From the prolifically successful creative comedy pen of Liverpool born scriptwriter, and co- creator of the 70's sitcom classic The Liver Birds, Carla Lane, Butterflies was a gently thoughtful, amusing and well observed eighties situation comedy sensation for the BBC.
BBC2's highest rated show throughout most of its run, the series starred accomplished and versatile comedy actress, Wendy Craig as Ria Parkinson, a seemingly ordinary, contented, middle class suburban housewife who had been married for 19 years to dentist and manic depressive Ben (the excellently droll Geoffrey Palmer), only to suddenly find herself plunged into the middle of a disorienting, emotionally tumultuous, mid-life crisis. At that sensitively vulnerable point in her life, Ria found herself embarking on a touchingly platonic, but still guilt-laden affair with the rich, urbane, recently divorced businessman, Leonard Dunn.
The series title was derived from Ben's near-obsessional hobby of Butterfly collecting, and it was the fact that he was so enwrapped, so taken with it, almost to the point of oblivion to the goings on with the rest of the family, that provided the catalyst for the series main narrative thrust. An interesting aspect which set the series apart from the more traditional sitcoms of the time was the inclusion of an edge-of-surrealism, achieved by the use of dream sequences and voice-overs, a then still very much experimental narrative device, which had previously only been employed by the earlier ITV sitcom adaptation of Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall's classic, Billy Liar, and years later exploited to its fullest by the top rated US show, Ally McBeal.
The title theme was a re-
arrangement of Dolly Parton's "Love is Like a Butterfly", and the series, which had begun in 1978,
eventually reached its end in 1982. However, eighteen years on, on the evening of Friday November
17th 2000, writer and cast were triumphantly reunited for a special one-off reunion episode
produced especially for the BBC charity telethon, Children In Need. The short 15-minute
episode, which revisited the Parkinson family on the occasion of Ria's 60th birthday, was so well
received by the public, and so enjoyed by its cast, that it was briefly suggested that a new
series could follow. Sadly, it never transpired.
Published on November 30th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.