph Walkers character who gets the better of Jack
They were racist against each other so it wasn't a one sided racial name calling, but there were plenty of shows around which were racist in the same way, Curry and Chips and Alf Garnett being two prime examples, also Fawlty Towers, while it wasn't racist, it was certainly anti German with the episode called the Germans in which Basil does his funny walk and keeps mentioning the war, if LTN is going to be criticised for being non PC then Fawlty Towers also has to fall into that category.
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