Walk up and say "How be ya?
Gee, but I'm glad to see ya, pal,
How's tricks? What's new?"
Love Thy Neighbour was a British sitcom which ran from 1972 to 1976, with seven series in total. The sitcom was produced by Thames Television for the ITV network. The principal cast were actors 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. It came in at no. 68 in a popular vote for Britain's Favourite Sitcom.
Written by Vince Powell and Harry Driver, the show was based around a suburban white working class couple in Twickenham, Londonnote , attempting to come to terms with having a black couple as next-door neighbours. Love Thy Neighbour was hugely popular at the time of its broadcast and remains popular on archive channels and Net outlets such as YouTube. It should be seen as a product of its times, The '70s being an era in which Britain struggled to come to terms with its recently arrived population of black immigrants; Love Thy Neighbour exemplified this struggle. It aroused great controversy for many of the same reasons as the earlier Till Death Us Do Part had done. The appalling bigot Eddie Booth could well be seen as ITV's answer to Alf Garnett, a southern Englishman cut from the same cloth.
The show is extremely politically incorrect, and because of its language and attitudes could never be repeated on mainstream TV today. Because of the racist language used, readers are advised that looking up excerpts on YouTube or elsewhere would be considered NSFW.
Retrospective opinion is beginning to slightly warm to this show, after its time as the butt of jokes during the 80s and 90snote , and there is grudging acknowledgement that - in some respects - it was intelligently funny, and that as with Till Death Us Do Part, the ignorant racist was the Butt-Monkey who always came off worst. Examples exist on YouTube if you really want to judge for yourself.
If you are looking for the American TV sitcom Love Thy Neighbor, this is probably the wrong page. note
Racial abuse over the back garden fence was enhanced by tropes such as these:
- Acid Reflux Nightmare: Eddie's drink-induced anxiety dream about being stranded on a desert island with the other cast members, where all his insecurities and inadequacies come to the fore and Bill turns out to be the better man in almost every respect.
- Angry White Man: Eddie Booth. Middle-aged, underachiever, stuck in a dead-end job, portrayed as ordinarily intelligent except for his racism.
- Eddie: "Bloody Nora!", "Knickers!", "The subject is closed", "You bloody nig-nog!" and "Get knotted!".
- Bill: "Hey, honky!", "Cobblers!" and "You talking to me, snowflake?".
- Joan: "Don't be ridiculous!", "Don't talk rubbish!", and "May God forgive ya!".
- Jacko: "I'll 'ave 'alf".
- Chinese Laborer: The put-upon owner of the local takeaway who is the butt of casual racism by both Bill and Eddie. Eddie, predictably, calls him Fu Manchu. Bill displays a racist streak - against Chinese - by calling him Mao Tse Tung.
- Cranky Neighbor: Eddie Booth's unhappiness at getting black neighbours. Bill is reduced to this by his dealings with Eddie. Mr Baxter, the tough no-nonsense neighbour on the other side of Eddie, is also cranky and has no patience in dealing with him.
- Dehumanizing Insult: Most of Eddie Booth's vocabulary pertaining to his West Indian neighbours. Bill Reynolds' exasperated comebacks like "Honky!" and "Snowflake!" sound nowhere near as bad and are born out of exasperation rather than malice or ignorance.
- Expository Theme Tune: The theme song is a jolly, glutinously saccharine and somewhat corny ballad about how nice a world it would be if we could unreservedly love our neighbours as ourselves. And then we get Eddie and Bill. It's actually a cover of a Bing Crosby ballad from The '40s.
- Lazy Husband: Definitely Eddie. Although Bill has his moments.
- Mighty Whitey: Eddie's opinion of himself, which is never borne out in reality.
- The Movie: More details here.
- N-Word Privileges: Bill is keen to get it across that he has this right. Eddie does not. note
- Oop North: Eddie is from Manchester but living in London. His wife Joan has a London accent. A surprisingly large number of people in Twickenham have northern accents, however.
- Parenting the Husband: Joan Booth especially, but she and Barbie bond in realising their husbands are like two alpha males scrapping in the school playground, and call them to heel. Frequently.
- Race Fetish: Eddie is frequently pulled up short by the sight of Barbie Reynolds in hotpants, miniskirts or summer bikinis.
- Sassy Black Woman: Barbie Reynolds gives as good as she gets.
- Scary Black Man: Bill is generally affable and easygoing, but when Eddie pushes him too far and hits his Berserk Button...
- She Cleans Up Nicely: The normally dowdy Joan Booth is allowed a moment of glamour in Eddie's nightmare scene about being stranded on a desert island where Bill is the all-powerful native king. She looks like Mitzi Gaynor or Mary Martin in South Pacific and the viewer is reminded that Kate Williams was really quite attractive and was only playing a downtrodden frump. Who still, in the dream, scorns Eddie to run to Bill.
- Spin-Off: Love Thy Neighbour in Australia was made in 1980, three years after the British 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.
- Standardized Sitcom Housing: The Booths and the Reynoldses live in two halves of a Type Two semi-detached, seperated physically by garden fences and a dividing wall. As noted on the page, the houses in which British sitcom characters live are visual shorthand for their social class and aspirations. The Reynoldses aspire to better; the Booths are gloomily aware this is probably the best they'll ever get. This is apparent in the upkeep and decor: gloomy, shabby and slightly neglected for the Booths, sunny and well-tended for the Reynoldses.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Over the course of the seven series, the unspoken realisation sets in that Bill and Eddie might well class as this. Although both would die rather than admit it, and they keep the vitriol going out of habit and principle. It verges on White Dude, Black Dude at times.
- Volleying Insults: just about any interaction between Eddie and Bill. Even when they're nominally working together against an outside threat.
- Where da White Women At?: Bill (in reality happily married to Barbie) plays up to this stereotype and takes it up to eleven just to spook Eddie.
And you will find your labour
A great deal easier, Life'll be breezier,
If.... you love thy neighbour!