A Country Practice (Seven, 1981-1993, Ten, 1994)
This is yet another Australian soap, and it was one of the more successful ones. A Country Practice actually wasn’t created by the one and only Reg Watson, instead we have James Davern to thank from JNP Productions. The show could be described as a more rural version The Young Doctors, and a farm also featured, so you’d be as a likely to see a pig as a patient, as an actual person.
The show was mostly set in a small fictional town in New South Wales called Wandin Valley, and we’d meet a variety of characters. Along with the hospital, other locations included a vet, a police station, and of course there was a pub too. This was a show that would go on to do very well in Australia, and after a short while the cast would become familiar names with viewers.
Among the most high-profile cast members was Dr Terence Elliott, although that would be partly because he appeared in more episodes than anyone else. The opening sequence always featured the regular characters, another memorable one was Esme, that old lady with the glasses. A Country Practice was shown twice a week in a primetime slot. Also, unlike most soaps, every episode was titled, and the story played out over two episodes.
To give an indication of how popular the show became, it won several major television awards in the 80s, had very high ratings, and there were also guest appearances by various celebrities as it was a good place to be spotted, and even the Prime Minister took part in one episode. The plan to give viewers a feelgood show that ran for an hour and feature various characters was clearly working.
A Country Practice ran for just over a decade and almost 1,100 episodes, I didn’t realise that there were as many as that. But in 1993, it was dropped by Seven after 12 years. Then, a year later, rival channel Ten decided to pick it up, and make some changes. It was somewhat past its best by this point though, and it ended for good after only 30 more episodes.
A Country Practice was shown on ITV in an afternoon slot, where it received a good following. And you might be beginning to realise just how many imported soaps were being squeezed into this slot while there was a big demand for them. Again, every region showed it at their own pace, with Thames beginning in 1982, and the run was so long that the final episode wasn’t shown until 1996 on their successor Carlton. There were also repeat runs on Sky One, and even long-gone channel Carlton Select! Plenty of episodes have also been released on DVD, but only in Australia.