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Desmond's was a British television situation comedy broadcast by Channel 4 from 1989 to 1994. The first series was filmed in 1988, with the first episode broadcast in January 1989. The show was made in and set in Peckham, London, England and featured a predominantly West Indian cast.

Conceived and co-written by Trix Worrell and produced by Charlie Hanson and Humphrey Barclay this series starred Norman Beaton as barber Desmond Ambrose. Desmond's shop was a gathering place for an assortment of local characters.


Whilst the show was not the first Black (or predominately Black) British sitcom it was the first to be set mainly in the workplace which provided a different insight on Black family life than had been seen on British television before. The characters were aspirational (Desmond to return to Guyana, Michael to run his own branch of the bank, Gloria to get a job in fashion, Sean to get to university) and socially mobile. Some of the show's success and notability may well have also come from the fact that the vast majority of the cast and crew were black.


Much of the success of the show came from the dynamics and relationships both within the Ambrose family and the other characters in the show who spent time in the shop.

The Ambrose family

The Ambroses were the central family that the show was built around.

  • Desmond Ambrose (Norman Beaton was the main character and the owner of the barbershop named after him.
  • Shirley Ambrose (Carmen Munroe) was Desmond's wife and mother of their three children, She was always sorting out the problems.
  • Michael Ambrose (Geff Francis) was Desmond and Shirley's eldest son, he was a bank manager.
  • Gloria Ambrose (Kim Walker) was the only daughter to Desmond and Shirley with dreams of being a fashion writer.
  • Sean Ambrose (Justin Pickett) was the youngest child, who frequently rapped.

Other characters

  • Augustus Neapolitan Cleveland 'Porkpie' Grant (Ram John Holder, who later had his own spin-off series, Porkpie) was an old childhood friend of Desmond's who also came from Guyana.
  • Matthew (Gyearbuor Asante) was an eternal student from Gambia.
  • Tony (Dominic Keating) was Desmond's first assistant barber.
  • Ricky (Dean Gatiss) was Tony's replacement in the final series.
  • Lee 'The Peckham Prince' Graham (Robbie Gee) was the local wide-boy wheeler-dealer, often trying to sell his wares to the regulars in the shop. He was like a son to Desmond and Shirley as they looked after him while he was in care and they knew his mother.
  • Louise (Lisa Geoghan) was Gloria's best friend.
  • Mandy (Mathilda Thorpe) was Michael's PA whom he was due to marry towards the end of the series.
  • Beverley (Joan Ann Maynard) was the local gossip, and often provided a prudish, old-fashioned viewpoint.
  • Aunt "Susu" Doreen (Mona Hammond), Shirley's ignorant sister, Porkpie's dream girl and later fiancé
  • Vince (Count Prince Miller) was another assistant in the shop in the final series but when The Georgetown Dreamer's reformed for a concert he took place of a deceased Sweet Sticks
  • Burt (Sol Raye) were members of The Georgetown Dreamers, a band that Desmond and Porkpie played in.
  • Spider was Sean's best friend and had an open crush on Gloria.


Worrell was keen to show that racism existed not just between broad ethnic groups, but also within them. While Matthew was the frequent butt of jokes from the West Indian characters, particularly Porkpie and Desmond, he was always keen to point out the strength of African history with his regular interjection "There's an old African saying".


The show had a unique method of team writing that raised the profile of some writers, notably playwright Michael J Ellis, who went on to work on other shows, including the BBC's all-black sketch show The Real McCoy, and Worrell himself went on to work in films.

Desmond's came 70th in the 2004 BBC poll to find Britain's Best Sitcom. Reruns aired in the USA on BET in the early-1990s. The show continued to be popular, running on NYCTV as part of their Caribbean programming on Sunday nights in the late-1990s. As of January 2007, the network still airs reruns of Desmond's from time to time. From 1997 until late 2000, Paramount Comedy reran the show. Trouble TV, in the U.K., began showing re-runs of Desmond's in September 2007.


The 1st series of Desmond's was released on Region 2 DVD On October 1,2007 and Series 1 and 2 were released in Canada as a 3-disc Region 1 DVD set by VEI Entertainment in March 2007.

Desmond's Series 2 was released on April 14, 2008


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