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24 April 2014
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Dear John

The members of the 1-2-1 club in sitcom Dear John

Poldark villain and Hammer Horror stalwart Ralph Bates was brilliantly cast against type as the crumpled and hapless title character.

Ralph Bates as John and William Bates as son Toby

The sitcom concerns itself with a middle aged man starting his life again after discovering his wife has left him.

Having to find himself lodgings (with an amusing foreign landlady, of course) John decides to widen his social circle by attending a singles club.

The 1-2-1 Club is presided over by the fruity Louise, whose stock question to any new recruit is (with relish) "Were there any sexual problems?"

Kirk, Kate and John from Dear John

John's fellow attendees include the bespectacled, greasy haired and geeky Ralph (Peter Denyer wringing laughs and sympathy in equal measure); the flamboyant and boastful Kirk St Moritz, resplendent in white suit, big collars and medallion; the attractive Kate, whose past experiences have made her guarded and cynical and the willowy Sylvia.

John Sullivan's knack for character and the poignant central conceit of the loneliness of middle-age, ensured that despite only a short run, the series made a decent impact.

Gradually the assorted misfits make bonds and forge ahead with their lives, being mutually supportive despite their differences.

In one typical flourish of Sullivan genius, when John visits the overweening Kirk, he's revealed to be a cardigan wearing recluse called Eric.

Ralph Bates as John

John persuades him that he'd be welcomed by the group as the real him, rather than the cocky persona he has assumed, but at the end of the episode, it is of course Kirk, not Eric, who appears.

Bates was superb at displaying a knack for downtrodden comedy and pathos, but John proved to be his last major TV role before his early death from cancer.

Dear John was adapted for US television (with Taxi's Judd Hirsch in the title role) and prospered longer than its UK progenitor.

Cast

Ralph Bates
John
Peter Blake
Kirk
Belinda Lang
Kate
Peter Denyer
Ralph
Rachel Bell
Louise
Jean Challis
Mrs Arnott
Terence Edmond
Ken
Wendy Allnut
Wendy
William Bates
Toby
Kevin Lloyd
Rick

Crew

John Sullivan
writer
Ray Butt
director
Sue Bysh
director
Ray Butt
producer

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