‘What’ll I do when you are far away and I am blue, what’ll I do?’
Ah, I have no qualms about admitting that when I heard Linda Robson sing those words and saw the familiar childhood pictures of herself and Pauline Quirke fade in and out, a broad grin grew on my face. I wasn’t even born when Birds of a Feather premiered in 1989. In fact I was only two when the original series came to an end but still Irving Berlin’s classic stirred up feelings of nostalgia. There was quite a sense of occasion and expectation surrounding the return of Birds, with it having been long-awaited and much-hyped by its stars and the press. The question is, was all of the hype worth it?
To be honest, it seems a bit too early to tell. I know, I know. Saying it’s ‘too early to tell’ might seem like a total cop-out but I genuinely think that what we saw in that opening episode is not the best that writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran have to offer. In fact, the renowned duo’s script seemed to be suffering from a touch of First Episode Syndrome, which sees writers temporarily putting jokes on the back burner in order to establish characters and situations – something which may be less necessary in a revived series but is still quite important. If they’d trusted viewers to dive straight back into Sharon, Tracy and Dorien’s adventures in Chigwell, not only would they have had a rather messy episode on their hands but they’d have been neglecting any possible new, younger viewers who missed the series first time around and aren’t avid viewers of the Drama channel!
As we rejoined the Birds fifteen years after we left them, Sharon and Tracy had fallen out, Dorien was a world-renowned author of erotic fiction (though sadly no longer with “Pussy Golightly” as her protagonist) and Tracy’s son Travis (last seen born in a barn in the 1998 Christmas special) is now seventeen years of age. There was also no sign of Sharon and Tracy’s criminal husbands Daryl and Chris, and Matt Willis had wisely replaced the rather wooden Matthew Savage as Garth. Other than that, nothing had changed, and by the end of the episode, everyone was reunited in Tracy’s house – with Garth also bringing back his girlfriend and her daughter from Australia with him.
The jokes were admittedly quite thin on the ground – a couple of innuendos and a few moments of banter between Sharon and Dorien were all that really stood out – but I do think that now that the characters have bedded in again and the writers have the first episode out of the way, the hit rate of gags will improve. The truth is, as the return of an old classic it worked reasonably well – it certainly proved popular in the Twittersphere with viewers both old and new – but had it been a brand new, fledgling (thank you!) programme, people would likely not have bothered to tune in. There was, however, an undeniable warmth and familiarity about seeing Sharon, Tracy and Dorien back.
Contrary to what many critics predicted (and probably wanted), it appears that birds of a feather have not flopped together.
Birds of a Feather is on Thursdays at 8:30pm on ITV
What did you think of the return of Birds? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.
You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.