Friday, 1 April 2016
First viewed : 1979
This Carla Lane-penned domestic comedy was premiered on BBC2 then got a repeat showing on BBC1 on a Thursday evening which was when we usually caught it.
The comedy revolved around a family of four , Ria ( Wendy Craig ) a bored housewife whose lack of culinary skills was a running gag, loyal but slightly neglectful dentist husband Ben ( Geoffrey Palmer ) and two teenage sons Russell ( Andrew Hall ) and Adam ( Nicholas Lyndhurst ) who show no signs of eagerness to enter the world of work and adult responsibility. Throughout the series Ria is contemplating adultery with wealthy divorcee Leonard ( Bruce Montague ) while grappling with normal family dramas.
Butterflies was infuriating because it was part brilliant, part awful. The scenes around the dinner table were superb thanks to the comic timing of Palmer and Lyndhurst. It was here ( and perhaps Going Straight around the same time ) that the latter moved effortlessly from ubiquitous child star to genius comic actor. Although Hall couldn't match him, they were a great comic duo and perhaps the inspiration for Men Behaving Badly a decade or so later. Unfortunately these scenes had to be punctuated by Ria's everyday monologues treating us to the Carla Lane view of the world and its absurdities , rarely funny and often aggravating in its middle class self-absorption. Then you had the never-ending scenes with Leonard , her male equivalent; at least you felt they deserved each other.
In a major plot development in the third series, Russell ended up getting a girl pregnant and so had to grow up a bit. Palmer's awkward delicacy when she came round to meet the family was brilliantly played and very touching.
It finished after four series in 1983 apart from an extended reunion sketch on 2000's Comic Relief which I think I caught but can't remember much about.
After the series finished Craig had long periods out of the spotlight for the next two decades before playing Matron in The Royal from 2003 onwards. She's still a regular screen presence in her eighties . Palmer and Lyndhurst of course went from strength to strength. Hall hasn't been quite as busy but he's still a working actor and has done some directing of late.