fri 19/07/2024

Love Thy Neighbour, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Love Thy Neighbour, Channel 4

Love Thy Neighbour, Channel 4

Prurience and Prejudice: the game show

Simone, Phillip and family: Looking for a new life in the Yorkshire Dales

Channel 4’s new flagship series is essentially a census on prejudice masquerading as a reality TV/game show hybrid. A £300,000 property is being given away in the undeniably pretty village of Grassington in the north Yorkshire Dales, the kind of place where “you have to have at least three generations in the graveyard to be a local”, as one resident put it.

And with three times more over-65s than the national average, Grassington's graveyard is pretty much the busiest place in the village.

Over the next eight weeks 12 families will compete for the chance to win Sycamore Cottage and live permanently in this somewhat fossilised picture postcard. In each episode two of them spend a week in the village competing head to head for votes from the local residents, before the six winners return for the chance to become permanent Grassington residents. This is another variation on the glory versus humiliation X Factor format, only with stakes somewhat higher than landing the Christmas Number One.

Rather than artistic talent, these people are being judged on the whole shebang: character, class, colour, lifestyle, personality, background. Good fun, eh? The programme makers have naturally ensured that no one in the village will be spared the opportunity to air any latent prejudices: every conceivable demographic will be covered. Future episodes feature two gay couples (one undergoing IVF treatment), a couple with Indian heritage, a plain-speaking single mum who works as a life model, New Age travellers, aspiring bourgeoisie, a young working-class family and idealistic neo-pastoralists.

Lovethyneighbour3Last night's opener - pitching Phillip and Simone up against Steve and Nicky (pictured right) - played the race card. It was presumably no accident that this programme was named after the now notorious 1970s sitcom in which a suburban white working-class couple unwittingly found themselves living next door to a black couple.

Those days of casual racism are gone. Or are they? The arrival in Grassington of Phillip and Simone, two black Londoners, coincided with rather a lot of talk about faces "not fitting", although one well-heeled lady felt "the Jamaicans” would assimilate just fine. Phillip was, as it happens, British-born with Nigerian parentage.

Everyone stared at them, but perhaps that's simply what happens when you're being followed around a small place by a camera crew. One man, beer bottle resting on his belly, pronounced that, “T’aint the place for ’em.” There was a steady, depressing drizzle of fear and ignorance, but any locals expecting a taste of The Wire in the land of the summer wine were swiftly forced to think again. Phillip played against lazy typecasting by being a zealous Thatcherite "in training" to become a Tory MP. He treated the quest for acceptance as though it were a general election campaign, setting up a local surgery and enthusiastically rapping on doors. The first two people who opened up to him had just suffered bereavements. When he closed the second door and giggled softly, without a trace of malice, you knew he was going to win.

Simone was less robust but equally easy to like. Seemingly more fearful of stereotypes of black culture even than the villagers, she was haunted by a vision of her three sons in 10 years' time, embroiled in big-city gun crime and gang culture. Should they win the cottage, Grassington may well prove to be several steps too far in the other direction.

In the other corner stood Steve, a bolshie 49-year-old Yorkshireman living in exile – well, Birmingham. He was a carpenter (“I can do anything wood”) looking to make a new life with his nervy, sharp girlfriend Nicky and her three lippy, stereotypically slouching teenage children. Steve raised the temperature of several local ladies of a certain age, which was ironic because both he and Nicky were fatally lacking in warmth.

They planned a house party to which no one came, while Phillip and Simone held a variety concert for "local talent" which by contrast went off like a very happy firework. This was after the two couples had made their case in the local pub (Steve: “Well, I’m from Doncaster”) and then at a kangaroo court cunningly disguised as a dinner party, with the local GP Dr Jackson relishing the role of hanging judge.

LovethyneighbourDr“Dr J” (pictured left) was just one of the supporting cast of characters pulled in from the local population of 1200 and no doubt mercilessly edited to fit the brief. The competition for the cottage aside, Love Thy Neighbour was yet another contrived study of rural British life, every doddering sub-Alan Bennett vignette accompanied by that irritatingly jaunty music designed to signify bumbling, backward eccentricity. We were told that, aside from “sheep wrestling” (or was it "rustling"?), there was no crime in Grassington. Do they really expect us to buy this nonsense?

There were many larks to be had with Mary and Bunty, two Hinge and Bracket types who spent long afternoons partaking in tea and indiscretion: “We’ve only got one or two little black people," said Bunty, as the director and producer presumably performed silent high-fives off camera. Throwing their inane but essentially benign witterings at the mercy of the TV cameras was only marginally less foolhardy than placing their perfectly coiffed grey heads in the mouth of a lion. Why do they do it? Don't they watch TV?

Although the opening montage hinted at a veritable orgy of prejudice porn - “No gays, no one on benefits,” one resident barked - Grassington came out of this looking no more inward-looking and ill-informed than many, many other places, although it certainly did itself no favours. In the end Phillip and Simone won 66 per cent of the vote, suggesting that the community responded to their sense of familial stability and general decency (though it was probably just Phillip's politics) rather than making a judgement based on colour. It also helped that they were up against a family with all the charm of a bee sting. By the end it looked suspiciously liked a fixed fight. 

The result seemed like the right one, but if watching people being voted in and out of a community made for pretty unedifying television, seeing prurience and bias-baiting smuggled onto TV in the guise of some kind of populist social-studies experiment was even less pleasant. But what was truly chastening was how desperately these two couples wanted their lives to change, even if it meant living in dreary old Grassington, and how much they were prepared to put up with in order to make it happen. It will, I suspect, only get worse.

  • Watch Love Thy Neighbour on 4oD
"We’ve only got one or two little black people," said Bunty, as the director and producer presumably performed silent high-fives off camera

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Yes, noticed 'sickofit' post revealing the winners of Love thy neighbour, bit childish that really. Sour grapes?Was that you who posted it 'Grassington Girl'? Sounds likely. Whoever posted the winners names obviously wanted a reaction they didnt get! Dont think it'll stop people watching tho, hasnt stopped me.

That's fine Maria. No problem with that. Don't know about sour grapes - never eat them myself.

More of this rubbish on Thursday. This will be the one the programme makers will be really proud of - they managed to catch a young white man, well plied with their free drinks, asking the Asians what they thought they had to offer and it all turned very nasty. Just what we don't need but Channel 4 did. The other couple on with the Asians were given the house, even though no one knows anyone who voted for them. All fixed from the start.

If anyone cares, this programme has proved to be so bad that after tonight's episode it is being relegated to More4, starting tomorrow at 9.00. I have been told the last two episodes are to be condensed into one, which will be a blessing because it will be over sooner. Not quite such a good thing as binning the idea before filming started however!

I'd just like to say Grassington girl, don't get too wound up about the 'Love Thy Neighbour' thing. Whilst I can understand you & many other villagers not wanting the intrusion, & obvious backlash from the way the programme portrayed Grassington by clever editing etc., I'm sure it won't be long before it's all forgotten. I really don't think it will affect tourism or village life long term at all. Most intelligent people won't be swayed by a tv programme, yeah it's a bit of entertainment for a while, but it will soon just be a distant memory. I don't think any long term damage will have been done at all, village life will settle back down, & the people who love the dales won't stop visiting. I think it would be nice if the people that 'won' the cottage are welcomed by locals, after all, they could have bought the cottage in the normal way, had circumstances been different. Live & let live I say, having nearly lost my sister to serious illness a few months ago. It put's things firmly in perspective, & in the big scheme of things, it's just a tv show that means not alot.

You are absolutely right Elizabeth. I hope you sister is recovering. That is what life is really about, isn't it? Your remarks are balanced and sensible. In fact, a tourist in one of our pubs last night said exactly the same thing, i.e. that it is so obvious everything has been edited and manipulated to death that the people coming out of it worst are mostly the programme makers themselves.

wow! christie, you are such a negative angry person! what is wrong with you? i think you are a sad lonely person, maybe sat at home all alone, with nothing to do, but rant on these type of forums, gosh one needs to get a grip, and a life

Oh dear, here once again we have the ugly voice of do-gooding in the form of jobsworth Jane Hayes. How bad you are at judging people, what a laugh Jane! Why do you assume someone is a sad loner just for joining a debate? That odd opinion must apply to all forum participants then, yourself included. Actually, it's called healthy debate Jane, but with you it's your view or no view. I think you need to realise that there's a distinct difference between anger & being passionate about something that you think is right or wrong! Your type want others to follow like sheep & agree with all your PC rubbish, & when somebody differs from your opinions, your only response is to say they are sad, no life etc.,etc. Well how can you judge somebody you don't even know? For your information Jane, I couldn't fit more into my life if I tried , I'm a very busy part-time trained nurse, wife, mother of 2, helper to elderly in-laws, & have a large extended family! So much for your judgement, I sure hope your judgement in your job isn't as way off the mark! Oh, and I am allowed the odd hour or two off here & there in my busy life to look at my computer. So you can get a grip & a life as you put it, & accept some of us remain firmly on the other side of the fence to you when it comes to certain subjects.

Kinda intriguing that we build up a picture of a Nurse Ratchet who poisons her offspring's mind. But she'll always want the last word, just watch it; in the meantime here's another amused/horrified punter making a point and clearing off. I suspect our Christie gets more hot under the collar than we do, so maybe it's cruel to bait..

Christie - I don't think you are posting in the right place., for one thing, and for another just because you hold a different opinion from someone else, it dos not entitle you to abuse others. I thought we were discussing Channel 4's latest disaster here, which has now been relegated to More4. A revelation from one of the contestants can be found here: Comment 387. It justifies everything I have tried to put across.

I can't stand Mo, what a poisonous cretan.

A Poisonous Cretan? So they have at least one foreigner in Grassington, then......

For ciorstaidh - your reason being?? Don't forget you have to see past months of editing, cutting, pasting, omissions and lastly inclusions out of context. Mo, who is a waitress, has brought me many meals at her place of work and I have never been poisoned yet. Also she does not happen to hail from Crete, as you infer. I imagine you were trying to use the insult "cretin" which used to be applied to mentally handicapped people and was used in bygone days as an expression of contempt. By this I mean the effect that remarks posted by people like you have on normal people.

Actually I did mean cretan… It’s an insult for a deceitful character based on the medieval folk notion that sailors from Crete were thieves. I referenced Iago and Shakespeare also uses this word so I went ahead. Before you infer further that I’m being some how bigoted towards Cretans, then cease. I didn’t use a capital and as archaic as the word may be its etymology fitted. As for some of the personas of inhabitants of Grassington… namely that of barmaid Mo, I think if we were being realistic then my slight insult pales in comparison to the general level of manipulation, guise and bigotry. Careful editing or not, members of that particular community could to do well to remember they are members of a far greater community that of multicultural Britain. Witch hunts and rumours infiltrated by certain individuals created an intoxicating irony, being that of people competing to live in an utterly culturally impotent and bigoted realm of despair. But by all means, go enjoy you gammon and chips…

i just wanted to say regardless of the editing, grassington is an absolute disgrace, it require an exclusion zone to be erected at the earliest is embarrassing that this village is actually part of england....thank you for channel 4 for working so hard on producing a programme which accurately portrays the vile mind of the little Englanders still running wild in our country...

anyone else agree that despite mo the bar lady being a vile individual, they still would !

To 'Former Grassington Tourist - bit of an OTT post, why are Grassington people so bad in your eyes? People are entitled to live in their traditional ways ie: how they have done for years in a dales village community. Nobody is allowed to be individual now are they? All have to conform to a universal set of criteria in this country now do we? I don't understand why some people can't accept that lots of towns/villages in England are unique, & that's what makes them great- why should they conform to a 'one size fits all' so to speak? If you are referring to racists, bigots etc., etc., then you obviously haven't read the many posts informing you that the majority of residents chose to boycott the programme & didn't take part, so you can't tar them with the same brush as the few who's comments were teased out for 'good tv'! Anyway, I'm sure you are the type of tourist the village can well do without, & no, I don't live in Grassington, but I strongly object to those who for some reason dislike English villages being English! There's always someone fighting for different races, religions etc. to be allowed to get on & do what they traditionally do, but if the English want to be just that- English- suddenly there's something wrong with that! Double standards somewhere along the line.........

What a harangue of bigoted, badly spelled, ungrammatical and ill-informed quasi-opinions there are on this site! I looked at it to see what other people had thought of it and discovered that I have been in the company of morons! But then we can't choose our communities of television and it takes all sorts to make a world and a village. This was a TV programme. I suggest all those people who have formed opinions about Grassington based on the content of this programme go right away to their nearest college and enrol for a media studies course and learn about making a TV programme. As for the lesbian couple and the babies iss - I am a lesbian and have been for 40 years (more probably but didn't realise) and I don't think we have the right to have children. I think I made a choice to remain child-free when I moved in with a woman. Unfortunately every younger person in this world thinks they have rights that have to be satisfied and have lost the ability to make hard choices and find satisfactory alternatives. Anyone needing private tuition on how to write on a blog, spell, etymological and academic writing instruction, let me know. Reasonable rates.

Christie - have you any idea what you are ranting about? I'm sure most people here haven't the foggiest notion. Please don't bother to elucidate your points. It is supposed to be a forum about the latest total Channel 4 flop. Not surprisingly, crowds of visitors are flocking in, as they usually do when the weather picks up. None of our visitors of any size, age or colour, has been rudely stared at, and, so far, I haven't heard any of them say anything good about the programme, apart from how beautiful Grassington looks. They all seem to think it deplorable that a TV company should deliberately set out to provoke devisive attitudes. Fortunately they were completely unable to succeed, because we are very caring here and sensitive to people's feelings.

To MA.BA.PGCE person = just who do you think you are with your superior attitude? Posting a comment with no name, just the above letters, says it all! I'm not remotely interested in your qualifications, doesn't make you a better person. Most posts on this site are well put together, & have correct spellings, there are just a few with obvious grammar problems. I think your high opinion of yourself (just because you have a few letters after your name, if you genuinely have), just goes to show that those who achieve academically, don't always have the more important life skills aswell. By that I mean, your labelling of all posters on this site as 'morons' (very nice I'm sure), & offering your teaching services because you think you are a cut above........

To the BA.MA.PGCE post, I think this site is just meant to be a light hearted sharing of opinions regarding the recent tv programme. It is meant to provoke debate, & contrary to what you seem to think, most people are intelligent enough to realise just what's behind the making of this type of programme. Most are not daft enough to form a concrete opinion of a village in this way, so we'll pass on the Media Studies course suggestion. You need to stop taking it all too seriously, & maybe enrol on a people skills course yourself??

MA.BA.PGCE - your penultimate sentence is grammatically incorrect. Would you like some tuition in what we presume is your native language?? My rates are exorbitant.

MA.BA.PGCE , just to serve your point, i would be most interested in some tutoring.....We can start with picking the bones out of the following; 'you maam, are a bell end !'

MA BA PGCE "Anyone needing private tuition on how to write on a blog, spell, etymological and academic writing instruction, let me know. Reasonable rates." Judging by the standard of grammar and syntax- (look it up)- in your post, I certainly hope your rates are reasonable. In fact I'm surprised you've got the nerve to charge anything at all. I certainly shan't be booking any lessons, thanks very much.

MA BA PGCE - always the admission of defeat when you have to resort to insults and bad language because your command of language is insufficient to express yourself by using the correct etymology, grammar and syntax. I, however, am well educated, articulate, and, more importantly polite.


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