Butterflies review – Carla Lane’s midlife-crisis masterpiece

Just as Lane was one of the few women to crack the male-dominated world of 70s comedy, so Butterflies gave rare subversive voice to a mature suburban woman

News of screenwriter Carla Lane’s death this week sent TV viewers of a certain age scurrying to the sitcom queen’s back catalogue: The Liver Birds, Bless This House, Bread and especially Butterflies – not just Lane’s masterpiece, but the work which has aged best by far.

Butterflies mined rare subject matter for primetime comedy: a middle-aged woman, trapped in a stale marriage, daydreaming about adultery and a more fulfilling life. Unlike its scouse creator’s other hits, it wasn’t set in gritty Liverpool, but suburban Cheltenham. It took Lane three years to convince the BBC that this unpromising “sit” could be played for laughs. Eventually she did and a winningly wistful “com” was fashioned.

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