DVD review: “Love thy neighbour” (1972-1976)

“Love thy neighbour” (1972-1976)

Television/Comedy

Fifty-three episodes

Created by: Vince Powell and Harry Driver

Featuring: Jack Smethurst, Rudolph Walker, Nina Baden-Semper, and Kate Williams

Joan Booth: “Nobody dances at work socials. It’s mainly drinking to music.”

Released on DVD is the early 1970s long running comedy “Love thy neighbour” (1972-1976) which sought to analyse in its own way race relations in England or at least part of that county in a way that would expose racist leanings and maybe even enlighten the public to their own leanings in terms of race and gender. Of course what may have been forward thinking or liberal in the 1970s may seem like outright racism in the 2020s and so I am actually not sure how to treat this series. It is a conundrum indeed, one that bears thinking about, there are situations within the long running series that ring true, but there are others that seem ill thought out and quiet out of date.

The series was created and largely written by Vince Powell and Harry Driver; it was based around a white working class couple (Eddie and Joan Booth) living in Twickenham, in the outer London suburbs, and a black couple (Bill and Barbie Reynolds) as their next-door neighbours. Of course what happens over the long run of the series are increasingly inventive and ludicrous ways for the neighbours to come together and knock heads all in a racial way of course. This of course is part of the problem looking back at this series, the idea that nothing ever really changes which means of course that it always seems that the black characters have to fit into their life with their white counterparts.

Created by Vince Powell and Harry Driver who were both experienced writers it seems odd that they would not have the self awareness to know what they were creating but I assume it must have felt like they were breaking down walls with this show. Unfortunately this series has been created and written from a white mans point of view which of course explains why the show has aged so badly as well as feeling right out of place in todays environment whether you think it is woke or not.

At the time of production there was also a similar series in the form of “Till Death Us Do Part” (1965-1975) which suffered from the same issues, both were attempting to highlight the politics and racism of their time but ultimately became what they were racing against. Of course the white characters are working and middle class but I find it egregious that they are all so racist because that seems out of place and insulting. The idea of the racist insults at the drop of a coin seem a little too put on, they are everywhere and in all sorts of forms which would not happen these days on television not without some consultation.

I don’t think anyone involved in Love They Neighbour ever deliberately set out to offend, but time has certainly not been kind to how they handled the issue of race. It wouldn’t be so bad if everything else away from the prejudices was in any funny, but this barely raises a smile throughout its 80 minute duration.

Episodes

Series One

Pilot: When a black couple move in next to him, Eddie decides he and his wife have to move. He changes his mind when he sees the woman though, but trouble is still afoot.

New Neighbours: The house next door to Eddie and Joan has been sold and the couple that moves in comes as a massive shock to Eddie.

Limbo Dancing: Joan tries some of Barbie’s exotic food on Eddie. After joining the works social club, Bill challenges Eddie to see who’s best at Limbo dancing.

The Petition: Bill gets angry at Eddie when he keeps ogling Barbie when she’s sunbathing in the garden. Eddie thinks Bill is stirring things up so he decides to move. Bill though doesn’t want any black people moving in.

Factory Dispute: After an argument over a new machine at work gets out of hand, Bill and Eddie both withdraw their labour and go on strike. As a result, Barbie and Joan both also go on strike until the guys go back to work.

The Seven Year Itch: Eddie has a union meeting at the pub with Jacko and Arthur. Barbie and Joan think that their husbands have a roving eye, so phone two girlfriends to try and tempt them into cheating.

Refused a Drink: Eddie gets all excited about meeting Harold Wilson but the arguments start when Bill puts up a poster of Edward Health in his window. To prove a bet that blacks can get served anywhere, Eddie dresses up in an Afro wig and blacks himself up.

Sex Appeal: Barbie suggests to Joan that she doesn’t wear a bra like her, to try and keep Eddie interested. Eddie though, doesn’t even notice. When he later thinks he sees Joan and Bill embracing, Eddie gets really drunk and tries to start a fight.

Series Two

The Housewarming Party: Eddie refuses to go to Bill and Barbie’s house warming party thinking he isn’t wanted. When the music gets too loud for him, he calls the police to break it up.

Voodoo: Getting annoyed after Bill gets a football ticket and he doesn’t, Bill and Eddie get into an argument about voodoo. When Eddie makes a voodoo doll of Bill, Bill scares Eddie when he pretends it’s worked.

Clarky Leaves: After Eddie has a drunken night at the foreman’s leaving party, he refuses to go for the job as it’s against his principles. When his boss offers it to him with extra money and the key to the executive toilet, he soon changes his mind.

The Bedroom Suite: Joan convinces Eddie to buy a new bedroom suite in the sale. Unfortunately Bill wants the same suite, so they both decide to camp outside the shop overnight.

The T.U.C. Conference ’72: Eddie thinks his trip to the T.U.C. Conference will get him away from everything, only he gets a shock when Bill says that he’s going as well and Barbie has arranged that he shares his room.

Religious Fervour: After being disturbed by the local Revivalist Band and having a big argument with the boys about Religion, Eddie gets converted and joins the band. Joan hatches a plan though to revert him to normal.

Series Three

The G.P.O.: Bill and Barbie get a new phone. They share a party line but get a shock when they find out that they are sharing with Eddie and Joan. So Bill decides to wind Eddie up knowing he’s listening in.

The Car: Bill buys a brand new car. Joan tries to convince Eddie that they need one, but after Bill’s constant bragging Eddie finally buys one. Eddie though, can only afford a bit of a scrap heap.

Eddie Returns from Holiday: When Eddie gets home from holiday, he finds the place over run. Bill is sitting in his pub chair, the new vicar is black, his corner shop is now owned by a Pakistani, and Bill is inviting all his black friends to the pub.

The Lion and the Lamb: The White and Black Vicars and Joan and Barbie try to stop the mass punch up between Eddie and his mates, and Bill and his mates, planned for 12 O’clock. The two gangs meanwhile, are down at the gym.

The Lift: After Joan invites Bill and Barbie over, Bill and Eddie hatch a plan to escape to the club.The gang go home with Arthur as he’s forgotten his wedding anniversary, though they get stuck in his block of flats lift.

Barbie Becomes Pregnant: Barbie announces that she’s pregnant. Due to Bill’s bragging, Eddie, believing that anything Bill can do, he can do better, tries to convince Joan to start a family as well.

Series Four

Hines’ Sight: Eddie tries to vet those who are interested in buying the empty house next door, they have to be white, northern and Manchester United supporters. There is a new barman at the social club.

Friendly: Eddie and Bill enter a raffle, the prize, a trip for two to Paris. They decide to take each other should they win, leaving their pregnant wives at home but their wives have other plans.

Working on New Year’s Eve: The boys are asked to work on new years eve, and decide to throw a party.

Eddie’s Mother-in-Law: Joan’s mother comes to visit and Eddie puts his foot down and kicks her out. Joan leaves with her.

The Antenatal Clinic: Bill bets Eddie that he can’t go 24 hours without saying a racial slur. The men have to join the ladies at the antenatal clinic.

Two Weeks to Babies: Bill overhears Joan talking about another mother and misunderstands what she is saying. He then starts a rumour that the father of Joan’s baby is the window cleaner Speckie. Then the rumour switches to Barbie. Both men go after Speckie.

To the Hospital: Part 1. After a few false starts, Bill and Eddie get the girls to the hospital. When they are told it may not be until morning when the babies come, the boys go drinking.

The Big Day: Part 2. Eddie is still waiting for the phone call from the hospital, but can’t help getting drunk again. His friends sober him up and get him to the hospital in time for the birth. Bill’s child is born first.

Series Five

The Mediterranean: At the club meeting, the men decide to take a trip to Majorca. The women threaten to withhold all their services if they do not take them. So off they all go. Through a misunderstanding, Eddie spends the duration of the trip in jail.

Teething Problems: Bill gives Barbie tickets to go to Trinidad. Eddie uses the envelope to write a note, then throws it in the bin. He spends his morning going through the tip trying to find it. Meanwhile, the garbage man found them earlier, returned them, and Barbie has already gone. When Joan thinks Bill will wander, she makes him stay with them.

Eddie’s Birthday: It’s Eddie’s birthday and the boys at the club band together to send him sexy birthday cards as a joke, which doesn’t impress Joan. Bill also sends a joke one from Harold Wilson that leads to Eddie being arrested.

Cat’s Away: Eddie is jealous of the attention Bill is getting from Joan, and turns his eyes to Sandra from the barber shop. She just flirts with him to get him to do the stock taking. Bill shows up, and then the wives, ending the fling before it starts.

Ghosts: The discussion in the club turns to ghosts. When Nobby says that there is a ghost haunting the club, Eddie and Bill end up having a bet that Eddie can’t stay in the club all night.

Bananas: Eddie takes a crate of bananas that belong to Bill. While he is eating a banana, a giant tarantula comes out of the crate. It is a clockwork spider, but Eddie tells everyone he is dying from a bite. They all know better.

Series Six

Reggie: Eddie seems to be taking Joan for granted and she tries everything to get him to pay attention to her. She starts thinking about Reginald Truelove, her first boyfriend. One night when Eddie goes to the club, she calls Reggie to come over, but she has a change of heart by the time he gets there. Reggie answers the phone for her and he tells her it’s “Bloody Nora”. She gets spooked and goes to the club to explain. Eddie is not there, she missed him. Next thing she knows is Eddie is in the hospital for confronting Reggie.

Jacko’s Wedding: Jacko comes back from holiday with news that he is getting married to a bingo caller he met while he was away. When she shows up everybody thinks she is after his money. Joan knows this girl to be a gold digger and already married. She sends the girl packing and the wedding is off. Albert thinks Jacko is going to jump in the canal and they all race to save him. It seems his hat blew into the water and Eddie jumps in to save him.

Duel at Dawn: Bill tells Eddie he is having relatives stay at his house. They get into a dispute and decide to settle it with a duel. Nobby lends them his antique guns and off they go. Jacko loads the guns with blanks, and when Nobby sees this, he switches them for the real thing. When one gun goes off, Jacko goes down and Eddie thinks he killed him. Jacko only fainted.

The Darts Final: Joan forces Eddie to babysit so she can go to the movies with Barbie. The vicar comes around and Eddie cons him into babysitting so he can go to the club. The wives come home early and the vicar goes to the club to tell Eddie. Joan is so mad at him, she locks his clothes in the wardrobe so he can’t go to the dart’s match. Eddie wears Joan’s clothes and gets in all kinds of trouble.

Royal Blood: Eddie is researching his family tree and as a joke, Bill fakes an old portrait and says it is Eddie’s ancestor. Eddie thinking he has royal blood and is lauding it over everyone until Joan discovers the documents were written in ball point pen. Mr. Pettigrew from Somerset House comes to the club and tells Eddie his ancestor was on the ship “The Bounty” and was indeed married to royalty. A black princess on Pitcairn Island.

Club Concert: The annual concert is looking dismal without a celebrity. Eddie phones the Duke of Edinburgh and Bill pretends he knows Charlie Williams. Charlie’s agent tells him that he is booked in for the concert. The boys think he is an impersonator and coach him on how Charlie acts and speaks. When Eddie insults him, he walks out. The night of the concert there is no Charlie. Will he show up? Arthur tells Eddie that he turned away a drunk calling himself the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Nannies: The girls get a part time job on Saturdays, so they hire 2 nannies for the day sight unseen. After they go to work, two sexy ladies show up to look after the children. These nannies get Bill and Eddie to do all the work and just lounge around all day. Barbie and Joan come home and catch them eating a meal together. The men are barred from all football and Joan and Barbie go to the match in their place.

Series Seven

Famous Crimes: Barbie invites Joan and Eddie for dinner and sends Bill down to the club to get him. When Bill gets there Jacko is showing off the handcuffs that were worn by Dr. Crippen the famous murderer. He puts them on Bill and Eddie and they are stuck without a key. While Jacko goes to find keys, Eddie and Bill go home to dinner. They break into the factory to find something to cut them off when Jacko arrives.

The Lady and the Tramp: The club is having a Lady and the Tramp theme night. The men will be tramps, and the ladies will be the ladies. Not so simple for Jacko who comes as the lady and his mother is the tramp. Unfortunately, the police crash it because their liquor license has expired. It seems that Eddie forgot to renew it.

The Protection of the Law: Bill decides to leave the social club and go to the Caribbean Club. When Jacko, Eddie and Arthur hear there is a stripper over there, they go over too. When Bill sees them, he refuses to sign Eddie in. Eddie calls the race relation board and Bill is investigated and given a warning. When Eddie goes back to the club, Bill throws Eddie’s pint of beer on the floor and they are both barred.

The Opinion Poll: Eddie wants to take an opinion poll at the club. “Are you for more blacks coming into this country”? The problem is there are only ten people and it is a tie. The next one to walk in the door will decide, but he happens to be a vicar and won’t vote. He suggests they have it out in a boxing ring to decide who will win.

Manchester United: Bill and Eddie are looking forward to going to the FA Cup Replay between West Ham and Manchester United so much that they both pretend to be injured so that they can take a day off work to go to the match. However their wives have other ideas!

The TUC Conference: Eddie is so sure he will get voted as president of the club for ten years running. Then Bill throws his hat in the ring. No one told Bill that the annual trip to the conference would mean Doris would be there. A rather frisky lady who usually chases Bill all over the place. The night of the elections and a surprise candidate wins the election and a trip to the TUC conference with Doris.

Series Eight

The Local By-Election: Eddie campaigns for the Labour Party until he finds out his candidate is black. Bill invites everyone around for the election results and when Eddie sees that the candidate is white he is stunned. Until Charlie walks in. Apparently Bill sent him to Eddie’s house to impersonate the Labour candidate.

Eddie Becomes a Father Again: Joan joins a shopping club and Barbie tells Bill Joan is “in the club” (pregnant). Joan has ordered a pram and some baby supplies. Bill tells Eddie he is going to be a father, and confusion ensues.

Christmas Spirit: Eddie, Jacko and Arthur have a meeting to vote for the dart’s captain for the upcoming Christmas tournament. Bill comes in and puts his name forward so they decide on a drinking contest. Afterward Eddie goes home and has to sleep on the couch. He dreams they are all on a desert isle and he is the dinner, and Bill is the king. They win the darts match and Eddie gives the trophy to Bill.

The Coach Outing to Bournemouth: Joan accepts a coach trip to Bournemouth for her and Eddie, not mentioning that is a Tory event. Eddie is Labour so when he finds out, he loads up on crates of beer. He proceeds to get drunk on the coach, and makes the bus stop so many times, they finally abandon him.

For Sale: Eddie wants to sell his house for £15,000.00 so they can move to Manchester. Mr. and Mrs. Brittain look it over and decide to buy it, until they see the neighbours; after which, being racists, they don’t want it. Eddie had given Bill tickets to a game to get him and Barbie out of the house so prospective buyers wouldn’t see them. To get even with Eddie, Bill puts an ad in the paper and lists Eddie’s house for £1,500.00. He and Joan are swamped with buyers.

Power Cut: The Electricity Board cuts off the power to Bill and Barbies’ for non payment. They know they paid it, but can’t prove it. Joan lets them move in and Eddie offers to go down with Bill to the office and sort it out. Unfortunately, the man is black and Eddie can’t hold his tongue, making things worse. They find out that Bill gave the cheque to Barbie to mail. She gave it to Joan, and she gave it to Eddie. It is still in his pocket.

The Lodger: There is a homeless man, Albert, doing odd jobs around the pub. Bill bets Eddie £5 that he won’t take him home. Eddie does it and Joan takes a shine to him. She feeds him and gives him Eddie’s new suit and he looks a million dollars. Eddie wins the bet, but the man’s son comes to get him and gives Eddie £10 for his trouble. Apparently, he leaves home and takes up with strangers regularly.

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