‘Epitome of racist sitcom’ Love Thy Neighbour being aired on 7Two

The Seven Network is airing prime time reruns of UK series Love Thy Neighbour – described by the British Film Institute  as “reviled as the epitome of racist sitcom” – on its digital channel 7Two.

The comedy, made in 1972, features a white man’s horror when a black man moves in next door. It has not been aired in its home market for many years because of the offence caused by the regular use of phrases such as “nig-nog”, “spade” and “Sambo”.

Seven advertises the show as:

“Eddie Booth lived a very comfortable working class life, thank you very much, until the Reynolds moved in next door – and there went the neighbourhood. Because he’s got nothing against black people as long as they know their place – which isn’t next to his place.”

Although the white character, played by Jack Smethurst, generally ends up as the one who looks foolish, the programme is often cited as the most racist sitcom ever broadcast in the UK.

According to the BFI:

“While the show is now reviled as the epitome of racist sitcom, the original intention was ostensibly quite the opposite. Launching the series, the TV Times proudly announced, “It is about racial prejudice – with a difference. It should make us laugh a lot… and think a lot, too.” But to a large extent, it fails to do either. Compared to its controversial but more deftly-written precursor, Till Death Us Do Part (BBC, 1966-75), the characters and scripts of Love Thy Neighbour are flat, ramshackle, superficial and, because of the often careless and stereotypical exploitation of the central premise, intermittently offensive. Though the 1970s studio audience hoots uproariously at every mention of ‘sambo’ or ‘honky’, the comic value of the clumsy and gratuitous slanging matches that were central to the show is difficult to comprehend today, and it all makes for glum viewing.”

The series was acquired for broadcast on 7Two as part of a package of shows.

Section 1.9.6 of commercial TV’s code of practice states that shows cannot contain material that “provoke or perpetuate intense dislike, serious contempt or severe ridicule against a person or group of persons on the grounds of age, colour, gender, national or ethnic origin, disability, race, religion or sexual preference.”

However, the code of practice adds that broadcast is allowed of programming that is “said or done reasonably and in good faith in broadcasting an artistic work (including comedy or satire)”.

A Seven spokesman told Mumbrella that the jokes were at the expense of the white character. He said: “Eddie is the one who looks the fool and the bigot.” He added: “Are you also seeking to ban Are You Being Served and Dad’s Army and the Carry On movies?”


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