In Tribute To Jack Smethurst, who has died aged 89
You’d never get away with comedy like this today, but it was then and is now a piece of classic British comedy from that golden era when it seemed British television could do no wrong.
Love Thy Neighbour was a hugely popular sitcom running for 54 episodes (including the un-broadcast pilot) over eight series. In the Pilot Episode Joan is played by Gwendolyn Watts. Although never broadcast it was included on subsequent DVD releases, we covered the pilot in a seperate post.
The format was very simple and used in other comedies of the time, take two men and make them complete opposites in every way, race, colour, even politically.
The comedy came from the two men’s constant disagreement over everything, this would result in remarks and actions that many viewers found offensive and would provoke outrage today. However there was nothing offensive about it as the laughs came a plenty as Bill always managed to come out on top, revelling in playing up to Eddie’s bigotry to wind him up at every opportunity.
The views of Eddie Booth, were presented in a way to make him appear stupid and bigoted, this was in contrast to his more tolerant wife. Bill was the opposite, educated and sophisticated, although stubborn and also capable of racism using the terms Honky, Snowflake, Paleface or Big White Chief to describe his white neighbour. Again Bill’s wife was of a more relaxed disposition than her husband.
The use of terms such as nig-nog to refer to his black neighbour, were intended to be ironic by the script-writers. However it attracted considerable criticism from viewers at the time and would cause outrage in today’s society.
Eddie and Joan Booth are a white working class couple who live in the fictional street of Maple Terrace. Eddie is a staunch union man and proud supporter of the Labour Party. When the new neighbours Bill and Barbie Reynolds move in next door, Eddie is horrified. Bill and Barbie are black. The two wives hit it off immediately , but Bill and Eddie are at each other from the off, Eddie doesn’t like the idea of having black neighbours and immediately shows his stupidity by making constant jibes at Bill, who in turn can’t resist getting one up on his neighbour by playing up to the remarks.
The consequences are hilarious as Bill always gets the last laugh. Two classic moments from episode one include Bill disappearing upstairs and coming back down, pretending to be a native warrior and scaring the living daylights out of Eddie. As the episode ends there’s a classic line from Eddie, who protests that they are moving, when Joan asks if it’s because the neighbours are black, Eddie declares it’s worse than that he’s discovered Bill is “a bloody Tory”
Channel: ITV (Thames Television)
Created and Written By: Vince Powell & Harry Driver
Original Transmission Dates: 13th April 1972 – 22nd January 1976
Like many other sitcoms at the time a feature film was made in 1973