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A Very Peculiar Practice was a BBC comedy-drama series, first shown in 1986. It was the first major success for screenwriter Andrew Davies, and was inspired by his experiences as a lecturer at the University of Warwickmarker.

Storyline

The series stood out because of its surreal humour. It concerned an idealistic young doctor, Stephen Daker (Peter Davison), taking up a post as a member of a university medical centre. The centre is staffed by a group of misfits including the bisexual Rose Marie (Barbara Flynn) and self-absorbed Bob Buzzard (David Troughton), and headed by decrepit Scot Jock McCannon (Graham Crowden). A central theme of the series is the increasing commercialisation of higher education in Britain with the Vice-Chancellor Ernest Hemmingway (John Bird) trying to woo Japanese investors in the face of resistance from the academic old guard. Hugh Grant made one of his first television appearances as an evangelical preacher; Kathy Burke also had a bit part. In the second series Michael Shannon appeared as the new Vice-Chancellor Jack Daniels, continuing the running joke of naming the VC after an American.

In the first series, Daker had a romance with a policewoman, Lyn Turtle (Amanda Hillwood), who rescued him from drowning in the university's swimming pool. In the second series (1988), she was replaced as love interest by a visiting Polishmarker academic Grete Grotowska (Joanna Kanska). In a sequel film, A Very Polish Practice (1992), Daker went to live with her in Poland, where he struggled with the former Communist country's antiquated health service.

Lowlands University (the fictional campus at which the series was set) was based on the University of East Angliamarker campus in Norwich, and it was the UEA campus which featured in the programme's title sequence. However, the outdoor filming for the programme was done at the universities of Keelemarker and Birminghammarker. This was put down to UEA's concern of being associated with a comedy programme, which might have cast the institution in a bad light. The selection of UEA by the producers was not unintentional as it was the base for Malcolm Bradbury, to whose development of the British campus novel the series is much indebted. The interiors were shot at BBC Pebble Millmarker (first series) and London (second), in the then common combined film/video format. Both the lecture sequences in episode 2 of the first series were filmed at the University of Birmingham in July 1985.

The series had its genesis in writer Andrew Davies discovering that he owed the BBC approximately £17,000. This was due to him being commissioned and paid to write a TV project that he did not ultimately deliver. Davies decided that the best means of paying the debt was to write a new series, which became A Very Peculiar Practice. In a deliberate case of art imitating life, the final episode of the first series introduces a character named Ron Rust, a writer who, for reasons that he doesn't quite understand, owes the BBC £17,000 and who is trying to write a black comedy about a university in order to pay the debt off.

The theme tune, We Love You was performed by UK singer, Elkie Brooks.

The first series was released on DVD (Region 2) in the UK in 2004. Davies novelised both series in two books: A Very Peculiar Practice (1986, Coronet) and A Very Peculiar Practice: The New Frontier (1988, Methuen).

Episodes

Series 1

(21 May 1986 - 2 July 1986)

  1. A Very Long Way From Anywhere
  2. We Love You: That's Why We're Here
  3. Wives Of Great Men
  4. Black Bob's Hamburger Suit
  5. Contact Tracer
  6. The Hit List
  7. Catastrophe Theory


Series 2

(2 March 1988 - 13 April 1988)

  1. The New Frontier
  2. Art And Illusion
  3. May The Force Be With You
  4. Bad Vibrations
  5. Values Of The Family
  6. The Big Squeeze
  7. Death Of A University


Screen One drama : A Very Polish Practice

(6 September 1992)

References





External links




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