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Potter, Dennis

Category: Filmdirectors

 

Dennis Christopher George Potter (17 May 1935 – 7 June 1994) was an English television dramatist, screenwriter and journalist.

He initially worked in journalism, but in 1962, he began to suffer from an acute form of psoriasis known as psoriatic arthropathy that affected his skin and caused arthritis in his joints. It also made attempts to follow a conventional career path futile. Potter embarked on work as a television playwright.

 

From that point his name became a household word, as television drama followed television drama.

His new career began with contributions to the BBC's Wednesday Play anthology series in 1965, and he continued to work in this medium for the next thirty years.

He is best known for his BBC TV serials Pennies from Heaven (1978), The Singing Detective (1986), and the television plays Blue Remembered Hills (1979) and Brimstone and Treacle (1976). His television dramas mixed fantasy and reality, the personal and the social and often used themes and images from popular culture. Potter is widely regarded as one of the most influential and innovative dramatists to have worked in British television.

 

On 14 February 1994, Potter learned that he had terminal pancreatic cancer which had metastasised to his liver. It was thought that this was a side effect of the medication he was taking to control his psoriasis.

On 15 March 1994, three months before his death, Potter gave an interview to Melvyn Bragg, later broadcast on 5 April 1994 by Channel 4 (he had broken most of his ties with the BBC as a result of his disenchantment with Directors-General Michael Checkland and especially John Birt, whom he had famously referred to as a "croak-voiced Dalek").

The Singing detective

Using a morphine and champagne cocktail as pain relief, and chain-smoking, he revealed that he had named his cancer "Rupert", after Rupert Murdoch, who he said represented so much of what he found despicable about the mass media in Britain. He described his work and his determination to continue writing until his death. Telling Bragg that he had two works he intended to finish ("My only regret is if I die four pages too soon"), he proposed that these works, Cold Lazarus and Karaoke, should be made with the rival BBC and Channel 4 working in collaboration, a suggestion which was accepted.  The observation we have is based on this interview.

Months before Potter was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer his wife, Margaret Morgan Potter, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite his own deteriorating condition and punishing work schedule, Potter continued to care for Margaret Amy Potter until she died on 29 May 1994. He died nine days later, in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, England, aged 59.

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