Dear John (British TV series)

Dear John is a British sitcom, written by John Sullivan. Two series and a special were broadcast between 1986 and 1987.[2]

Dear John
GenreSituation comedy
Written byJohn Sullivan
StarringRalph Bates
Belinda Lang
Peter Denyer
Peter Blake
Rachel Bell[1]
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series2
No. of episodes14
Running time30 minutes
Original networkBBC1
Original release17 February 1986 
21 December 1987
Related showsDear John (1988)

This sitcom's title refers to "Dear John" letters, usually written by women to their partners as a means of ending a relationship. John discovers in the opening episode that his wife is leaving him for a friend. He is kicked out of his home, while still being expected to pay the mortgage, and forced to find lodgings. In desperation, he joins the 1-2-1 Singles Club and meets other people (who one could describe as misfits), who have fared equally unfortunately in their romantic lives.[3]

The outside shots of houses were filmed in Melthorne Drive, South Ruislip.

In 1988, an American adaptation of Dear John was produced by Paramount for the NBC network, starring Judd Hirsch. That series lasted for four seasons.[4]


Major characters

  • John Lacey (Ralph Bates) — a secondary-school teacher whose wife leaves him for his best friend, Mike. He is thrown out of his home and has to continue paying the mortgage on the marital home while living in a bedsit. Although John's wife is manipulative and John can be considered the wronged party, he admits in retrospect that he may have neglected his wife emotionally. He feels cut off from his son, to whom he has access only on Sundays. They end up at the zoo because it's the only place open, his son saying they've seen one penguin so many times that the first time they came "he was an egg". John's problems come from inability or unwillingness to confront someone or from being "too nice" – situations rebound in unexpected ways.
  • Kate (Belinda Lang) — an outwardly 'frigid' woman with three failed marriages. She continually spars with Kirk, whose growing lust for her becomes a running theme. At one point, she shares a bed with John, although it is suggested that nothing more than sleeping happened, as they were both drunk at the time. Eventually she goes to Greece and finds a boyfriend (much to Kirk's dismay), only to make a surprise reappearance in the show's final episode.
  • Ralph (Peter Denyer) — a shy, timid & rather mousy man who married a Polish immigrant who left him as soon as she obtained a British passport. He develops a genuine friendship with Kirk, even though Kirk outwardly holds his boring demeanour in some disdain. He often gives Kirk a lift home on his motorcycle combination. In series two, Ralphy (as Kirk calls him) surprises everyone by becoming Dazzlin' Darren Dring the night club DJ. Unfortunately he only has a single record in his 'collection', Green Door by Shakin Stevens, and his microphone patter is not nearly as glitzy as his name.
  • Kirk St Moritz / Eric Morris (Peter Blake) — a crass, tactless chauvinist, who dresses in the style of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, Kirk (who claims to be a spy) is shown at the end of series one to be nothing more than an alter ego created by Eric Morris who, though he is in his mid-thirties, lives in shabby circumstances with an overbearing mother who calls him 'Big Ears'. His room is filled with toy guns and The A-Team posters. His long, rambling and often preposterous anecdotes about his "experiences" seducing nuns, and the Vietnam War contrast with the audience's newly gained knowledge that Eric is really a sad, shy man who has made little impact in wider life. In the series' final episode, however, we see that perhaps there are aspects of Kirk that are more real than perhaps even Eric realises. when he displays courage and honour to protect his friends in a perilous situation.[5]
Eric claims to John in private that Kirk represents all the qualities he aspires to, and that he has other personae, suggesting Eric has simply become a persona that he presents to his mother, just as Kirk is the persona he presents to the 1-2-1 Club. Kirk explains Eric in public as an undercover version of Kirk and his mother as his controller in disguise. In the series' final episode, Eric is returning with Kirk's dry-cleaned outfit when he sees his friends about to be beaten up by a group of Hells Angels. In an homage to Superman, he retreats into the pub toilet and (after the Superman theme is played), emerges as Kirk, who swiftly dispatches the gang. Eric has an ongoing fascination with "Tiger" Kate. They enjoy a combative relationship, with insults and barbs regularly flying between them, although he claims that under the surface he is "kind of fond of her" (in reality he is smitten with her), and tries to get John to organise a date for him.
  • Louise (Rachel Bell) — the leader of the group. She divorced her husband because of his fetishistic tendencies, and remains obsessed with other people's sex lives – this may be her reason for organising the group and is most certainly the cause of her catchphrase "Were there any sexual problems?" She also insists on pronouncing Ralph's name in the more old-fashioned style of "Rafe".
  • Sylvia (Lucinda Curtis) — a nervous woman with an irritating laugh who divorced her husband because of his transvestism.

Minor characters

  • Mrs Arnott (Jean Challis) — quiet, hat-wearing Mrs Arnott (who suffers from depression) generally sits at the back dressed in dowdy clothing, occasionally chipping in with unexpected comments, such as that her husband used to make her play hoopla with ring doughnuts. Eventually she leaves the group to look after her daughter's children when her daughter goes to work in Africa for VSO.
  • Toby Lacey (William Bates) — Ralph Bates's real-life son portrays his screen son, Toby.
  • Wendy (Wendy Allnutt) — John's sexually manipulative and bossy ex-wife.
  • Mike Taylor (Darren Traynor) — Wendy's live-in lover. He was later played by Roger Blake.
  • Ken (Terence Edmond) — Ken is John's teaching colleague who, in contrast to John's simple desire to have a simple, loving relationship, wants to spread his oats and has nothing but envy for what he imagines is John's new life of sexual freedom. He and his wife have five children, whose upkeep and company he finds a constant burden. It is insinuated that his wife forced him to have a vasectomy.
  • Maggie (Sue Holderness) — Ken's wife.
  • Mrs Lemenski (Irene Prador — John's neighbour. She is a Polish woman of advancing years, who frequently encounters John in embarrassing circumstances, such as hitting his head on the wall in frustration. She refers to him as "you loony person" or "fruitcake person". She reveals herself to be a lonely woman, who was widowed in the Second World War.
  • Mrs Morris (Sheila Manahan) — Kirk/Eric's overbearing Irish mother
  • Ricky Fortune (Kevin Lloyd) — An ex- rock star who scored a one-hit-wonder in Iceland with his group Ricky Fortune & the Fortunates, Ricky joins only to be mocked by Kirk for his anonymity, and leaves.

Episode list

All episodes thirty minutes, apart from episode 2.7, which was a 50-minute Christmas special.[6][7]

Episode # Title Original airdate
1.1"A Singular Man"17 February 1986 (1986-02-17)
1.2"In The Club"24 February 1986 (1986-02-24)
1.3"Death"3 March 1986 (1986-03-03)
1.4"The Party"10 March 1986 (1986-03-10)
1.5"Toby"17 March 1986 (1986-03-17)
1.6"The Fourteen Year Itch"24 March 1986 (1986-03-24)
1.7"Under Cover"31 March 1986 (1986-03-31)
2.1"A New Member"7 September 1987 (1987-09-07)
2.2"Confidence"14 September 1987 (1987-09-14)
2.3"Problems With Toby"21 September 1987 (1987-09-21)
2.4"Sanctuary"28 September 1987 (1987-09-28)
2.5"Torquay"5 October 1987 (1987-10-05)
2.6"Once Bitten"12 October 1987 (1987-10-12)
2.7"Kate Returns"21 December 1987 (1987-12-21)

Title music

As with his other series, the title music was composed by the series' writer, John Sullivan. It was arranged by Ronnie Hazlehurst, the renowned composer of music used in many BBC comedies and light entertainment programmes, Joan Baxter provided the vocals.


Dear John appeared on video in 1998, three cassettes with both series and the Christmas special, under Playback Entertainment.

Acorn Media UK released both series of Dear John on DVD in the UK in 2010. The first episode is shorter than the one originally broadcast on BBC1 as contractual edits have been made, namely the removal of Beatles music during and at the end of the episode. The subtitles still show 'Day Tripper' being played as John enters the community hall and acknowledges some men dressed in Fab Four suits, but the music playing is actually muzak. And at the end John and Kate have an exchange where they discuss whether they will return the following week. Beatles music can be heard and silhouettes seen in an upper window of the centre. This scene has been totally removed.


  1. "Dear John.... – BBC1 Sitcom – British Comedy Guide". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  2. Quantick, David (24 April 2011). "John Sullivan: A master of comedy". Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  3. "A Forgotten Classic – Dear John – British Classic Comedy". British Classic Comedy. 28 April 2016. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  4. "Dear John – Classic TV Database". Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  5. "Dear John". Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  6. "Dear John season 1". 17 February 1986. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  7. "Dear John season 2". 17 February 1986. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
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