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I TALK Birds of a Feather

Back in June 2013, it was announced that Pauline Quirke, Lesley Joseph and Linda Robson would be reuniting for a brand new series of Birds of a Feather.

Originally a BBC series, the new series has been picked up by ITV and becomes their first comedy of 2014.

I have very fond memories of watching Birds of a Feather when I was younger, and even the recent repeats on Drama (although why not Gold, I'll never know). So when news broke that the series would be making a comeback, I naturally thought it was a great idea and something I'd hoped for years would happen, especially after a recent stage version proved so popular.

However, not everyone was in agreement, with many saying that the series was better left alone and that any new episodes would be embarrassing for both the cast and the show. So, now that I've seen the first three episodes, was it right to bring back Birds of a Feather?

In all honesty, yes. Yes it was. Despite being the first episode in 15 years, it felt like it had never been away. We're even treated to the same opening theme tune, complete with very similar opening titles.

The series, which started in 1989 is about, follows the lives of the original Essex girls; Sharon, Tracey and Dorien.

Played by Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson, Sharon Theodopolopodos and Tracey Stubbs are sisters whose husbands are both convicted of armed robbery. When their husband's entered prison, Sharon made the move from a council estate in Edmonton, to Tracey's luxury home in Chigwell.

Then there's the third 'bird', Dorien, played by Lesley Joseph. Dorien is their Jewish, (apparently) glamorous, lavish, man-eating snob of a neighbour. Never one to shy away from a short skirt that leaves little to the imagination, she's married in the original show to Marcus, although we rarely ever see him.

So how does the new series begin? Well, pretty much the same as the first ever episode, in that Sharon moves out of her, slightly smaller (had to downsize because of the Bedroom Tax) council flat, to move back in with her sister Tracey in Edmonton.

So what led Sharon to move back to Edmonton and what's happened in the 15 years the 'birds' have been off our screens? Well, the first five minutes of episode one ties this all up nicely. Dorien, or should that be Foxy Cohen, has written a best-selling novel Sixty Shades of Green (you see what they did there?).

Sharon and Tracey had no idea that the author of their new favourite book was in fact their old friend and neighbour Dorien Green, and when she comes to Chigwell for a book signing, the three of them are reunited after what seems like many years apart.

Tracey's shocked to see Sharon back in Chigwell, Dorien (tries) to compliment Sharon on her apparent weight loss, although believes it must be a gastric band or liposuction and Sharon is as mouthy as ever.

We find out that Sharon no longer lives with Tracey, after taking a dislike to her new man Ralph, who Tracey later went on to marry. Her first husband Darryl, is now out of prison, but living in Wales, and a certain Ralph is no longer around, opening the doors for Sharon and Tracey to reunite and live together.

And it's not long before two become three, as Dorien is suddenly left with very little money as she's being sued for plagiarism, and yep, you guessed it... looking for a place to live. Cue the madness we fell in love with back in the nineties from the three original Essex girls.

Whilst the series sees the three original actresses reprising their roles and the original writers Laurence Marks & Maurice Gran back for more, there are a fair few new faces too to liven things up.

First up is McBusted member Matt Willis, who plays Tracey's eldest son, Garth Stubbs. Garth is living in Australia, but at the end of episode one, turns up in an already overcrowded house in Chigwell with his new girlfriend and her kid.

It seems Matt has really caught the acting bug, as this year will also see him playing Stacey Slater's new boyfriend in EastEnders.

Then there's Tracey's other son, Travis, played by Charlie Quirke, who has followed in his mother's footsteps by becoming actor and going one step further by starring alongside his mother in the same show that made her famous all those years ago.

The last time we saw Travis was as a baby in the final episode of the original series in 1998, when Tracey gave birth to him in a stable in Ireland in a scene not too dissimilar to the nativity story.

So, if the new series of Birds of a Feather is as good as I say it is, why didn't the BBC bring it back? Well, it seems that they aren't big fans of nostalgic remakes, not in the form of a series anyway.This might explain why The Royle Family only ever returns for specials, as does Absolutely Fabulous and only last week, we saw a one-off return of Open All Hours. Linda Robson has been quoted by the Mirror, as saying: “The BBC offered just a half-hour Christmas special. But we needed to bring the ­characters up to date which takes more than one show.”

Which, is where ITV stepped in - and I'm glad they did. I agree that the characters deserved a full series and Linda's right when she says a whole series is needed to bring the characters up to date. Oh and look out for a cameo from one of the newer Essex girls, Amy Childs, in the second episode.

It's not just the TOWIE cameo that brings this series up to date, I feel that the writers have made a real effort to reference things people living in the UK right now will understand and relate to. Of course there's the reference to Fifty Shades of Grey, as well as references to Wi-Fi, Dragon's Den, Masterchef and many political figures such as George Osbourne and David Cameron - whose 'We're all in this together." notion Sharon questions in the first episode; "How come I never bump into him down at the bins?".

So there we have it, I have really enjoyed watching the new episodes and am glad it's made a return.

Birds of a Feather airs Thursdays at 8:30pm on ITV


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