Linford Christie: 70s sitcom Love Thy Neighbour was one of my family’s favourite shows

The British sprinter loved the comedy which is now frowned upon for featuring a racist central character: "It was fun and good banter"

In late July, TV That Made Me – a kind of Desert Island Discs of the small screen – will see the likes of Eamonn Holmes, Lesley Joseph, Gok Wan and Duncan Bannatyne spend and hour in a mocked up 1970s living room discussing the shows that influenced them growing up. 

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Sandi Toksvig provides a particularly moving programme (the second in the series after Holmes) in which she reacts very emotionally to watching footage of her late father – venerated Danish broadcaster Claus Toksvig – reporting on the 1969 Apollo moon landings.

But perhaps the most surprising pick comes from Linford Christie.

The British runner cites the controversial sitcom Love thy Neighbour – now frowned upon for its overt use of derogatory racist terms – as one of his favourite shows when growing up. Apparently the future running ace and his whole family simply roared with laughter.

So why did they like a show where the main (incessant) gag was unreconstructed factory worker Eddie’s bigoted dislike of black neighbour and colleague Bill?

Christie tells host Brian Conley that he and his family loved “the jokes” on the show and names it as his “family favourite”.

“The way the programme was it was a black guy [Rudolph Walker] and a white guy [Jack Smethurst] and they just throw insults at each other. We wouldn’t be allowed to show it now. It’s not PC. [But] in those days people didn’t care, people just watched things for what it was. We enjoyed it.”

Asked by Conley if it was racist, Christie replied: “No, not at all. In those days it was a big thing for the whole family to sit together. In those days there weren’t many black people on TV. They allowed the Black and White Minstrels at the time and I supposed that was a lot worse. We thought it was fun and it was, I suppose, good banter.”

He added that he – and his Dad – would “still watch” the show now.

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TV That Made Me is due to air on BBC1 in late July