Good Life writer dies

John Esmonde was 71

Writer John Esmonde, co-creator of The Good Life, has died at the age of 71.

His 30-year partnership with Bob Larbey also produced Please, Sir!, Ever Decreasing Circles and Brush Strokes.

The pair met at school in South London, balancing writing with other jobs until their first break in 1965, when they landed a radio show Spare A Copper, starring Kenneth Connor as a bungling policeman.

Their early TV work including writing for Dick Emery, and their first series was Room At The Bottom, about maintenance men, again starring Connor.

Their breakthrough, Please, Sir!, set in an unruly South London school, became the most successful ITV comedy of its time and spawned a spin-off, The Fenn Street Gang, about the students in adult life.

In 1975 Esmonde and Larbey created The Good Life. They started from the premise of a man suffering a mid-life crisis, and had originally planned for their hero to build his own yacht and go sailing around the world, before hitting on the idea of self-sufficiency that would prove so popular.

They were prolific writers, and not all their work was a success and some of their less remembered creations include Hope It Rains, set in a seaside waxworks museum, Cosmo And Thingy, about cavemen, and Feet First, about a local footballer.

Others are now largely forgotten, but were still successful at the time, such as Get Some In!, about national service in the RAF. It ran for five series in the late Seventies, drew audiences of up to 13million and gave Robert Lindsay one of his first major TV roles, but has never been repeated.

Their last work 1995’s Down To Earth, which again featured Good Life star Richard Briers. Larbey continued to write alone, creating As Time Goes By for Judi Dench.

Esmonde, who died on Sunday, is survived by his wife Gina.

Published: 13 Aug 2008

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