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Butterflies – Series 1

Geoffrey Palmer (As Time Goes By, Mrs. Brown) and Wendy Craig (The Forsyte Saga) star in one of the most popular BBC sitcoms ever. She is an everyday housewife bored beyond endurance with her life. Married to a dour dentist who collects butterflies obsessively and the mother of two teenage sons whose chief occupation is bickering with their father, Ria Parkinson wants something more. Or is it someone more? When she meets a wealthy businessman who tries to woo her, she struggles to find out. As seen on public television.Carla Lane’s piquant brand of whimsical comedy peaked in 1978 with the BBC sitcom Butterflies. Wendy Craig as Ria Parkinson, the wife and mother who can never quite put her finger on what’s missing from her mundane life, is outstanding. She wrings every ounce of truth from a script that, if anything, has sharpened with the years. The concept of the housewife, “happily but not excitingly married,” whose main function as perceived by those around her is to meet the needs of a reactionary husband (Geoffrey Palmer, baleful as ever) and a pair of layabout sons, might be dated. The fashions certainly are. But her plight is that of everybody who has ever thought, “there must be something better.” And she is innocently subversive: a terrible cook, forever teetering on the brink of an affair with a lonely, smitten businessman she meets one lunchtime in a coffee shop, and always defying conventions. The passage of time exposes a real depth and darkness in Lane’s writing: Ria’s constant, dreamy philosophizing provokes raging outbursts of uncomprehending frustration from her husband that reveal him to be equally at odds with his own situation. This edgy streak saves Butterflies from mawkishness and keeps it fresh even today. –Piers Ford

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Tags: bbc sitcom, bbc sitcoms, Series), wendy craig, Butterflies

2 Comments

  1. Movie Mania "DVD Collector" says:

    The Best Britcom of All Time Butterflies is the first British situation comedy to be a hit in the US. Most Britcoms were broad sketch comedies and not situation comedies. This show worked because the base story was something that the average American could relate to.Twenty five years later, it still works. Actually, things have gone full circle and it is current again because of the revival of the stay at home moms.Ria Parkinson was happily married but not ecstatically married woman in her late 30′s. Her husband, Ben, is a dentist who just turned 48 and is trying to figure out his life. She has two grown sons that are still at home adding additional stress to her life.While trying to work out her current problems, she meets Leonard. Leonard is a suave businessman who is divorced, his wife ran off with his best friend. He is 44 and is also going through his own life crisis. He is tired of his shallow existence of one young girl after another and would like a woman of substance, like Ria.This is the basis of all 28 episodes. Series One is the first 6 episodes. The following is a summary of the episodes:Episode 1 – We meet Ria and her family. Ria and Ben have been married for 19 years and he still cannot fathom her cooking. The current meal is potatoes, a chop, some green things and gravy. Ben and oldest son have not been speaking for a year. Ria meets Leonard in a restaurant. Ria realizes that she is still desirable and wants Ben to realize it. Again she runs into Leonard, or he almost runs over her with his car and he asks her out to lunch.Episode 2 – After a number of nasty comments about her cooking, Ria previews tonight’s apple sponge (which looks like a beige bowling ball) and gives the men an ultimatum “if any one of you dares to utter one word, I will splatter the walls with it and leave this house forever”. Ria then runs into Leonard who pursues her but she learns even Leonard has his rejection limit. At dinner, the men unite.Episode 3 – Leonard loses his license. Ria decides that now that the boys are grown, she wants more from life – a job. This is the first episode that shows the neighbors. Also, there is a great flub. Adam and Russell are busking. When the get into the car a woman walks up to give them coin. Based on Andrew Hall’s reaction, this was probably a passerby who did not notice the filming going on.Episode 4 – We are introduced to Leonard’s driver. It is Leonard’s birthday. He wants to have lunch with Ria but has a hard time inviting her.Episode 5 – A statue is being sent to America and Russell tries to stop it by chaining himself to it.Episode 6 – Ria is getting more confused by life and talks to God at the local church. Ria decides that she will get rid of everything that is not right in her life, including Leonard.Wendy Craig is perfect as the harried Ria. She has a natural comic sense of timing. She knows when to just say the lines and when to put that little extra onto the line or action. Her Ria is the mother most people wanted. And the wife everyone wants. I know I fell in love with her when I first saw the show.This was America’s first real glimpse Geoffrey Palmer (Ben) who is most famous for As Time Goes By. Palmer is the perfect straight man. He is the perfect sounding board for Craig. He knows just when to react or to deadpan.Bruce Montague plays Leonard as the exact opposite of Ben and Rhea. He is having problems but while Ben and Rhea repress their problems, Leonard is in your face with his.Andrew Hall has captured the essence of Russell, a young man wanting to experience life before he is tied down.This is the first major role for Nicholas Lyndhurst who has become a major UK star floating between TV and theatre.DVD EXTRAS:Interview with creator Clara Lane – This was the first time that I ever saw her and this interview was quite interesting. She talks about how she came up with the show, casting of the show and dealing with the celebrity that the show brought her.Cast Filmographies – Bio’s on Wendy Craig (Ria); Geoffrey Palmer (Ben); Bruce Montague (Leonard); Andrew Hall (Russell) and Nicholas Lyndhurst (Adam)Production Notes – Brief history of the show and Clara Lane.This is the definitive Britcom and you must see it from the beginning. Once you watch this disk, you will be looking for season two, three,….

  2. J. Stoneking says:

    One of the finest Brit-Coms of all time! Growing up, this is one of the first Brit-Coms that really stuck out to me and greatly impressed me. This show, along with other greats such as Ever Decreasing Circles and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin were shows that, even though I was quite young, gave me hope for great TV. Butterflies is a series that has interesting characters, is rarely boring, and keeps you wanting to watch from episode to episode. If you have fond memories of this show from airings on PBS, this is a great chance to get reaquainted with a show that has only become better over the years. If you hae never seen this show, you need to check this show out.And if this DVD is anything like the Region 2 release, the bonus features may not be stellar, but the quality of this series is alone reason enough to give the DVD five stars.

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