TV… Reacquainting You with a Quartet of Carla Lane Comedies

#1970s #1980s #1990s


Returning to a Lane full of memories…


In the 1970s and 80s, the writer Carla Lane was synonymous with British comedy.



I was saddened to hear of Carla Lane’s recent death. She wrote many familiar comedies featuring strong female characters and her writing style was much-loved by women everywhere. Reflecting on her work, Darlin Husband and I noted both our mothers – and therefore respective mothers in law – enjoyed her comedy series.

We were both brought up on a Carla Lane TV diet of watching Butterflies, Bread and The Liver Birds. Here are 4 of her comedies I remembered her with the most affection, along with a wee mention of her reunion shows such as British Comic Relief.


Bless this House (1971-76)

Bless This House Intro Season 2, IntrosChannel1

It was with surprise that I learnt that Lane also co-wrote Bless this House, a British comedy series starring Sid James, a favourite comedy actor of my dad’s. This actor starred in most of the more famous Carry on British cinema days from the 50s. Lane was a co-writer for Bless This House, and I’d always associated my parents with diverse humour with my mum liking Carla Lane comedies, and him the more bawdy and double entendre type humour from this film series.

However, this TV series tells about the comic lives of Sid Abbott and his family. Sid Abbott could almost be a character in the Carry on film series as he is a much put upon father and husband whose schemes to avoid situations always backfire. These with comic results and similar to more than a few of his Carry on roles.

His wife often sees through these schemes. Also similar to the many exasperated wife roles played by James’s oft cast wife Joan Sims in many a Carry on film. Although I don’t remember this series that well, I remember watching the spin-off film with my father which also introduced their neighbours played by James’s Carry on co-stars, Terry Scott and June Whitfield.


Bread (1986-91)

BREAD (1986) TV Series Intro, TVNostalgia

This comedy focussed on the Liverpudlian Boswells, headed by the devoutly Catholic matriarch Nellie (Jean Boht) and her husband Freddie (Ronald Forfar). The couple is separated, and he has taken up with a younger woman known as Lilo Lil.  Between them, they have 5 adult children, who all live at her home, 4 boys and a girl.

I remember I had a five-minute crush on their son Adrian (Jonathon Morris, not to be confused with the Children’s TV Star from Animal Magic (1962-84)’s Johnny Morris (ZooKeeper extraordinaire), the quiet poetic one despite the show’s more obvious heart-throb in Peter Howitt’s Joey.

Joey who dressed completely in leather, was more charming and charismatic of the sons and kept the family together and out of trouble. The story again told the story of this family and their adventures in attempts to find love, happiness and to scam the DHSS. The family was encouraged to provide for their upkeep and do so through various unofficial money-making schemes, of which Nellie pretends to be unaware.

This programme like Butterflies also had a future soap star in the form of their cousin Shifty (Bryan Murray). Later Murray became the husband and child abuser, Trevor Jordache who was murdered by his wife and daughter in the famous body under the patio storyline in Brookside (1982-2003), a Liverpudlian based British TV soap opera.


The Liver Birds (1969-96)

The Liver Birds, sunfromabove

This comedy – also set in Liverpool – was co-written by Lane and I remember it was one my mother particularly enjoyed. I remember this series when the lead characters were played by Nerys Hughes as middle-class Sandra and Polly James as her flatmate Beryl. The original series starred Pauline Collins.

It told the comic adventures of these women in life and love and could be described as a female version of The Likely Lads (1964-66). This latter comedy was of the same premise but focused on the bromance between Terry (James Bolam) and Bob (Rodney Bewes). Sandra’s mother was played by British comedy legend Mollie Sugden.  I was interested to learn Paul McCartney’s brother was in the pop group who sang the theme tune.


Butterflies (1978- 83)

Family argument – Butterflies – BBC classic comedy, BBC Studios

This series tells about the Parkinson family headed by the middle-aged dentist Ben (Geoffrey Palmer) and his often underappreciated wife, Ria (Wendy Craig). It is also famous as introduced us to those actors who played their work-shy sons.

The elder Russell (Andrew Hall, later spotted in Brookside) and the younger Adam (Nicholas Lyndhurst, Rodney in Only Fools and Horses (1981-2003)). Dissatisfied in her lot and craving more to her life looking after her menfolk, Ria considers having an affair with a man she meets regularly in the park, Leonard (Bruce Montague). Ria’s character is probably one of the most remembered of Lane’s creations by myself and my husband.

He comically refers to this character, known for her poor cooking skills when I have a cooking disaster which 10/10 times, it leads to laughter. The theme tune is a song that was written and sung by the country singer and actress, Dolly Parton.

Combining comedy and charity, Lane also penned two reunion shows for Children in Need (Butterflies) and Comic Relief (Bread) reuniting the cast from both comedies. The Butterflies story continues the series thirteen years later showing life has not changed for Ria who is now approaching her 60th Birthday.

This was a lovely tribute to both that show and to Carla Lane herself, a passionate charity worker and comedy writer who spoke both to and for many women through a comedy route.




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