Dear John (UK TV series)

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Dear John
Dear John (UK).jpg
Genre Situation comedy
Written by John Sullivan
Starring Ralph Bates
Belinda Lang
Peter Denyer
Peter Blake
Rachel Bell[1]
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 14
Running time 30 minutes
Original network BBC1
Original release 17 February 1986 –
21 December 1987
Related shows Dear John (1988)

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

This sitcom's title refers to letters – known as "Dear John" letters – from girls to their boyfriends breaking off a relationship. John discovers in the opening episode that his wife is leaving him for a friend, and he is forced to find lodgings. In desperation, he attends the 1-2-1 Singles Club and finds other members mostly social misfits.[3]

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[edit]

  • John Lacey (Ralph Bates) — John is 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 whilst living in a bedsit. Although John's wife is manipulative and John the victim, he admits he 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) — A "frigid" woman with three failed marriages. She spars with Kirk, whose lust for her becomes a theme. She ends up in bed with John although it is suggested there was no sex as they were both drunk. Eventually she goes to Greece with her new boyfriend (to the chagrin of Kirk) only to reappear in the final episode.
  • Ralph (Peter Denyer) — A misfit who married a Polish immigrant who left him as soon as she got a British passport. He develops a genuine friendship with Kirk even though Kirk 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) — Dressed in the style of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, crass, chauvinist and tactless Kirk (who claims to be a spy) is shown at the end of series one to be a fictional personality created by someone called Eric who, though mid-thirties, lives in squalor 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 our knowledge that Eric is likely a virgin and has done next to nothing. His physical strength and honour however, was shown in the final episode.[5]
Eric claims to John in private that Kirk represents all he aspires to and that he has other personae – suggesting Eric has become a persona he presents to his mother, just as Kirk is the persona he presents to the 1-2-1 Club – while Kirk explains Eric in public as an undercover version of Kirk and his mother as his controller in disguise. In the final episode, Eric is returning with Kirk's dry-cleaned outfit when he sees his friends about to be beaten by Hells Angels. In a homage to Superman films, he retreats into the pub toilet and (after the Superman theme is played) emerges as Kirk. Kirk beats up the Hells Angels. Eric has a fascination with "Tiger" Kate, whom he insults and who insults him back, although he claims that under the surface he is "kind of fond of her" (in reality he is totally smitten with her) and tries to get John to organise a date for him.
  • Louise (Rachel Bell) — The leader of the group 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 certainly the cause of her catchphrase "Were there any sexual problems?" She insists on pronouncing Ralph's name as "Rafe".
  • Sylvia (Lucinda Curtis) — A late addition, Sylvia was a nervous woman with an irritating laugh who divorced her husband because of his transvestism.

Minor characters[edit]

  • Mrs Arnott (Jean Challis) — Quiet, hat-wearing Mrs Arnott (who has depression) 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 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 colleague who, in contrast to John's desire to have a loyal girlfriend, 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 drain. It is insinuated that she forced him to have a vasectomy.
  • Maggie (Sue Holderness) — Ken's wife.
  • Mrs Lemenski (Irene Prador) — An older Polish woman who occupies the bedsit next to John's and catches him in humiliating 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 lost her husband in the Second World War.
  • Mrs Morris (Sheila Manahan) — Kirk/Eric's overbearing Irish mother
  • Ricky Fortune (Kevin Lloyd) — A one-hit-wonder in Iceland, Ricky Fortune joins only to be mocked by Kirk for his anonymity, and leaves.

Episode list[edit]

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[edit]

The title music was composed by John Sullivan, who was also writer of the series. The theme tune was arranged by Ronnie Hazlehurst who was a composer for many BBC sitcoms. Joan Baxter provided the vocals to the song.

VHS and DVD[edit]

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. Interestingly 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. 

External links[edit]