A very familiar practice
A Very Peculiar Practice was somewhat autobiographical. Born in Cardiff, Davies followed in his parents' footsteps and became an English teacher and then a lecturer at Warwick University. He was still lecturing when the first series went out.
It was while at Warwick that he began his writing career. "It was always a part-time occupation," he told the BBC Drama website. "My dad told me that you never make anything out of writing, so I'd better have another job! I wrote for my own pleasure, principally, but I was always sending it off and selling radio plays in the early Sixties.
"I tried everything really - short stories, poems, plays, a novel that was so terrible that my wife, Cathy, refused to type it. But then we got a telly and, when I saw the Wednesday Play, I thought, 'I could write one of those' and so I did and they put it on."
"I gave up my teaching career in between the first and the second series and immediately got writer's block," Davies says. "As soon as I was faced with having to write in order to make a living for my family, I found myself entirely devoid of ideas. Luckily, that only lasted for three months. It's been very good ever since."
Davies has gone on to massive success, writing the screenplays for Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch, Vanity Fair, Wives and Daughters, Tipping the Velvet Daniel Deronda and Doctor Zhivago. He's currently adapting Charles Dickens' David Copperfield into a 25 episode Victorian 'soap'.
Both series were filmed using a mixture of Keele and Birmingham university locations. Says Davies, "I had wanted the series to be filmed at one of the sixties-built universities, ideally UEA, for its wonderful brutalist architecture, but they refused permission (as did most of the other newer campus universities, worried as they were about their image.) Keele were too poor to worry about their image, and Birmingham were too secure. One scene was filmed at Warwick - the swimming pool scene in the first episode of series one."
Very Peculiar books
Two books based on the series were released by Methuen in 1988, A Very Peculiar Practice and A Very Peculiar Practice: The New Frontier.
Simply the best
The first series was nominated in the Best Drama Series category in the 1987 BAFTA television awards.
After A Very Peculiar Practice Amanda Hillwood went on to play Doctor Grayling Russell in Inspector Morse. She also played an air stewardess in Die Hard 2.
Joanna Kanska was reunited with Peter Davison in 2003 when she guest starred in The Last Detective, playing Greta Schumann in the episode Lofty. She has also appeared in Peak Practice, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Foyle's War.
Before they were famous
Watching A Very Peculiar Practice is like watching an extended episode of Before They Were Famous, as a host of familiar faces appear in small roles including the following:
- Haydn Gwynne (Drop the Dead Donkey) as a non-English speaking guest at the party (billed as Donizetti) in episode one.
- Peter Blake (Dear John) as a teacher, Carl Pierce, in episode two.
- Hugh Grant as a guest preacher, Colin Harries, in episode two.
- Timothy West as Professor John Furie, in episode three.
- Oliver Parker (An Ideal Husband) as a student in episode five.
- Kathy Burke as Alice in episode seven.
- Geoffrey Beevers (Catweazle, Worzel Gummidge) as Sodd in episode seven.
We love you
- Clive Swift (Keeping Up Appearances) as Professor Piers Platt in episode two.
- Chris Jury (Lovejoy) as Peter Wagstaff in episode three.
- Mark Addy (Cold Feet) as Mal Prentis in episode seven.
Singing the theme tune to the series is Elkie Brooks. Born Elaine Bookbinder, Elkie left school at the age of 15 to become a singer and was soon working with jazz bandleader Humphrey Lyttelton.
Stints in the 70s with bands such as Dada, Vinegar Joe (with Robert Palmer) and Wet Willy were followed by a solo career and hits including Pearl's A Singer and Sunshine after the Rain. In 1993 she appeared on the TV show Reborn in the USA.
A Very Peculiar Practice series one is available to buy on DVD.