03/01/2014 10:30 | By Adam Postans

Birds of a Feather: ITV sitcom in OK return

Review: Popular sitcom Birds of a Feather has made its TV return with Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph.


Birds of a Feather (© ITV)

 

Summary:

Popular sitcom Birds of a Feather returns with Tracey (Linda Robson), Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). But this time it’s on ITV, after a 15-year hiatus since the end of their ninth BBC1 series.

What worked:

The “Dorien is an old slapper” jokes haven’t dated, possibly because Dorien has. When she asked: “What’s a meat raffle?” and Tracey answered: “Well you should know.” – it’s funny.

What didn’t work:

Too many dated references and gags, too few belly laughs. Zero, in fact.

Full review:

TV comebacks are all the rage right now: from Monty Python reuniting to (Still) Open All Hours’ BBC1 Boxing Day return. So, after much hinting and speculation, it was probably inevitable that Birds of a Feather would join the flock. That’s the first and last terrible bird pun. Promise.

First the good news. Compared with recent BBC1 sitcom turkeys like Jason Byrne’s Father Figure and Ben Elton’s The Wright Way, it’s practically comic genius. Except we also have to compare it to comedies that aren’t god-awful, in light of which you’d have to be a die-hard fan to conclude that this is anything other than just OK. Not brilliant. Not dreadful. Just OK.

"TV comebacks are all the rage right now."

ITV snapped up the show by offering a full eight-part series after the Beeb was willing only to air a one-off Christmas special. It seems obvious, however, that the writers had their hearts set on a return to their old BBC stomping ground, with last night’s opening episode including references to MasterChef and Dragons’ Den.

But then it would be pretty unrealistic for any TV character, no matter how fictitious, to name-check ITV’s equivalents – Food Glorious Food and, erm, Peter Jones’ Tycoon – in casual conversation.

So, what’s happened story-wise during the intervening 15 years? Sisters Tracey and Sharon have fallen out and no longer share Tracey’s grand house in leafy Chigwell, a situation that lasted all of nine minutes before they made up and Sharon moved back in.

Tracey married and split from a swindler, Ralph, yet the end credits had her surname as that of her first husband, Darryl Stubbs, despite divorcing both men (yes, I’m being nitpicky here).

Joining them under the same roof is former neighbour and man-eater Dorien who has re-styled herself as a writer of racy books with the pseudonym Foxy Cohen and, as a result, has had her assets and bank account frozen by the publishers of Fifty Shades of Grey.

And then there are Tracey’s two sons: Travis and Garth. The latter’s back from Australia with a girlfriend and step-daughter in tow and is now played by Matt Willis (presumably on a tour break from McBusted).

From this, ITV are going to drag out another seven episodes.

Birds of a Feather flies somewhat

Admittedly it’s not the least promising premise for a sitcom (see Vicious for a seriously bad idea) but much of the material is disappointingly dated. A joke about the Wii console sounding just like the word “wee” was beyond lazy, as was this exchange between the sisters - Sharon: “I’ve become very attached to this place.” Tracey: “That’s why the floor is so sticky.”

Even the Fifty Shades of Grey boat sailed months ago and no longer seems a relevant cultural reference. Worst of all, it’s suffering from the same telegraph-a-joke-to-the-audience handicap as Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s Life’s Too Short.

Exhibit A, Tracey speaking of Dorien’s X-rated book Sixty Shades of Green doing the rounds at her son’s school: “Oh my God. If I ever clap eyes on her again...” Sharon: “She’s big time now. She’s hardly going to be ringing on our doorbell, is she...?” DING-DONG!

I’m sure everyone who loved this show – and it was huge in the 1990s – the first time around will be delighted it has returned. But one episode left me cold. As the Irving Berlin theme song asks: “What’ll I do?” I’ll read Sixty Shades of Green instead.

For a show I’ve always considered overrated, there’s a more appropriate Rolling Stones hit they could have used than Gimme Shelter as the title of Birds of a Feather’s opening episode. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.

  • Rating: Better than most ITV comedy offerings, but that's not saying much.

    Star grade

 

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