Friday, 1 April 2016

368 Butterflies

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.



  1. Beautiful theme tune. I got this in the repeats on BBC1 during the early 90s, like you I found Ria's 'whimsy' to be tedium in the extreme, but everything around it was usually good value - largely Geoffrey Palmer. I remember 2.4 Children was running at the same time as the repeats and comparisons were often drawn.

    1. Yeah, I actually already had the song on the B-side of "Jolene " which was the first single I set out to buy ( as opposed to finding in a bargain box ). Perhaps it interfered with Dolly's release schedule to put it out again.