Butterflies (TV series)

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Butterflies
Butterflies title card.jpg
Series title card
Format Sitcom
Created by Carla Lane
Written by Carla Lane (1978–83)
Directed by Gareth Gwenlan (1978–79)
John B. Hobbs (1979–80)
Sydney Lotterby (1980–83)
Mandie Fletcher (1983)
Starring Wendy Craig
Geoffrey Palmer
Nicholas Lyndhurst
Andrew Hall
Bruce Montague
Michael Ripper
Joyce Windsor
Theme music composer Dolly Parton
Opening theme "Love Is Like a Butterfly"
Ending theme "Love Is Like a Butterfly"
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 4
No. of episodes 30 (including 2 shorts)
Production
Producer(s) Gareth Gwenlan (1978–79)
Sydney Lotterby (1980–83)
Location(s) Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England
Running time 30 mins
Broadcast
Original channel BBC2
Original run 10 November 1978 (1978-11-10) – 19 October 1983 (1983-10-19)
Chronology
Related shows Bread (1986–91)

Butterflies was a British sitcom series written by Carla Lane broadcast on BBC2 from 1978–83.

The situation was the day-to-day life of the Parkinson family in a bittersweet style. There were both traditional comedy sources (Ria's cooking, family squabbles) and more unusual sources such as Ria's unconsummated[1] relationship with the outwardly-successful Leonard. Ria was still in love with her husband, Ben, and had raised two potentially fine sons, yet found herself dissatisfied and in need of something more. Throughout the series Ria searched for that "something more" and found some solace in her unconventional friendship with Leonard. In a 2002 interview, Carla Lane explained, "I wanted to write a comedy about a woman contemplating adultery."[1]

In the first episode, an expository discussion between Ria and Leonard alludes to the significance of the series' title: "We are all kids chasing butterflies. You see it, you want it, you grab it, and there it is, all squashed in your hand." She adds, "I am one of the few lucky ones, I have a pleasant house, a pleasant man and two pleasant sons. My butterfly didn't get squashed." Ria's husband Ben collects and studies butterflies.

Cast and setting[edit]

Wendy Craig and Geoffrey Palmer, pictured on Butterflies DVD cover

The show stars Wendy Craig as frustrated 'stay at home' housewife, Ria Parkinson and Geoffrey Palmer as her reserved dentist husband, Ben. Ria's early dialogue in the first series suggests her age as early 40s, whereas her husband, Ben, quotes himself to be "the wrong side of 45". Ben is a typically traditional, conservative white-collar professional, ill at ease with his sons' lack of work-ethic and carefree post-punk attitudes (the series starts in 1978) whilst remaining unaware of his wife's impending mid-life crisis. They have been married for 19 years and are depicted as having a comfortable lifestyle, supported by one bread-winner in the household at a time in British history when 'stay at home' housewives were becoming less common. Ria's disastrous attempts at cooking are a recurring gag.

The Parkinsons have two sons, both of driving age (at least 17 years of age under UK law in 1978) and unemployed. (In 1978 England was heading towards recession under Prime Minister, James Callaghan, with youth unemployment on the increase.) Their youngest son, Adam, is played by Nicholas Lyndhurst and their older son, Russell, by Andrew Hall. Bruce Montague plays Ria's friend Leonard, a successful businessman, aged 44 whose wife has recently left him and is like Ria Parkinson, approaching his own mid-life crisis. The show also featured two recurring minor characters: Leonard's chauffeur and confidant Thomas (Michael Ripper) and the Parkinsons' cleaner, Ruby (Joyce Windsor), who often lent Ria an ear.

Theme song[edit]

The Butterflies theme song, "Love Is Like a Butterfly", is a 1974 single written and originally recorded by American country music artist Dolly Parton. The cover version used at the opening of each episode was recorded for the series by Clare Torry, with a band conducted by BBC TV composer Ronnie Hazlehurst.

Scene location[edit]

Unlike most Carla Lane sitcoms, Butterflies is not set in Liverpool, but rather Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (Ben refers to this in the final episode, "Loose Ends"). Many of the exterior scenes were filmed there, including the High Street, Montpellier and Hatherley Park.[citation needed] Exterior shots for the Parkinson house were filmed at 30 Bournside Road in Up Hatherley, Cheltenham.[citation needed] Locations included properties along Bournside Road, Landsdown Road and Christchurch Road in Cheltenham, and that town's Hatherley Park, Pittville Park, Imperial Gardens and Neptune's Fountain; High Street; The Promenade, Montpellier; Peter's Bar, 23 Montpellier Walk, which later became J.J. O'Neill's; and Presto Supermarket, Grosvenor Terrace, which later became Bannatyne's Health and Fitness.[2]

Episodes[edit]

The series comprises twenty-eight episodes.

Series Year Episodes
1 1978
  1. "When Ria Met Leonard"
  2. "Breaking the Silence"
  3. "Thinking About a Job"
  4. "How About Lunch?"
  5. "The Lovers"
  6. "He'll Have to Go"
2 1979
  1. "Leaving"
  2. "Fox Hunting"
  3. "Worrying"
  4. "A Dog's Life"
  5. "Keeping Fit"
  6. "An Attractive Visitor"
  7. "Lunch with Leonard"
  8. "Christmas with the Parkinsons"
3 1980
  1. "An Empty Cage"
  2. "Ruby's Crisis"
  3. "Pregnancy"
  4. "Problems, Problems"
  5. "Happy Birthday, Ria"
  6. "Gimme Shelter"
  7. "Parting"
4 1983
  1. "Back from New York"
  2. "Amanda"
  3. "Pot"
  4. "Cleaning Windows"
  5. "Calling"
  6. "Breaking Up"
  7. "Loose Ends"

Christmas special: 1982[edit]

Shown as part of "The Funny Side Of Christmas" on BBC1 on 27 December 1982. The family are happy for a seasonal excuse to avoid eating Ria's food. She reveals to Adam privately that Leonard has gone to New York, but he is instead outside in his car, until Thomas reminds him that his former wife is waiting for him at home. Leonard calls on the phone asking for Ria, but she is kissing Ben under the mistletoe as he learns from Adam. As she gets to the phone, Leonard hangs up without speaking after hearing her voice.

Special for Children in Need (2000)[edit]

In November 2000, the cast (save for Michael Ripper who had recently died) reunited for a 13-minute episode in aid of Children in Need. The premise is Ria's 60th birthday and the lack of change to her situation.

American series pilot (1979)[edit]

An American remake was piloted but never commissioned. NBC broadcast the pilot in August 1979, with little change to the original scripting. It starred Jennifer Warren as Ria Parkinson and John McMartin as her husband, Ben Parkinson. Film actor Jim Hutton was featured as Leonard Dean in this version. It was Hutton's last acting job. He died suddenly from liver cancer at the age of 45 in June 1979, several weeks before the pilot aired.

DVD release[edit]

All episodes of Butterflies are available on DVD in the UK, distributed by Acorn Media UK. Only the first two series are available in the US.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lane, Carla (2002). Butterflies – Series 1 (Interview). (Interview). Acorn Media UK. 
  2. ^ Butterflies (TV 1978), Gloucestershire Onscreen, archived from the original on 26 October 2010 

External links[edit]