A very peculiar oversight by the BBC

FORGIVE my using this site to do some trawling for vital – though some might say trivial – information.

You may remember a BBC TV series in the 1980s called A Very Peculiar Practice, starring Peter Davison. It was set in a medical centre on a “modern” university campus and remains one of my all-time favourite shows, brilliantly acted by Davison and the other cast members, with superb writing by Andrew Davies.

So I recently decided it was time to watch it again, and started searching for the DVD on the web, as you do. And here’s what I found: only season one has been released, and if you can find a copy it’ll cost you eighty quid! Now, it was a brilliant series, but not that good!

So, what’s going on? Why weren’t both seasons (and the one-off sequel, A Very Polish Practice) released? And why are copies of season one so apparently rare that they cost more than the seven-season boxset of The West Wing?

If anyone has any information, I’d appreciate it. Thanks for your time. I’ll be off now.

UPDATE on 23/12/08 at 6.55 pm: Just discovered this trailer the BBC ran for season 2:



Filed under TV

17 responses to “A very peculiar oversight by the BBC

  1. Quel soulagement, the Scottish MP writes a quick post about something really important! It was indeed a wonderful series; I managed to tape series one when they repeated it on BBC4 a couple of Xmases ago (if that be the plural of Xmas). Unfortunately they didn’t go on to show the second series in spite of suggesting on the channel’s web site that they would. Perhaps someone’s deleted it by mistake.

  2. Stephen

    I recall the Polish actress introducing herself brilliantly
    “My name is Greta. As in cheese!”

  3. richard

    Gosh, if only there was some sort of peer-to-peer network where you could download them for free.

  4. Paul Williams

    I gave up some time ago trying to understand the BBC’s policy on releasing programmes onto DVD.

    Believe or not Tom your experience is quite common, the BBC often don’t release all seasons at once, there’s often years between, if at all.

    Another favourite trick of the BBC is to release DVDs everywhere else in world but never here in the UK. I’ve imported more BBC DVD’s, than I have purchased here in the UK, through necessity.

    Madness it is.

  5. Paul Williams

    Gosh, if only there was some sort of peer-to-peer network where you could download them for free.

    Richard, I don’t think you finished your sentence, shouldn’t it read instead:

    “Gosh, if only there was some sort of peer-to-peer network where you could download copyrighted material illegally for free, the sort of activity a serving MP probably shouldn’t be encouraged to do.”

  6. richard

    How come BBC stuff is copyrighted at all? I seem to recall paying for it…

  7. Again, I’m not encouraging anyone to break the law, but I do note that a well-known Scandinavian torrent site with a buccaneering theme has both serieses. If nothing else, this suggests that Series 2 was indeed made available as a DVD.

  8. richard

    Also I rather suspect that the BBC probably won’t bother suing a former Minister for downloading a 25 year old BBC series that’s been repeated at least a dozen times.

  9. Paul Williams

    How come BBC stuff is copyrighted at all? I seem to recall paying for it…

    It’s akin to a bootleg recording, your license fee is your concert ticket you can watch the performance, but you don’t have the right to make unauthorised copies.

    But then if you throw away your TV and watch all your programmes via the internet, i.e. iplayer, you don’t need a license fee 🙂

  10. richard

    @ Paul Williams
    Actually, the licence fee explicitly states that to watch the BBC website (and iPlayer) requires a TV licence.

    For a good laugh, get yourself over to http://www.bbctvlicence.com/index.htm where you can read about the delights of not paying the telly-tax.

  11. Paul Williams

    Actually, the licence fee explicitly states that to watch the BBC website (and iPlayer) requires a TV licence.

    A licence fee is only required for people who “watch or record TV programmes as they are broadcast”, according to Television Licensing (TVL), “If you only watch the iPlayer after programmes are first broadcast, and watch or record no live programmes, you don’t need a television licence”.

    Of course if you watch the live streaming on your PC of the BBC channels including the News then you would need a license, but TVL has to prove this in order to prosecute, hmm most unlikely.

  12. I should have known this might degenerate into a debate about the TV licence. Anyone got any information about why I can’t buy A Very Peculiar Practice on DVD?

  13. Paul Williams

    Tom, I think I answered your question in my first post, i.e the BBC’s policy on releasing programmes on DVD’s is incomprehsible

  14. Alasdair

    Alas no, Tom. Maybe you should try a wee experiment in the new year – what’s the most innocuous topic your commenters can turn into an attack on a) the Government, b) the Labour Party or c) the BBC?

  15. richard

    You can’t buy it because the BBC is a monolithic monstrosity, bloated with free money and no commercial imperative to give you what you want, only what it thinks you need.

  16. Tom, you’ve just missed both series being broadcast on Sky Arts. We watched the penultimate episode last night, the last one is A Very Polish Practice, where Stephen Daker leaves lowlands and goes to work in Poland with Greta.

    Sky Arts has shown it more than once before, so I’m sure it will do so again in the not too distant future.

  17. The BBC often licenses the rights to release these programmes on DVD to third-party companies.

    Series 1 of A Very Peculiar Practice was released on DVD by a company called “Network”. They may have run into some difficulty or change of plan which means they didn’t release Series 2, but nonetheless until their license expires, no-one else can release it.

    By far the most comprehensive source of info on DVDs of British TV is Roobarb’s DVD Forum http://www.zetaminor.com/roobarb/

    As to why these programmes aren’t free to buy on DVD: the programmes are written by writers, acted by actors, have music written by composers, etc etc etc. All these individuals generally will have done their work for the BBC under a contract which allowed one broadcast on telly and one repeat. It did not include anything about subsequently reselling the work on a recorded medium such as DVD (which hadn’t even been invented at the time). Thus, before such shows can be re-released, all the original artists and participants generally have to be contacted and new royalty fees agreed to remunerate them. The Beeb has a whole department dealing with such matters.

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