Birds Of A Feather (BBC1, 1989-1998, ITV, 2014-2017)
This is a popular sitcom that became a big success very quickly, and it has gone on to be part of an elite group of British sitcoms of which there have been over 100 episodes. What made the show was two double acts coming together. Firstly, there were Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson, who have worked together on TV on various comedy shows going back to the early-70s.
The others were Marks and Gran, a writing duo already behind several sitcoms, who created this one and also wrote most of the early episodes. Birds Of A Feather starred Quirke and Robson as the sisters from Chigwell, Sharon and Tracey. The show begins when their husbands Chris and Darryl are involved in a robbery, and end up going to prison for several years.
This ends up changing their lives, and Sharon moves back in with Tracey and her teenage son Garth after leaving her flat. As the episodes go by, we see how the pairs of women and men deal with their new situation. The only other regular character is the next-door neighbour Dorien, who really made the show for most viewers, often carrying on with various men (despite being married too) and sharing all of the details.
Birds Of A Feather became a ratings success to the point that it had the opportunity to do various things. For example, there were several Christmas specials, including being shown on Christmas Day for five consecutive years from 1990 to 1994. Some of these were up to an hour long and featured some ambitious ideas, such as an episode being set in America.
But best of all though was just after the third series in 1991 when I saw Quirke and Robson themselves in pantomime at the Hackney Empire, what a terrific moment. In 1992 there was briefly an American version of the show. Later episodes featured the ladies running a cafe, and the original BBC1 version ended after nine series with one more Christmas special when Sharon became a mother too.
Then, just over 15 years later, the show was revived by ITV for three more series. Sharon and Tracey’s lives had moved on a little since we last saw them, but they really picked up from where they left off. The chemistry between them was clearly still there all these years on, although this would be because Quirke and Robson had now been good friends for about 50 years. Dorien also returned, a new regular was Sharon’s now teenage son Travis, and Dorien discovers a shock secret daughter.
There have now been 128 episodes of Birds Of A Feather in 12 series, and even more haven’t been entirely ruled out it seems. It has also been repeated rather frequently on various channels including ITV3, meaning that it actually still seems to be on TV every day. All of the series have also been released on DVD by Network in a boxset with rather a large number of discs.