Birds of a Feather (ITV)
Some 15 years have passed since the last episode of this hugely popular ’90s sitcom and there has been a major change — the BBC turned down the opportunity of a new series and so Sharon, Tracey and Dorien have decamped to ITV.
That aside, all is much as you will remember — Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson are still the bickering sisters from Chigwell and Lesley Joseph plays “the slapper from next door”. The girls are still ripping into man-eating Dorien, the laughs are plentiful and Chigwell looks pretty much as it did back in 1998.
So has the exhumation been successful? Well, the first episode was all about getting the girls back together. Dorien has been served a writ for plagiarism over her best-selling novel, 60 Shades of Green. With her bank accounts frozen, she needs somewhere to live. Sharon returns from a tower block in Edmonton where she has been working at World of Quid and Tracey is divorced and needs some company. The Marks and Gran gag factory has been powered up and despite a few weak punchlines (“he likes playing with his Wii”), the material is generally chuckleworthy.
Part of the success of Birds Of A Feather came from the Zeitgeisty nature of the material — two Essex girls made good with the addition of a shallow Jewish princess on the make proved an irresistible combination in the loadsamoney era. But the world has moved on and the writers have tried hard to adapt. There are jokes about the bedroom tax and benefit claimants and in episode two, a girl from The Only Way Is Essex turns up at a car boot sale to buy the designer shoes Dorien is forced to sell to pay the rent.
However, this encounter only goes to emphasise the changing of the guard. The new Birds Of A Feather is still engaging and the chemistry between Robson, Quirke and Joseph and the spiky dialogue gives the show plenty of impetus.
But, despite the pains taken to bring the cultural references up to date, it feels a little like a surprise meeting with an ex — you’re delighted to see each other but after half-an-hour or so, you begin to remember why you split up.