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A Very Peculiar Practice

A Very Peculiar Practice

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A Very Peculiar Practice is a BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 comedy-drama series, which ran for two series in 1986 and 1988. It was the first major success for screenwriter Andrew Davies
Andrew Davies (writer)
Andrew Wynford Davies is a British author and screenwriter. He was made a Fellow of BAFTA in 2002.-Education and early career:...

, and was inspired by his experiences as a lecturer at the University of Warwick
University of Warwick
The University of Warwick is a public research university located in Coventry, United Kingdom...



The series stood out because of its surreal humour
Surreal humour
Surreal humour is a form of humour based on violations of causal reasoning with events and behaviours that are logically incongruent. Constructions of surreal humour involve bizarre juxtapositions, non-sequiturs, irrational situations, and/or expressions of nonsense.The humour arises from a...

. It concerned an idealistic young doctor, Stephen Daker (Peter Davison
Peter Davison
Peter Davison is a British actor, best known for his roles as Tristan Farnon in the television version of James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small and the fifth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, which he played from 1982 to 1984.-Early life:Davison was born Peter Moffett in Streatham,...

), 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
Barbara Flynn
Barbara Flynn is an English actress. She first became known for her appearance in the ITV drama A Family at War, that followed the fortunes of a lower middle class family living in Liverpool from 1938 and through World War II.During the 1980s Flynn's acting skills led to her being cast in several...

) and self-absorbed Bob Buzzard (David Troughton
David Troughton
David Troughton is an English actor, best known for his Shakespearean roles on the British stage.- Biography :David Troughton was born in Hampstead, North London. He comes from a theatrical family: he is the son of Doctor Who actor Patrick Troughton, elder brother of Michael Troughton, and father...

), and headed by decrepit Scot, Jock McCannon (Graham Crowden
Graham Crowden
Clement Graham Crowden was a Scottish actor. He was best known for his many appearances in television comedy dramas and films, often playing eccentric 'offbeat' scientist, teacher and doctor characters.-Early life:...

). A central theme of the series is the increasing commercialisation of higher education in Britain following the government cuts of the 1980s, with the Vice-Chancellor Ernest Hemmingway (John Bird
John Bird (actor)
John Bird is an English satirist, actor and comedian.-Early life:Born in Bulwell, Nottingham, England, and educated at High Pavement Grammar School, Nottingham, Bird briefly joined the Socialist Party of Great Britain, while still at school...

) trying to woo Japanese investors in the face of resistance from the academic old guard. Hugh Grant
Hugh Grant
Hugh John Mungo Grant is an English actor and film producer. He has received a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA, and an Honorary César. His films have earned more than $2.4 billion from 25 theatrical releases worldwide. Grant achieved international stardom after appearing in Richard Curtis's...

 made one of his first television appearances as an evangelical preacher; Kathy Burke
Kathy Burke
Katherine Lucy Bridget Burke is an English actress, comedienne, playwright and theatre director. She is best known for her portrayals of Perry in the Harry Enfield film Kevin and Perry Go Large, and of Linda La Hughes in the British sitcom Gimme Gimme Gimme...

 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
Amanda Hillwood
Amanda Hillwood is an actress best known for her roles as Lyn Tuttle in A Very Peculiar Practice and Doctor Grayling Russell in Inspector MorseShe is married to actor Matt Frewer, best known for playing the title role in Max Headroom....

), 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 Polish
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 academic Grete Grotowska (Joanna Kanska
Joanna Kanska
Polish born Joanna Kanska is an actress, who has starred in films, television programmes, theatre and radio, predominantly in her adopted homeland of England...

). 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 Anglia
University of East Anglia
The University of East Anglia is a public research university based in Norwich, United Kingdom. It was established in 1963, and is a founder-member of the 1994 Group of research-intensive universities.-History:...

 campus in Norwich, and they wanted to use the UEA campus in the programme's title sequence, but UEA refused. However, the outdoor filming for the programme was done at the universities of Keele
Keele University
Keele University is a campus university near Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, England. Founded in 1949 as an experimental college dedicated to a broad curriculum and interdisciplinary study, Keele is most notable for pioneering the dual honours degree in Britain...

 and Birmingham
University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Birmingham, England. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Birmingham Medical School and Mason Science College . Birmingham was the first Redbrick university to gain a charter and thus...

. 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
Malcolm Bradbury
Sir Malcolm Stanley Bradbury CBE was an English author and academic.-Life:Bradbury was the son of a railwayman. His family moved to London in 1935, but returned to Sheffield in 1941 with his brother and mother...

, to whose development of the British campus novel
Campus novel
A campus novel, also known as an academic novel, is a novel whose main action is set in and around the campus of a university. The genre in its current form dates back to the early 1950s...

 the series is much indebted. The interiors were shot at BBC Pebble Mill
Pebble Mill Studios
The BBC 's Pebble Mill Studios were located in Edgbaston, a suburb of Birmingham, England. The views from the roof overlooked Cannon Hill Park, a nature centre, as well as Birmingham's city centre...

 (first series) and London (second), in the then common combined film/video format.

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 written by Dave Greenslade
Dave Greenslade
Dave Greenslade is a British keyboards player. He has played in his own eponymous band, Greenslade, and others including Colosseum, If and Chris Farlowe's Thunderbirds....

 and performed by UK singer, Elkie Brooks
Elkie Brooks
Elkie Brooks is an English singer, formerly a vocalist with Vinegar Joe, and later a solo artist. Elkie has been nominated twice for Brit Awards' top female singer. She is known for her powerful husky voice...


The first series was released on DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

 (Region 2) in the UK in 2004. A DVD set of the first and second series, along with A Very Polish Practice, was released in the UK during October 2011. Davies novelised
A novelization is a novel that is written based on some other media story form rather than as an original work.Novelizations of films usually add background material not found in the original work to flesh out the story, because novels are generally longer than screenplays...

both series in two books: A Very Peculiar Practice (1986, Coronet) and A Very Peculiar Practice: The New Frontier (1988, Methuen).

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

External links