Butterflies. Image shows from L to R: Ria Parkinson (Wendy Craig), Leonard Dunn (Bruce Montague). Image credit: British Broadcasting Corporation.


Sitcom following dissatisfied housewife Ria Parkinson as she considers embarking on an exciting romantic affair with successful businessman Leonard

1978 - 1983  (BBC One)
28 (4 series)
Wendy Craig, Geoffrey Palmer, Bruce Montague, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Andrew Hall, Joyce Windsor, Michael Ripper, Sarah James
Carla Lane
British Broadcasting Corporation

Ria Parkinson is married to Ben, a butterfly-collecting dentist who seems to take her for granted. The pair have two grown-up sons, Adam and Russell, who also take her for granted. Feeling dissatisfied with her life Ria meets Leonard and spends the next few years almost having an affair with the dashing businessman.

Whilst the other Parkinson family members don't recognise anything wrong with Ria or her life, she falls deeper into a world of depressive confusion and indecision with Leonard apparently the sole light at the end of the tunnel. Leonard or Ben? Who knows...

Our Review: There are many sitcoms that are very much love-it-or-hate-it affairs, and Butterflies must be amongst them. In many ways, this series feels more like a drama than a comedy: the on-off relationships, the hidden affair, the depression of the central character and the general gloom and doom overtone of much of the subject matter. Other sitcoms have managed to capture this final aspect, such as Only Fools And Horses and One Foot In The Grave to a greater or lesser extent.

The plot behind this sitcom is ultimately quite sad and hard-hitting, yet struck a note with the nation's housewives - probably to the acute distress of many a husband - and entered the territory of comedy gold. The action and humour is slow and very subtle: sometimes this adds to the peculiar melancholy comfort of the series, whilst at other points it treads perilously along the line into boredom. However, the 'will she?' hook line threaded ever-so expertly through the series by writer Carla Lane is one that will, ultimately, keep the vast majority of audiences watching.