English dramatist and journalist. His most important works were television plays, extending the boundaries of the art form. Plays include Pennies from Heaven (1978; feature film 1981), Brimstone and Treacle (1976; transmitted 1987, feature film 1982), and The Singing Detective (1986).
Potter's television dramas exhibit a serious concern for social issues, and are characterized by a marked avoidance of euphemism or delicacy. Highly inventive in form, they explore the medium's technical possibilities, employing devices such as overlap, fantasy sequences, and flashback. His posthumous plays were Cold Lazarus and Karaoke (both 1995).
Early life Potter was born in Berry Hill, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire; the family moved to London when he was 14. At Oxford University, he was chair of the Labour Club and editor of the student magazine Isis. Recruited by the BBC in 1959, he worked on current-affairs programmes and documentaries. He left in 1961 and became a political features writer for the Daily Herald newspaper. Then, at the age of 29, he was afflicted by a hereditary disease, psoriatic arthropathy, which was to keep him at home for most of the rest of his life. He turned to television criticism, writing for the New Statesman and the Sunday Times.
Career in TV He started to write television plays in the mid-1960s. Four were screened in 1965–66, two of which, Stand Up Nigel Barton and Vote Vote Vote for Nigel Barton, were autobiographical. Many of his plays tested the bounds of public taste – Son of Man (1969) depicted a working-class Christ, and Brimstone and Treacle (banned in 1976), was about the Devil curing a brain-damaged girl by raping her. Potter often incorporated popular music into his works, for example in the series Pennies from Heaven and The Singing Detective, in which the action is interrupted by songs lip-mimed by the characters. He produced, directed, and narrated his four-part Blackeyes (1989), about the sexual exploitation of a model by the advertising industry.
Other work In addition to over 30 plays and series, Potter wrote screenplays for Hollywood and four novels. He also gave occasional lectures, in which he voiced his contempt for the commercialization of television.
Potter, Dennis Christopher George
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