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Series / A Very Peculiar Practice

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It's a long way from anywhere

A British comedy drama, with strong dark and surreal elements, broadcast on BBC in the mid-1980s.

The central character is Dr Stephen Daker (Peter Davison), a nervous but eager young medic, who at the start of the series arrives at the fictitious Lowlands University to take up a post at its medical centre.

Naturally all does not run smoothly at the medical centre - or the University as a whole - and Daker quickly finds himself caught up in stuggles for status, power, and the soul of the University itself.

There were also feral nuns.


A Very Peculiar Practice contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Jock; while he's normally functional with it, Jock will take a swig in near enough any situation.
  • Author Avatar: Ron Rust, who owes the BBC £17,000 and has to write them a script to pay it off; he's writing a "sharp, satirical black comedy, with a bit of Chekhovian understated pathos". All of which describes the series' writer Andrew Davies.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In the series finale Jock and Sammy die, Bob signs up with Jack Daniels, Rose Marie walks away after being turned down by Grete, and Stephen and Greta are fired and exiled from the University.
  • British Brevity: The series consisted of a total of two 7 episode seasons, broadcast over a 3 year period.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Jack Daniels, who takes over as Vice Chancellor in season 2. Bob Buzzard would so like to be one of these, but circumstances and his own limitations make him more of a Smug Snake.
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  • Cringe Comedy: Frequently, as a result of poor socially-insecure Stephen Daker being shoved into all sorts of awkward situations. The crowning moment, though, comes in the second episode, when he's asked to give the welcome speech to the first-year students, and gives it accidentally drunk.
  • Doomed New Clothes: The suit Bob gets as a bribe for skewing a drug trial.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Played straight for a long time. After the original broadcasts in the 80s the series was never repeated. The first season was eventually released on DVD in 2004, almost 20 years after broadcast, and after another long gap a DVD set with both series and the spin-off came out in 2011.
    • To be strictly accurate, season 1 was repeated twice on the BBC (in 1988 and 1990), while both seasons were extensively repeated throughout the 1990s on pay-TV channel UK Gold. BBC Four repeated episodes 1, 3 and 5 of season 1 in December 2003.
  • Nun Too Holy: All episodes have at least one scene showing a pair of feral nuns that roam the campus.
  • Spinoff: Of sorts. The one-off program A Very Polish Practice was shown 4 years after the series finale, with Daker and Grete travelling to her Polish homeland to deal with the country's antiquated post-Communist health system.
  • Smug Snake: Bob Buzzard; with his self-centred attitude and repeated amoral abuse of his position as an M.D. Bob aspires to power and riches. However his repeated, and often humiliating, failures place him firmly in the grip of this trope.
  • Straw Feminist: Rose Marie. Perhaps. She makes many of the right noises to fit this trope, and will often (mis-)interpret other characters' words to present them as sexist and wrong-foot the speakers. But it's never quite clear whether she sincerely holds those views or only pretends to to put her opponents at a disadvantage.
  • Work Off the Debt: A real life example; the series' writer, Andrew Davies, owed the BBC approximately £17,000 for a series he'd been commissioned and paid to write, but hadn't delivered. To pay off that debt he wrote a different series instead, A Very Peculiar Practice.
    • In the DVD commentary for season 1 episode 3, Andrew Davies explains that the original commission was to write a series about three female mature students at university, but the idea "ran out of steam" after three scripts had been submitted. The BBC decided it did not want to continue with the project, and gave Davies the choice of either paying back the money or writing an entirely new series. Since he'd already spent most of the money, he didn't have much option...