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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Butterflies Series 1
Butterflies Series 1
Acorn Media // Unrated // July 12, 2005
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted July 16, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

They say one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and I think it's a reasonable corollary to say that one shouldn't judge a DVD by its cover, either. I have to admit, though, that I was rather put off from Butterflies from the first sight of its oddly garish and awkward cover art. But in any case, that was just the first impression; I had never heard of the show before (though it seems to have been quite popular in Britain when it first aired, as it ran from 1978 to 1983).

The "shocking" nature of the premise, which writer/creator Carla Lane discusses in the interesting interview in the special features section, is probably the most intriguing part of this comedy series. In 1978, a comedy about a woman seriously contemplating having an affair, because she's bored with her life and her dour husband and bickering teenaged sons give her little satisfaction, was not the thing. Not the thing at all. But Lane persisted, and Butterflies was brought to life, starring Wendy Craig as Ria, the woman in question, and Geoffrey Palmer as her butterfly-collecting dentist husband.

Just because something had some bite to it in 1978, though, doesn't mean it has much punch nowadays. It's impossible to say how I'd have taken it in its original context, but in watching the series now, I found it shrill and overdone. The jokes are forced and obvious, and all the actors seem to be heavily overplaying their characters; in Butterflies' defense, that seems to have been the style for television comedy in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but it doesn't keep it from feeling awkward now. The laugh track is also rather obtrusive, even more so than a typical laugh track; it's loud and seems, again, rather forced.

The series might have succeeded on the strength of its characters even if the humor wasn't up to snuff, but despite the central theme being Ria's midlife crisis, neither she nor the other characters really come off as realistic. It's also undeniable that the show looks extremely dated, which is just one more element creating a distance between us and the characters.

Butterflies: Series 1 contains all six thirty-minute episodes from the show's first season. They can be selected separately or viewed with a "play all" feature, which is very nice. The chapter stops are also well placed, so it's possible to skip the opening credits.

The DVD

Video

Butterflies looks passable but uninspired here. It's presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and looks its age. The image is fairly soft, with edge enhancement and noticeable, but not obtrusive, dark borders around objects. Some flaws appear in the image, particularly in the outdoor shots, and overall it tends to have a faint brownish tinge. Watchable, but 1970s-looking.

Audio

The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is serviceable but I have to admit that it grated on my nerves after a while; the laugh track is simply too loud with respect to the rest of the dialogue. Apart from that, it sounds adequate.

Extras

Fans of the show will be interested in the 11-minute interview with writer/creator Carla Lane. Filmed in 2002 (and presented in anamorphic widescreen), the interview gives a quite interesting perspective on the show and its origins. Text production notes and cast filmographies are also included.

Final thoughts

I'm guessing that Butterflies is a love-it-or-hate-it series; in my case, I didn't connect at all with the main character, and in fact didn't find her or any of the characters to be realistic or three-dimensional at all (or even interesting as one-dimensional characters, for that matter). Fans of the show will find it to be worth picking up, despite the bland transfer, and will enjoy the short interview with the writer/creator. Overall I'm going to say "skip it" since I really didn't care for it at all (and I typically do enjoy British comedy), but of course that doesn't apply if you're a fan.

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