Southampton TV expert examines why old sitcoms are still our favourites

Favourite sitcoms to make a return?

Favourite sitcoms to make a return?

First published in News
Last updated
Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

IT is the classic sitcom about two sisters and their meddling neighbour.

Birds of a Feather was a huge family favourite with audiences gathered round their televisions back in the 1990s.

Resurrected by ITV last year, the comedy will now get a second series after it proved once again a hit – attracting eight million viewers.

But is it a good thing that TV bosses are trawling the archives in a desperate bid to win the ratings war? Can we now look forward to revivals of other much-loved shows flooding the schedules in the way Hollywood remakes classic movies?

One Southampton television expert has warned against relying on old favourites to raise viewing figures.

Marc Blake, associate lecturer of screen writing at Solent University and author of How Not to Write Sitcom, says, although there is the occasional exception to the rule, most sitcoms belong to a particular moment in time.

He said that Birds of a Feather is about a certain class and that the bond of two sisters will “always find an audience, but it has a bit of an air of desperation about it”.

“Sitcom is of its time, mood and generation,” he added.

“Why can we not fund new writers? Find new stories to tell? With the closure of BBC3 we may never know.”

He said old versions of programmes like Birds of a Feather have a place in people’s hearts because it speaks to them about a particular time in their lives.

This was encapsulated by programmes like American series Friends for people in their 20s in the 1990s and Only Fools and Horses, which captured a generation in the 1980s.

However, Mr Blake pointed to an update of the 1970s BBC sitcom, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, called Reggie Perrin, which failed to take off and said its revival had been a mistake.

“No longer do we have jobs for life or the mid-life crisis, which was at the heart of this,” he said.

“The remake lacked the grit and bite of the original.”

He pointed to Fawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous as two series he thought would not be wise to revisit for a new generation.

One exception to the rule, he said, is Dad’s Army which was already dated when it came out in 1968 and therefore never dates.

Birds of a Feather was first launched 25 years ago, but was axed by the BBC in 1998.

It focuses on the lives of Sharon and Tracey, played by Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson, who share a home in Chigwell, Essex after their husbands are sent to prison.

Original creators Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran have written the new episodes and some of the original characters have reprised their roles, including man-eater friend Dorien Green, played by Leslie Joseph.

The first series pulled in average audiences of eight million.

ITV’s director of comedy and entertainment Elaine Bedell said: “We’re very pleased that the brilliant chemistry between these three great actresses once again attracted the large and loyal audience that Birds of a Feather deserves.

“The writers and producers have done a fantastic job in making the show feel funny, fresh and relevant.”

Comments (9)

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11:20am Sun 9 Mar 14

mickey01 says...

i bet most of the old ones are too non p.c so would be a waste of time as they wouldn't be as funny especially love thy neighbour and even on the buses . those were the days
i bet most of the old ones are too non p.c so would be a waste of time as they wouldn't be as funny especially love thy neighbour and even on the buses . those were the days mickey01
  • Score: 1

11:35am Sun 9 Mar 14

WarwickNights says...

It was never one of my favourites when it was out the first time. Caught 10 minutes of the re-vamped version- was akin to sticking a large knitting needle through haemorrhoid whilst drinking neat Dubonnet.

Dreadful show. Where's the self respect in the people involved in making this rubbish?
It was never one of my favourites when it was out the first time. Caught 10 minutes of the re-vamped version- was akin to sticking a large knitting needle through haemorrhoid whilst drinking neat Dubonnet. Dreadful show. Where's the self respect in the people involved in making this rubbish? WarwickNights
  • Score: 1

3:03pm Sun 9 Mar 14

elvisimo says...

WarwickNights wrote:
It was never one of my favourites when it was out the first time. Caught 10 minutes of the re-vamped version- was akin to sticking a large knitting needle through haemorrhoid whilst drinking neat Dubonnet.

Dreadful show. Where's the self respect in the people involved in making this rubbish?
In a time of X factor, I'm a celebrity and various other offensive rubbish aimed at fat pizza eaters would have thought birds of a feather, whilst not my cup of tea, would be quite low down "utter crap" list
[quote][p][bold]WarwickNights[/bold] wrote: It was never one of my favourites when it was out the first time. Caught 10 minutes of the re-vamped version- was akin to sticking a large knitting needle through haemorrhoid whilst drinking neat Dubonnet. Dreadful show. Where's the self respect in the people involved in making this rubbish?[/p][/quote]In a time of X factor, I'm a celebrity and various other offensive rubbish aimed at fat pizza eaters would have thought birds of a feather, whilst not my cup of tea, would be quite low down "utter crap" list elvisimo
  • Score: 1

3:29pm Sun 9 Mar 14

charrlee says...

I think Marc Blake is absolutely right in virtually everything he says about sit com. Friends, assuming you like the style of humour, was probably one of the greatest sit coms of all time, sustaining a consistently strong standard over so many years, so many episodes. At the time, I thought Roseanne was much funnier, but there yuh go. The majority of the favourites were usually good, but did tend to wobble a bit from time to time, like Dad's Army and Last of the Summer Wine. Like with Friends, escaping the familiar set was key to sustaining interest.

The shorter series, like Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, The Young Ones, Rising Damp, Blackadder, The Irish RM, and the World of Wooster(Fry/Laurie version) were successful because the writers/adaptors knew when to call it a day, thus avoiding a drop in quality.

It seems the level of eccentricity of the characters governs the longevity of any given series. "Wacky" seems to have a much shorter shelf life than "funny but normal".

Some characters, I feel, can never be improved upon. My personal favourites would be : Lisa Kudrow's "Phoebe" (Friends), Anna Manahan's "Mrs Cadogan" and Neil Toibin's "Slipper" (Irish RM), Jane Horrock's "Bubble" (Ab Fab), and Miranda Richardson's "Queen Elizabeth 1 (Edmund........who's queen?)" in Blackadder 2.
I think Marc Blake is absolutely right in virtually everything he says about sit com. Friends, assuming you like the style of humour, was probably one of the greatest sit coms of all time, sustaining a consistently strong standard over so many years, so many episodes. At the time, I thought Roseanne was much funnier, but there yuh go. The majority of the favourites were usually good, but did tend to wobble a bit from time to time, like Dad's Army and Last of the Summer Wine. Like with Friends, escaping the familiar set was key to sustaining interest. The shorter series, like Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, The Young Ones, Rising Damp, Blackadder, The Irish RM, and the World of Wooster(Fry/Laurie version) were successful because the writers/adaptors knew when to call it a day, thus avoiding a drop in quality. It seems the level of eccentricity of the characters governs the longevity of any given series. "Wacky" seems to have a much shorter shelf life than "funny but normal". Some characters, I feel, can never be improved upon. My personal favourites would be : Lisa Kudrow's "Phoebe" (Friends), Anna Manahan's "Mrs Cadogan" and Neil Toibin's "Slipper" (Irish RM), Jane Horrock's "Bubble" (Ab Fab), and Miranda Richardson's "Queen Elizabeth 1 (Edmund........who's queen?)" in Blackadder 2. charrlee
  • Score: 1

4:27pm Sun 9 Mar 14

mickey01 says...

charrlee wrote:
I think Marc Blake is absolutely right in virtually everything he says about sit com. Friends, assuming you like the style of humour, was probably one of the greatest sit coms of all time, sustaining a consistently strong standard over so many years, so many episodes. At the time, I thought Roseanne was much funnier, but there yuh go. The majority of the favourites were usually good, but did tend to wobble a bit from time to time, like Dad's Army and Last of the Summer Wine. Like with Friends, escaping the familiar set was key to sustaining interest.

The shorter series, like Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, The Young Ones, Rising Damp, Blackadder, The Irish RM, and the World of Wooster(Fry/Laurie version) were successful because the writers/adaptors knew when to call it a day, thus avoiding a drop in quality.

It seems the level of eccentricity of the characters governs the longevity of any given series. "Wacky" seems to have a much shorter shelf life than "funny but normal".

Some characters, I feel, can never be improved upon. My personal favourites would be : Lisa Kudrow's "Phoebe" (Friends), Anna Manahan's "Mrs Cadogan" and Neil Toibin's "Slipper" (Irish RM), Jane Horrock's "Bubble" (Ab Fab), and Miranda Richardson's "Queen Elizabeth 1 (Edmund........who's queen?)" in Blackadder 2.
dont want 80 's crap give me political correct free 70,s sit coms any day
[quote][p][bold]charrlee[/bold] wrote: I think Marc Blake is absolutely right in virtually everything he says about sit com. Friends, assuming you like the style of humour, was probably one of the greatest sit coms of all time, sustaining a consistently strong standard over so many years, so many episodes. At the time, I thought Roseanne was much funnier, but there yuh go. The majority of the favourites were usually good, but did tend to wobble a bit from time to time, like Dad's Army and Last of the Summer Wine. Like with Friends, escaping the familiar set was key to sustaining interest. The shorter series, like Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, The Young Ones, Rising Damp, Blackadder, The Irish RM, and the World of Wooster(Fry/Laurie version) were successful because the writers/adaptors knew when to call it a day, thus avoiding a drop in quality. It seems the level of eccentricity of the characters governs the longevity of any given series. "Wacky" seems to have a much shorter shelf life than "funny but normal". Some characters, I feel, can never be improved upon. My personal favourites would be : Lisa Kudrow's "Phoebe" (Friends), Anna Manahan's "Mrs Cadogan" and Neil Toibin's "Slipper" (Irish RM), Jane Horrock's "Bubble" (Ab Fab), and Miranda Richardson's "Queen Elizabeth 1 (Edmund........who's queen?)" in Blackadder 2.[/p][/quote]dont want 80 's crap give me political correct free 70,s sit coms any day mickey01
  • Score: -2

5:26pm Sun 9 Mar 14

charrlee says...

mickey01 wrote:
charrlee wrote:
I think Marc Blake is absolutely right in virtually everything he says about sit com. Friends, assuming you like the style of humour, was probably one of the greatest sit coms of all time, sustaining a consistently strong standard over so many years, so many episodes. At the time, I thought Roseanne was much funnier, but there yuh go. The majority of the favourites were usually good, but did tend to wobble a bit from time to time, like Dad's Army and Last of the Summer Wine. Like with Friends, escaping the familiar set was key to sustaining interest.

The shorter series, like Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, The Young Ones, Rising Damp, Blackadder, The Irish RM, and the World of Wooster(Fry/Laurie version) were successful because the writers/adaptors knew when to call it a day, thus avoiding a drop in quality.

It seems the level of eccentricity of the characters governs the longevity of any given series. "Wacky" seems to have a much shorter shelf life than "funny but normal".

Some characters, I feel, can never be improved upon. My personal favourites would be : Lisa Kudrow's "Phoebe" (Friends), Anna Manahan's "Mrs Cadogan" and Neil Toibin's "Slipper" (Irish RM), Jane Horrock's "Bubble" (Ab Fab), and Miranda Richardson's "Queen Elizabeth 1 (Edmund........who's queen?)" in Blackadder 2.
dont want 80 's crap give me political correct free 70,s sit coms any day
The 70's? Great era!
There was the Muppet Show and Harry Worth, wasn't there? The Good Life, Michael Bentine's Potty Time, Cilla's Comedy Six, and The Glums. All great stuff. But for shear brilliance, it has to be the early 60's and Ask Mr Pastry.
[quote][p][bold]mickey01[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]charrlee[/bold] wrote: I think Marc Blake is absolutely right in virtually everything he says about sit com. Friends, assuming you like the style of humour, was probably one of the greatest sit coms of all time, sustaining a consistently strong standard over so many years, so many episodes. At the time, I thought Roseanne was much funnier, but there yuh go. The majority of the favourites were usually good, but did tend to wobble a bit from time to time, like Dad's Army and Last of the Summer Wine. Like with Friends, escaping the familiar set was key to sustaining interest. The shorter series, like Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, The Young Ones, Rising Damp, Blackadder, The Irish RM, and the World of Wooster(Fry/Laurie version) were successful because the writers/adaptors knew when to call it a day, thus avoiding a drop in quality. It seems the level of eccentricity of the characters governs the longevity of any given series. "Wacky" seems to have a much shorter shelf life than "funny but normal". Some characters, I feel, can never be improved upon. My personal favourites would be : Lisa Kudrow's "Phoebe" (Friends), Anna Manahan's "Mrs Cadogan" and Neil Toibin's "Slipper" (Irish RM), Jane Horrock's "Bubble" (Ab Fab), and Miranda Richardson's "Queen Elizabeth 1 (Edmund........who's queen?)" in Blackadder 2.[/p][/quote]dont want 80 's crap give me political correct free 70,s sit coms any day[/p][/quote]The 70's? Great era! There was the Muppet Show and Harry Worth, wasn't there? The Good Life, Michael Bentine's Potty Time, Cilla's Comedy Six, and The Glums. All great stuff. But for shear brilliance, it has to be the early 60's and Ask Mr Pastry. charrlee
  • Score: 0

6:36pm Sun 9 Mar 14

cmth40 says...

bring back the real one,s from 50/75 a lot of laughs and no bloody pc/racistism/just good honest fun never loads of swearing/****/and over rated celebs,compared to the horrendous **** now on tv big bro/strckley/jungle. and many others they were entertainment for the family not full of teenagers having sex/murder/bulling/s
wearing/ being dressed as tarts or rent boys,oh for real times,no pc/nanny panding/us who must be obeyed scum as we know best/ the flower power years that came after this time was the downward spirral of all that was respect,honesty.cari
ng,and children being reared with TLC,RULES,RESTRICTIO
NS,ROUTINE,AND LEARNING
bring back the real one,s from 50/75 a lot of laughs and no bloody pc/racistism/just good honest fun never loads of swearing/****/and over rated celebs,compared to the horrendous **** now on tv big bro/strckley/jungle. and many others they were entertainment for the family not full of teenagers having sex/murder/bulling/s wearing/ being dressed as tarts or rent boys,oh for real times,no pc/nanny panding/us who must be obeyed scum as we know best/ the flower power years that came after this time was the downward spirral of all that was respect,honesty.cari ng,and children being reared with TLC,RULES,RESTRICTIO NS,ROUTINE,AND LEARNING cmth40
  • Score: -4

7:24pm Sun 9 Mar 14

charrlee says...

cmth40 wrote:
bring back the real one,s from 50/75 a lot of laughs and no bloody pc/racistism/just good honest fun never loads of swearing/****/and over rated celebs,compared to the horrendous **** now on tv big bro/strckley/jungle. and many others they were entertainment for the family not full of teenagers having sex/murder/bulling/s

wearing/ being dressed as tarts or rent boys,oh for real times,no pc/nanny panding/us who must be obeyed scum as we know best/ the flower power years that came after this time was the downward spirral of all that was respect,honesty.cari

ng,and children being reared with TLC,RULES,RESTRICTIO

NS,ROUTINE,AND LEARNING
You couldn't just run all that by us again, could you? Bit slower, perhaps.
[quote][p][bold]cmth40[/bold] wrote: bring back the real one,s from 50/75 a lot of laughs and no bloody pc/racistism/just good honest fun never loads of swearing/****/and over rated celebs,compared to the horrendous **** now on tv big bro/strckley/jungle. and many others they were entertainment for the family not full of teenagers having sex/murder/bulling/s wearing/ being dressed as tarts or rent boys,oh for real times,no pc/nanny panding/us who must be obeyed scum as we know best/ the flower power years that came after this time was the downward spirral of all that was respect,honesty.cari ng,and children being reared with TLC,RULES,RESTRICTIO NS,ROUTINE,AND LEARNING[/p][/quote]You couldn't just run all that by us again, could you? Bit slower, perhaps. charrlee
  • Score: 3

5:40pm Mon 10 Mar 14

frenchvic says...

cmth40 wrote:
bring back the real one,s from 50/75 a lot of laughs and no bloody pc/racistism/just good honest fun never loads of swearing/****/and over rated celebs,compared to the horrendous **** now on tv big bro/strckley/jungle. and many others they were entertainment for the family not full of teenagers having sex/murder/bulling/s

wearing/ being dressed as tarts or rent boys,oh for real times,no pc/nanny panding/us who must be obeyed scum as we know best/ the flower power years that came after this time was the downward spirral of all that was respect,honesty.cari

ng,and children being reared with TLC,RULES,RESTRICTIO

NS,ROUTINE,AND LEARNING
Pardon.
[quote][p][bold]cmth40[/bold] wrote: bring back the real one,s from 50/75 a lot of laughs and no bloody pc/racistism/just good honest fun never loads of swearing/****/and over rated celebs,compared to the horrendous **** now on tv big bro/strckley/jungle. and many others they were entertainment for the family not full of teenagers having sex/murder/bulling/s wearing/ being dressed as tarts or rent boys,oh for real times,no pc/nanny panding/us who must be obeyed scum as we know best/ the flower power years that came after this time was the downward spirral of all that was respect,honesty.cari ng,and children being reared with TLC,RULES,RESTRICTIO NS,ROUTINE,AND LEARNING[/p][/quote]Pardon. frenchvic
  • Score: 0

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