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Carla Lane created funny women – because that was the norm in the 80s | Viv Groskop

In the world of 1980s television, female characters and writers were everywhere. What’s gone wrong?

The first thing you think of in Carla Lane’s work? The characters. Beryl and Sandra in The Liver Birds with their massive, thatched-roof fringes and false eyelashes and puffy baker boy hats (Polly James and Nerys Hughes). Ma Nellie Boswell (Jean Boht) and our Aveline (Melanie Hill) in Bread, with voices that could strip paint and withering looks that could castrate a man at 20 paces. Wendy Craig as the stifled housewife Ria in Butterflies, simmering underneath a page-boy haircut that was so smooth it looked as if it had been polished like a billiard ball. These characters all happen to be women. All Carla Lane’s comedies put the women at the centre of things, and no one particularly mentioned it, or not that you’d notice. Quite right, too.

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