“Birds of a Feather” (2014-2020)
Created by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
Featuring: Lesley Joseph, Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson
Dorien Green: “Good afternoon, neighbours.”
Sharon Theodopolopoudos: “It was, up until now.”
Dorien Green: “Now, now, Sharon. Fat people are supposed to be jolly; it’s a tradition.”
Released this month on DVD is the first three seasons of the ITV comedy “Birds of a Feather” (2014-2020) which sees the three returning characters from the original series that aired on the BBC from 1989 through to 1998. The original series was never really considered to be a classic comedy it did have something quite unique in that the three leads were all women with most of the plots centred squarely around them. With the three actresses, Lesley Joseph, Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson, now in their sixties face different issues than their younger days which at this time of life could be something unique on television.
Generally “Birds of a Feather” is based around Cockney sisters Sharon Theodopolopodous and Tracey Stubbs, life is never the same again when their husbands are convicted of armed robbery and sent to prison. Sharon, a common, fun-loving, large and loud-mouthed character from a council flat in Edmonton, moves into her sister’s luxury home in Chigwell, so that she can support Tracey, after her husband’s imprisonment.
There is nothing new in bringing back decades old television shows to new audiences, it happens with ore regularity as space needs to be taken up on not only traditional broadcasters but also on streaming services, whether or not they work is another matter, the most successful reboots or returning shows are those that bring back original stars but also add new ones to fill out casts as well as updating narratives and plots. So we now see gender swapped reboots and limited runs of other series, however with “Birds of a Feather” they have been lucky enough to have the three original stars return as well as being in very good condition so that older audiences will recognise them but with enough new blood so that newer audiences can feel like they are discovering something new.
Now there is no doubt at all that with all returning shows there is an aim to touch the nostalgia button especially to bring in older audiences and although in some cases that can means rehashing old jokes and making a broad show which for comedies can be the kiss of death as the funny elements can be cheap and lowest common denominator humour for “Birds of a Feather” it seems to work meaning the nostalgia that is present is not a bad thing at all. In fact with the ageing of the three main actors this old fashioned humour becomes part of the narrative which works well at least on a first watch.
“Birds of a Feather” even in its heyday was never going to be in its prime a show that was rated as a great show or timeless and so this new series does not have to measure itself against some great institution which is a good thing as too many returning shows with long absences are unfairly measured against their own legacies, the two seasons of the returned “X-Files” (1993-2018) is one of those. So “Birds of a Feather” arrives and does a good job for what it is, a light entertainment that has its laughs and some relevant stories that are for all intents and purposes very entertaining.
Gimme Shelter: Sharon’s living back in her council flat and Tracey’s still in Chigwell with younger son Travis… but what’s become of Dorien? What can bring the Birds back together? And who else might return to the nest?
Slave: Now that Sharon has given up work to skivvy for Dorien full-time, Tracey is the only one in the house bringing in a wage. It’s not enough for Tracey to pay all the household bills, so Dorien offers to dip into her savings for some rent – but when she calls the bank, it emerges that everything she has is going in legal fees. In desperation, Sharon and Tracey decide to take Dorien to a car boot sale to raise some much-needed funds. They sell Dorien’s beloved designer collection, right down to the shoes on her feet, which are bought by Amy Childs from The Only Way Is Essex. Garth has found a job in sandwich shop Seedy McCrusty’s, and Sharon has agreed to go back to working the tills at discount store World of Quid, but it’s not enough – Dorien has to get a job there!
Hot Stuff: Money and space are still tight – and now Tracey can’t ignore the fact that Garth and Marcie aren’t getting any “together time” – so it’s all change in the bedrooms again to give them space. After failing to sleep in the lounge, Sharon tries to bed down in the loft, where she makes an unexpected discovery that might solve all their problems.
Hearts For Sale: Tracey, Sharon and Dorien each get romantically involved with three very different men. Travis has romantic troubles of his own, and Garth and Marcie decide to raise money to refurbish their new pub by having a pop-up restaurant evening at Tracey’s, where everyone’s romantic ambitions are crushed…
Tattoo You: Everyone is complaining about Tracey’s miserable expression, which leads to her becoming self-conscious about her appearance. After being dumped by girlfriend Rosie, Travis chose a tattoo to show how much he loves her, much to Tracey’s rage, however she is quickly exposed as a hypocrite after Dorien reveals Tracey has secretly resorted to Botox to improve her expression. Sharon is always turning up the television volume and asking people to repeat themselves – so when she goes to see the doctor, she discovers something shocking; she needs hearing aids.
Blinded By Love: Sharon’s estranged husband Chris gets in touch. He’s met someone new – a lady called Angie, who is friendly, vivacious, and blind. Chris wants to divorce Sharon so they can get married, but Tracey has her doubts. Dorien meets a handsome blind man at Chris and Angie’s engagement party; who takes a shine to her.
Back to Zero: Sharon, Tracey and Dorien all lose their jobs and the resulting financial crisis leads to a huge row. Some home truths are revealed and the three of them hit rock bottom. Meanwhile, thanks to a mystery celebrity Twitter endorsement, Garth and Marcie’s pub has had a successful launch – meaning they’re finally earning money.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want: Sharon and Tracey get a glimpse of a possible future when they see two elderly sisters in the supermarket – which worries them. Dorien’s court case comes to a conclusion – but what will the verdict be?
Birds on a Plane: Dorien is treating Sharon and Tracey to a Christmas trip to the Canary Islands. With Sharon’s old work friends and an overdramatic passenger also on board, the plane does not reach its destination…
There’s Something About Sharon: Dorien is told her next book must be about spying. She then gets the idea that Sharon could be the heroine for her next book if she gets a job at MI5. When Sharon finds out a big argument takes place before Sharon gets her own back on Dorien. Tracey’s got her hands full with a despondent Garth.
Guess Who’s Coming to Essex?: While sorting through her fan mail, Dorien discovers a letter which she throws in the bin. Sharon decides to read what it was and her and Tracey are shocked to discover that Dorien has been keeping a secret for 50 years.
The Girls with the Pearl Buttons: Tracey and Sharon are both been nominated by Auntie Vera to take over her Pearly Queen title. It’s war as they try to outdo each other. meanwhile, Dorian tries to bond with her long-lost daughter Naomi, but upon learning she is a vicar, she fears they have nothing in common.
Tracey’s Choice: Dorien’s Book Group is convening to discuss Crime and Punishment – which turns out to be rather applicable to the events that unfold in Tracey’s household after Travis gets arrested.
The Chief, The Cook, His Mum and Her Lodger: With Tracey in prison, Sharon has been knocking the household into shape in her absence, and meanwhile Dorien is spending money like it’s going out of fashion. So ends up having to work for Sharon at the local school kitchen long with Tracey
Without a Trace” (Part 1): Sharon makes plans to take Tracey and Dorien on a madcap 70s weekender, but there is no dressing up the news that Tracey is about to receive.
Spa Wars” (Part 2): Tracey and Sharon take a trip to a Spa to cope with Tracey’s shattering news and try to make plans for the future: and Dorien prepares to say a long goodbye to her daughter.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door (Part 1): When Darryl dies, Tracey has to decide what kind of a send-off to give him. Sharon wants it to be nice for the boys, Dorien has got the perfect outfit, and Chigwell’s criminal fraternity want to make it special.
Too Much of Nothing (Part 2): During Darryl’s funeral, Tracey’s house is burgled. The family decide it is up to them to track down their possessions and set out on a trail involving a snooker club, a pawnbroker and the infamous Theydon Boys drag club.
Tombstone Blues: Sharon’s disapproval of Tracey dating policeman Barry and apparently overlooking Garth’s feelings for his dad lead to a major quarrel between the sisters. Is it one that Dorien, in her new role as Agony Aunt for Get-A-Life Magazine, can solve?
Going, Going, Gone: Tracey’s had enough of Dorien entertaining gentlemen callers and Sharon not bringing in a living wage, and throws them both out. Holed up in Sharon’s old bedsit, the two of them take a united stand…or do they?
Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You: Auntie Vera’s got problems with her hips and her block’s defective lifts so tells Sharon and Tracey she’s moving in with them. But Tracey’s only got one room available: it’s Dorien’s… and Dorien is dismayed to be told that family comes first.
Abandoned Love: A surprise visitor in the form of the attractive Emma turns up at Tracey’s house. Sharon’s suspicious, Tracey is welcoming, and Dorien is shocked to the core. Travis, on the other hand, is over the moon.
Blonde on Blonde: Travis has serious school news that he’s scared to break to his mum. Sharon decides she’ll pass herself off as Tracey and sort out his problems, but her efforts land the family in a mess that only arch-seducer Dorien can get them out of.
Forever Young: Sharon and Tracey suspect that Dorien is fast approaching “The Big Seven-0”, and decide that, whether she likes it or not, the event calls for celebration.