April 13, 1972: Love Thy Neighbour

Love_Thy_Neighbour-1972Love Thy Neighbour is a British sitcom, which ran for seven series and fifty-four episodes between 1972 and 1976. The series was produced by Thames Television for the ITV network.  The principal cast included Jack Smethurst, Rudolph Walker, Nina Baden-Semper and Kate Williams. In 1973, the series was adapted into a film of the same name, and a later sequel series was set in Australia.

The series was created and largely written by Vince Powell and Harry Driver, and was based around a suburban white working class couple in Twickenham attempting to come to terms with having a black couple as next-door neighbours. The show was hugely popular at the time of its broadcast; during an era in which Britain struggled to come to terms with its recently arrived population of black immigrants, and it exemplified this struggle. It aroused great controversy for many of the same reasons as the BBC‘s earlier Till Death Us Do Part had done.

The views of the main white male character (Eddie Booth, played by Smethurst) were presented in such a way as to make him appear stupid and bigoted, and were contrasted with the more tolerant attitude of his wife.

TV-UK-04-13-1972

The main male black character (Bill Reynolds, played by Walker) was, in contrast educated and sophisticated, although stubborn and also capable of using insulting phrases, such as the terms “Honky”, “Snowflake”, “Paleface” or “Big White Chief” to describe his white neighbour (often in response to being called “nig-nog” or “Sambo”).

A spin-off series, Love Thy Neighbour in Australia, was filmed in 1979, (three years after the series ended). Consisting of seven episodes, the series saw the character Eddie Booth transplanted to the Sydney suburb of Blacktown. The explanation given for the absence of Eddie’s wife and child is Eddie has emigrated first and the family will join him after he has established himself. The antagonism between Eddie and Bill was replaced by the difficulty of Eddie adapting to Australia.

Since the series first began airing in 1972, Love Thy Neighbour has been criticised for its politically incorrect handling of issues of racism, although its writers have claimed that each episode included both anti-white and anti-black sentiment. It is often used as shorthand for television before the era of political correctness. Although both characters were bigoted and intolerant, Bill usually had the last laugh and rarely got his comeuppance. [Wikipedia]

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