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Dear John (British TV series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dear John
Dear John (UK).jpg
GenreSituation comedy
Written byJohn Sullivan
StarringRalph Bates
Belinda Lang
Peter Denyer
Peter Blake
Rachel Bell[1]
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series2
No. of episodes14
Production
Running time30 minutes
Release
Original networkBBC1
Original release17 February 1986 (1986-02-17) –
21 December 1987 (1987-12-21)
Chronology
Related showsDear John (1988)

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

The 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 (whom 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]

Characters

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 Dring (Peter Denyer) — a shy, timid and rather mousy man with absolutely no image at all, whose only real friend is a terrapin named Terry and who married a Polish woman called Blomlika. She was a defector who (as Ralph tells it), worked as a welder at the Gdańsk Shipyard, was smuggled out of Poland by her brother by "hiding in the bottom of a Polish Army mobile field kitchen" and deserted Ralph on their wedding day. 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 due to Kirk's 'Porsche' always "being in dock". In series two, Ralphy (as Kirk calls him) makes a "shrewd investment" by buying a mobile discotheque from a friend and adopts the persona of disc jockey Dazzling Darren Dring; a name conjured up by Kirk. Unfortunately, he only has two records in his 'collection'; Green Door by Shakin' Stevens, and another unnamed track which is scratched so it is never played. His microphone patter and act are not nearly as glitzy as his name, unanimated and interjecting his performance with such comments as "Get down", "Do that funky thing" and "Don't give me that jive, Clive" in his normal monotone voice.
  • Kirk St Moritz / Eric Morris (Peter Blake) — a crass, tactless chauvinist, who claims to drive a Porsche (although the audience never sees it) and 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 contains a number of toy guns and models whilst the walls are covered with action movie posters. In reality, he still has the mindset of a teenager who longs for a more exciting life. His long, rambling and often preposterous anecdotes about his "experiences" cruising the California highways on his Harley Davidson, seducing nuns, military service with the Royal Marines and clandestine missions during the Vietnam War with his "buddy" Wang, 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 with his mother being his (male) operations controller in disguise who he refers to by the codename of "Z". 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 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 Kate who (as Kirk), he nicknames 'Tiger'. Although in his Kirk persona they enjoy a combative relationship with insults and barbs regularly flying between them, he claims to John, and later Kate herself, 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. Apart from John, the rest of the group only ever meet the Kirk alter ego.
  • Louise (Rachel Bell) — the leader of the group. Something of a Sloane Ranger with a plummy accent who often ends sentences with "Yah?" or "You will enjoy it", 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. She is held as a figure of fun by Louise who, much to Sylvia's embarrassment, often persuades her to share her experiences in front of the whole group. This is seen when Sylvia is moved from her Wednesday night meeting to John's Friday night meeting. Sylvia finds John attractive and makes an attempt to invite him to her house for a romantic meal. John does not feel the same way and the two never become involved any further than friendship. It is suggested that other members of her previous Wednesday night group found her highly annoying, resulting in an attempt by one member trying to run her over with a car (twice) and another pushing her off the top of Scafell Pike. This explains the reason for her being moved to the Friday night group.

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. She is often tactlessly referred to as "the fat lady" by Kirk. Even in her presence.
  • 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 rugby-playing live-in lover and one of the causes of John's marriage breakdown. John's ex-best friend, Mike was helped by John when he went through a bad patch in his life. Whenever John mentions Mike, he adopts an ape-like stance and likens him to a Honey Monster. He was later played by Roger Blake.
  • Ken (Terence Edmond) — Ken is John's teaching colleague and he and his wife Maggie have a strained marriage. Despite using a variety of contraceptives, he and Maggie have still managed to produce five children, whose upkeep and company he finds a constant burden. In contrast to John's simple desire to have a simple, loving relationship, Ken wants to spread his oats and has nothing but envy for what he imagines is John's new life of sexual freedom. This is due to John 'beefing up' the image of the 1-2-1 Club with ridiculous accounts of members such as "the Filipino twins", and his exploits in "the hot tub" in order to make his dull life sound much more exciting. Even though John attempts to convince Ken that the tales are pure fantasy, Ken refuses to accept this and joins the 1-2-1 Club looking for adventure. In order to validate his reasons for joining, he gives a woeful tale to the rest of the group that he and Maggie have been divorced for some time, that they are childless and he'd always wanted children. He starts to become romantically involved with Kate who sees him as a kindred spirit but the affair is discovered by Maggie after Kirk gives her an anonymous telephone tip-off. Ken never discovers the identity of the real informer and blames John. Later in the second series, Ken and Maggie seem to be working on their differences and Ken agrees to have a vasectomy. His envy for (as he sees it), John's 'freedom' as a divorcee never entirely dissipates.
  • Maggie (Sue Holderness) — Ken's wife who finds him extremely irritating.
  • 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 1969 one-hit-wonder entitled Not on My Birthday in Iceland with his group Ricky Fortune & the Fortunates. He assumes that people know who he is, but they rarely do until prompted, whereupon they mostly recall that he was once on The Sooty Show. Upon his arrival to the 1-2-1 Club, he is mocked by Kirk for his anonymity but is instantly recognised by Mrs Arnott who, it transpires, is a lifelong fan; much to Kirk's annoyance. In an attempt to protect Ricky from Kirk's insults, John claims to have bought every record that The Fortunates made, yet when challenged (by Kirk) to name his favourite Fortunates track, cannot name one and merely states "They all were". Later, Ricky is booked to headline at a charity concert with Freddie and the Dreamers as the warm-up act. At this time, it appears that Louise has booked Freddie in Ricky's place and he has been cast aside. Embarrassed and angry, he leaves, and it is only after this point that the audience finds out that it was merely a misunderstanding and Ricky was to be the main act after all. Ricky is never seen again.

Episodes

Series 1 (1986)

No.TitleOriginal air date
1"A Singular Man"17 February 1986 (1986-02-17)
After his wife leaves him for his best friend, teacher John Lacey finds himself living in a bedsit and isolated from his old friends. He joins a support group for divorcees where he finds a collection of unusual characters.
2"In The Club"24 February 1986 (1986-02-24)
The 1-2-1 club discuss depression, and Kate reveals that her previous three marriages failed because she is frigid.
3"Death"3 March 1986 (1986-03-03)
When Ralph doesn't turn up to the 1-2-1 disco and talks of suicide, the others rush to his home to make sure he is okay. Ralph believes he is cursed and that is why things keep going wrong for him.
4"The Party"10 March 1986 (1986-03-10)
John finds out his old girlfriend is back in town and tries to invite her to a party. He then sits by the phone desperately waiting for her to call back and tries to find anyone who might be his date.
5"Toby"17 March 1986 (1986-03-17)
It's Sunday and John has access to his son. With nothing else to do, they go to the zoo again. When he drops him off at home, his ex-wife is unusually welcoming. The 1-2-1 club attend a party hosted by a woman with an unfortunate ailment.
6"The Fourteen Year Itch"24 March 1986 (1986-03-24)
John has been exaggerating the tales of his adventures as a single man to his fellow teacher, Ken. Despite his family at home, Ken joins the 1-2-1 club hoping for some action and gets on well with Kate, putting John in a moral dilemma. Ralph becomes a mobile disc jockey.
7"Under Cover"31 March 1986 (1986-03-31)
Kirk asks John to put in a good word for him with Kate, so he takes her out for dinner. But things get carried away and they end up in bed together. John tries to visit Kirk at home but is surprised by what he finds.

Series 2 (1987)

No.TitleOriginal air date
8"A New Member"7 September 1987 (1987-09-07)
The 1-2-1 club has a new member who claims to be an old pop star but no-one recognises him. John and his ex-wife have to pretend to be together to get their son into a Catholic school.
9"Confidence"14 September 1987 (1987-09-14)
The group throw a sixties themed party for charity and John asks Rick to perform, hoping it will boost his confidence.
10"Problems With Toby"21 September 1987 (1987-09-21)
Sylvia reveals how her marriage broke down after she found out that her husband is a transvestite. John's son is unhappy and he tries to work out how to help but is undermined by Kirk.
11"Sanctuary"28 September 1987 (1987-09-28)
John has a hot date with Liz but Ken needs help to patch up his marriage. Kate announces she is leaving for Greece.
12"Torquay"5 October 1987 (1987-10-05)
Despite a steamy weekend in Torquay, Liz has a new man competing for her affections and John is unsure of his position. Ken is worrying about his upcoming vasectomy. Kirk laments the loss of Kate.
13"Once Bitten"12 October 1987 (1987-10-12)
John is in line for promotion to headmaster and he meets a lovely young woman who seems very interested in him. Surely things can't be going right for once?
14"Kate Returns"21 December 1987 (1987-12-21)
Realising he'll be spending Christmas alone, John attempts to find anyone who will take him in for the day. Kirk has lost faith in his personality and Ralph has a run in with some Hell's Angels.

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 composer of music used in many BBC comedies and light entertainment programmes, Joan Baxter provided the vocals.

Home releases

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.

References

  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". The Daily Telegraph. 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". classic-tv.com. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  5. ^ "Dear John". BBC. Retrieved 11 May 2017.

External links

This page was last edited on 12 October 2021, at 14:11
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