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Very Peculiar Practice, A (BBC-2 1986-1988, Peter Davison, Graham Crowden)

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Comedy drama series. Idealistic Doctor Stephen Daker begins working in the medical block of Lowlands University and is soon beset by chaos and strange happenings.

A Very Peculiar Practice is in many ways Andrew Davies’ definitive work. A savage satire on Thatcherism, using the University as a microcosm of a Britain in the grip of cutbacks and American intervention, it is also one of the writer’s most thorough studies of sexual politics and male insecurity.

Unsurprisingly for a writer also taught at university, Davies frequently used educational establishments as settings in his original works for television. His 1969 gem Is That Your Body Boy? and the Play For Today Bavarian Night were both set in schools, but the most famous of his own works, A Very Peculiar Practice, is centred in an even more eccentric world: Lowlands University.

Brilliant doctor but disastrous human being Stephen Daker arrives at Lowlands from a broken marriage and with a phobia of being touched. His idealistic dedication to his job is challenged when he meets his colleagues, including a belligerent Thatcherite and the drunken practice head, who when he is sober is writing a satirical expose of his crumbling kingdom. Stephen’s fight to heal the sick in the face of the Vice-Chancellor’s threats to turn the practice into a cash cow form the main plot of the series. Alongside this, Stephen meets sexy sociologist Lyn, a woman who embodies many of Davies’ beliefs in how the modern male is to coexist happily with independent women. Davies manages in Stephen and Lyn to express an honest and realistic depiction of a relationship that journeys through the insecurities of modern sexual love and finds some telling solutions.

Although a second series and a further one-off special could not sustain the brilliance of the programme, A Very Peculiar Practice remains a magical and remarkably acute satire from a time when Britain desperately needed one.

There was a one off 90 minute special called A Very Polish Practice broadcast on 6 September 1992.

production details
UK | BBC Two | 14×50 minutes and 1×90 minutes | Broadcast 21 May 1986 – 6 April 1988 and 6 September 1992

Writer: Andrew Davies
Script Editor: Devora Pope
Music: Dave Greenslade
Theme sung by Elkie Brooks
Producer: Ken Riddington

cast
Peter Davison as Dr. Stephen Daker
David Troughton as Bob Buzzard
Barbara Flynn as Rose Marie
Graham Crowden as Jock McCannon
Joanna Kanska as Grete Grotowska
Amanda Hillwood as Lynn Turtle
John Bird as Ernest Hemingway
Michael Shannon as Jack Daniels
Colin Stinton as Charlie Dusenberry
Joe Melia as Ron Rust
Gillian Raine as Mrs Kramer
James Grout as George Bunn
Takashi Kawahara as Chen Sung Yau
Kay Stonham as Daphne Buzzard
Elaine Turrell as Nun
Sonia Hart as Nun