Certainly one of British television's more colorful characters, playwright, screenwriter, and director Dennis Potter thrived on controversy. Unlike the standard realistic dramas of his peers, Potter's programs complexly blended his personal reminiscence with fantasy and the gritty realities of ordinary British life such as can be seen in his six-part musical drama Pennies From Heaven (1978). Potter sometimes deliberately baited more conservative audiences with his controversial views on religion as can be seen in Son of Man (1973), a television drama in which Jesus is portrayed as a very human being.
Born in the Forest of Dean, the son of an impoverished coal miner, Potter was in his early teens when a bitterly cold winter caused his father to send him and his siblings to the warmth and safety of London. Though the rest of the family eventually returned to their home village of Berry Hill, Potter remained in London. After studying philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford, Potter published his first novel, The Glittering Coffin (1960), a scathing attack on upper-class snobbery that seemed based on his recent college experiences. He worked briefly for the BBC in their news department and then became a news journalist for the Daily Herald. It was while at the newspaper that Potter, then in his early twenties, was diagnosed with psoriatic arthopathy, an incurable and brutally painful disease affecting his skin and joints. Unable to work in a normal situation, Potter became a television critic so he could write at home.