Duty Free (TV series)

Duty Free is a British sitcom written by Eric Chappell and Jean Warr that aired on ITV from 1984 to 1986. It was made by Yorkshire Television.

Duty Free
StarringKeith Barron
Gwen Taylor
Joanna Van Gyseghem
Neil Stacy
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series3
No. of episodes22
Running time21x25 minutes
1x50 minutes
Production company(s)Yorkshire Television
DistributorITV Studios
Original networkITV
Original release13 February 1984 (1984-02-13) 
25 December 1986 (1986-12-25)


  • Keith Barron – David Pearce
  • Gwen Taylor – Amy Pearce
  • Joanna Van Gyseghem – Linda Cochran
  • Neil Stacy – Robert Cochran
  • Carlos Douglas – Carlos the Waiter
  • Bunny May – Hotel manager (series 1)
  • George Camiller – Hotel manager (series 2 and 3)
  • Ray Mort – George (series 1 and 2)
  • Hugo Bower – Zimmerman (series 1)
  • Joseph Fazal – Spanish Policeman (series 2)


Duty Free is about two British couples, David and Amy Pearce and Robert and Linda Cochran, who meet while holidaying at the same Spanish hotel in Marbella and the interruptive affair conducted by David Pearce and Linda Cochran during their break. Another recurring character is the hotel waiter Carlos.

Although set in Spain, the show was recorded entirely in the Leeds Studios – only for the concluding Christmas special was the budget found to film some scenes in Spain at the Don Carlos Hotel and Spa.

Like many British sitcoms, there was a class-related tension between the two; with the Pearces working-class socialists from Northampton, and the Cochrans a more affluent, middle-class Conservative couple from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. The character of David Pearce, much to his wife's chagrin, became uncomfortable with his own status and politics after meeting the Cochrans and tried to change his outlook.

The series was based on a one-off TV play by Chappell, We're Strangers Here, first performed on TV with Geraldine McEwan and Ian Hendry as a two-hander and subsequently on stage as a four-hander at the Theatre Royal, Windsor.



Series 1

No. # Title Director Writers Original air date
11"Viva Espana"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr13 February 1984 (1984-02-13)
David and Amy decide to take a Spanish package holiday – and once there, David is quickly under Linda's spell!
22"El Macho"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr20 February 1984 (1984-02-20)
The two couples (David/Amy and Robert/Linda) take a trip to a bullfight – and Amy steps into the ring.
33"Praying Mantis"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr27 February 1984 (1984-02-27)
David is besotted by Linda, and Amy hoists storm cones.
44"Spanish Lace"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr5 March 1984 (1984-03-05)
On a trip into the mountains, money is running out and David buys one present too many.
55"Bedroom Farce"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr12 March 1984 (1984-03-12)
Amy's suspicions are aroused by David and Linda's midnight swim.
66"Forty Love"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr19 March 1984 (1984-03-19)
Amy finally has evidence of the affair, her reaction is to slam a huge cream pie into Linda's face, then one in David's face.
77"Hasta La Vista"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr26 March 1984 (1984-03-26)
Linda and David decide to leave together. Robert takes to the bottle, but Amy decides to foil them.

Series 2

No. # Title Director Writers Original air date
81"Mañana"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr6 September 1984 (1984-09-06)
David has been disowned by the other three and endeavours to smuggle himself past the police and out of the hotel dressed as a woman, with disastrous results.
92"Casino"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr13 September 1984 (1984-09-13)
David feels lucky, and despite their spending money running low, decides to visit the Casino. Concentration coolness and a strong nerve are called for as he pursues a sequence of winning numbers, but will he risk all on the flip of a coin?
103"Couples"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr20 September 1984 (1984-09-20)
A young couple arrive from England on their honeymoon. Romance is in the air, but unfortunately the dewy-eyed lovers manage to mix and match the wrong couples.
114"El Astro"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr27 September 1984 (1984-09-27)
There is great excitement as Frazer Hines, the famous TV star, comes to stay at the hotel. Unfortunately, one of the ladies overreacts and the husbands become over suspicious.
125"Pepe"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr4 October 1984 (1984-10-04)
A day trip from Spain to Tangier by boat starts a mysterious chain of events. Having agreed to carry a parcel back into Spain, Amy fears she may be carrying illegal substances. Getting rid of the evidence proves difficult.
136"Snap"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr11 October 1984 (1984-10-11)
David finds to his horror that it is a small world when he meets Kevin (Roger Sloman) in the hotel. He has been dogged by Kevin all his life – at school; in the Army; and at the office. It was Kevin that was responsible for David's redundancy. Will David let this greasy toad get away with it all?
147"Adiós"Vernon LawrenceEric Chappell and Jean Warr18 October 1984 (1984-10-18)
All good things come to an end and this is the last day of the holiday. Packing bottles of booze, the last look round, and a visit to Pedro's, the local bar, all have to be done. Unfortunately, David and Linda's lingering farewells are rudely interrupted.

Series 3

No. # Title Director Writers Original air date
151"Winter Break"Les ChatfieldEric Chappell and Jean Warr8 January 1986 (1986-01-08)
Amy has found herself a job, but poor David is still unemployed and depressed. He decides he needs a break to get away from it all!
162"Déjà Vu"Les ChatfieldEric Chappell and Jean Warr15 January 1986 (1986-01-15)
Amy has joined David for a week's holiday in Spain. She is suspicious, however, and does not trust him. Amy has the feeling that she has experienced the same situation before.
173"Close Up"Les ChatfieldEric Chappell and Jean Warr22 January 1986 (1986-01-22)
The TV cameras have arrived in the hotel. Judith Chalmers and a crew from the "Wish You Were Here...?" programme have flown over to make a report. The Pearces (David and Amy) and the Cochrans (Robert and Linda) are determined to get on the screen.
184"The Go-Between"Les ChatfieldEric Chappell and Jean Warr29 January 1986 (1986-01-29)
Neville becomes inextricably involved with David and Linda. Although keen to help, poor Neville manages to get everything wrong, including an encounter with a Chimpanzee.
195"Costa del Crime"Les ChatfieldEric Chappell and Jean Warr5 February 1986 (1986-02-05)
David discovers to his horror that he has mistakenly picked up someone else's tartan bag at the airport. What he and Amy find in the bag leads to a most unwelcome visit from the owners.
206"Cause Célèbre"Les ChatfieldEric Chappell and Jean Warr12 February 1986 (1986-02-12)
Senor Garcia, the new manager at the hotel, makes some sweeping staff changes. Not only does this upset Carlos the Waiter but also the holidaymakers. Amy encourages Carlos to make a firm stand which turns out to be a politically wise move.
217"Party Night"Les ChatfieldEric Chappell and Jean Warr19 February 1986 (1986-02-19)
It's party night at the hotel. Everyone has to provide fancy dress and enter the talent contest. After much discussion The Pearces and the Cochrans surprise each other with their latent talent.

Christmas special

No. # Title Director Writers Original air date
22Special"A Duty Free Christmas"Les ChatfieldEric Chappell and Jean Warr25 December 1986 (1986-12-25)
In spite of her initial protests, David manages to persuade Amy to continue their holiday in Spain over Christmas. By an extraordinary stroke of coincidence, Linda and Robert have had the same idea, and are booked in at the same hotel. David continues his amorous pursuit of Linda with hilarious results.


The actor Frazer Hines, known for his former role in Emmerdale Farm, and television presenter Judith Chalmers made guest appearances in the series, playing themselves. The former was a hotel guest who tried to seduce Amy Pearce; the latter was filming an episode of Wish You Were Here...? from the hotel and interviewed the two couples.

It set viewing records for a sitcom at the time, regularly topping the UK TV ratings, and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Comedy Series in 1986 alongside Only Fools and Horses, Yes, Prime Minister, 'Allo 'Allo!, Ever Decreasing Circles, and lost out to the winner, Just Good Friends.

In May 2015, both Gwen Taylor and Keith Barron played a couple again in an episode of the daytime soap opera Doctors.

Last of the Duty Free - Play

Last of the Duty Free by Eric Chappell and Jean Warr is a theatrical sequel to the TV series. The scene is many years later in which, as before, deceptions, misunderstandings and preposterous situations abound. Gwen Taylor, Keith Baron and Neil Stacy returned to their previous roles when the play opened at The Royal Theatre, Windsor in April 2014.

On tour, the play's title was shortened to Duty Free.


  1. These episode descriptions are taken from the sleeves of the DVD release, released by Network
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